Well, internet, it looks like if you want to more accurately label late astronaut Sally Ride's homosexual relationship, you're going to have to look to people other than Sally's sister, Bear Ride.
Much has been made of the revelation, confirmed by New Times on Monday, that Ride spent the last 27 years of her life in a same-sex relationship. Much has also now been made (see Gawker, the Advocate, Wikipedia) about what to call it. The debate is centered over her Wikipedia page, which people have been bickering about since hours after her death. Did she identify as gay? She was married to a man, after all; maybe she was bisexual, Wiki contributors postulated. Queer? Maybe, since she never publicly labeled it, we can't say she was anything.
We checked with Bear Ride to see if she wanted to clarify. It appears she does not: She said she would email a statement, which she did. But it doesn't offer much of anything to the people seeking to fit her sister into a category.
"Sally hated labels of every kind -- including 'hero' ...sigh," she wrote.
Although the Wikipedia entry initially listed Ride as the first lesbian in space in the first paragraph, that information has now been relegated to the bottom of the "Personal life, and death" section, which says, "Ride is thus the first person to have been in space whose same-sex relationship was publicly acknowledged." Seems as label-free as it gets, if rather obvious in its absence of categorization.
The rest of Bear Ride's statement mirrors her comments to this newspaper and Buzzfeed; she says that "Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy" and that her memorial fund will be in support of pancreatic cancer. The only other information for the interpreter vultures is this:
I hope 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.
It's a beautiful sentiment -- one that's being lost amid all these technicalities. Can't we take this for what it is?
She did not respond to a follow-up email, probably because her sister died suddenly and this is not really the most important thing to her family right now. Maybe we'll never know if Ride was a "lesbian" or what she identified as when she was in space or if she identified as anything. And maybe that's OK.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!