In what is perhaps a stellar example of the new trend in coming out quietly, Sally Ride, the first American woman to rocket into outer space, came out as a lesbian in her obituary, a day after her tragic death due to pancreatic cancer. She now makes history not only as the first American woman in space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger, but as the first openly gay or bisexual person (while the obituary referred to a relationship with a woman for 27 years, it’s possible, since Ride was once married to man, that she identified as bisexual or without a label) to fly in space as well.
While the news of her death at the age of 61 after a 17-month battle with cancer is immensely sad, and while it would have been terrific if she came out while alive, Ride’s posthumous coming out is a wonderful gift to America’s youth. And it’s what we needed right now. If astronauts are among the ultimate heroes and examples of American ingenuity, fortitude and bravery, then with that one line in her obituary — survived by “Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years” — Sally Ride dispeled all the ugliness foisted on this country in recent weeks by the Boy Scouts of America, Chick-Fil-A and Jennifer Carroll, Florida’s GOP lieutenant governor, who, denying charges that she had sex with another woman in her office, claimed women who look like her are not involved in same-sex relationships (and refuses to apologize).
Yes, Lt. Governor Carroll, you are right. With your bigotry and cowardice, you are are not what a lesbian looks like.