Sally Ride was known as a pioneer astronaut, being the first woman to enter space. Ride was a private character and to posthumously come out about her 27-year relationship with partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy.
On Monday, Sally Ride died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61 in her La Jolla home. The details of her illness were not made known until the time of her death.
In her obituary, posted on her website it reveals her long-time partnership:
“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.”
Ride’s sister, Bear—identifies as gay—confirms the news during her interview with BuzzFeed, “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 further explains in an e-mail that further provides support to Ride’s choice, “She was just a private person who wanted to do things her way…She hated labels (including ‘hero’).”
Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign's vice president for communications, said his initial reaction to the revelation about Sally Ride was, “What a shame that we didn't learn this while she was alive.”
“However, the fact it was acknowledged in death will be an incredibly powerful message to all Americans about the contributions of their LGBT counterparts,” Sainz said. “The completeness of her life will be honored correctly.”
Though not everyone was fully supportive of the late come-out. Gay blogger Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast said, “She had a chance to expand people’s horizons and young lesbians’ hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to…She was the absent heroine.”
The relationship with O’Shaughnessy, despite being kept out of the public, was never hidden from family and friends.