Most people didn't know that the first American woman in space, astronaut Sally Ride, was a lesbian until her obituaries were published on Monday. Is being openly gay a career-wrecker for astronauts?
Three hundred and thirty American men and women have served as astronauts since the start of NASA's human spaceflight program. Only one is publicly known to have been gay or bisexual — Sally Ride — and she kept it private until her death, Monday, when her obituary on the Sally Ride Science organization's website stated that Ride was survived by Tam O'Shaughnessy, her "partner of 27 years."
As the first American woman in space and a scientist, Ride served as a role model for generations of young girls. Now, she'll serve as a role model for LGBT youth as well, said her sister, Bear Ride. "I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them," Bear Ride, who identifies as gay, told Buzzfeed yesterday.
Gay rights advocates say Sally Ride's addition to the ranks of LGBT role models will make a tremendous impact. "Role models are incredibly valuable for everyone, but I think especially for LGBT youth, who may be born into a family where they don't have an LGBT role model. It is so important for them to look out into the world and see they could be welcome in that world," Stuart Gaffney, media director at Marriage Equality USA, told SPACE.com. "Sally Ride will be that for them now."
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