When Sally Ride, the first woman in space, died just a few days ago, many in the public were surprised to learn that she had been in a 27-year relationship with another woman, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy. Some outlets included Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s name with little context to the extent and nature of their relationship. As GLAAD has previously noted, the best information about Sally Ride’s relationship has come from Buzzfeed’s Chris Geidner. Now, another, more personal reflection offers a unique perspective on Sally Ride’s life, her family, and their work for LGBT justice.
When news broke of Sally Ride’s death, GLAAD received an email notification from Michael Adee, the outgoing Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians (MLP). MLP is an LGBT advocacy organization for LGBT inclusion in the Presbyterian Church. Michael shared with the group that MLP had worked closely with Sally’s sister, Rev. Bear Ride. He also shared that MLP and those who work for justice were grieving with the Ride family.
After hearing reports and speculation about why people didn’t know more about Dr. Ride’s relationship history, GLAAD asked Michael to write a longer reflection about his work with the Ride family. He was happy to oblige and share the story of the family from his perspective. Bear had served as co-moderator of MLP, and was actively working to drop the barriers to ordination for LGBT people, which they accomplished in 2010-2011. Michael met Sally at the holy union of Bear and her partner, Rev. Susan Craig.
Michael’s testament offered a different perspective on the Ride family, from the parents, who encouraged their daughters to study, to the two sisters, who supported each other in their different vocations. His op-ed was published in the On Faith section of the Washington Post.
Clearly, Dr. Sally Ride will be (and should be) best known for her historical accomplishments of breaking gender barriers in physics and in the space program. However, sometimes a personal, reflective essay like Michael’s can show the public a tight-knit family who supported one another, both professionally and personally.
GLAAD thanks Michael Adee for offering a perspective on Sally Ride and her family that many people outside of Presbyterian circles did not get to see. As we continue to mourn the loss of a great scientist, we hope to see more varied perspectives on the life of Sally Ride.