The gays have conquered space!

According to Lifesite News (as we all know, a highly reliable site), Outer space to be solely the dominion of gays and trans. Now it sounds spectacularly fun, but I guess I’m excluded, not being either. They really are discriminating against us cis-het folk! I’m also curious about the sexual orientation of Branson and Bezos.

The story goes on:

According to a growing number of astronomers, physicists, and major scientific journals, anyone who is not sufficiently pro-LGBTQ+ should be denied a presence in the cosmos. 

There is a movement afoot within NASA to rename the much anticipated, $8.8 billion yet-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Why? As a State Department official in the 1950s, James Webb opposed employing gays and lesbians, viewing them as security risks susceptible to blackmail.     

Webb went on to become in 1961 the head of NASA, where he oversaw the Apollo program.   

Because the race to beat the USSR to the moon was viewed as integral to winning the Cold War, the Apollo program had to be protected against vulnerabilities to Soviet interference.  Webb was responsible for implementing federal policy that included purging gays and lesbians from the NASA workforce.    

That’s rather thin gruel of evidence for the extraordinary claim that all the straight people will be denied a presence in the cosmos. It’s a bit of a grand leap from suggesting that large space projects shouldn’t be named after bigots to whining that the straights have been banned from outer space.

You do know that the reason gay people were considered vulnerable to Soviet interference is because good ol’ American bigots would use information about people’s sexuality to find common cause with the nefarious Russkies and wreck our own programs, right? All they had to do was recognize that gay people could also be patriotic Americans to negate the threat, but Webb willingly went along with a plan to discriminate against gay folk, which suggests he shared that bigotry. It’s the presence of homophobes, like everyone at Lifesite news, that is the problem.

They also make the claim that LGBT corruption: Making the hard sciences soft, squishy, citing the fact (which is a fact) that statements about, for instance, the biology of men and women are more complicated to interpret than a simplistic, dishonest TERF can comprehend.

Scientific American regularly publishes articles that are political, not scientific, where LGBT ideology trumps intellectual curiosity, intellectual honesty, and solid research. Recent editorial headlines include Why Anti-Trans Laws Are Anti-Science, A Nationwide Ban Is Needed for “Anti-Gay Therapy,” and Gender-Affirming Health Care Should Be a Right, Not a Crime — all of which belong in the opinion sections of The Advocate or LGBTQ Nation, not a science journal. 

Nature has appended notices to articles and social media postings, declaring, “Nature recognizes that sex and gender are neither binary nor fixed,” or some variation on that theme.  

Science and policy are intertwined, so of course a science journal is going to take a stand on the intersection of science with politics. It is true that “intellectual curiosity, intellectual honesty, and solid research” support the idea that anti-trans laws are anti-science, because they are, and that “anti-gay therapy” doesn’t work and does more harm than good, and fucking of course gender-affirming health care should be provided to everyone who needs it. What is wrong with these people that think respecting the diversity of human identities should be a crime? It is anti-science to think it’s bad that scientific evidence repudiates their narrow-minded views.

As for Nature…it is entirely reasonable that they would qualify statements about the nature of men’s and women’s sexual and gender nature with a reminder that those properties are more fluid and complex. They are rightly concerned that, for instance, actuarial statistics that classify people into male and female categories will be misinterpreted as evidence that sex is rigidly binary by, for instance, bigoted readers like Lifesite News.

Case in point: they try to discredit the petition to change the name of the James Webb Space Telescope by implying that the people behind it are a bunch of weirdos.

The name-change petition was launched by the four astronomers, including one who identifies as ‘non-binary,’ an astrophysicist who uses the pronouns ‘she/they,’ and a professor of physics and astronomy who is also a core faculty member in women’s and gender studies who identifies as “queer and agender.”  The petition now has amassed 1,250 signatories, according to Nature.  

But that makes the point for those scientists! These non-binary astronomers exist, and are speaking out and demanding respect as human beings; they are saying that you don’t get to pretend they can only be pure, ideologically conservative men and pure, ideologically conservative women. They are different, and don’t fit into the traditional pair of bins, and they are protesting the fact that people like them were discriminated against! Meanwhile, Lifesite News is not contesting the fact of discrimination, implicitly acknowledging that Webb was biased against them, instead just trying to justify it because we were in a space race against the Soviet Union.

It was a stupid race, anyway. Think what we could have accomplished with less competition and more cooperation, and with the assistance of more brilliant minds that just happened to have sexual preferences James Webb, and other hidebound administrators, didn’t like.


  1. numerobis says

    While it’s clear Lifesite News is trans exclusive, is there any sense in which they are radical feminist? Or has TERF just come to describe the traditional WASP prejudices?

  2. Matt G says

    Oh, that’s nice, isn’t it? I’m glad they’re getting something, ’cause they have a hell of a time.

  3. cartomancer says

    Well my love life certainly feels a lot like being stranded in outer space, so I can see the logic…

    mumble, mumble, something about Uranus. Non-Binary stars. Black Holes. We’re all grown up enough to make own jokes at this point.

  4. Artor says

    “According to a growing number of astronomers, physicists, and major scientific journals, anyone who is not sufficiently pro-LGBTQ+ should be denied a presence in the cosmos. ”

    Is that number growing from zero to one? Do they provide any quotes, even anonymous, from anyone in NASA who actually believes that? Because that’s not how I interpret a petition to change the name of a telescope.

  5. raven says

    …an astrophysicist who uses the pronouns ‘she/they

    What is wrong with using the pronouns she/they or he/they?
    That is what I now do as a boring cis het.
    In Realityland, it means nothing except you use she, he, and/or they pronouns.

    Lifesitenews is a lunatic fringe website that has been banned from Youtube for endless lies.

  6. kurt1 says

    Drag queens in spaaaaaace!!!

    Drag Race to Space! We will achieve fully automated luxury gay space communism.

  7. jrkrideau says

    James Webb opposed employing gays and lesbians, viewing them as security risks susceptible to blackmail.

    Duh, you can only blackmail someone if the laws and social mores let you.

  8. says

    The problem here is that he was probably right. The social stigma surrounding homosexuality could easily make non-open individuals susceptible to blackmail. And while it is a shitty, self-fulfilling prophecy it’s not something an employer can combat alone.

  9. anthrosciguy says

    Now. 10 and 11, I don’t know if you really get the Catch-22 setup then. The major reason gays could be blackmailed in those situations is that they could be fired if found to be gay. The reason they could be fired is because they were susceptible to blackmail. The reason they were susceptible to blackmail is because they could be fired, and the reason…. recursive.

  10. says

    That’s only part of the problem, the social stigma at that time (and today still) could be horrendous. So threatening to out a person in their family/community could be worse than getting them fired.

  11. lumipuna says

    The major reason gays could be blackmailed in those situations is that they could be fired if found to be gay.

    But how could gay people be discriminated against in hiring unless NASA already knew (probably from security screening) that the applicant was gay? Perhaps some of the logic was, “We can’t hire you because you are gay and we don’t want gay employees because they are susceptible to blackmail because they fear being outed to us because we routinely fire employees who are found to be gay because we don’t want gay employees…”

    Then again, people undoubtedly feared being outed to their family and friends and hobby/professional contacts. Perhaps they also feared law enforcement would come after their sexual activities. At NASA, being outed to their coworkers (other than a few security officials) could cause friction, though that’s something the institution could have addressed. And if the outed person was a public figure, it could damage that person’s own reputation and NASA’s reputation outside their immediate social circle.

  12. Prax says




  13. raven says

    Blackmail is a serious crime now and it was a serious crime back then.
    The solution isn’t to give in to the blackmailiers.
    The solution was and is to…arrest the blackmailers and charge them with a crime!!!

    Blackmail or extortion under 18 U.S.C. § 873 is a federal offense that carries up to one year one year in federal prison, a fine, or both prion and a fine.

    Federal Blackmail and Extortion Defense Lawyer | 18 U.S.C. …

    James Webb was a product of his time, when the commies were going to nuke us if we weren’t careful.
    He could have risen a few feet above it all though but he didn’t do it.

  14. magistramarla says

    Lifesite News (???) must really hate Discovery. I find that show to be very affirming of LGTBQ+ folks in space.

  15. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    James Webb opposed employing gays and lesbians, viewing them as security risks susceptible to blackmail.
    without knowing more about Webb, this alone does not make him anti-LGBT specifically.
    It is reasonable that that aspect of people would be used as blackmail against them, making them a security risk.
    That is different than assuming an LGBT person is a security risk by definition.
    I know I’m being an unwarranted apologist for Webb, tell me he is as anti-gay as it appears

  16. Matt G says

    To be fair, being LGBTQ+ is FAR worse than, say, the existence of videos of Russian ladies of the night emptying their bladders on you.

  17. says

    @slithey tove #20: I’m on the same page as you. Persecuted minority groups are more vulnerable in general, that’s the reality. And you really can’t make exceptions when it comes to national security. But it’s also quite obvious that this is something that can be abused to further persecute minorities.

  18. felixmagister says

    The logical thing to do would seem to be to hire a few transparently closeted gays with an eye to discovering who comes forward to do the blackmailing.

  19. bcw bcw says

    The shape of the Bezos rocket made the whole gays in space thing pretty obvious already.

    In the 1950’s it would have been pretty hard to find any overtly gay-friendly administrators. Maybe Oppenheimer.
    Is there more information on how Webb’s attitude developed over time? How about at NASA itself?
    There seems to be evidence at Sally Ride in 1995 still very much had to be closeted and a history of anti-gay we’re like the miltary stuff.

  20. consciousness razor says



    Heh, the all caps is a nice touch. (Obligatory jpg)

    I was really thinking that maybe we could at least find some way to share the other Galilean moons and perhaps a few other celestial bodies, but it’s probably too late for that. The cosmos is just gay now, and that’s all there is to it.

    HOWEVER! I know they’re finally planning to launch the JWST this November. But there have already been so many delays — it’s about 14 years behind the original schedule at this point (and more than 9 billion extra dollars). So … maybe nobody would notice if they just stalled a little more, to give us time to work this out?

  21. Ed Seedhouse says

    @12: NOT recursive. Circular. Recursive procedures have a well defined end point. If they don’t they become circular procedures that only end when memory is full.

  22. Ed Seedhouse says

    @25: I don’t see why they couldn’t rename it after it reaches orbit. Even if it has a plaque with his name on it who’s gonna be able to go there and see it ?

  23. Badland says

    I couldn’t give a fuck as to the whys and hows of Webb’s homophobia and it’s frankly weird to see people here trying to explain it. It existed and it caused real harm, that’s enough. His name shouldn’t be on any telescopes, orbiting or otherwise.

  24. consciousness razor says

    2010: Odyssey Two is not canon to me. The story is over in the 2001 movie, with the gay space fetus returning triumphantly to enslave the Earth.

  25. consciousness razor says

    Follow-up to #31….
    Frankly, I think I just sort of want it to be over. I know it’s not a very popular take, but 2001 has a bunch of problems. The pacing is too slow, even for me, and I tend to like that sort of thing.

    More importantly, Alex North’s score was dumped, in favor of a handful of Kubrick’s favorite temp tracks (used very repetitively, kind of an inconsistent mess stylistically speaking, also rather heavy-handed I would say), with North only learning this when he saw it at the premiere. Also, Kubrick didn’t ask for Ligeti’s permission to use his music (mainly excerpts) in the film. I’m willing to bet he didn’t ask Khachaturian either, although I’m only sure that Ligeti objected to it.

    Anyway, getting back to the subject of naming space-related stuff after megalomaniacal assholes, the New Horizons team and the International Astronomical Union decided in 2018 to name Charon’s largest mountain after Kubrick.

  26. chrislawson says

    Erlend Meyer and slithey tove–

    This is bad thinking. The idea that gay/lesbian workers were a special blackmail risk and that it was reasonable to deny them jobs or promotions was just a cover for homophobia, not a defensible security measure.

    Of the known Soviet agents working in the US, precisely zero of them were blackmailed into it to keep their sexual orientation secret. The reasons people became traitors for the Soviets were (1) ideological belief, (2) for money, and/or (3) career disgruntlement. No blackmail there. Blackmail, after all, is a very dangerous path to set up a mole because the mole has no intrinsic motivation to help and might well decide it’s better to rat out their handlers. Also, as has already been pointed out upstream, if the employer knows a worker is gay/lesbian, how exactly are they supposed to be blackmailed by the threat to tell the employer what is already known?

    I’m sure you don’t mean to, but you’re arguing that Alan Turing should never have been allowed to work at Bletchley Park.

    This excerpt from the Feb 1951 Joint Committee on Atomic Energy is a perfect example of what was wrong with this policy:

    Mr. Dean: … We had one other pleasant thing during the course of the last month. We found out that a man down at Oak Ridge, who was in charge of personnel, was given to homosexual activity. He was arrested up here in the District of Columbia when he was up here on a trip; and of course we removed him from the payroll immediately, fired him. We have also checked to see if there has been anybody brought into the program by him who might be a person with similar proclivities at the Oak Ridge office. We see no evidence of that at this point.
    Mr. Holifield: How long had he been personnel officer at that point?
    Mr. Dean: A matter of three years, I think. […]
    Sen. Bricker: What did he do?
    Mr. Dean: He was a homosexual, picked up here by the police in Washington, D.C. It was a very unfortunate place for a man to be in, a place as high in the program as the personnel office of Oak Ridge, but such things happen.
    Sen. Hickenlooper: He failed to report a former arrest on his PSQ [Personnel Security Questionnaire, required for security clearances], didn’t he?
    Mr. Dean: In looking back in the file we find he did not report an arrest in his PSQ. At a subsequent hearing, which took place about two and a half years ago, he was interrogated about this, and the interrogation was not skillfully conducted and they got almost up to the point of why he had been arrested and what it was all about and then it trails off into the transcript. […]
    Mr. Cole: What is the reason your folks weren’t able to discover his weaknesses in the three years he was down there?
    Mr. Dean: He is perfectly normal apparently when he is down there. He is a married man, he engaged in sexual intercourse. When he goes out of town, apparently this other thing comes on him. He got liquored up. It is when he drinks excessively. There is no indication from anybody down there he was even suspected of this sort of activity. […]
    Sen. Bricker: Was there any evidence in this man’s contacts and associations away from there that there was any security risk?
    Mr. Dean: No. […]
    Sen. Bricker: I mean, in his homosexual activities outside. Do you know of any pressure that might be used against him to give secrets and to get any more of his kind into the operation?
    Mr. Dean: Is there evidence of that?
    Mr. Waters: No evidence of that.

    This wasn’t about security. It was weaponised homophobia.

  27. call me mark says

    “Outer space to be solely the dominion of gays and trans” sounds like they’re using “trans” as a plural noun like “gays”. What, do they think it’s one tran, two or more trans?

  28. Alt-X says

    It’s fun to stay at the S.P.A.C.E FORCE
    It’s fun to stay at the S.P.A.C.E FORCE

    They have everything for you men to enjoy!
    You can hang out with all the boys!

    It’s fun to stay at the S.P.A.C.E FORCE
    It’s fun to stay at the S.P.A.C.E FORCE

  29. yaque says

    There’s an SF series by Charles Stross, the first book is called “The Laundry Files”.
    The main character is a member of a British secret agency (that involves … tentacles …) that has an interesting take on all this. He shares an apartment with two other members nicknamed “Pinky and the Brain”, technical types who are a couple.
    The agency has no problem with this, but requires that once a month or so, they have to go somewhere and do something public outside the “closet”. The couple usually go for a night out (in … uh … interesting costumes) at some kind of dungeon bar club thingy.
    The idea being that out-and-proud gay people are no particular blackmail risk, but if closeted, oh dear no! Typical silly government requirement.
    I’m not sure how I feel about this …

  30. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @38:
    The idea being that out-and-proud gay people are no particular blackmail risk, but if closeted, oh dear no!
    I see. Someone “closeted” has their own reasons for being there. Easy to blackmail them about revealing them. Someone who is “out and about” aren’t hiding anything, so there’s no leverage against them.
    IE, the leverage is the use of the closet, NOT being in the closet. Not that they are gay, it is that they want to keep it secret for their own reasons.
    Blackmail works on psychology

  31. says

    @chrislawson#35: I suspect as much too, but I would like a little bit more information before passing judgement.

    @slithey tove#39: It’s having secrets that’s the problem, not the secrets themselves. It doesn’t even have to be your own secret.

  32. says

    From The Lavender Scare, p. 10:

    Originating as a partisan political weapon in the halls of Congress, it sparked a moral panic within mainstream American culture and became the basis for a federal government policy that lasted nearly twenty-five years and affected innumerable people’s lives. Though based on the flimsiest of evidence – no gay American was ever blackmailed into revealing state secrets – it prompted congressional hearings, presidential executive orders, and executive agency security briefings.

  33. says

    I’m not surprised considering how many was denied a security clearance. And if the homophobic and paranoid military intelligence couldn’t catch them it’s not very likely that any spies would either.

    The real point here isn’t really whether or not gays could be a security risk but whether reasonable non-homofobic people could be lead to believe so. I’m not out to exonerate Webb, I just think we should build a better case. If he was homophobic it shouldn’t be too hard to find more evidence for it.

  34. says

    A great book for understanding the historical context is K.A. Cuordileone’s Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War:

    Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War explores the meaning of anxiety as expressed through the political and cultural language of the early cold war era. Cuordileone shows how the preoccupation with the soft, malleable American character reflected not only anti-Communism but acute anxieties about manhood and sexuality. Reading major figures like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Adlai Stevenson, Joseph McCarthy, Norman Mailer, JFK, and many lesser known public figures, Cuordileone reveals how the era’s cult of toughness shaped the political dynamics of the time and inspired a reinvention of the liberal as a cold warrior.

  35. unclefrogy says

    acknowledging the truthfulness of the conversation on the main subject of “gays in space”
    I have to say that I try not to think too much about how far we may have been by now if we had not spent so much time and energy in pointless competition with everyone in the f’n world specifically the Russians, the Soviets at the time , it just leads to a depressed feeling, That stupid competition just leads to to war and death. I realize it did not start in 1947 or even 1847 either.
    I will stop with that line of thought now thank you.
    uncle frogy

  36. consciousness razor says

    Erlend Meyer:

    The real point here isn’t really whether or not gays could be a security risk but whether reasonable non-homofobic people could be lead to believe so.

    No argument or evidence from you on this…. Why’s that the real point? Hundreds of people’s careers were wrecked for nothing, and I don’t know a single reasonable person who would do that.

    I’m not out to exonerate Webb, I just think we should build a better case. If he was homophobic it shouldn’t be too hard to find more evidence for it.

    I think you don’t actually need much evidence here. That’s because there’s no need whatsoever to make the choice to honor any “important figure” by naming random publicly-owned shit after them.

    Unless your name happens to be “M. AGRIPPA” it’s a pretty fucking old-fashioned, classist, imperialistic thing to do, whether or not the specific choice of “important figure” also happens to be connected in any way to homophobia. (And if you were Agrippa, it would still be pretty old, just not quite so fucking old as to make it seem wildly inappropriate to “reasonable” people at the time.)

    The Slate article from SC’s link in #43 doesn’t argue for it like I’m doing, but at least in passing it basically acknowledges the point:

    […] the agency has turned to naming its rovers and spacecraft with inspirational words (the Mars Curiosity rover) or pronounceable acronyms (OSIRIS-REx, the asteroid-sample collector). The names of spacecraft, schools, and parks reflect cultural values.

    So we do have options, and do remember that these are public things. So let’s use our options, since they are ours to use. It’s really easy to come up with lots of other types of names for the things we want to name, ones which aren’t names of human beings.

    I don’t think it’s just me, but I’m the sort of person who wants my name to refer to myself, not to inanimate objects or locations or whatever. So, I don’t even get what the appeal of that custom is supposed to be, other than propping up old/dead shitheads and pretending like the past was much better than it ever actually was …. because that part of it is fairly obvious.

    If we’re supposed to care what Webb would’ve thought, and assuming the idea is to memorialize the work of a competent administrator (if firing tons of people without cause could be an example of that, although of course it can’t be), then that sort of person might not really appreciate it very much that you chose something that took around 240% more time and cost 2,000% more than projected.

  37. DanDare says

    Statues. Naming things after people.
    It requires very selective honouring and ignoring the human bad bits. When the bad bits come to light its important the bad bits aren’t part of the honouring.
    Its always going to be problematic.