In this discussion, ex-moderator Monica Cellio describes a change to the Code of Conduct:

A director had dropped into the room to announce an upcoming change to the Code of Conduct; unlike the rest of the CoC, this rule mandates specific, positive actions. I raised some issues with the formation of the policy and asked some questions, the vast majority of which were never answered. I was polite and was trying to work with others to solve a problem I have with the change as presented.

Emphasis added. I encourage everyone to click through and read the entire post; I have deliberately elided nearly all of it to focus on one specific point.

What are the specific positive actions which moderators will soon be required to take?

This is not a demand that the CM team explain what happened to Monica. I already know that the CM team likely will not offer an explanation, and that demand already lives here anyway. So I'm not asking for an explanation. Instead, I'm focusing on the part of the question that I think the CM team will be willing to answer.

  • 7
    The CoC applies to all of us and as it hasn't changed yet, is there anything we can do except speculate? I assume any mod that shares the new /changed articles are likely to be demoted and/or banned when they share.
    – rene
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:37
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    @rene: I'm asking for Stack Exchange-the-company to answer this question now, rather than springing the change on us later. Hopefully, they will at least be willing to go that far, even if they maintain that Monica "violated" some rule.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:38
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    It...wait for it...hasn't actually changed yet! Odd, eh? Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:38
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    Having heard some vague context from a mod, "something big" is going to happen, and there's going to be an announcement in the next couple weeks. I have no idea what those changes are, but you can at the very least expect an answer some time in a couple weeks, but I doubt there's gonna be more. Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:53
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    @PrincessOlivia: They don't have a couple weeks. The Workplace is down to two mods. In a couple weeks, there may be sites with no mods.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:54
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    @Kevin I know. This situation has the potential to royally screw up multiple sites in the network. And yes, there will be sites without mods. If there's one unfortunate thing I've learned in the past couple of weeks, it's that SE probably won't care. They'll ignore it and take care of it in 6-8 arbitrary time units. This is extremely urgent, but won't be prioritized as such. Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:56
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    That being said, provided enough pressure, something might be done. Worked for the welcoming wagon anyway. Which is why it's good these posts exist. Now they just need more attention. Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:58
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    @PrincessOlivia: Read this, and I think you can put two and two together.
    – user102937
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:58
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    @RobertHarvey I've read all of them. I made a filter earlier today to catch all [discussion] posts posted on metas around the network (which should cover all properly tagged resignations). I also posted a tweet in an attempt to get more attention to that specific post, because I can't with good consciousness let it remain hidden on a child meta and get little to no attention (also because SE, in the past, has responded more when they get stuff targeting them on Twitter). Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 16:05
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    While I sympathize and respect the motivation for this post, my belief is that SE was going to post about the CoC changes anyway, either on the blog or here or both. I don’t think this request will accelerate that. I think the delay is in SE trying to frame the change and choosing their words carefully. Especially if they post on meta, they’re going to have to tap dance around making the change seem to support both the welcoming initiative & the veteran users’ interests. Then, this post might be more useful in getting ahead of that framing & asking pointed Qs about how it protects the veterans
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 18:16
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    @DanBron: I am intentionally keeping this as neutrally worded as possible because I do not want to get into a shouting match with people who have a demonstrated history of taking their collective ball and going home when they are criticized in public. If you want to ask "pointed Qs about how it protects the veterans," please do so in a separate question.
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 18:48
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    @Kevin Ok, but all I’m saying is this Q is superfluous. They would have posted such an announcement whether this Q was asked or not, and this Q won’t accelerate their response. If you’re going to ask such a Q, might as well ask one that will elicit information we would not have gotten otherwise. My $.02.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 18:50
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    @Kevin This sheds a little bit of light. Seems to have something to do with SE enforcing the use of proper pronouns for gender non-binary people.
    – egerardus
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:10
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    @Geronimo: While I can understand where that is coming from, quoting a poem about Nazi Germany in relation to gender pronoun usage seems a bit excessive to me. I have to wonder if this would've been such a big deal if they just would've had a little more transparency around the whole thing...
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:14
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    @Geronimo: Then you're presenting trans people with the rather unfair choice of hiding their trans-ness or accepting deliberate mis-gendering from others. That's still a form of coercion ("Hide, or we'll be nasty to you.").
    – Kevin
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


Caleb posted the following to Christianity.SE's meta (excerpted):

Personally I have yet to face the specific issue [pronouns], nobody to my knowledge has taken offense at the pronouns I used for them. But the "law" laid down quite suddenly and directly to moderators by several staff members was that henceforth we all had to do whatever was requested of us. It used to be that the ground rules were limited to a "be nice" policy that could have been boiled down to "if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all", and how that was enforced varied a bit by site. Even though I often disagree with the world at large on what is considered nice and constructive, I can usually figure out how to live within a system with boundaries. You can do X, but not Y. Given the framework of this secular platform those were rules I could play by.

What changed is this: now it isn't enough to not be rude to people you disagree with, the new policy forces us to positively affirm things we don't agree with. Even disengaging has been ruled out as an allowable solution, since that's discrimination and potentially hurtful. That avoidance of potentially compromising scenarios is not allowed has been directly affirmed by staff members several times over the weekend.

If person A comes along and demands that I refer to them by their "preferred pronoun" (even if it is a mismatch for their genetic sex or the grammar of the language being spoken) and I refuse, that's considered an insult. Now if I avoid pronouns altogether by sticking to proper names or disengaging from the individual, that's being considered an insult too.

I have added emphasis in a few places to focus on what the actual policy is. I do not endorse Caleb's opinion; this answer is strictly a factual description of what the new policy is. Anyone wanting to discuss whether this policy is a Good Idea, please ask a separate question.

Finally, my read of this, in a slightly more neutral tone of voice:

  • Use of a person's preferred pronouns will be required.
  • Deliberately avoiding trans people, or using their names instead of pronouns, will be disallowed.
  • Moderators will (probably?) be required to enforce these rules against regular users.

As multiple people have pointed out in the comments, we don't know for sure that this is accurate or complete. However, I've seen several other moderators talk about this in more vague terms on other metas, and I've not yet seen anyone directly contradict the above summary.

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    This is an interpretation. Until we see the actual written changes, we don’t know what they will be, other than something related to using someone’s preferred pronouns.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 19:41
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    If you're aiming for complete neutrality, you might change "I do not endorse Caleb's opinion" to "I do not endorse nor denounce Caleb's opinion," or just "I am not using this post to express agreement nor disagreement with Caleb's opinion."
    – Wildcard
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 19:44
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    I'm just gonna leave this comment here too: This change is in itself intended to be good, but it's dragged too far by disallowing the use of names. There's no reasonable arguments to support that. The idea is good, but the execution is bad. Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 19:50
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    @PrincessOlivia I can see why suddenly switching from pronouns to names after one's preferred pronoun has been learned could be quite noticeable and offending. Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 19:52
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    @JohnDvorak I can't imagine every single conversation starting with a pronoun introduction. Unless there's a system (a real system) to somehow display it to the same degree as the username, pronouns won't come up in most cases. But if you stick to names constantly, there's no switch. the example you mentioned is very context-dependent. Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 19:57
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    If one side insists on one pronoun, and the other side insists on the other, then using a name instead of a pronoun would seem like neutral ground. But apparently the new Code of Conduct is not going to allow neutral ground. It is going to enforce one side of this contentious issue and punish the other side.
    – user142148
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 20:34
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    @user9161 * shrug * Where information is withheld, rumor jumps in to fill the void.
    – user142148
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 20:41
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    Can someone give a reason how or why anyone would not respect someone's wish to be referred to by a certain pronoun while at the same time they don't want to be disrespectful? Cause switching pronouns is literally a 0-effort thing. Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 23:37
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    @user9161, "If language matters that much to you, it’s not reasonable to say it doesn’t matter to someone else." This statement is pure gold and cuts to the heart of the entire issue about gender pronouns. Thank you, I'm saving this.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 0:27
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    @SteffenWinkler, ignoring when someone else refers to you by the wrong pronoun (especially when it is not malicious) is also "literally a 0-effort thing" which should help you question the assumptions that went into your comment. I for one will never integrate the invented pronouns "xe, xyr, xim" into my speech or writing. Attempts to legislate or regulate language are actually disguised attempts to regulate thought. Look up "Newspeak." This is not intended as an offense against any person. It is about freedom of thought. In order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 0:36
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    @SteffenWinkler, if someone insists on being referred to using Spivak pronouns, or xe/xem/xyr, or other uncommon pronouns, I would prefer to adjust my writing to avoid the use of third-person pronouns. Not because I want to be offensive, but because I want my writing to be easily understood by people who read it. (I already do this when I'm uncertain of the subject's gender, because it draws fewer objections from grammatical prescriptivists than singular "they" does.)
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 1:27
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    @SteffenWinkler you felt comfortable deliberately misgendering me (something I HAVE NOT done to anyone), thereby proving my point that it is necessary to be able to risk offense in order to express your ideas in some cases. Under the Orwellian policies you have commented in vague support of, you could be suspended from the site for that. In Canada you could be fired. By your own admission you have disrespected me individually, which violates the Code of Conduct. Do I care? No. But you have proven your position inconsistent.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 7:10
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    @SteffenWinkler if you don’t object to saying “please” and “thank you”, how could you possibly have any objection to a law which established penalties if you don’t say those things?
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 17:41
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    @SteffenWinkler: "effort" is completely irrelevant here. Also inferring malice from refusal to use a certain pronoun is exactly the kind of evidence-free determination we are up in arms about. Monica Cellio is not guilty of malice. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 20:16
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    @SteffenWinkler, thanks for your response. James is correct. It's not really about going against someone's wishes. It's about mandating conformance to someone's wishes. They are two vastly different things. It doesn't matter how little effort is involved. Now that I re-read your original comment, I see that you weren't actually asking about a rule but about why someone wouldn't want to comply with a polite request to use particular pronouns. Which is a separate matter, and a less contentious one.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 20:45

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