Sad news broke today that the first female U.S. astronaut Sally Ride passed away after a 17-month-long battle with pancreatic cancer. If that wasn't enough of a shock, her obituary also dropped another bombshell we weren't necessarily expecting: Ride is survived by "Tam O'Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years." And with that, the American heroine effectively came out.
But her postmortem coming out is definitely striking some as a bit disappointing. As Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin told BuzzFeed, "While it's a shame that Americans were not able to experience this aspect of Sally while alive, we should all be proud of the fact that like many LGBT Americans, she proudly served her country, had a committed and loving relationship, and lived a good life." And that's what we should be focusing on, as opposed to how she could have made her sexual orientation public before her passing.
As her sister, Bear Ride, noted, Sally was a very private person. Bear explained:
Sally didn't use labels. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy, it was just her nature, because we're Norwegians, through and through.
As much as I want to live in a country where people feel free to express who they are and come out in a very public way if they wish, we could all stand learn something from the fact that Sally didn't want to be labeled and didn't feel it necessary to make her relationship with Tam a public matter.
It actually serves an example of how laissez-faire we should be as a society when it comes to something like sexual orientation. Perhaps Sally didn't think her personal life was anyone's business but her own, and if that was the case, good for her!
Why can't we respect that for all Americans? Why can't we just let our fellow citizens, gay or straight, live their lives as they wish -- without sticking our noses in their bedrooms and creating a war over something like marriage equality -- which shouldn't even be an question! -- and is only pushed by those who wish to distract us from actual issues?
In the end, the very last way that Sally should be remembered is by being cast as a political pawn. But we can still reflect on the way she lived her life and how we should respect others who wish to live theirs in the same way.
Here's more on Sally's passing:
How do you feel about the way Sally Ride came out and kept her personal life so private?