Legendary Astronaut Sally Ride Is LEGO’s First Lesbian

On February 28, 2017, LEGO announced it will release the fan-created “Women of NASA” set for its next LEGO Ideas commercial product. The “Women of NASA” project passed after earning more than 10,000 votes (the vote threshold for a project to possibly become LEGO’s official product).

“The LEGO review board carefully considered each project from every angle and the next LEGO Ideas set will be the ‘Women of NASA,'” Lise Dydensborg, marketing manager for the LEGO Group, said in a video released by LEGO.

Maia Weinstock and the LEGO figurines. Photo courtesy of Maia Weinstock.

 

The “Women of NASA” project was designed by science editor and writer Maia Weinstock. It features a set of five LEGO figurines (1.5″ or four centimeters) based on real-life NASA astronauts, scientists and mathematicians. They are Sally Ride (the first US woman in space), Mae Jamison (first black woman to launch into space), Katherine Johnson (the black woman dubbed “human computer” and the subject of 20th Century Fox’s Hidden Figures), Margaret Hamilton (computer scientist who led the development of on-board flight software for Apollo’s mission to the moon), and Nancy Grace Roman (the astronomer who was also known as “Mother of Hubble” for her crucial involvement in building the space telescope).

This will be the first time LEGO produces a real-life gay figurine. In 2001, the Denmark-based company produced the first of its Albums Dumbledore figures based on the successful book series Harry Potter. Harry Potter’s author, JK Rowling, has revealed that Dumbledore is gay.

Sally Ride (left) and Tam O’Shaughnessy discuss the role of women in science and how the earth’s climate is changing at American Library Association conference in Anaheim, CA on June 29, 2008. Photo by Curtis Compton.

Sally Ride, who died in 2012, never came out as a lesbian. Ride decided to remain in the closet because she “didn’t want to be defined by the lesbian/gay label just as she didn’t want to be defined by a gender label,” Tam O’Shaughnessy said. “We both didn’t like categories, didn’t want to define ourselves by our sexuality.”

The world learned about her sexuality through her obituary, written by O’Shaughnessy, Ride’s longtime partner of 27 years.

“I wanted to ensure Sally’s legacy reflected the integrity in which she lived her life,” O’Shaughnessy said. “For her not to be open in this one way felt wrong. I’ve found that people really valued the relationship,” said Tam. “It didn’t matter that we were two women; what mattered was our relationship’s longevity and our love.”

Ride and O’Shaughnessy never married because of the now-repealed Proposition 8 that had banned marriage equality in California. They became domestic partners instead. In 2001, the couple, together with Karen Flammer, Terry McEntee, and Alann Lopes, founded the Sally Ride Science Foundation, which aims to foster interest in science and math in students from fourth to eighth grades.

 

“The ideal America is one where no one – regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation,  — is a second class citizen,” O’Shaughnessy said. “With each protection and freedom and equality achieved, I feel safer in my state and prouder to be an American.”

On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama gave Ride a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom and was accepted by O’Shaughnessy and Ride’s surviving family members.

LEGO’s “Women of NASA” line is expected to be on sale in late 2017 or early 2018.

LEGO’s “Women of NASA” project: Margaret Hamilton, Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, Nancy Grace Roman, Mae Jemison.

 

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Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta

Yuska came from Indonesia to the US in 2011 to pursue dance and creative writing. He has two MFAs in Creative Writing, and was a 2014 Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow. His debut nonfiction book is titled Gentlemen Prefer Asians: Tales of Gay Indonesians and Green Card Marriages.