Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Belated - Sally Ride

I had to think quite a bit before making this post, because really, Ms Ride had not entered into my consciousness firmly until now.

The first American woman (although not the first woman) to go into space was one of six women chosen for the 1978 class, the first astronauts to be trained after Apollo. (The class also contained NASA's first three black astronauts).

She was a mission specialist, meaning she was a scientist, not a pilot, and obviously a very bright woman - her official bio lists a double undergraduate major in physics and English and a PhD in physics. However, she was also brilliant at operating the orbiter's remote controlled arm.

She flew only two missions (not uncommon in the shuttle arena). And her goal was to motivate girls and young women to pursue science careers. She had the right stuff.

There is something else Sally Ride was, something she kept quiet her entire life. Something that was not revealed until after her death. Something she kept quiet, perhaps, because she wanted to be a role model for all young women. Her friends knew, but the rest of us had to wait for her obituary to find out.

Sally Ride was also gay. She lived in a long-term, stable relationship with another woman. And she felt no need to shout this to the world and from the rooftops. Was she afraid? Some activists think so.

But at the same time, perhaps, it is very important for some of us not to be 'activists', not to be out there turning the room pink, but merely to allow sexuality to be an aspect of our lives. By allowing it to be a postscript to her achievements, Ms Ride might well have done more than coming out years ago would have done.