Sally Ride, first American woman in space, hid sexuality over employment fears

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Sally Ride, the first female American to go to space, hid her sexuality over fears it would hurt her professional life, it has been revealed.

Ride entered space on the Challenger shuttle in June 1983, becoming the first American woman and youngest ever American to do so.

Following Ride’s death in 2012, it was finally made public that the former NASA astronaut had been in a 27-year relationship with female partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

O’Shaughnessy – who became CEO of company Sally Ride Science after Ride’s death – said they feared their relationship would harm the business.

She said: “We never publicly said ‘we’re gay’… we didn’t like labels of any kind, but especially the ones referring to sexuality: queer, lesbian, homosexual.”

“Corporate America is really nervous about gay women.

“When we started Sally Ride Science, we were just worried that it would affect the growth of the company, the sponsorships.

“We both lived through Billie Jean [King]’s horrors, of being gay and being in the public eye. And we both were afraid it would hurt the business. So we elected to be private about it.”

Journalist Lynn Sherr, writing in her new biography of Ride, said:  “Sally was very good at keeping secrets.

“There is no question in my mind that if Sally Ride had been openly gay and if she had applied to NASA, number one, she never would have been selected as an astronaut.

“Number two, she never would have flown and number three, she never would have been the first American woman in space.”