Following her death
, an obituary
on Sally Ride Science revealed that Ride had a same-sex relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy
for 27 years.
Ride and O'Shaughnessy met playing tennis when they were both just 12 years old. The pair parted ways as Ride attended Stanford, eventually earning a PhD in physics and becoming the first US woman to fly in space, while O'Shaughnessy became a professional tennis player before earning her PhD in school psychology. But they never lost touch with each other.
Ride never discussed her sexuality, and in 1982 she married fellow astronaut Steven Hawley
. They divorced in 1987.
Bear Ride, Sally's sister, told BuzzFeed
that she considers O'Shaughnessy "a member of the family." Describing her sister as a "very private" person, she nevertheless said that Sally "never hid her relationship with Tam."
"Sally's very close friends, of course, knew," she told BuzzFeed.
Bear said the pancreatic cancer community-- and the LGBT community-- would now have an advocate they didn't even know about.
"I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them," she said.