Ever since the mass moderator resignations started, there have been hints that it is somehow related to how LGBTQ members of the community are or should be treated or welcomed. For example, in her resignation notice, Aza mentions (emphasis mine),

I am resigning as a moderator of Literature Stack Exchange, effective immediately.

My departure is not on good terms....

By other mods, by staff, and by the entrenched power structure of Stack Exchange, I have been made to feel unwelcome for my queerness. This particular pattern is abusive and makes an ironic mockery of kindness.

...Only the privileged party can elect to pretend, for a while, that we do not exist. And when moratoria are placed on speaking of our transness among moderators, only the cisgender among us are relieved.

A more recent post by Sklivvz alleges that the upcoming change in the CoC alluded to by many of the resigning moderators is over the use or misuse of pronouns for transgender people.

Does the Stack Exchange network have a problem with misgendering users or otherwise being unwelcoming or rude toward LGBTQ contributors? If so, what is it, and can someone share some concrete examples of what exactly happened? In all the time I have been here, I haven't seen any indication of such - even the religion-based sites have stayed welcoming, honestly explaining traditional and conservative teachings while maintaining civility and even niceness. The occasional troll notwithstanding (whose posts tend to get shredded rapidly), I don't see how we even have a "problem" at all.

Where specifically are LGBTQ members feeling persecuted or unwelcome? Is there an organized campaign or cabal devoted to misgendering users by intentionally using the wrong pronouns whose members need to be systematically identified and banned? Is the problem more of a perceived lack of awareness of LGBTQ issues that could be remedied with education rather than behavior modification?

In no way am I asking for information on why certain moderators have resigned or were fired, whether such actions were justified, whether moderators should resign, or related organizational matters. There are plenty of other questions where that may be discussed or debated.

  • 39
    This is very anectdotal but people have often assumed 'he' when referring to me ("His post says / Answering him"). However I don't typically correct people or display my pronouns in an environment with unfamiliar people and no commonplace practice for people to display pronouns, because that would make me stand out.
    – sylverfyre
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 4:11
  • 107
    @sylverfyre it's a longstanding tradition in the English language, though, to default to the masculine if a person's gender is not known and/or a hypothetical person is being discussed whose actual gender is not relevant to the conversation. It's not a campaign by people to twist the language to promote bias, it's the way people were taught to talk in formal contexts. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 4:15
  • 70
    Yes, there are a LOT of longstanding traditions that are fundamentally rooted in sexism. However, my point is more that "this is a thing that makes the community a little bit less welcoming for me" and not "its actively harmful." As someone who's not a moderator, I only have a this tiny anectdotal user experiences from my position of only very occasionally commenting/answering.
    – sylverfyre
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 4:20
  • 17
    While the answer to Robert's question is not just about pronouns, I might as well say, using the singular "they" is both formal and practical. You already do it naturally. If you find yourself using "he" to refer to unknown people in English, where everybody has used and understood "they" for centuries, it's because you on some level assume being male is the default. [This comment referred to an earlier, deleted comment by Blue as well, similar to the one below.] Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 4:51
  • 16
    My example is that when speaking up about being misgendered or when discussing the use of the singular they a user may be shouted down to in the comments. You know. Like above. ^
    – user384163
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 5:02
  • 98
    I think that this will not end good for non-native-English speakers. Seeing that "they" is supposedly a singular pronoun made me raising eyebrows, since today is the first time I ever heard that in English "they" is admissible to be used as a singular pronoun. No English course I ever took ever presented "they" as a singular pronoun. Don't expect that non-native-English speakers get it right anytime soon and don't interpret that as anything offensive. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 5:17
  • 39
    @bruglesco Ok. If you or someone else thinks that I should refer as "they", so be it. But expect that some people will simply not understand what the heck is going on and they are not being evil, aggressive or whatever like that. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 5:24
  • 35
    On another thought, how this could be enforced in non-English communities? Since this would be part of the CoC, it would/could/should be enforced everywhere. For example, in my language there is simply no gender-neutral pronoun ever, just the equivalently of "he" or "she". Their plural forms are also gender-specific (like "hes" and "shes"). Normally, that is nothing I would ever concern or think about. But if gender-neutral expressions would be enforced, there is simply no way to express that in some languages. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 5:27
  • 20
    @VictorStafusa It is true that the singular "they" is a specific feature of English (been there since the 14th century). It's pretty convenient. If you want to know how to be gender-inclusive in other languages, maybe try asking queer folks who speak those languages. This doesn't really seem to be the venue for that question. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 5:29
  • 82
    @rspeer What I see is a venue for great confusion. I can imagine in the future somebody with poor English skills being accused of queerphobia just for using "he" to refer to a user called "LOLOMG" who just happened to be a queer in a comment of some answer about using arrays in C#. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 5:37
  • 39
    @Victor Yes, it's that slippery slope that I'm afraid of. The sad part is...those kind of accusations are already mainstream; say if you assume that a random person in a tech workplace will most likely be male (based on statistical data) you're accused of being sexist when you're just being practical. In order to communicate, people risk offending other people; not assuming good faith on others' part is a very dangerous path to down. In the past, the overarching principle of the CoC was "assuming good faith"; the current behaviour by SE goes against that and badly so.
    – user437611
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 5:54
  • 56
    [cont.] It's simply this mutual understanding and respect that I'm asking for. Please don't assume that a random person on the Internet is sexist or queerphobic simply because they use a variation of the English language that you're not familiar with or find awkward. This is an international platform and people come here from all kinds of backgrounds.
    – user437611
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 6:49
  • 16
    "Does the Stack Exchange network have a problem with misgendering users or otherwise being unwelcoming or rude toward LGBTQ contributors?" In one famous blog post, the Network said yes, because they interviewed users and these users told them about harassment directed at women or people of color or minorities. This is at least some qualitative hint. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 8:53
  • 8
    @Trilarion Those kinds of interviews often don't reflect the actual scenario because the interviewees are a self-selected sample rather than a random sample of the group they're representing. I would'nt draw definitive conclusions from that alone. Though, yes, the 'hints' matter.
    – user437611
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 9:10
  • 10
    I think what @VictorStafusa is bringing to the conversation very relevant. I'm also from Brazil, took several English courses and I've never heard that "they" could be used to refer to one individual. I can really see some user using "he" to refer a person, then it'll be edited to "they" and this user stares the edit thinking "what the heck is going on?". Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 13:37

12 Answers 12


I don't see how we even have a "problem" at all.

I think that is the fundamental divide that SE does not seem to understand and why their whole "welcoming" move is met by so much resistance and frustration.

On one hand, we have the technical sites. Those are there to answer User1248346's programming problem. Background is not required nor requested. Whether that user is a man or woman, in the Swiss alps or at an Indonesian beach, married or single, we will never know. Because it does not matter. In fact, sharing that information would be weird. Their compiler will always work the same. Put in the correct code, you get the correct result.

People on those sites don't really see the problem (literally, they don't see it because there is nothing to see, not because they turn a blind eye) and feel very insulted when told they are not welcoming. They are providing free services to random strangers and they are told that their biggest flaw is that they treat every one of those strangers like they would treat a white, straight male, the most privileged class on the planet. So they wonder what the hell this is all about, being told that they are bad people and need to be more welcoming than "just" treating random strangers like their equals and providing free work and education. How much more welcoming would you like your volunteers?

And then... there are the other sites on the network. Where people need to identify in turn to solve their problem. Because their problem is very dependent on all those factors. Background. Gender. Religion. Culture. And I will believe everyone that says they do not feel welcomed there. On technical sites you get an answer that is verifiably true (you compile it and it works... or not) whether you like it or not, it's helpful. On those other sites you get opinions or in the best case experiences. While my compiler and your compiler are guaranteed to do the same thing (given same versions and settings), whether my parents react the same as your parents when my long lost aunt tells them their nephew is gay... is really not an exact science and bound to be a big ball of communication problems, cultural misunderstandings and all round opportunities to get bad vibes. If someone explains how to fix my program in broken English, there are only a very few options to get that so wrong to be insulted. To explain your views on LGBT people without insulting any of the multiple sides to this is hard; even in your native language. So yes, if someone says they do not feel good about how this is handled, I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and say: on those sites? Absolutely. I have not witnessed anything specific, but I will believe you that this can happen easily, frequently, and in ways I probably would not even notice.

The fundamental problem is that SE mixes all of this into one big bowl of telling their users they are all bigots and they need to improve if they don't want to be banned.

I will support the improve part, but I will not silently agree to the bigot part. It's a little like asking "Will you stop beating your wife?". I certainly support not beating anybody, but I will not agree to "stop beating my wife" because that never happened in the first place, and mixing me in with the criminal **** who do that is not going to get any support from me and, seeing the reactions, a lot of people like me.

So yes, from my perspective, not seeing the problem at some places, does not mean they don't fester in others. But SE does a terrible job at telling them apart, losing some very valuable support they could have gathered. I don't think any of the opposed users would oppose a "stop bigots from abusing people" campaign. Almost all oppose a "Chances are you are a bigot, stop that behavior" campaign, because that is not the truth and I personally feel very offended by it.

A practical example: as a technical user, I have spent years discussing problems with users like BlackUnicorn73 or HazMatX or User1234567. Telling me I have to respect their correct gender pronouns sounds ridiculous. I don't even know those. I don't know if they know them. Or care. If any of them had corrected me in the use of the one's I estimated, I would have complied. I don't care how exactly I address any of them. But making a rule about that, a code of conduct with consequences to follow? Seems very far fetched from that perspective.

On the other hand side, if you are on a site that is non-scientific and someone intentionally uses the wrong pronoun to constantly harass you against your expressed wish? Sure. Ban their sorry behind. I don't care and I certainly won't oppose that or support harassment.

But the difference here is the intention behind it. The vast majority does not belong to the latter group and SE completely fails to recognize that.

So to summarize: Yes, it perfectly possible that for a large amount of users, this problem is not visible, because it does not exist as a global constant. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is also correct to say that for some users, this is a problem.

And we could all be happily working on a solution for a better site, if this divide would be recognized.

  • 126
    While I agree, it's actually worse than that. As a software developer, not only do I not care about the religion, race, sexual orientation etc of posters, I am fully aware that they are unknowable outside of a meat-greet and investigation. So, if I am obliged,to avoid the use of any language that could be interpreted as unwelcome/insulting/abusive by user X, my only option is to post nothing. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:27
  • 29
    @MarkBooth I would go with the easy answer of "if they did it again after being told it's not acceptable, it should be considered intentional". At least that is what the law in my country goes by. Speeding? Considered negligent. Speeding next to a red flashing speed limit sign you cannot possibly overlook? Considered intentional, fine doubled.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:31
  • 12
    The current dumpster fire started in the context of site moderators talking among themselves. As you say, technical questions are effectively anonymous: we address the questions, not the people. But moderators must reach out to individual people, and address them by name. So moderators do have opportunities for incorrectly using names, and thus (deliberately or accidently) causing offense.
    – Raedwald
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:32
  • 24
    Incidentally, I have lost track of the number of times friends in my social media circle who are professional programmers have said things along the lines of "I don't do Stack Overflow, I find it too toxic", so a perception of toxicity isn't just an issue for soft stack exchange sites.
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:34
  • 63
    @MarkBooth Yes, SO is considered toxic by many, but for reasons that are very much different from this pronoun/gender issue. All nvoigt is asking is that we don't mix these clearly distinct problems.
    – user437611
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:42
  • 21
    @MarkBooth Perhaps you could start with demonstrating the intersectionality of these apparently distinct problems then (ideally, in your own answer). I can't possibly "appreciate" what I don't even perceive.
    – user437611
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:53
  • 61
    @CBBailey It sounds ridiculous because I cannot "respect" the gender pronoun of "KawmzaHuga17". I cannot respect an unknown. I can guess one and go with it, hoping it's right. That's not respect... it's guessing. Especially since I cannot be responsible for remembering every single user's wishes, even if explicitely expressed. Four weeks from now on a different post, I will make the same guess from the same data. And probably fail again in the same way. Would that be considered "disrespectful"? How much personal memory would I need to be in compliance with the CoC? Do I need to keep notes?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:20
  • 22
    @Renan SO is not a respectful place. Many users ask grossly-disrespectful questions daily: those that expect others to do SO and/or Google lookups for them, deadbeats with homework dumps, those who think that any testing/debugging can be just outsourced etc. etc. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:44
  • 55
    @AnkitSharma The point of my post is not pronouns. It's the fact that "I perceive no problems" and "I experience problems" are both valid experiences and it would help a lot more to get all the people in the boat of solving the existing problems of some, instead of telling those that experience no problems that they are the problem.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:45
  • 30
    @Renan And I say: maybe it's smarter to go about it in a way that the majority (in your example: of men) can agree to the proposed changes. Because the problem in your "not all men" scenario are not the few that say "it's not us how dare you", it's the many that do not act. Maybe they are like me and think "if you want my support, maybe start by not insulting me".
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 13:20
  • 16
    This is a brilliant post. I have always thought that it was a bad idea to expand the scope of the SE network to "soft" sites where all answers are opinions and demographics actually matter. The Q&A model we have works brilliantly for technical, objective subjects. For personal or emotional matters, it totally sucks. If SE had steadfastly refused to create such sites, and stuck to their initial goal of "creating a library of detailed answers," we wouldn't be having this problem now.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 19:17
  • 13
    The fundamental problem is that SE mixes all of this into one big bowl of telling their users they are all bigots I have seen claims like this a few times...where did this actually happen? Because I was never told by SE that I'm a bigot. What I have read was that the community needs to be a bit friendlier and more respectful. Which for the technical side of the SE network had almost 0 impact aside from the 'help new people find their way instead of downvoting them to oblivion'. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 19:48
  • 13
    I disagree that the technical sites are fundamentally different. There's all this stuff. There are instances of unnecessary assumptions about people's genders, and pushback whenever someone attempts to change that. There is ableism, as Renan notes. Universally unwelcoming behavior still impacts people disproportionately based on how much they feel like they belong in the first place. SE is not telling all its users that we're bigots. SE is telling us we need to fix this, and that impacts both the technical and non-technical sites. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 21:19
  • 13
    @VictorStafusa It seems like that would be a problem under the new (unpublished) CoC. It was hinted that avoiding specific pronouns by using neutral ones wouldn't be allowed.
    – user204841
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 23:06
  • 23
    @ModusTollens Exactly. Mandating a rule that people should not refer to other people by the usernames and that an artificial usage of 3rd person pronouns should be enforced no matter of what seems to me as simply extremely lunatic and insane. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 23:11

I recently saw an ex-moderator post an answer on MSE suggesting that trans people are, either in general or in the subset which cares about pronouns, mentally ill and should "get better" rather than participating. The post is now gone and I have no desire to single this person out or revive what appears to be a settled debate, so I won't identify them.

In case it's not obvious, this argument is both trans-phobic and ableist. It also was receiving upvotes faster than downvotes for several minutes (at which point I dropped off the site in disgust for multiple hours).

This was someone I had thought I respected. I'm not really sure what I think now. Part of me is beginning to wonder if the community and the company don't deserve each other. Part of me is trying to figure out what actually happened in the Teacher's Lounge, since the people I thought I could trust have betrayed that trust. Part of me is asking "why even bother any more?"

I still don't have any answers to those questions.

  • 16
    I saw the post before it was deleted. I would not call it transphobic but rather uninformed. However the point is still valid for this illustration. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 7:42
  • 26
    Of all the problems and issues affecting trans, is the occasional antiquated use of inappropriate pronouns on a globally-accessible website frequented by many ESL users such a massive problem? Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:15
  • 21
    @MarkHenderson I saw the post too and I would call it... hurtful. The intention isn't the point is it.
    – user384163
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:16
  • 57
    Someone has the right to not like certain people, based on personal beliefs or religion. But they can still be friendly towards such people, or worst case keep silent. Even if that mod (and Monica?) dislike certain people, they co-operated perfectly for long years without a problem. Shutting Monica off based on her personal beliefs is so bad in so many levels I can't even start to describe how wrong it is. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 15:50
  • 95
    If people posts shit that are openly transphobic, queerphobic, sexist, racist, etc, then the old CoC and even the still older be-nice policy would be more than enough to handle that. Using this as an excuse to make the new CoC that mandates specific pronouns instead of just referring to people through their usernames is a too big leap. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 23:33
  • 10
    @MartinJames: "Of all the problems and issues affecting trans, is the occasional antiquated use of inappropriate pronouns on a globally-accessible website frequented by many ESL users such a massive problem?" Well, apparently similar such issues drove one moderator to quit (which is how this whole thing started). And you should also consider that it was primarily moderator-to-moderator contact that caused this issue. If moderators are supposed to be the best of us, elected by us, what does that say about us? Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 3:26
  • 5
    @Angew: Why was that moderator stropped of that status? Because SE made a policy change that the moderator could not accept, and that policy change was prompted by a moderator being driven to quit due to bigotry. Bigotry that the policy change was intended to help wipeout. "This thing" is bigger than your narrative would suggest. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 13:21

When I was still identifying as a woman, I already hated that people assumed I was a "he". It made me feel, as a woman, invisible. Like the idea of a woman liking what I liked was too impossible and, thus, that I could only be a man. It made me feel like, as a woman, I had no place here.

I now identify as non binary and I still hate it when people assume my gender. It feels like they are negating my very existence. It's not a good feeling at all.

I, once, had to argue with a user that I preferred to be called "they" rather than "he" or "she". It was only one user and, since some allies jumped in, I didn't have to do much talking (and I thank them for that). But it was still exhausting, it was still emotionally draining and it still made me feel terribly bad. And it was only one user. Who wasn't even being (intentionally) rude.

But they still wanted to be convinced before using my preferred pronouns. And, for me, this wasn't ok. Because, for me, it sounded like:

If you can convince me that you are really, really hurt by this behavior, I will stop. But if you only seem slightly hurt, I won't. Oh, and also, I will be the only one judging if you are hurt enough. Because your words don't really matter to me.

They probably didn't intend to make me feel like that. They certainly didn't even think that could be an issue. But they still ended up making me feel like crap.

  • 3
    12 users (and I use that term instead of something far less polite) downvoted this? BelovedFool is literally saying they felt undermined and hurt by an interaction on SE, and people are wondering what "evidence" there is that people are unwelcoming. What more evidence do people need. Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 18:24

It is difficult to say much without breaking moderator rules, but examples I've seen include

  • "Oh no, not this again" reactions when someone brings up an issue.
  • People asking "What can we do about people who constantly bring up these issues?".
  • People asking about trans issues and then arguing with the responses they get from trans people or their allies.
  • People effectively being told their experiences don't matter.
  • The scale of the problem being considered sufficiently small that it isn't worth peoples time.
  • People breaking moderator rules to further their agenda.
  • People criticising suggestions that learning about LGBTQIA+ issues might help them better understand the feelings of those marginalised groups.

These issues have been going on for years.

They are coming to a head now because trans exclusive voices are becoming more vocal, so trans people and their allies are refusing to stay quiet any longer, explaining their identities, how they are being excluded and what they want people to do in order to make them feel welcome.

The issues we are dealing with here on Stack Exchange mirror the issues seen out in the real world, trans exclusive bias and victimisation is common, even within communities you would expect to have sympathy for queer problems (Stonewall has faced criticism for being more trans inclusive and people are calling for a new trans exclusive Stonewall to be created!).

I try to be a good ally, as a (nominally) cis white male, so even though I'm only affected by these issues one step removed it disappoints me that people cannot see, or refuse to see the problems trans people are having in our community.

†This post is skirting this itself.

‡ I come from culture which has, until recently, forced everyone into being labelled either male or female, ignoring the diverse nature of gender recognised by other cultures. These differences have always been there, but only now are people starting to recognise them, since my culture now has words for them. To put this into perspective, at least one in fifty people are known to have one or more of the many intersex characteristics, that is a minority, but a significant one. These characteristics have been a part of the human genome for as long as we have been human.

  • 14
    As I said, this has been going on for years, and unless you have some reason to, you may not even notice it. It's a kind of cognitive blindness which appears to come from our unconscious biases. I'm not sure what you mean by latent denunciation though, you'll have to explain that.
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 9:00
  • 12
    The major problem we have in being able to communicate these issues is that it’s not clear where the line is for talking about what happens in the TL and other private spaces. Therefore we default to vague or no statements, while those that resigned are free to say whatever they want, without recourse. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 11:26
  • 3
    I can't say I see it either. In chat, anything happens, but that's not on site. Basic consideration and respect already applies in chat. If this is about being referred to by the generic "he", frankly, it seems a bit silly. On site; answering, asking, and commenting; nothing about your person is relevant and it almost never comes up. If you're a she or something else and it truly bothers you, and somehow it doesn't feel weird and irrelevant to correct people on it, go ahead and inform us. I seriously doubt more than a handful of users will intentionally "misgender".
    – user212646
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 15:03
  • 10
    "These issues have been going on for years" - in some parts of some sites. See @nvoigt's answer; some of us absolutely do not see any of this occurring, and it seems to us like the neighbors next door dragging us into their domestic disputes.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 8:37
  • 11
    Just because you don't see a problem doesn't mean it isn't happening. I may not be seeing a given problem because it isn't there, or because I don't recognise or notice it when it occurs or I may be ignoring it because I don't understand it or actively believe it is wrong or not a problem. I may not even remember seeing something because of my own implicit/unconscious bias or even my own acknowledged biases and prejudices. If you don't believe using 'he' as a 'gender neutral' pronoun is exclusionary and sexist, for instance, then you won't notice when it happens.
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 11:35
  • 12
    People asking about trans issues and then arguing with the responses they get from trans people or their allies. People disagreeing with you is an issue? Should everyone agree with trans people on everything?
    – Luis Rico
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 8:36
  • 25
    When you ask a trans person to tell you about their experience, and then argue that they didn't actually experience it, you're not helping, you're harming. You don't have to agree with everything a trans person says, and if you can find someone honestly arguing that you should, go ahead and shut them down. But you're apparently not even trying to understand what they say, let alone do anything useful. So why bother interjecting in the discussion? @LuisRico
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 8:55
  • 9
    @Nij but assuming bad faith from everyone that disagrees with you isn't helping either. If someone tells you their experience and it turns out to be a misunderstanding, should you not point that out?
    – Luis Rico
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 9:08
  • 4
    When someone is saying they cannot be disagreed with about something, that's not about being wrong, it's about being uncorrectable even if they are. That's something that can't be accepted in any discussion that is meant to be productive or useful. Being wrong is something that can be dealt with; refusing to accept the possibility is not. @sgf
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 19:06
  • 1
    @MarkBooth: I'm sure some of it happens, but - what is the actual scale of this problem? Are there any statistics? Estimates?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 15:51
  • 4
    The point @einpoklum makes is a valid one. Who studied this, what's the quantification for that data. Even more important: where did such things happen? On IPS, Parenting, Politics, language related sites etc? That I'd consider quite bad with high probability. In chat? On the other hand, if such a thing ("not again…") should occur on, say SO, Photography, AskUbuntu, etc then I'd like the subquestion addressed: "Why should any of this matter on such a Q&A?" For the latter case I see only vague accusations referencing long deleted stuff. For that, and as a vegan, I ask where's the beef? Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 18:18
  • 1
    Incidentally, I am not ignoring einpoklum and LаngLаngС because I have no answer for them, I have chosen to disengage as this kind of 'ganging up' demanding 'evidence' is a primary component of Sealioning harassment, which the Lavendar community has been having to deal with for years. I can only comment on what I saw in the lead up to this situation, I am not a social scientist and have not performed a rigorous analysis. All I know is that people are hurting and I want to help prevent that hurt. Ref: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sealioning
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:46

When you say 'I don't see how we even have a "problem" at all.', I think you should consider reasons why you might not see a problem, even after reading Aza's post.

These reasons may include:

  • The problem does not affect you
  • Part of the problem, as described by Aza, is that queer-positive content and queer self-identification are discouraged by a number of moderators; you seemingly do not post queer-positive content or self-identify as queer, so you never notice this
  • You are a longtime user of the site, and sympathize with other longtime users, who broadly represent the majority demographics in tech and favor the status quo on StackExchange
  • 40
    Has it been considered that moderators discouraging queer self-identification would equally discourage mentioning in a post that you are a cat owner, or a broccoli lover? And that they apply that policy simply because it distracts from the question? If this was the case, should it still be considered queerphobia?
    – dim
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 6:59
  • 4
    @dim Thing is: all of that is still pretty vague. discourage mentioning in a post ... who said we solely talk about posts?! You assume this is about people adding "irrelevant" aspects to questions or answers, but well, I think that is just that: an assumption. What if people put something into their profile, and someone else flags that?! That is why I see a huge need for specific examples.
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 7:06
  • 68
    I don't think that asking for evidence is an attempt to dismiss a problem or sweep it under the rug. It would be helpful to see specific examples so that we can address the problem constructively rather than speculatively. This answer doesn't answer the question, in the sense that it doesn't provide the requested citations. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 7:15
  • 17
    Asking marginalized groups to justify their marginalization is at the very least problematic. Let's not act like this question was an effort to allow queer folks the opportunity to speak. It is absolutely a demand to justify ourselves. While a non-answer, this answer needed said.
    – user384163
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 12:38
  • 5
    FWIW @Blue I do recognize the need to present factual support for arguments when making affirmative assertions. I chose the word problematic to describe the situation with care. It is difficult to ask people to stand up to Injustice when doing so can put them at risk. Yet if they don't the Injustice continues. But I am not overly optimistic that people are even willing to recognize that there even is an Injustice.
    – user384163
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 17:56
  • 10
    One of the major complaints about how Monica Cellio was treated is that this incident could seriously affect her livelihood and career. I didn't see you questioning those claims. But when it comes to LGBTQI+ people reporting the potential for harassment, including bullying, social disinclusion, up to stalking or doxxing or threats against life on the basis of whichever identities they happen to have, suddenly we need evidence?
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 19:15

The overarching theme of the code of conduct has always been Be Nice and that has been problematic for a long time. There was the Summer of Love back in 2012 which wasn't focused on LGBT+ issues, but the general lack of niceness. In 2014 the new new Be Nice CoC was released that highlighted bigotry based on gender and sexual orientation. Then again in 2018 they confronted LGBT+ issues and said

Many people, especially those in marginalized groups do feel less welcome. We know because they tell us.

If you are looking for unwelcoming behavior you have missed the point. Quoting Jon Skeet (with the hope that maybe it will somehow prevent this from being down voted into oblivion) from that blog post about his experience at a pride parade

I wasn’t just tolerated; I was made to feel like the community was actually better because I was there.

We have examples of people speaking out about unwelcoming behavior. We have Aza's public resignation as well as less publicized LGBT+ mods resigning because of unfair and unwelcoming treatment. We have LGBT+ mods who do not feel they can safely and effectively communicate with other mods.

Examples of unwelcoming behavior are much hard to show since it violates the be nice policy and they get deleted. As a mod, I can assure you there is a lot of sexist and LGBT+ negativity that gets deleted. As for examples of undeleted unwelcoming behavior I point to the fact that Monica was fired and Caleb resigned because they refused to use preferred pronouns. There are also examples of sexist comments in this answer. While I believe they did not do this out of malice or to cause harm or hurt, the fact of the matter is that treating LGBT+ people differently is unwelcoming. If our moderators cannot be a shining example of inclusivity, how can we expect our users to be welcoming.

I guess what I am saying is that the SE team and LGBT+ users are telling us there are problems. I suggest we listen.

  • 18
    "Examples of unwelcoming behavior are much hard to show since it violates the be nice policy and they get deleted." -> That's exactly why I'm so confused over the nature of unwelcoming behavior. If I can't figure out what is happening because it gets deleted quickly, there's little I can do to work toward preventing future occurrences (rather, I am stuck with waiting for an "incident" I can red flag). Are there any 10k+ users who can quote some (suitably redacted as necessary) examples of unwelcoming content that was deleted? Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:31
  • 2
    It's the same thing with, say, a hypothetical law enforcement agency. If cops start summarily executing drunk drivers and burning their cars on-site, we are severely limited in understanding why people drive drunk and what sort of outreach programs (e.g. rehab, driver education, designated driver programs, later bus hours, large print bus maps, stern warning signs posted in bars) might help. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:34
  • 19
    Ask that question I'm so confused over the nature of unwelcoming behavior. If I can't figure out what is happening because it gets deleted quickly, there's little I can do to work toward preventing future occurrences and you can have all my meta points in bounties. That is a friendly and welcoming question. This current question is asking the abused to defend and justify their hurts. We don't deserve that level of effort from them.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:35
  • 1
    @RobertColumbia so ask the question LGBT+ users I hear you and want to know how I can help
    – StrongBad
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:36
  • 12
    I'm implicitly asking the question "I want to know how I can help" by visiting the site daily, and posting helpful answers wherever I can. And yes, I'm implicitly extending that question with "...and I don't care whether you are LGBT+ or not, because it is totally none of my business". But if someone only says "I have a problem", refuses to say what the problem is, and accuses everybody who dares to ask this question of bigotry or ignorance, then this is in no way productive. The answer by nvoigt summarizes this perfectly, IMHO.
    – Marco13
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:48
  • 6
    @StrongBad I went ahead and asked the question, and it's at -1. Are you sure that was a good idea? I'm also questioning the "justify their hurts" idea. Our system of justice is based on that - that someone comes before the judge, or society, etc., explains what happened to them, and says what they need to have happen for justice to be served. It's not right for someone to be forced to be repeatedly interrogated in a hot room over the same facts over and over. It's another thing to ask them to concisely explain the problem so that others can start to develop understanding or even empathy. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 19:18
  • 1
    @RobertColumbia I think the question is great. Thank you. you will get your share of down votes, but hopefully it will actually get some constructive answers.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 19:26
  • 2
    What is your opinion about this? Not that I'm against you or anything like that, but SE seems to had done a pretty bad job on drawing the conclusions that you're using to build up your answer. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 22:47
  • 1
    @VictorStafusa The answer you link to is, I assume, relatively typical. But this is unrelated to gender. The fact that there’s a clear gender disparity in the whether people feel as part of the community is absolutely not explained by the personal anecdote of a few people. In fact, the answer’s reference to “most women” is in itself clearly sexist. Either way it’s a complete non-sequitur to conclude that gender differences in feeling part of the community don’t matter, and additionally statistically illiterate. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 8:56
  • 1
    If it's hard to show examples of unwelcoming behavior because such are deleted, doesn't that mean that things are working properly? Wouldn't it be worse if people signed in and ran into bigoted posts and comments?
    – DaveG
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:51
  • 4
    @KonradRudolph No one said that gender differences in feeling part of the community don’t matter. But I agree that both sides are statistically illiterate. My point is that SE claimed that "We know because they tell us." and StrongBat took that as a granted truth when that due to that statistically illiteracy, the correct statement would be "We don't know anything but pretend that we do because we made wrong biased questions and misinterpreted the data in order to produce fake numbers that supports our beliefs". Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 17:30
  • 14
    "Monica was fired... because [she] refused to use preferred pronouns" - as far as I'm aware, this is incorrect: Monica questioned CoC changes that mandated the use of preferred pronouns, and got canned as a result.
    – Ian Kemp
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 10:47
  • 11
    @StrongBad This answer appears to be wrong. Monica was fired because she referred to everyone by avoiding pronouns. She treated them the same way as everyone else. That was considered "misgendering". Could you explain why you think you deserve special treatment, rather than actual equality?
    – user612952
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 11:52
  • 10
    "Monica was fired ... because they refused to use preferred pronouns." Assumes facts not in evidence. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334248/…
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 7:14
  • 5
    @bzklrm Nobody here says they don't care about this issue at all. People care about different aspects of it. Monica cared about being forced to write in a way she didn't like without seeing the benefits of it in comparison to what she was doing. Caleb, who is strangely seen as a bad guy here, cared about his way of moderating people of different believes without enforcing one viewpoint as the "right" one. Everyone I've seen here cares about making people feel welcome. They just have different ways to go about it.
    – PoorYorick
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 6:34

I've more or less left the network, largely because of these issues. I was only alerted to the recent drama after getting an email about unread inbox notifications on an old question about pronoun usage...

I should probably say that I've quit SE a few times over these issues. I'd get fed up with the culture and leave, then see some grand gesture in the form of a blog post, or message from a staff member, that they're making efforts to improve things, and then I'd come back to see a tidal wave of blowback.

Some of the worst behavior I've seen on this network with regard to LGBT+ issues, or gender, or race, or ad infinitum, has been watching the community have meltdowns when ever these issues are surfaced. Sort of a:

I'll show you that this thing does't happen by doing the exact thing I'm telling you doesn't happen.


Beyond that, concrete examples are harder to offer. You probably haven't seen much of the nasty stuff because SE deletes it after it has been flagged. Thing is, if you're the target of that abuse you get the notification, see it, and are often the one flagging it for deletion.

So, what's the problem? We delete the rude content, what more do you want?

Well... How about not kicking and screaming any time someone mentions that these things do happen, and are a problem, on the network?

This does not happen to me ≠ This does not happen

As much as Stack Exchange would like to be an island, with its own ecosystems, culture, and values, cut off from the rest of the world... it isn't. Every one of us lives in the world. We're all impacted by what's happening in real life.

The cultural battles and changes that are going on in the world are already happening here on SE. We just opted to sweep them under the rug and act as if all that was off topic. If we refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room, maybe it'll just go away.

If we don't acknowledge gender everyone is male. If we don't acknowledge race everyone is white. If we don't acknowledge sexual orientation everyone is straight. Etc. After all, who wouldn't want to be assumed to be a cisgender straight white male? What problems could that possibly cause, or reinforce? It's all very egalitarian if we strip our identities away and assume everyone is a cisgender heterosexual white male, am I right?

I think, or rather I would hope, we're learning that that approach wasn't working.

We effectively, even if inadvertently, labeled those folks who'd rather not be assumed to be cisgender heterosexual white men as rabble rousers and trouble makers. We effectively told people that all those issues were off topic, even on meta, even in chat, even on sites where those things are explicitly on topic. We effectively told people that those topics were just too much trouble to moderate.

We effectively, even if inadvertently, told people:

Sure, you're welcome here as long as you stay in the closet and don't talk about it.

If our civility hinges on internet anonymity; or rather our civility hinges on some people maintaining internet anonymity... We're not really being nice. Nor are we "making the internet a better place".


I can now confidently say that there are specific issues which are unwelcoming to some parts of the LGBTQ community.

Trans people suffer a range of challenges in everyday life. Just one of those challenges is having their name and gender recognised both legally and socially. The legal processes for changing ones name and gender marker in places where this is possible tend to be laborious, time consuming and exhausting. Socially, correcting people can be difficult and emotionally taxing.

Sadly, there are people who are unaccepting and/or hateful who actually take pride in determining what they believe to be a person's originally assigned gender and using that in speech targeted to invalidate that person's identity. For example, someone might determine that they believe a woman to be a man and start calling that women "Sir", say "whatever, man" when corrected, or emphasise a male pronoun in their presence "He ordered a latte!". This is known as misgendering and in this example it is deliberate and malicious.

When you are building a space that is trans-inclusive one of the simplest things you can do is affirm that misgendering is not tolerated. Misgendering happens, and a lot of the time it is not malicious so correcting and moving on is the most beneficial approach. When someone is deliberately targeting a user by misgendering, other sanctions would be appropriate.

Once you make this stance, you should be saying that people's pronouns are not up for debate. What is incredibly unwelcoming is hosting debate on that very topic. The fact that there is a question on this site titled "Official FAQ on gender pronouns and Code of Conduct changes" where people are being allowed to actively debate this is draining, unwelcoming and unacceptable.


Are there specific issues with unwelcoming behavior toward LGBTQ persons on Stack Exchange?

Aside from obvious bigotry which is easy to reference and see as wrong. There is one very specific issue that I believe can be expressed succintly:

  • Some feel it is hostile not to use a person's preferred pronouns.

  • Others feel it is wrong to assume hostility in a person's choice of speech which is not inherently hostile (e.g. using a username vs the preferred pronoun).

These two points, while each having their own merits, can be seen to create contention between the adherents of each.

N.B.: I fully appreciate that there are shades of gray and degrees to these points. But for my own sanity in the blurring lines of discussion over the past days (thank you to those that answered my questions without taking offense), and also of course in answer to the question posted here, this is at least one specific issue that should be addressed.

  • 27
    Beyond the question of the use of pronouns itself, there is this sort of weaponization of virtue and supposed-inclusiveness - at least one may perceive it. The sense is "You'd better jump through my behavioral hoops, because otherwise I might decide I feel unwelcome as a [insert identity group here], and then you'll be in a world of pain because I'll sic the authorities on you."
    – einpoklum
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 8:48

More of an addendum, as I didn't spend too much time "researching" the observation I intend to share here.

The question quotes Aza's letter of resignation:

By other mods, by staff, and by the entrenched power structure of Stack Exchange, I have been made to feel unwelcome for my queerness. This particular pattern is abusive and makes an ironic mockery of kindness.

That was written September 26th.

September 29th, Monica writes up her story about being fired.

What happened after Monica's message:

  • multiple moderators stepped down, or suspended their activity
  • multiple practically-hot questions/discussions on Meta.SE
  • ... with overall hundreds of comments, many with 100+ votes

Now, see what happened, after that first resignation, out of frustration, and feeling unwelcome for queerness... and you find: almost nothing, with the notable exception of a few comments, or that answer by user StrongBad.

Sure, we don't see what happened after that resignation within the moderator community.

But it seems that being fired in horrible ways by SE resulted in way more outrage than feeling forced to quit, by SE and the moderator community.

  • 17
    This really doesn't address the question. I specifically wanted to avoid discussion of resignations, Monica's firing, and resolve the single question, Does SE have a problem with welcoming LGBTQ folks, and if so, what exactly is that problem? Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 17:17
  • 14
    @RobertColumbia My point is: that firing got hundreds of people into uproar. Many of them spent many hours trying to find out "what happened". Again: compare that to the interest that this resignation caused. You are the only one to publicly speak up and ask "what went wrong". All I am saying: there could be a certain pattern here. And beyond that: what makes you think that there is exactly one problem?!
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 17:37
  • 8
    @MikeTheLiar What about: "not feeling supported" resulting in LQBTQ+ people "not feeling welcome"?! Is that really soooo far stretched? And as said, to a certain degree, this sounds like: "yes, let's reason about this problem, but only in ways to we feel comfortable with".
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 17:49
  • 16
    @DanielFischer That is my whole point: it feels like Monica being fired was important enough to a large number of moderators to express their solidarity. Quickly. Publicly. A queer moderator leaving, and directly confronting the moderator community ... was not worth doing anything. No need to go full public! But if I would be a moderator, I would look at that resignation with almost more energy than the firing. Because the resignation would get me to ask did I do something to cause this? That is a bit harder than identifying a clear enemy "oh that SE.com is treating us so badly".
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:00
  • Also by accessibility. More people understand someone "unjustly" being removed from a position than necessarily understand the issues raised in Aza's resignation. If you read Aza's post and think "I don't really understand what's being said here, explain to me exactly what you mean" it means that you didn't understand the issue in the first place. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:01
  • 5
    "Community Managers have treated us like expendable resources to retrain bigoted moderators. They draw vocal bigots from the woodwork with prompts to discussion, and then vanish, forcing us to decide between tacit approval through silence or defense of our own against an unchanging torrent of bigotry" if you read this and your immediate response is "show me examples because I don't believe we have any bigoted moderators" it's possible the fundamental issue is outside of your frame of reference. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:05
  • 11
    @MikeTheLiar accessibility? When a member of my team quits and tells me because the team and the company made me feel unwelcome that feels pretty straight forward accessible to me. When a member of my team comes to me and tells me "we got problems" than that actually trumpets his issues with the company. Because my team, that is within my responsibility.
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:06
  • 7
    @MikeTheLiar exactly. I read Aza's resignation and didn't understand what she was so concerned about. I recognize that anti-LGBTQ bias is a thing in our society, but was at a loss to understand what specifically she had encountered on SE that made her react the way she did. Was she frustrated that people don't proactively ask her for her pronouns before they refer to her in comments or posts? Did she encounter a specific bigoted user who should have already been banned? Is she more upset about systemic societal issues that Stack Exchange lacks the ability or mandate to tackle? Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:18
  • 4
    @GhostCat, "and directly confronting the moderator community" does not seem to be a correct description of the events as far as I can tell. If Aza posted something along those lines in the Teacher's Lounge, it would (at least the part of the moderator community present in TL at that time), but my impression is that the resignation post on Lit.meta was the first loud outcry. And few people follow Lit.meta. Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:19
  • 21
    @DanielFischer a number of LGBT+ moderators have resigned and/or stopped using TL because of hostility from other moderators (and I am not just talking about pronouns).
    – StrongBad
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 18:26
  • 13
    @MarkAmery You'd think, right? Here's the difference. The policies that users deal with on main sites are concerned with quality, content, etc. and don't much care about who people are. (I think this is a problem, but not everyone does.) The policies that moderators deal with in TL are concerned with people: What does the CoC mean to us? How do we help people feel welcome? What do I do about [specific user]? More main-site users carry deep bigotry than you'd think, but less surface to express it. Mod chat, allll that crap gets exposed. And we don't ask about bigotry during elections, so...
    – user206222
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 8:44
  • @Mark Given that moderators often see the worst of everything in the normal course of doing their job, it is natural that the private moderator chat rooms become places to blow off steam. This worked relatively well back in the day, when the mod team was small, both because there were few sites and because there were fewer users on each site. The mods were also a much tighter-knit group who had a shared history and knew each other relatively well, so interpersonal disagreements were fewer. Then, the site(s) grew, and tensions started to flare occasionally. [continued] Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 4:12
  • [continued] Especially so because the established culture of the private mod chats encouraged folks to air disagreements and express themselves freely. This serves a very real purpose, and it's why private mod chats have continued to exist. And the tensions were, in my experience, less common than some have made it out to be. But they did happen, and it was still a problem when they did. Mods are the ones who have to delete the offensive comments on the main site so other people don't have to deal with them. That forces us to confront these sorts of issues, albeit in private. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 4:14

A couple of months ago I suggested an edited to a question, the only change was to use the generic they rather than he.

Whilst it was accepted by the OP in the end, two out of three of the reviews rejected it because:

This edit does not make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability.

Whilst I don't know many of the issues the members of the LGBT+ community face, I do know that being misgendered isn't exactly comfortable. I'll admit even when I was misgendered multiple times, I didn't think of ways I could prevent making others from also feeling that uncomfortable. It was only when a friend of mine came out as transgender that I realized that pronouns are more than insignificant details.

If I didn't have those two experiences in my life, I probably would right now agree with the people that rejected my edit. And would also find the edit to be superfluous.

I feel issues like this can effect all sites, and chat, without most users ever seeing some of the problems members of the LGBT+ community or other discriminated groups face.

  • 4
    A while ago, someone edited an answer of mine (on my main account) to add an example of something where they used the word "he" for a generic non-specific person. It was a totally reasonable edit otherwise, but the idea of there being text on the internet with my name out there doing it made me deeply uncomfortable, and I found a pretense to re-edit the question myself so it didn't look like I was changing only that, sigh. Thank you for your allyship.
    – anon
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 21:13
  • without most users ever seeing some of the problems members of the LGBT+ community or other discriminated groups face In fact, most users will never see any of the problems any other individual faces or has faced in their life. That's why finding a balance in how we express ourselves in a community is key. I would like to refer to this excellent post: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/335158/….
    – dfhwze
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 19:27

I haven't seen anyone talking about it, but I believe this needs to be said.

Today, I saw the number of downvotes on the new Code of Conduct post and, as a non-binary person it made me think that:

There is more than 600 people who think our very own existence is a pain in their ass and that they would rather have us not exist at all (dead).

Additionally, since there were more downvotes than upvotes on this post, it also made me think that:

There is far more people wishing I would be dead than people who agree that I have the right to exist and be treated like a decent human being.

I also had the (dubious) pleasure of seeing how many upvotes​ had a post claiming that OP wasn't going to participate anymore because of this new, more inclusive, Code of Conduct.

So, if I needed anymore proof that the people voting on MSE weren't happy about my presence here, I just got it.

So yes, I consider those voting a hostile behavior toward LGBT+ people (I'm not even talking about the posts here, just about what people choose to upvote or downvote).

If you need any more proof, just look at the upvotes/downvotes ratio on this thread (question and answers) and on this other one about "How can the community assist in welcoming LGBTQ users?".

Thus, if you want this place to be a little less unwelcoming toward LGBT+ people, go upvote posts that defend us and our rights and actively downvote posts that are against it.


For people saying "this is not what those downvotes mean", I can't help but feel like they mean that. So, when voting onto something, take into account that your vote will be interpreted and very possibly misinterpreted too. Wonder how your vote could be misinterpreted and ask yourself if you are okay for it to be read like that.

Also, I do agree that comments can help understand those votes better and I would usually read them. But I have seen far too many transphobic comments/answers/questions on the last few days/week to feel like I could safely do so anymore (and those posts have only strengthened my feelings about how the votes indicate that I'm not very welcome here).

  • 11
    Doesn't your presumption of bad faith create more of an actually unwelcoming environment then your conclusions based on possibly incorrect perceptions and assumptions of the motives of people downloading things?
    – Chris
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 3:13
  • 6
    @Chris It's not a presumption, it's how I feel. Also, plain transphobic stuff who have no value appart for being transphobic are indeed upvoted so, for those, it's hard to get it wrong Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 6:39
  • 1
    I am sorry for what you and anyone else who feels the new CoC better represents them are feeling when they see the community's aversion to it. I understand that it looks bad and your interpretation that the hundreds of downvoters wish you didn't exist is reasonable. However, I don't believe it's helpful to jump directly from the way it makes you feel to calling those voters hostile: I downvoted the FAQ because I think the CoC FAQ as written excludes more people than it includes, and I upvoted A Pronominal Proposal because it fixes that.
    – Davy M
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 3:17

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