I felt the death of Sally Ride deeply, though I never met her and was just one of millions inspired by her when she became the first American woman in space in the 1980s.
What a beacon she was. Ride grew up in 1960s Southern California, before the passage of Title IX, when girls were pointed toward home economics classes and their dreams were stunted by pervasive chauvinism.
Ride was 61 when she died of pancreatic cancer on Monday, but during her life she not only shot to the stars on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, she rocketed beyond "Leave It to Beaver" conventions of our culture and into places women had never gone before.
For this and much more, Ride's story can be taught to school kids hundreds of years from now, just as long as we don't gloss over who Ride was.
It's right there in her obituaries, minus one word: gay.
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was a lesbian. She shared the last 27 years of her life with her partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy.
"I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them," Bear Ride, Sally Ride's sister, was quoted as saying on Buzzfeed.com.
You say that Ride's sexual orientation shouldn't matter, that it was Ride's business?
It shouldn't matter, but it does. There is nothing wrong with being gay, but many people believe that there is.
Politicians praising Ride this week, both Democrats and Republicans, do so while opposing same-sex marriage a recognition that would have allowed Ride's life partner, O'Shaughnessy, to inherit Ride's NASA pension.
A bill to grant same-sex spouses and domestic partners the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples is winding through the U.S. Senate. But with a presidential election looming, it's unlikely anything will happen anytime soon.
How sad. Ride flew in space for our country, but our country doesn't approve of who she loved?
Is that who we really are?
According to her family, Ride didn't hide her orientation but didn't promote it, either. She was a private person.
So here is a question: How can we praise Ride's public achievements while discriminating against her private life?
This was a Stanford scholar. She was so accomplished at tennis that none other than Billie Jean King encouraged her to turn pro. She had the emotional maturity to reject that advice and shoot for the stars. And though she could have cashed in on her name, Ride focused her post-NASA life on inspiring girls to pursue math and science.
Sally Ride was an American hero. And she was gay. One distinction does not diminish the other only we do so with laws that punished Ride for who she was.