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After Sally Ride’s Death In 2012, The First American Woman In Space Provoked A Significant Debate Inside NASA

When Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on June 18, 1983, she changed the course of American history.

Before and after her debut, she was subjected to a barrage of sexist questions and comments, as recently documented by PBS.

When she died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, Ride’s legacy included a drive for NASA change, as well.

As far as we know, Ride did not reveal her sexuality while she was still living. Because of this, the information that Ride was gay only became public after her death.

Tam O’Shaughnessy, her “partner of 27 years,” was listed as her only surviving relative in her obituary, which read in part:

After Sally Ride's Death In 2012, The First American Woman In Space Provoked A Significant Debate Inside NASA

As a result, Ride’s decision to remain silent about her sexuality may not have been a decision she made on her own.

According to a 2014 article in The American Prospect, NASA’s stance toward the LGBT population during Ride’s time at the agency was skewed:

Even if [Ride] had considered it, coming out would very likely have endangered, if not snuffed out, her chances of going to space. NASA covertly instructed a working group of doctors to deem homosexuality a “psychiatrically disqualifying condition” in 1990, seven years after Ride’s historic voyage. NASA insists it does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, despite the fact that no astronaut has ever come out.

ALSO READ: Is Shakira To Come Out As A Lesbian? The Singer’s Photo, Which Resembles A Lesbian Flag, Has Sparked A Flurry Of Theories

It’s notable that NASA attempted to prohibit homosexuality, despite the fact that no such rule was ever enacted. The fact that Ride is the first known openly LGBTQ astronaut is particularly noteworthy; we only heard of her existence after she died.

After Sally Ride's Death In 2012, The First American Woman In Space Provoked A Significant Debate Inside NASA

Some have suggested that this implicit prejudice is due to the similarities between NASA and the military. There was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy implemented by the US military until 2011, which required anyone who was not heterosexual to keep their sexual orientation a secret.

When NASA originally started looking for astronauts, it drew extensively from the military. According to bios on NASA’s website, more than half of NASA’s astronauts have served in the military.

One of Ride’s pals, Lynn Sherr, authored an article for Slate in 2014 that shows Ride had the same thoughts about NASA:

ALSO READ: In An Instagram Video, Chrishell Stause Discusses Her Sexuality 

During Sally’s dying days, the two ladies began to prepare a celebration of her life – an event that distracted them from Now. Seeing this, Tam sought Sally for advice on how to identify herself at the party as Tam. Sally pondered the question before responding, “Yes, sir.” “I’d prefer it if you made the decision. I don’t care how much or how little you want to speak.” She went on to say, “Disclosing our existence could have a negative impact on NASA and its astronauts. But that’s fine with me. You can do whatever you want, and I’ll be happy to oblige.”

After Sally Ride's Death In 2012, The First American Woman In Space Provoked A Significant Debate Inside NASA

A media frenzy and worries like “Would spaceflight harm a woman’s reproductive organs?” were nothing new for Ride as she became the first woman in space. Did she intend to wear a bra while in space? and “How would menstruation in space work?” For anyone, becoming the first openly homosexual woman in space and the first woman in space would have been a challenge.

ALSO READ: Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks discusses lesbian hair and her crush on Rachel Maddow

Its nondiscrimination policy now includes those who identify as LGBTQ and the agency’s regulations on homosexuality in the workplace have their own web page. It has also officially endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize homosexual marriage in the United States of America. Ride’s astronaut profile on NASA.gov has been modified to incorporate information about her long-term partner, O’Shaughnessy.

The Out & Allied Employee Resource Group chairman at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Steve Riley, told The Advocate shortly after Ride’s death: “NASA is highly supportive.” I’m sure it wasn’t that supportive when Sally was growing up.

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After Sally Ride’s Death In 2012, The First American Woman In Space Provoked A Significant Debate Inside NASA

When Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on June 18, 1983, she changed the course of American history.

Before and after her debut, she was subjected to a barrage of sexist questions and comments, as recently documented by PBS.

When she died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, Ride’s legacy included a drive for NASA change, as well.

As far as we know, Ride did not reveal her sexuality while she was still living. Because of this, the information that Ride was gay only became public after her death.

Tam O’Shaughnessy, her “partner of 27 years,” was listed as her only surviving relative in her obituary, which read in part:

After Sally Ride's Death In 2012, The First American Woman In Space Provoked A Significant Debate Inside NASA

As a result, Ride’s decision to remain silent about her sexuality may not have been a decision she made on her own.

According to a 2014 article in The American Prospect, NASA’s stance toward the LGBT population during Ride’s time at the agency was skewed:

Even if [Ride] had considered it, coming out would very likely have endangered, if not snuffed out, her chances of going to space. NASA covertly instructed a working group of doctors to deem homosexuality a “psychiatrically disqualifying condition” in 1990, seven years after Ride’s historic voyage. NASA insists it does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, despite the fact that no astronaut has ever come out.

ALSO READ: Is Shakira To Come Out As A Lesbian? The Singer’s Photo, Which Resembles A Lesbian Flag, Has Sparked A Flurry Of Theories

It’s notable that NASA attempted to prohibit homosexuality, despite the fact that no such rule was ever enacted. The fact that Ride is the first known openly LGBTQ astronaut is particularly noteworthy; we only heard of her existence after she died.

After Sally Ride's Death In 2012, The First American Woman In Space Provoked A Significant Debate Inside NASA

Some have suggested that this implicit prejudice is due to the similarities between NASA and the military. There was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy implemented by the US military until 2011, which required anyone who was not heterosexual to keep their sexual orientation a secret.

When NASA originally started looking for astronauts, it drew extensively from the military. According to bios on NASA’s website, more than half of NASA’s astronauts have served in the military.

One of Ride’s pals, Lynn Sherr, authored an article for Slate in 2014 that shows Ride had the same thoughts about NASA:

ALSO READ: In An Instagram Video, Chrishell Stause Discusses Her Sexuality 

During Sally’s dying days, the two ladies began to prepare a celebration of her life – an event that distracted them from Now. Seeing this, Tam sought Sally for advice on how to identify herself at the party as Tam. Sally pondered the question before responding, “Yes, sir.” “I’d prefer it if you made the decision. I don’t care how much or how little you want to speak.” She went on to say, “Disclosing our existence could have a negative impact on NASA and its astronauts. But that’s fine with me. You can do whatever you want, and I’ll be happy to oblige.”

After Sally Ride's Death In 2012, The First American Woman In Space Provoked A Significant Debate Inside NASA

A media frenzy and worries like “Would spaceflight harm a woman’s reproductive organs?” were nothing new for Ride as she became the first woman in space. Did she intend to wear a bra while in space? and “How would menstruation in space work?” For anyone, becoming the first openly homosexual woman in space and the first woman in space would have been a challenge.

ALSO READ: Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks discusses lesbian hair and her crush on Rachel Maddow

Its nondiscrimination policy now includes those who identify as LGBTQ and the agency’s regulations on homosexuality in the workplace have their own web page. It has also officially endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize homosexual marriage in the United States of America. Ride’s astronaut profile on NASA.gov has been modified to incorporate information about her long-term partner, O’Shaughnessy.

The Out & Allied Employee Resource Group chairman at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Steve Riley, told The Advocate shortly after Ride’s death: “NASA is highly supportive.” I’m sure it wasn’t that supportive when Sally was growing up.

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