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Astronaut Sally Ride's Posthumous Coming Out Confirmed: 'Sally Had a Very Fundamental Sense of Privacy'

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Before astronaut Sally Ride's obituary was released late yesterday, there had been no previous public acknowledgement that she was a lesbian, Terry McEntee, a spokeswoman from Sally Ride Science, told Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed.

With the simple statement that Ride was survived by "Tam O'Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years", she was out.

Sally's sister Bear Ride, talking with BuzzFeed, said yesterday, "We consider Tam a member of the family."

Saying that her sister was a very private person, Bear Ride said, "People did not know she had pancreatic cancer, that's going to be a huge shock. For 17 months, nobody knew -- and everyone does now. Her memorial fund is going to be in support of pancreatic cancer.

"The pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there's now this advocate that they didn't know about. And, I hope the GLBT community feels the same," Bear Ride, who identifies as gay, said.

"I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them," she added.

Bear Ride told Geidner that she never hid her relationship with Tam, and that Sally's close friends knew: "Sally didn't use labels. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy, it was just her nature, because we're Norwegians, through and through."

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  1. LOL because they're Norwegian? I haven't heard that one before - although I do remember a still-closeted Rosie O'Donnell years ago talking on TV about being "Lebanese," and collapsing in giggles. This does shed a new light. I wonder if Whitney Houston was Norwegian?

    And all along I thought Sally was the first AMERICAN woman in space. Because something tells me she wasn't the first, or last, umm, Norwegian...

    Oh come on girls, I'm just trying to lighten things up a little here...

    Posted by: Hank | Jul 24, 2012 4:41:54 PM


  2. ANON, Sally Ride was still married to a man, a fellow astronaut; well into the 80s. This is not necessarily a woman who even fully accepted herself as a lesbiangrowing up in a woold where it wasn't even an option uuntil her 30s. She was with Tame for 27 years, thy lived openly Mongrel their ffriends, family, and ran a business together for decades devoted tk educating children, especially young girls. I see a desire to not be defined by ones sexuality dandy have that be a distraction from ot barrier to their ability to work with young women interested in science, but I see absolutely no shame.

    Posted by: llm | Jul 24, 2012 4:51:25 PM


  3. openly among, not mongrel...seriously, phone?

    Posted by: llm | Jul 24, 2012 4:52:53 PM


  4. @Rick: When you give someone a gift, you cannot tell them how to use it. It is theirs to do with as they choose. Don't be angry at younger generations for the world you have made possible for them, but happy with how much you have succeeded.

    Personally, I think it is a shame for our community that Sally Ride chose not to come out. She presumably had other priorities, but I can't claim to know her mind. Nor do I blame younger people for being disappointed: there are hundreds of examples of men and women who were older than she, or more vulnerable, and chose to come out. Watch a film like "Milk" or witness Ellen de Generes's career nearly disintegrate and even younger generations can see the high price of coming out in the 70s, or 90s. They are heroes because of their bravery, and I won't cheapen that bravery by sharing it with the silent ones who did not risk their lives for our community.

    Posted by: Runt | Jul 24, 2012 5:46:19 PM


  5. @Rick: When you give someone a gift, you cannot tell them how to use it. It is theirs to do with as they choose. Don't be angry at younger generations for the world you have made possible for them, but happy with how much you have succeeded.

    Personally, I think it is a shame for our community that Sally Ride chose not to come out. She presumably had other priorities, but I can't claim to know her mind. Nor do I blame younger people for being disappointed: there are hundreds of examples of men and women who were older than she, or more vulnerable, and chose to come out. Watch a film like "Milk" or witness Ellen de Generes's career nearly disintegrate and even younger generations can see the high price of coming out in the 70s, or 90s. They are heroes because of their bravery, and I won't cheapen that bravery by sharing it with the silent ones who did not risk their lives for our community.

    Posted by: Runt | Jul 24, 2012 5:46:37 PM


  6. As a space nerd, I've always wondered if there's ever been a gay, lesbian or bisexual astronaut or who will be that first one. Now I know.

    The LGBT community really has been everywhere.

    Posted by: J.J. in the Navy | Jul 24, 2012 10:38:03 PM


  7. People have the right to their privacy- what was important is that she was out to the people in her life that she cared for the most... I came out when I was 16 to my best friends in high School- all football jocks btw- and had the best experience for it- everyone else could guess for themselves for all I cared- it is not my responsibility to come out to anyone- it wasn't her's either... I understand the positive effect it could have given our community but that type of martyrdom is for those that want to hold that spotlight- it doesn't mean you are ashamed of being gay, but that you don't want to be remembered for being that- imagine ... Gay astronaut dies... no one ever sees Straight astronaut dies... give her respect for what she did not for what she was... RIP to a HERO...

    Posted by: Rafael | Jul 26, 2012 6:39:26 AM


  8. I especially want to highlight LLM's remarks. We are all members of conflicting interest groups. For example, I am a gay male Episcopalian computer geek. Those are just four of the interest groups I am part of. Sally wisely chose to emphasize her woman interest group over her LGBT interest group. For most of her life it was far more important to encourage females to enter science than it was to even hint at the LGBT angle. We as a society simply did not need another lesbian in a "male" field.

    No so incidentally, it is the same with gay conservatives. Some, like GOProud choose to emphasize their conservative interest group over their LGBT interest group. Quite some years ago the Republican party had room for social liberals like them -- no longer. I would much rather that they would vote for someone who supports marriage equality than for someone who would like to enact an (unconstitutional) constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be one man and one woman, but that shows their priorities.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Jul 27, 2012 8:39:39 AM


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