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Outer space, inner struggle

New bio rich with details of astronaut Sally Ride

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Sally Ride, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space’
By Lynn Sherr
Simon & Schuster
$28
376 pages

Sally Ride, gay news, Washington Blade

Astronaut Sally Ride (Photo public domain)

And the cow jumped over the moon.

You spent many years wondering if that were possible, although countless nursery rhyme books said it was so. Yes, a human could surely go there, but a bovine?

Eventually, you learned the truth: men and women can overcome gravity, but cows stay grounded. And in the new book “Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space” by Lynn Sherr, you’ll learn some truths that weren’t so widely known.

Born at the end of May, 1951, at a time when girls were usually directed toward domestic interests, Sally Ride was raised in a California household that was supportive of off-the-beaten-path lives. The Ride girls (Sally had a younger sister) never heard “I love you,” but they were encouraged to happily find their own interests.

In this atmosphere, strong-willed Ride grew to desire what was then considered to be a boys’ interest: she would “devote” herself to science. It was tennis, however, that took her to college in Philadelphia; her game was near-pro-quality, though she knew she lacked the discipline needed to play professionally. With that in mind, Ride headed back west and enrolled at Stanford, where she majored in physics.

It was there that she fell in love, then fell in love again when the first relationship fizzled due to distance. It was also at Stanford where Ride, who had always assumed that NASA would forever be off-limits to her, first learned that America’s space program was recruiting women.

She applied. A few months later, she interviewed and tested and, after training and not just a few faux pas from NASA, was ultimately, famously chosen to be the first American woman in space. Ride’s life as she knew it had changed forever.

But what about the people who were close to Ride? Author Lynn Sherr believed that she was; she and Ride had been friends for years. Just days after Ride’s death, though, Sherr and the world learned that Ride had hidden a major part of herself by keeping secret a committed 27-year same sex relationship.

In her introduction to “Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space,” Sherr explains how this book came about: her years of knowing (but not-quite-knowing) Sally Ride and the shock of learning a “private” truth. She also writes about the cultural atmosphere in which Ride accomplished her greatest dream, the space program and NASA, and the additional issues to which Ride devoted her life.

Sherr also gives readers a good sense of Ride as a person, rather than the heroine that history tends to offer. For that, I was glad; it’s always nice to perceive those we hold in esteem as human, so reading of Ride’s overwhelmingly by-the-book, reticent nature was welcome, almost comforting.

This is a personable book that doesn’t seem quite as shocking as I’m sure it might have been once, but it’s still enjoyable and, for followers of the space program, LGBT issues, and dreamers alike, it’s a must-read.

 

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Books

New book explores ‘Breaking the Rainbow Ceiling’

The benefits of coming out at work

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(Book cover image courtesy of Bloomsbury)

‘Breaking the Rainbow Ceiling’
By Layla McCay
c.2024, Bloomsbury
$24/240 pages

You can see the CEO’s office from the outside of your workplace.

You’ve actually been in that office, so you know what it looks like inside, too. Big, expansive desk. Cushy, expensive chair. Ankle-deep carpet. The CEO got there through regular means over the course of his career – something you’d like to do, too. But as you know, and as in the new book, “Breaking the Rainbow Ceiling” by Layla McCay, you’ll have to take a different path.

Of all the thousands of board seats and C-suite occupiers in American businesses, only a very tiny number – less than one percent – are occupied by people who identify as LGBTQ. In London, says McCay, no one on the Financial Times Stock Exchange identifies as such. Just six of the world’s leaders, past or current, have come out as LGBTQ.

The reasons for this are many, from discomfort to a sense of a lack of safety or just plain mistrust. Employees often don’t talk about it and employers can’t or don’t ask, which can lead to a lot of issues that cis, heterosexual employees don’t have to think about.

LGBTQ employees make less money than their straight co-workers. They experience discrimination ranging from sexual violence on one end, to micro aggressions on the other. Discrimination can be found in educational settings, and networking events, in a lack of mentorship, and the feeling that one needs to “code-switch.” Even an overseas job offer can be complicated by identifying as LGBTQ.

And yet, says McCoy, there are benefits to coming out, including a sense of authenticity, and feeling as if a load has been removed from one’s shoulders.

If you are an employer, McCoy says, there are things you can do to help. Include LGBTQ people in your diversity programs at work. Insist on it for recruitment. Make sure your employees feel safe to be themselves. Make all policies inclusive, all the time, from the start. Doing so benefits your business. It helps your employees.

“It’s good for society.”

Pretty common sense stuff, no? Yeah, it is; most of what you’ll read inside “Breaking the Rainbow Ceiling” is, in fact, very commonsensical. Moreover, if you’re gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or queer, you won’t find one new or radical thing in this book.

And yet, inside all the nothing-new, readers will generally find things they’ll appreciate. The statistics, for instance, that author Layla McCay offers would be helpful to cite when asking for a raise. It’s beneficial, for instance, to be reminded why you may want to come out at work or not. The advice on being and finding a mentor is gold. These things are presented through interviews from business leaders around the world, and readers will find comfort and wisdom in that. You’ll just have to wade through a lot of things you already know to get it, that’s all.

Is it worth it? That depends on your situation. You may find nothing in “Breaking the Rainbow Ceiling,” or it may help you raise the roof.

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Out & About

Under Armour hosts LGBTQ obstacle course

‘Unmatched Pride’ event held in Baltimore

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Unmatched Athlete in partnership with Under Armour Unified will host the inaugural “Unmatched Pride event for LGBTQ+ and allied youths” on Saturday, July 20 at 11 a.m. at the Stadium at 2601 Port Covington Dr. in Baltimore Peninsula.

Teens 13-17 and kids 8-12 will have the ability to compete in obstacle course activity and skills challenges. The obstacle course will consist of a variety of fun stations that will test participants in strength, agility, and cardio. Flag football skill challenges and more will be offered.

For those who are interested, there will be an opportunity for youths to compete with and/or against their parents as well at 1:30 p.m. Registration is available on Eventbrite

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Out & About

Blade’s Peter Rosenstein holds book talk in Rehoboth

‘Born This Gay’ memoir explored

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Longtime Washington Blade contributor Peter Rosenstein will hold an author talk on Thursday, July 25 at 5:30 p.m. at CAMP Rehoboth (37 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del.) in conversation with fellow author Fay Jacobs. The pair will discuss Rosenstein’s new memoir, “Born This Gay: My Life of Activism, Politics, Travel, and Coming Out.” Register at camprehoboth.org.

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