By Anna Peirano
Sally Ride, who died today after her battle with pancreatic cancer, was the first female U.S. astronaut in space, taking her first mission in 1983 and again in 1984. A statement was made in her obituary which represents the first public announcement that Ride was a lesbian. The statement from Sally Ride Science read that the pioneer was survived by “Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years.”
Sally never hid her relationship with Tam – the two were business partners and had written books together. According to an interview with the couple, to be found on the Sally Ride Science site, they met at the age of 12. “While their lives took different paths, they stayed in contact over the years.” Sally was married to fellow astronaut Steven Hawley in 1982, but the pair divorced in 1987.
Sally chose to keep her relationship with Tam private, as she kept most things private. “Sally didn’t use labels,” said Bear Ride, Sally’s sister. “Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy, it was just her nature…”
Bear told BuzzFeed today, “I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.”
HRC president Chad Griffin said, “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.”
He continued by saying, “The fact that Sally Ride was a lesbian will further help round out Americans’s understanding of the contributions of LGBT Americans to our country. Our love and condolences go out to her partner.”