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NASA says it supports employees' use of pronouns amid online criticism

At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, employees are speaking out about policies on names and pronouns.
At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, employees are speaking out about policies on names and pronouns. (Image credit: NASA Goddard/Bill Hrybyk)

NASA is voicing support for its employees' right to be addressed by their name and pronouns as criticisms flare online. 

Claims recently surfaced online that NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland removed employees' pronouns from ID badges. Now, the space agency has made a public statement about its stance on employee names and pronouns

"NASA is fully committed to supporting every employee's right to be addressed by their correct name and pronouns. All NASA employees currently have the option and flexibility to include their gender pronouns in their customized email signature blocks. This option remains unchanged and is supported by NASA leadership so that employees can share their gender identities and show allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community," reads the statement from NASA , which was posted on Wednesday (March 9).

Related: Transgender astronomers speak out about outdated name change policies
More: Nonbinary astronomers need better support from their field, study finds

On Tuesday (March 8), the front page of the online social platform Reddit saw thousands of responses to a post from a user who appears to work at NASA Goddard. The post stated that, until recently, Goddard employees were using their agency IDs to display their pronouns. "It was an extremely simple and elegant way to tackle a very frustrating problem," the post states. 

The Reddit post continues to say that, last week, over a hundred Goddard employees were invited to a meeting titled "Use of IT Systems for Gender Pronouns," a meeting that the Reddit poster says they were not allowed to record. 

NASA's statement, which came one day after the Reddit post, shared that this IT project "allowed approximately 125 employees to test the option of including their gender pronouns in NASA's email display fields — which currently includes each employee's name, center and an organizational code." The agency added that "the learnings from this test will be used to inform the advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility."

However, according to the Reddit post, this "project" included the removal of personal pronouns from all agency IDs "on the basis that our display of pronouns made other employees uncomfortable and equated our displaying of pronouns to that of Sports Team Pride," the post reads. The Reddit poster added that they were told about this move in an email that further stated that NASA couldn't "spare any resources for this initiative," though, as the post clarifies, it did not cost anything.

The Reddit poster shared that they, along with others at the agency, "were shocked and disgusted by their [NASA Goddard's] decision," further labeling the move as "rebrand[ing] transphobia as professionalism."

NASA's statement yesterday was also published as Florida, where NASA's Kennedy Space Center is located, passed a bill dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill in the Senate. The bill, which  Florida's Republican governor Ron Desantis is expected to sign, prohibits education on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to refer to pronouns according to GLAAD's media guidelines. Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.