Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sally Forth

Sally Ride's sister, Bear, described Sally's partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy, as a member of the family and added:
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. I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.
Andrew Sullivan thinks the astronaut, who was fiercely protective of her privacy, should've spoken up sooner:
Her achievements as a woman and as a scientist and as an astronaut and as a brilliant, principled investigator of NASA's screw-ups will always stand, and vastly outshine any flaws. But the truth remains: she had a chance to expand people's horizons and young lesbians' hope and self-esteem, and she chose not to.
In fairness to Dr. Ride, she also kept her illness secret from family and friends for 17 months. But she made no secret of one of the focal points of her life after NASA, the empowerment of young women. From her New York Times obit this morning:

In 2003, Dr. Ride told The Times that stereotypes still persisted about girls and science and math — for example the idea that girls had less ability or interest in those subjects, or would be unpopular if they excelled in them. She thought peer pressure, especially in middle school, began driving girls away from the sciences, so she continued to set up science programs all over the country meant to appeal to girls — science festivals, science camps, science clubs — to help them find mentors, role models and one another.

Times reporter Denise Grady put her reference to Ride's partner near the end of the story, where survivors' names usually go. One assumes it was her and O'Shaughnessy's wish to come out that way, elegantly, simply, as though it were no big deal, which, someday soon, it won't be. Could she have done more to spotlight being a pioneer for lesbians as well as women? Reading her obit, I felt this great American had done enough for her country. Godspeed, Sally Ride!

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