The world lost pioneer Sally Ride yesterday, the first American female astronaut in space. Ride completed two space missions for NASA and is the only person who worked on investigation teams of both space shuttle accidents. In 2001, she started Sally Ride Science in order to interest women and girls in space research. She died at age 61 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Ride lived a very private life despite being such a significant public figure. In fact, it was only in her obituary that it was revealed she was gay. Ride had been in a 27-year committed relationship with Tam O’Shaugnessy, a woman Ride had known since she was 12.
Ride’s sister Bear told BuzzFeed, “We consider Tam a member of the family.” Bear is also gay, and told BuzzFeed she hopes the LGBTQ community “is going to be absolutely thrilled that there’s now this advocate that they didn’t know about,” adding, “I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.”
Ride never purposely hid her romantic relationship with her partner, O’Shaugnessy, who was her business partner as well. BuzzFeed reports “O’Shaugnessy is the chief operating officer and executive vice president for Sally Ride Science, as well as an emeritus professor at San Diego State University.” Ride had an academic career at University of California, San Diego.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin told BuzzFeed, “For many Americans, coming out will be the hardest thing they ever do. While it’s a shame that Americans were not able to experience this aspect of Sally while alive, we should all be proud of the fact that like many LGBT Americans, she proudly served her country, had a committed and loving relationship, and lived a good life.”