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The One Label Sally Ride Used for Her Life Was 'Private'

The One Label Sally Ride Used for Her Life Was 'Private'


With her death Monday, Sally Ride's obituary posted on her organization's website included mention of her partner for the last 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy. But is it accurate to call Ride a lesbian? Or bisexual?

To some, the distinction is needed for history books. But to Ride the words weren't as important, according to her sister Bear Ride.

"Sally didn't use labels," she told BuzzFeed. "Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy, it was just her nature, because we're Norwegians, through and through."

No matter the name for the pioneering astronaut's sexual orientation, she was the first American woman in space. She was already a role model for young girls, and Bear Ride said her sister can now be an inspiration to even more.

"I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them," she said in the BuzzFeed interview.

Steve Hawley, the fellow astronaut who Ride was married to from 1982 until 1987, said his former wife was uncomfortable being "a very public persona."

"Sally was a very private person who found herself a very public persona," he said, according to the Washington Post. "It was a role in which she was never fully comfortable. I was privileged to be a part of her life and be in a position to support her as she became the first American woman to fly in space."

In a 2003 interview with The New York Times about her work with the Sally Ride Science organization and helping teach children, the astronaut herself said she had turned away chances to tell her life's story.

"It's no secret that I've been reluctant to use my name for things," she said, according to the Times. "I haven't written my memoirs or let the television movie be made about my life. But this is something I'm very willing to put my name behind."

Bear Ride told the New Times that it was Sally Ride's desire for privacy that kept her from taking a stand on LGBT rights.

"That wasn't her battle of choice," Bear Ride told the New Times, "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."

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