When trailblazing astronaut Sally Ride passed away Monday, The New York Times published a lengthy obituary about the first American woman in space, her extraordinary career, and the barriers she broke during her lifetime. Her personal life was summarized in a paragraph toward the end of their obituary:
Dr. Ride married a fellow astronaut, Steven Hawley, in 1982. They decorated their master bedroom with a large photograph of astronauts on the moon. They divorced in 1987. Dr. Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy; her mother, Joyce; and her sister, Ms. Scott, who is known as Bear. (Dr. O’Shaughnessy is chief operating officer of Dr. Ride’s company.)
The Times failed to mention explicitly that she was in a relationship with a woman, making no room in the 43 paragraph obit to give Dr. Ride her rightful place in LGBT history.
Thankfully Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed was willing to step up. He spoke to her sister Bear Ride, and gave a fuller picture of Dr. Ride's life through their conversation.
Bear Ride, who is gay, told Geidner: "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." She added that while her sister didn't use labels to describe herself, she "never hid her relationship with Tam."
Geidner's interview was the first to tell the full story of who Sally Ride was -- not just the first American woman in space, but one who was in a relationship with a woman for almost half her lifetime. This makes her a hero not only in the eyes aspiring scientists and young women across the world, but also for LGBT youth who need the sky to be the limit.
The New York Times failed to tell a complete story of Dr. Ride's life. We commend Chris Geidner and other journalists who filled in the blanks in this first draft of history.