Transmissions: A space for trans rights

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Wednesday March 20, 2024
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Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama is the home of Space Camp, a program where kids of all ages can explore what it is to be part of a space mission. It is a six-day, five-night, one-of-a-kind experience for these campers. Looking over the Space Camp webpage, it looks like it is currently booked out for months, at $1,699 per kid for the 9-11 age group.

What you won't see on the website is the controversy that is currently embroiling Space Camp. Clay Yarbrough, the parent of an 11-year-old, learned that one of the employees of Space Camp is a transgender woman. Of course, Yarbrough didn't quite explain it that way.

On March 9, Yarbrough made his first-ever post to his Facebook profile.

"I just need everyone to see this and know whats (sic) going on at space camp at US Space and Rocket Center," wrote Yarbrough. "My daughter was planning on going to space camp next week but we have just found out that this freak is a team lead and a hall monitor in the girls (sic) dorms and at times could be allowed to be alone in the halls at night. This is a man that claims to be a woman, and they allow it. I want it to spread, so I don't want to put too much on here. If you need more info, just read all the comments below. Also, this is not hearsay I spoke directly to the VP/Director of Space Camp, and she confirmed this was true."

Yarbrough then posted five images from various social media pages, presumably of the trans woman in question. I should note that the director of Space Camp has not directly named the employee, unlike Yarbrough, so I will decline to share their name as well.

The five images were a portion of the trans woman's LinkedIn profile, listing her as a crew trainer, a photo of her from a Facebook page wearing a black hoodie and a beanie cap with faux devil horns, a pre-transition photo from 2015, a trans flag with a satanic overlay, and a clip from an online wish list for the graphic novel, "Something is Killing the Children" by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell'Edera.

I should note that the graphic novel is about someone trying to hunt the monster that is attacking children, though I can't help but presume Yarbrough sees that in a different way.

Yarbrough's claims were picked up by notorious right-wing propagandist Libs of TikTok and, from there, spread through conservative circles. In the wake of this, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), as well as Alabama Republican Congressmembers Dale Strong, Gary Palmer, and Robert Aderholt, spoke out against the employee and her employer.

Strong called for the termination of the transgender employee, writing on X, "I call on the Center to immediately remove this individual and open a safety review to consider the potential harm and damages they have inadvertently caused children."

I feel it is worth noting several things here. Like other teaching positions — and by way of full disclosure, I, too, was briefly a teachers' aide post-transition — all Space Camp employees are required to undergo a full background check, sleep in separate facilities, use different restroom facilities from students, and are not allowed to be with campers alone or behind closed doors. Everything is under surveillance, too.

I also want to point out the most important fact: this trans woman has done nothing wrong. This whole controversy is only because she happens to have a job at Space Camp, and not because she did anything illegal.

I want to go back to Yarbrough's words. He became aware that there was a transgender person on staff, supposedly, because he "heard that one little girl had called her parents and said this guy is in the (dorm) room and 'I don't feel comfortable.'"

For the last several years, we have seen a rising tide of anti-transgender animus from the right, from the rantings of talking heads on Fox News and other outlets to the deluge of anti-transgender bills in statehouses across the country. It is nearly impossible to evade it — and trust me there are days I've tried.

All of this hatred, all of these lies and half-truths, and all this fearmongering has led us to where we are today. Where an employee of an educational program can find her livelihood under threat solely because of who she is.

I hasten to add that this isn't a byproduct of all their hatred — it is the whole point of it. The goal is to drive transgender people out of public life, to remove our rights, quash our ability to hold jobs and lead a healthy, happy life. An employee threatened by congressmembers simply for having a job is well within such an awful mandate.

I thought we covered this in 1978, with the failure of the Briggs initiative in California, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools, or in 2020, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, found that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ employees from discrimination. We seem doomed to repeat this all over again.

Transgender people deserve to exist and share the unalienable — that is, rights that you cannot take away or deny — rights of all their fellow citizens. We deserve fairness, justice, and all of the guarantees of the law.

That's the truth both here in the United States — and out in space.

Gwen Smith says "Ad Astra" per Aspera. You'll find her at

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