The first American woman in space has passed away at the age of 61. Sally Ride broke barriers and inspired people to reach for the stars.
And in death, Ride may have become a role model for another reason. The obituary posted on her organization's website noted Ride's partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy. It's believed to be the first public acknowledgment of their same-sex relationship.
A 2009 article on the same site described Ride and O'Shaughnessy as "good friends" and "co-authors." But it also reveals some of their romantic story. They met at age 12 through tennis. O'Shaughnessy went on to play professionally. And through the years, they stayed in touch.
Ride's sister, Bear, tells the website Buzzfeed that the relationship was never hidden. She says most people also did not know about Sally Ride's pancreatic cancer because she was a "very private person."
Some will argue that Ride's orientation is unimportant, that she should be remembered solely for her scientific and educational accomplishments. To that I say, name one openly gay astronaut.
Sally Ride was a trailblazer for women into the final frontier. Let's not limit her now.
The late Sally Ride's private life (and that of her surviving partner) should remain private if that was her wish. Not because of any fear of shame or ridicule, but out of respect. The same way I wouldn't want cameras snorkeling into my own private life either; because it's no one else's damn business.
Sally Ride was a wonderful role model for young women in space science, and a great educator as well. The fact that she was also gay is her own business, and if anything, should only prove once and for all how truly irrelevant sexual preference is in a person's overall makeup, any more than is left-handedness or green eyes. It's simply a part of who they are and not the total picture.
RIP, Sally Ride. You left us far too early....
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