The first woman in space is dead at 61 and has come out as a lesbian posthumously. Astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, who in 1983 became the first female astronaut to go where only men had gone before, declared in a postmortem announcement on her website that, among other family members, she is survived by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her female partner of 27 years.
Ride lost a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, but gained herself a permanent place in queer history. Too bad she couldn’t talk about being lesbian while she was still alive.
Ride’s sister, Bear, told BuzzFeed, an internet site that boasts of having the hottest content on the web: “That (LGBT rights) wasn’t her battle of choice -- the battle of choice was science education for kids. And I just hope that all the different components of Sally’s life go towards helping kids.” What about queer kids?
I’m not going to win any fans for saying this, but I’m honestly disappointed that she waited until death to reveal her sexuality.
I understand that some people prefer to be quiet about their private lives, but imagine all the good she could have done as a living role model rather than a dead one? Especially for all those girls struggling with their sexual identities in hostile environments (and there are a lot of them) throughout this still very homophobic country. She wanted to teach them science, but what about accepting themselves for who they are?
She didn’t even jump on the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying bandwagon when tons of other celebrities made it their cause of the day.
Ironic, isn’t it, that now she will become a hero to the LGBT community, simply by virtue of the fact she was a famous person who happened to be a lesbian. That alone gives her a special status that the countless women who marched and organized and actually helped change the homophobic attitudes in this country will never ever have.
We will never remember the names of those heroes, those brave women who came out in the 50s, 60s and 70s and endured rejection from their families, discrimination in the workplace and harassment on the streets. They fought long and hard to make this country a better place for the next generation of lesbians. Young dykes today owe a huge debt of thanks to those unnamed women.
Sally Ride certainly deserves a lot of praise for her work in blazing trails for women in the space program and for encouraging young women to join the sciences. But before we rush to canonize her as a queer saint, let us first pay tribute to all the women who blazed trails so that Ride could be an out lesbian posthumously.