The first American woman in space let it be known in her obituary that she was a lesbian who had been in a relationship with her childhood friend that spanned nearly three decades, although she had been married at one time to a fellow astronaut. Andrew Sullivan criticizes this reticence on her part.
Of course, if she had let on back in the 1980s, she might well have been shown the door and not had the opportunity to go into space. But I think that that was not the only reason for her not revealing her sexual orientation and becoming a public advocate for the LGBT movement while she was alive. After all, her own sister, a Presbyterian minister, was openly gay and her close family and friends all seemed to have known, so she did not need to fear alienating those close to her.
I suspect that Ride was a quiet and private person who may have simply felt that her private life was no one else’s business. She took the same attitude with the pancreatic cancer that killed her, again telling only those close to her. We should respect the right of people to choose what they want to reveal about their private lives while they are alive, however much we might wish that they become public role models. It is a role that some choose to play only after they die.
I hope this news makes those who rail against gays pause for a moment and realize that whether they know it or not, gay people are everywhere all around us, quietly going about their lives.