In Death, Sally Ride Reveals Same Sex Relationship
Last week brought bad news for gays and lesbians and their supporters. The president of a beloved national chain reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage. Bristol Palin and son Tripp showed us that the next generation of bigots is well on its way. And as the entire country wrestled with the grief of the Aurora shooting, some so-called religious people took the opportunity to blame it on homosexuality.
But amidst the words and acts of hatred and intolerance, the gay rights movement gained a quiet new icon: Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, who died yesterday at the age of 61 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. A very private woman in life, Ride’s obituary revealed that she was in a 27-year relationship with a woman.
Earning a PhD in physics from Stanford, Ride joined NASA in 1978 not only as one of the organization’s first female astronauts, but as one of the first scientist astronauts. (Most previous ones had been military aviators.)
Ride was hailed constantly as a hero, but she was more focused on accomplishments having nothing to do with her gender. An experimental astrophysicist, Ride’s work on two shuttle missions helped prove the viability of repairing and launching satellites from the shuttle. In 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science to encourage young children to pursue their interests in science and engineering.
According to the Washington Post, she once dismissed all of the hype about her gender at a NASA news conference, saying: “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.”
A statement from Sally Ride Science notes in passing that Ride is survived by “Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years”. O’Shaughnessy is also a scientist, and an officer at Sally Ride Science. She and Ride co-authored several books together.
I imagine that life seems pretty Earth-bound for many LGBT youth. When they aren’t being thrown to the ground in the schoolyard, someone on TV or YouTube is telling them that they will burn in Hell. I hope that during those moments, they remember that a woman just like them soared into the Heavens.