Sally Ride

Published July 24, 2012 by sojournerdoug

Yesterday the world lost a great person. Sally Ride passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for 17 years. Here is the obituary as it appeared on the Sally Ride Science website:

Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.

Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately—inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.

In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country.

I was only one year old when Dr. Ride blasted into space for the first time, becoming the first American woman in space. My love for everything astronomical was inspired not just by her, but by generations of scientists, engineers, and astronauts. I even earned a Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering. I still look up to our astronauts today, not just NASA but those from other nations as well. Besides being real heroes who train and sacrifice and get to actually live and work in space, many of them continue to inspire humanity and give back to the community in many ways. Sally Ride had Sally Ride Science™ , an “innovative science education company dedicated to supporting girls’ and boys’ interests in science, math and technology.” Ron Garan and a handful of other Bloggernauts have Fragile Oasis, whose vision is stated thusly: “Guided by the unique orbital perspective of men and women who live and work in Space, our vision is for Fragile Oasis to be a vehicle that helps people and organizations collaborate and develop synergy toward overcoming the challenges facing humanity on Earth.”

Long story short: astronauts are good people.

On Sally Ride’s website, there are links to facebook, twitter, and various relevant sciency-stuff. On her biography, there is a link on the right for those who wish to donate to the Sally Ride Pancreatic Cancer Initiative.

Nowhere on the website or biography does it say “And she was a lesbian.”

According to her sister, Bear, Sally was a very private person. Only those close to her knew that she had cancer. Only those close to her knew she was gay. Many news articles reporting her passing did not mention the fact at all. This article from CNN takes its cue from Dr. Ride’s website and only mentions “Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, her mother, her sister and other family members.”

I think it is wonderful for the GLBTQ community to be able to point to such an inspirational person as Sally Ride and say “And she was one of us!” However Dr. Ride herself was very private about her sexual orientation. I respect that, and I think the rest of the world should as well. This article from The Huffington Post describes a reaction that, frankly, disgusts me.

Mitt Romney, Republican, Presidential Candidate etc. tweeted the following:

Sally Ride ranks among the greatest of pioneers. I count myself among the millions of Americans she inspired with her travels to space.

Does that offend me? No! Why should it? It doesn’t matter what you or I think about Mitt Romney or Republicans or billionaire politicians in general. That was a perfectly respectful, decent, and I believe sincere sentiment. Yet some people seem to think that any person who has a reputation for quashing GLBT rights has no business speaking in regards to a GLBT person at all.

Sally Ride had no desire to become a spokesperson for gay rights. She wanted the attention to be on her work encouraging children to study and enjoy math and science. She wanted to keep her personal life quietly private.

That is what we are striving for. Not to triumph in some loud and obnoxious way, but to be unnoticeable, indiscernible from all the heterosexual couples who are, indeed, just quietly living their lives.

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