In life, Sally Ride became famous as America’s first woman in space — and in death, she’s now added to her fame as the first acknowledged gay astronaut.
The revelation came in a low-key way: Monday’s obituary from Sally Ride Science, the educational venture she founded a decade ago, referred to Tam O’Shaughnessy as “her partner of 27 years.” A spokeswoman for Sally Ride Science, Terry McEntee, said Ride and O’Shaughnessy, who is the company’s chief operating officer and executive vice president, worked out the phrasing of the announcement before Ride’s death.
In an email today, Sally Ride’s sister, Bear Ride, explained why the former astronaut kept quiet about her sexual orientation.
“In her inherent Norwegian reticence — in this and so many aspects of her personal life (wrestling with pancreatic cancer, for example) — she just didn’t talk much (see Norwegian comment, and add to that the typical tight-lipped scientist thing),” Bear wrote. “If you read interviews from years and years back, you’ll see that there was always a major frustration that she didn’t comment much on ‘how it feels to be the first American woman in space’ — she just didn’t think that way. She wanted to get the job done. Her personal feelings were just that: personal. Not right or wrong — simply Sally. Everyone who knows her well really got that about her.”