This is a followup to my question Are there specific issues with unwelcoming behavior toward LGBTQ persons on Stack Exchange? . StrongBad, in a comment replying to one of my comments, suggested that I go ahead and ask something along these lines. This question is directed at those who have experienced unwelcoming behavior.

I'm so confused over the nature of the unwelcoming behavior that others have alluded to. 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.

What, specifically, can individuals in the community do to support those who have experienced gender bias? I'm asking you -- those of you who have experienced bias related to being LGBTQ or some other sort of gender bias. What do you want or need us to do so that you feel welcomed?

  • Are you looking primarily for greater awareness of the issues you commonly face? That is, there is nothing really that specific for us to do except to attend sensitivity training, show greater empathy, etc.
  • Do you want us to be more vigilant in voting down and flagging unwelcoming content so that it gets deleted quicker?
  • Are there a few specific users that you want to be "taught a lesson", and the rest of us are caught up in the crossfire?
  • Do you want us to proactively ask you for your pronouns or other biographical or identity details before we engage with you? (I apologize for accidentally misgendering Aza in my previous question, but there's nothing on her profile to indicate her gender or that she wants people to be particularly sensitive in this regard towards her. Perhaps I could have sent her a note "Hey Aza, I'm going to reference you in an upcoming post, what are your pronouns?", but that seems so awkward.)
  • Do you want help with lobbying Stack Exchange into making changes to the existing system such as adding support for adding pronouns, sexual orientation, etc. to user profiles?
  • 8
    A thousand thanks for putting up these questions. I can't say how important I find it that our community looks into this aspect of the whole "network crisis". It is all fair and square to confront SE.COM about the way they dealt with Monica Cello. But looking into the mirror, and figuring what this community (independent of the company running the servers) should (want to) learn about itself, that is equally important!
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 0:11
  • 22
    @GhostCat I find this important as well, but I wonder - for years women complaining about feeling unwelcome (esp. on Stack Overflow), they were told that their gender doesn't matter because it's all about the post and not the user. I as a woman had to listen to some unsolicited advice on how I should feel as well. Now that it's about LGBTQ, the topic is suddenly important and taken very seriously. Don't get me wrong, it definitely is... but... I don't quite know how to feel about that fact.
    – user204841
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 1:05
  • 3
    @ModusTollens It should have mattered for you too
    – user384163
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 1:08
  • 2
    @ModusTollens They did, for sure. We simply reached the next level. Welcome to a world where everybody deserves to be accepted as individual, not as a member of some group.
    – GhostCat
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 3:36
  • 3
    @ModusTollens - Grab the ball and run with it. We are all in this together, my friend.
    – TempGuest
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 4:04
  • 5
    I agree with Alon Eltan. Only on very specific SE subsections is gender and sexuality at all relevant. Should we also research a poster's racial and religious background before responding to them? Their political stance? Where would it end?
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 3:16
  • 8
    You're being disingenuous. The slippery slope argument is called a fallacy for a reason, and using it demonstrates that you are not acting in good faith. It is not a difficult concept: when you are talking directly to or about another user, apply the correct pronoun, with priority to the pronoun that they have explicitly claimed. That's it. // Their gender and sexuality is relevant when you have deliberately disrespected someone on that basis. By acting that way, you made it relevant, because you chose to have that discussion with or about them. @WeckarE.
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 10:48
  • 8
    @Nij I would never deliberately disrespect someone. I just often don't feel like going out of my way to respect someone. If someone has clarified their pronouns in such a way that I don't have to go looking for it (say, by having to check their profile page), of course I'd use them when appropriate to flow-of-text. But I cannot be expected to check every single profile just-in-case.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 12:56
  • 11
    @Nij Additioally, I think it is equally so a slippery slope to assume that anyone who is not going out of their way to 'respect' you, must be deliberately disrespecting you. Apathy exists, people.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 13:02
  • 1
    @WeckarE. of course I'd use them when appropriate to flow-of-text. so still not an outright "I will respect you if you ask me to use a particular pronoun."
    – user371773
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 18:35

6 Answers 6


I have experienced problems at SE around the use of gendered pronouns.


I am a female SE participant who works very hard to remain gender neutral on SE. When I was getting started at a particular male-dominated SE site, I found it quite beneficial in building up reputation and respect to fly under the gender radar there. I was careful to avoid writing anything there that would give any hints as to my gender.

Several years ago, there was a user at that site with whom I had some ongoing tension. I’ll call him User A. (His gender was clear from his user name or his personal home page, easily found via google by using the information he posted in his SE profile.)

User A outed me as a female participant in a discussion comment. That page received thousands of views and I flagged his comment. I patiently attempted to work through the problem with the site moderators, but they said they could not edit his comment or remove it, and they said they could not force User A to dialogue with me, or with them, about the problem. I was shocked. I carefully explained how gender affects interactions on that site, and I explained that my opinions would have much less credibility on that site if my gender were known. I explained that I didn’t want to publicly correct User A regarding my gender, because that would either mean confirming the gender attribution he had made, or being untruthful, which I have an aversion to.

Eventually I found a discreet way of communicating with User A. He explained that I had posted something on a different SE site regarding breastfeeding, in which my actual gender was clear. Once he pointed that out, I went back and edited that post. In the new version, I just said "we," so it wouldn't be clear which parent (me, or my husband) was the one who was doing the breastfeeding. User A removed the problematic comment and we both removed all traces of the conversation.

I felt that the site moderators could have easily and quickly solved the problem, by simply removing the comment that referred to me as "she."

So, how can people be supportive?

  • Let's get in the habit of not assuming others' gender, unless it's been made obvious (through name, profile, image, posts or comments).

  • Moderators can be watching for this issue when responding to flags.

  • Let's all practice greater empathy. When we write something, let's ask ourselves, How would I feel if someone directed that to me?

  • SE can lead the way in practicing greater empathy, by reinstating Monica Cellio pending an open discussion of the proposed changes to the Code of Conduct. In my experience, Monica approaches moderation with empathy and humanity, and has been a model moderator.

    Maybe it will become necessary to ask her to step down due to irreconcilable differences, later on, during an open discussion of the proposal -- but we're not there yet.

    By removing her prematurely, SE is causing more harm than good to the principles of tolerance, inclusion and respect.

  • 8
    Thanks for sharing! You said " I carefully explained how gender affects interactions on that site". What did you mean by that? Can you explain that for us here? Because most of your post here seems to be about the fear of others finding out you're a woman, but I'm not seeing a description of why it's such a bad thing if people find out you're a woman. While women are clearly in the minority, I haven't personally witnessed any special treatment of those women that are here, so hearing from you might shed some why on why you feared people finding out you're a woman.
    – mason
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 22:43
  • 5
    It's great to have a real example. It's also interesting in that it's the very opposite of the usual scenario: in your scenario, you wanted people to go on assuming you were male, because it simplified things and/or you felt it increased your credibility. Honestly, though, it seems to me that if every person were to conscientiously research a person before using pronouns in reference to that person, the result would have been the same: User A would have found your answer about breastfeeding, seen that you were clearly female, and then used "she" to refer to you.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 22:53
  • 19
    +1: This answer stresses patience, understanding, empathy, dialog, discussion, and working together to improve our community.
    – Nat
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 0:15
  • 1
    @Marco13 - Sorry, which of my sentences or paragraphs are you referring to? // People use pronouns frequently in discussions on SE. // My experience had nothing to do with anyone accusing anyone of anything. It was about me wanting to be seen as a neutral person, without anyone assuming I was any particular gender. I wanted them to assume I was a person. It wasn't about hostility or offensiveness -- it was about leveling the playing field.
    – TempGuest
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 3:22
  • 6
    @Wildcard - I wanted to be seen as a person first. In real life, I have always wanted to be seen as a person first, and a woman, or a certain nationality, second. There were many participants in that male-dominated site who, consciously or unconsciously, thought differently about opinions expressed by participants who were openly female. I can't really point a finger of blame at User A, given that I had left that post out there identifying myself as a breastfeeding mother. But I would have liked to rely on the moderators' solidarity and support.
    – TempGuest
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 3:27
  • 7
    @mason - I didn't explain all that to User A -- sorry if I wasn't clear. I explained all that to the site moderators. With User A, I kept it short and sweet, and just told him I prefer the pronoun "they." He respected my preference after that. // The article is about women functioning in a male-dominated STEM field, right? So, it's relevant. I would like, now, to allow you some time to do some reading and reflecting, as I will also be doing, and then another day, when you and I are both ready, we can "meet" again, if you like, and talk some more.
    – TempGuest
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 3:59

Yeah, this ended up being an unstructured mess. There's a summarized version at the end, but the rest contains reasoning and some hits at the unreleased CoC, as it has been presented by the two answers posted to two different resignation posts on other metas.

What do you want or need us to do so that you feel welcomed?

The new CoC as it has been presented this far overcomplicates it a lot. Speaking for myself, I'm perfectly fine with "they" instead of a random gendered pronoun, and I'm pretty sure most people are. SE isn't built up as a social media where gender is listed. Even if it is, there's far too many variations to properly cover it.

For an instance, there's people who don't have pronouns at all, and prefer to have their name used instead, there's people who change pronouns daily, there's people who use multiple pronouns, some who use all, some who use all except one or more, and all kinds of variations in between.

My point is: don't overthink it. Most on-site interactions actually don't touch pronouns, with a possible exception to meta sites. Personally, if I'm in doubt, I use "they" or avoid pronouns entirely if I'm on main or meta. Chat is different, and I'll rather ask if I need to. Using names is, as far as I know, the variant the fewest amount of consider offensive. I actually haven't met anyone who has felt offended by name use (provided it's not deadnaming, which is bad either way, but doesn't really apply online).

Generally, if you're in doubt and it makes sense to ask (it would likely be considered noise on main/meta), ask. And even after you've asked, I doubt anyone minds if you fall back to their name. Speaking for myself, I like hearing my name from time to time.

Do you want us to proactively ask you for your pronouns or other biographical or identity details before we engage with you?

If it doesn't make sense to ask, no. Again, chat is a lot better for these types of things. Optimally, we'd have a system for adding pronouns to names, but that gets complicated fast with all the variations. Not to forget that some people don't want to list their gender, and requiring it can ironically be unwelcoming too.

While a lot of people know their pronouns, there's still people who aren't sure what they are, and prefer to not list anything or even see that option. Not to forget people who aren't out of the closet. Both these might be a minority of a minority, but they matter, and their problems are real.

This part needs its own paragraph because of a misleading definition elsewhere; "they", aside the plural use, is widely regarded as a gender-neutral pronoun. Now for the misleading definition; "they" does not have to refer to non-binary people. I know some non-binary people, one of which is fine with he/she/they. I also know one who prefers it/its, but who's fine with "they" too in the sense that using "they" isn't considered offensive or hurtful. Non-binary people can use all kinds of different pronouns.

Moreover, non-binary isn't technically a gender - it's a spectrum of gender identities that include all kinds of identities. Quite literally, non-binary means something outside a binary system (here: male and female). The "implications" vary from person to person, and I don't have a chance of listing all the variations. I actually don't know all myself - more on that later.

Honestly, I doubt anyone will call you unwelcoming for using "they". Personally, I find that a lot of people just assume programmers here are male, at least among new users. "sir" and "bro" is also thrown around an unnecessary amount regardless of the receiver, and this practice needs to die in a fire, preferably yesterday.

Misgendering is a slippery slope. There's some people who can't be misgendered (that's those who use all pronouns, and don't really care which are used). Some people use multiple pronouns and can be harder to misgender (if one or more fall in the "binary" pronouns).

Personally, I only consider misgendering a problem if it's repeated, and it's clearly malicious. That being, if someone uses "he/him" about me, I'll correct them. I don't like it, but I'm not going to hate the other person for that. Note that not all people take this approach; some people are hurt the first time. I've gotten a bit of a laid-back approach to it. However, repeated use in a way that's pretty obviously an invalidation attempt is directly hurtful.

Again, this isn't complicated: listen to people. There are a lot of unique approaches to pronouns out there (trust me - I'm in multiple LGBTQ servers on Discord, one of which is a server exclusively for transpeople and non-binary people).

That being said, no one is required to learn all the pronouns - there's a lot of them Live site: https://pronoun.is/all-pronouns. There's also no point in learning all of them, but if someone tells you they use a pronoun you haven't heard before, all you need to do is remember that the person uses that pronoun, and you're good.


What do you want or need us to do so that you feel welcomed?

  • Listen! Discarding people's pronouns or identity because "it has to be proven" is offensive. If someone tells you their pronouns, accept it and use it. Some might sound weird at first, but a lot of things sound weird the first time they're heard.
  • Don't use gendered pronouns without clarifying first. Or, as written more elegantly in the first answer - avoid assuming gender. Prefer gender-neutral language or names if you're in doubt.
    • Remember that some people don't use pronouns. Listen to them and find out what they use instead.
  • Make changes to the CoC - but please don't make it so strict it fails to include other members of LGBTQ who may not be as visible (including, but far from limited to people who are still figuring out their identities, people who use multiple pronouns, etc). Allow names, allow "they", but make sure it doesn't allow for intentional misgendering.
  • Flag behavior that's clearly abusive. Under this comes a second request (albeit not for users): make comment moderation tools better for everyone to help find abusive behavior and mitigate problems fast.
  • Don't be like SE. We have feelings too
  • 19
    +1 - During the past few days, I've read many answers (at least 15, including all in this post) which are at least primarily about the proposed CoC changes regarding pronoun use. Among these, your answer is the one which I most agree with & which makes the most sense to me. Thank you for writing this. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 2:03
  • 3
    I had to look up "deadnaming". Calling someone by their old birth name after transitioning. That can happen online too, when users change their usernames. Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 12:26
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA yep, but that also requires you to remember the previous one, and for the person to not like that username. Personally, I used a username I still use on some other sites, including GitHub (because it isn't really gendered). But yeah, that can happen. Deadnaming isn't just after transitioning though, it's generally after a name change. Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 12:30
  • 1
    I still have lots to learn and understand. Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 12:31
  • 2
    However, I am acutely aware that language is like walking on eggshells, make one false move and people's feelings get hurt. Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 12:33
  • 2
    A change of username is rarely as emotive as a change of real name, @Mari-LouA, though I suppose it may be in certain circumstances. And, of course, some people use their real names as usernames.
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 18:02
  • 1
    ""sir" and "bro" is also thrown around an unnecessary amount regardless of the receiver, and this practice needs to die..." This is really a cultural thing, and I don't mean the microcosm of culture that exists in the world of software development or even engineering. Where I grew up, it was quite common for people to call you "dude" or "bro" regardless of your gender. It wasn't because people assumed you were male. Gender was fairly evenly split, and often, they were your friends, so they knew quite well your identity. "Sir" is the same, but a different culture. It isn't meant to misgender. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 18:01

Please stop giving credence to the idea that using a person's pronouns is somehow onerous.

The very fact that you can find people on this site who openly think that it is acceptable to use some pronouns, but to refuse to use others is unwelcoming and emotionally draining for people who have struggled to find language with which to accept themselves.

The fact that people feel able to debate this is unwelcoming.

Most of time in the Stack Exchange world you just don't need a person's pronouns (which are only used in the third person). In many reply contexts you end up using the second person and addressing a person directly. On some occasions you will find yourself referring to another post by author "the answer by CB" and only very occasionally is a third person pronoun needed (e.g. "What CB fails to mention in their answer ..."). At this point you can simply look at a person's profile - it'll only be a click away - if they state their pronouns then use the pronouns which they state, otherwise use something gender neutral such as "they".

It really is very simple, and it means a lot to many people.

  • 27
    I see this being pretty easy to adopt for english users, but how to deal with the worldwide community any the many users for whom english is a second language? I, for example, first encountered "they" as a neutral pronoun some years ago, it was never taught to us in school (non-native speaker). How are we going to educate people, make them aware of the problem and teach them how to deal with it?
    – user204841
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 22:48
  • 21
    And from stuff that was posted it seems like using neutral pronouns or names to avoid using specific pronouns would not be allowed under the new (unpublished) CoC.
    – user204841
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 22:53
  • 28
    Gender-neutral language, e.g. "they", definitely seems like a good idea. I dunno so much about any convention that requires people to look at others' profiles; that seems to invite an unnecessary level of social entanglement.
    – Nat
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 0:44
  • 28
    @ModusTollens theregister.co.uk/2019/10/01/stack_exchange_controversy Monica announced in advance she will not refer to a person as they. Imagine how that feels for a person who has realized they are nonbinary. It cannot possibly be welcoming (again, remember the question and the answer we are commenting on.) I really like Monica (we have several sites in common) but on this issue she was wrong. (Wrong enough for what happened next, probably not. But still wrong.) And now everyone is "oh noes the poor new users they will never figure it out" but it is not that hard really. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 13:04
  • 32
    oh come on. Go read the 20 or 30 resignation and on strike speeches. They all say the same thing. And that article includes a quote from Monica herself saying she will not use they. There is no universe in which she's perfectly happy to use they be SE decided to pretend she wasn't. And she doesn't find it "linguistically hard" she just doesn't believe in nonbinary people and won't call anyone they. Caleb doesn't believe in gender and if your "genetic sex" (the phrase in Caleb's resignation letter) is known, that's what Caleb will use. These positions are not ok. And pronouns are not hard. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 13:18
  • 17
    @KateGregory C'mon. This is a site people from whole world use. Many of them struggle hard to compose sentences that resemble English grammar. And you expect them to grasp subtleties of person pronouns in English? Good luck. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 13:42
  • 23
    @TadeuszKopec yes I do because it's not hard. But that is not what this answer says. This answer says "stop saying it's hard." And the demodding isn't about ESL users making honest mistakes, it's about mods saying "I refuse to do what I know the person wants because I know their gender better than they do" and there's no way that's welcoming or respectful. Stop conflating "honest mistakes" with heel-digging refusals. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 13:46
  • 29
    @KateGregory You are severely mischaracterizing Monica's stance. I hope that's not in bad faith, but I feel you should take some time to learn what she actually said rather than continue to make false statements. Check out the screenshots [Please don't link to leaked private conversations, it's rude and potentially harmful --Ed.]. Monica offered to use any pronoun that a user wants, except she didn't wish to refer to a single person as "they" because she felt it was grammatically awkward (even if not grammatically incorrect)....
    – mason
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 13:53
  • 28
    But that's the point! It's not up to her what someone's proper pronoun is! (People keep acting like it's hard.) Do you know how many times singular they has been used in this comment stream alone? You don't even notice it because it's so natural. Refusing to use it is not sticking up for grammar. It's hurting gender non conforming people and acting like that makes you virtuous. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 13:56
  • 31
    @KateGregory If she feels that "they" shouldn't be used to refer to a single person, then refusing to call a single person "they" has nothing to do with gender issues. It's a complex nuanced issue, and people draw the line at different places. While I may not entirely agree with Monica's stance, I don't find it offensive at all. She actually offered to use a lot of the neo-pronouns (or whatever they're called) if a person wished for them to be used. Anyways, my point is that you're arguing in bad faith if you keep mischaracterizing her position now that you know what it is.
    – mason
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:00
  • 33
    You're wrong. It has everything to do with gender issues. We all use they for a single person all the time. In this comment thread, Monica is referred to as they several times. Nobody notices. Singular they is just not a problem. It isn't complex or nuanced -- people just claim it is while refusing to honour the reality of the people they talk about. Language changes. We used to use "the n word" and the "the r word" and now we don't. Years ago, kids called me Kathy because they said that was the only short form for Katherine. They were wrong. Refusing to call a person they is also wrong. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:07
  • 20
    @KateGregory Why should the listener alone decide what can be spoken? The speaker has agency too. If the listener is offended by X and the speaker is offended by Y, why not use Z instead? Using a different pronoun for the same gender is not misgendering, it is not factually wrong, and I have yet to see a good objective reason for it to be offensive. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 15:58
  • 27
    @Solomonoff'sSecret: Please have a look at the question and the answer again. You are on a question asking how we can be welcoming to LGBTQ users. This answer is telling you that not debating other people's pronouns is one concrete and important way to do this. If you want to research the history of why having one's pronouns "gatekept" has a painful history, then please feel free to research this on your own time. If someone is offended by my prounouns, then perhaps they need to examine why this is.
    – CB Bailey
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 17:15
  • 16
    @CBBailey I will personally call you whatever you wish to be called. However, this entire pronoun-gate has arisen because a moderator refused to address a single person with "they" because they felt "they" is confusing because many people only know it being used in a plural sense. That moderator even acknowledged the dictionary says it's okay to use "they" for singular reference. That moderator also offered to use any other pronoun (including the neo-pronouns) or to avoid pronouns completely to sidestep the issue. It wasn't about a lack of respect, though the company chose to view it that way.
    – mason
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 17:45
  • 24
    Using a person's pronouns is not onerous. Tracking the preferred pronouns of the several thousand site users I've interacted with over the years is onerous. I'd prefer to remember the pronouns of the people I refer to on a regular basis, use neutral writing for everyone else, and put the majority of my effort into the main purpose of this site, which is asking and answering questions.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 20:23

You can listen.

When we say that things are a bit difficult you could say "How so?" And maybe watch your tone when you say it lest you come off as saying "I demand you prove it to me." (I don't think your previous question crossed that line, but it was close) When we do give examples don't pop out the woodwork to explain why our examples aren't valid. Please, just listen. Accept that we may be telling the truth and that even if we are wrong or misguided we are just trying to tell you how it looks to us. Take the time to consider your response and do so with compassion and patience and deference. Maybe then the civil discourse will flow more freely.


Believe our issues instead of mocking them.

In so much of this conversation, a queer person trying to express the problem with Stack Overflow is immediately pounced on by a defensive dude reacting like it's the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard.

The worst examples are deleted now, as the worst examples tend to be, and that's a positive sign that the community is trying, but don't go asking for receipts because, look at my reputation score, I don't and can't have them.

Stop celebrating transphobia.

When a moderator resigns and posts a long ramble that denies the validity of trans people as his parting words, and the post gets hundreds of net upvotes, it indicates that the power user community generally agrees with transphobia, or at least doesn't think it's as much of a problem as losing one of their own. On a queer-friendly site, that post would have a negative score, or just be removed until he came up with a better statement.

On many smaller occasions across this Meta site, people are posting transphobic things as well, like telling us that our pronouns are wrong, that we are liars, or that we are mentally ill. They get net upvotes as well.

Don't let transphobia stand. Call it out. Call out the people who say it's not that bad. When a transphobic person leaves, let them, don't martyr them.

Trans folks are on the front line of the politics of LGBTQ+ issues at the moment, and even the cis parts of the LGBTQ+ community can see what's happening.

Fix structural misogyny.

Misogyny affects a majority of the queer community:

  • Queer cis women suffer from misogyny in the usual way.
  • Trans women suffer from misogyny navigating their life as women.
  • Trans men suffer from misogyny because they once were perceived as women, and possibly still are by some, and they also grew up experiencing it.
  • Non-binary folks get the worst of everything.

Of course straight cis women are also affected by misogyny on Stack Overflow. Women's issues and LGBTQ+ issues go hand in hand here.

Structural misogyny takes forms like:

  • Women who call out problems, such as April Wensel, are disbelieved by the core community of this site.
  • The processes of this site favor asking, answering, and moderating questions in the manner typical of cis men. When you have suffered from misogyny, you use more cautious and appeasing language, which this site doesn't reward.
  • More reputation points go to men than women, because men fit better into the community as it is, giving men more control over the site in a self-reinforcing cycle.

You can't support the LGBTQ+ community without supporting women, and you can't support women without believing them.

Broaden your idea of what the community is.

The core community that created this toxicity isn't going to fix it on its own. So the question isn't just what you can do, it's what the women who left can do if you get them to come back. It's what the queer folks you're getting too defensive about can do. It's what the new users can do.

Strengthen the code of conduct.

Hoo wow I bet Meta isn't going to like this point.

A code of conduct is a fairly essential tool in maintaining a respectful, inclusive community. Most successful open source projects, for example, have a strong code of conduct by now. SO is clearly lagging behind if putting anything as basic as "don't misgender people" in the Code of Conduct (note: I don't know the actual language any more than you do) is a shock to the community.

Inclusion, without a code of conduct to support it, will be chipped away until it's nothing.

  • 13
    Could you call out some examples too, under the sections Stop celebrating transphobia. ?
    – anki
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 5:11
  • 36
    1/2 It isn't an obscure interpretation. It's a direct reading of what was written by Caleb in their post on Christianity Meta, here. @Blue
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 6:14
  • 23
    2/2 To expand: In several places they make it clear that they do not agree with the idea of using a pronoun preference they have been explicitly informed of, because they believe they should use the pronoun that "matches the gender" (paraphrased) of the user they refer to, as determined by Caleb themselves, and then try to justify this either as a facet of their personal beliefs that should not be interfered with, in the interests of maintaining the status quo; or because they have never received complaints about it and therefore it is not really a problem that needs being solved.
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 6:14
  • 16
    @Nij Are you sure you interpret their posts as intended? See this comment from Monica. Regarding Caleb, I re-read his post, and the focus is on "Now if I avoid pronouns altogether by sticking to proper names or disengaging from the individual, that's being considered an insult too." How can using proper name instead of a pronoun be considered insulting? How can disengaging be considered bad?
    – dim
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 7:30
  • 9
    1/3x That's Caleb's interpretation of a proposed COC that the general public haven't seen. I can't say with any guarantee, but based on every other experience where such a concept is introduced to TOU/COC/EULA, this is likely to be a massive exaggeration. If people can read a law saying that civil marriages will be awarded as being a requirement that religious institutions award religious marriages to the same people, despite this being obviously false and having no basis in the bill itself, I am not surprised that someone who demonstrates similar biases would at best miss the difference...
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 7:36
  • 8
    @Blue, your comment about "making up imaginary situations" shows exactly where you stand. This is a thread about how to support queer folks in the community, but you don't. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:51
  • 12
    @Nij, rspeer: I don't think Caleb's post is being heavily upvoted because of the line about "mismatch for their genetic sex", I think it's being heavily upvoted for other large parts of the post, which provided the first third-party explanation of what happened.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 20:11
  • 14
    One point that stirs up the conversation are the accusations. When someone requests a certain use of pronouns, and someone does not comply, the person is called "transphobic" and "disrespectful", which, in turn, is (IMHO rightfully) perceived as aggressive and hostile. This has nothing to do with "phobia" or "respect". One person may simply have a different attitude towards language than another. Expecting someone to accept any form of speech that a group or authority dictates is dangerous. Leaving strong accusations like that one out would certainly help to have a civilized discussion.
    – Marco13
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 20:19
  • 9
    @Mark - I was just getting ready to make the same point. RE: When a moderator resigns and posts a long ramble that denies the validity of trans people as his parting words, and the post gets hundreds of net upvotes, it indicates that the power user community generally agrees with transphobia. That's neither an objective conclusion nor a fair characterization. The post is a long and rambling one indeed, so people may have upvoted it for any number of reasons. It's not fair to assume that everyone (or even most) who clicked the upvote button did so just to pile on some transphobia bandwagon. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 20:23
  • 7
    @Mark Still, those who upvoted that post (or praised it by noting how judicious or elucidating it was) presumably have gone through that line (and other connected passages, which occupy a good chunk of the post) and didn't find it a big deal, or at least not enough to affect their vote or remark. As rspeer notes, in a queer-friendly site that would have been a dealbreaker. (On a related note, the period from this answer quoted by J.R. in the comment above has a second sentence: "[...] or at least doesn't think it's as much of a problem as losing one of their own".)
    – duplode
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:04
  • 7
    @Nij Openness, tolerance and inclusivity should go both ways. I really don't share the point of view of Caleb, but what would you expect from a moderator on ChristianityStackExchange talking to his "brothers"? What's next, will we force "Free Tibet!" banners on chinese.stackexchange.com or "Happy Hanukkah!" on islam.stackexchange.com, in the name of openness? It's not possible to make everyone happy on every stackexchange website, that's why there are multiple sites in the first place. To get respect, show some respect. If you want to impose respect, you'll get disdain. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 9:25
  • 10
    There is nothing to be respected about the idea that LGBTQI+ are not truly people, do not have individual personalities, or should be deliberately misnamed and misgendered. Tolerance cannot go both ways: either you side with the oppressor or you side with the oppressed. If it is too much for someone to just use the right pronoun, there is no possible way to have respect go both ways. It's extremely ironic that you say requiring some basic decency will earn disdain, when that's exactly what misgendering and misnaming demonstrates in the first place.
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 9:52
  • 8
    @Nij: So what, let's close every religious StackExchange website? You should simply accept that LGBTQ people won't get much support from monotheistic religions. You won't manage to solve this problem in comments or with a shiny new dictatorial code of conduct. I'm very much atheist and anti-cleric but I simply accept that there are religious people, and it's good that they have a platform on which they can write n̶o̶n̶s̶e̶n̶s̶e̶ their point of view. It makes it easier for me to ignore everything coming from their corresponding websites. Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 10:23
  • 11
    People can quite easily discuss the more discriminatory aspects of religious faith in a respectful way without necessarily displaying that discrimination themselves. That people choose to disrespectful, and are allowed to continue acting that way, is not an excuse to keep allowing it. We can defend the right of bigots to hold their bigoted opinion; they do not have the right to use every possible platform in sharing it, and neither do we need to support giving them one.
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 10:32
  • 8
    I'm perfectly capable of coping with different opinions and ideas; it's a major part of my jobs. But you and others have missed the entire point of a COC that requires pronouns be correct - nobody should have to "cope" with being treated as subhuman or second-class or as if merely existing is abhorrent. That you think it is possible for tolerance to go both ways, when one of the sides in question is literally the intolerance of the other side's existence, demonstrates you do not even understand what you're disputing.
    – Nij
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 3:33

Don't expect us to educate you.

Educating people is terribly draining, don't expect us to do it. We might be willing to help you learn, but don't specifically ask us to do so. Instead, ask the community and hope someone will be willing to answer. And, in any case, Google is your friend, use it.

Don't get defensive when we talk about an issue we are facing.

Don't, never ever, say that "not all [category of people] are like that". We know and it's very tiring to hear this excuse all day long.

Also, don't imply that we are oversensitive. Maybe we are, maybe we aren't (and we probably aren't). But, in any case, it's not an excuse to make us feel bad and unwelcome.

Make everything in your power to hide transphobic stuff from us.

Flag them, edit them, vote to delete them. If something is clearly out of line and people aren't reacting quickly enough, don't wait for the answer to be deleted​, remove the offensive part yourself (yes, sometimes it's the whole answer).

Do not passively watch when someone says something offensive.

Be an ally, protect us, show us that we aren't alone and that you don't stand by that.

Listen to us.

Sometimes, allies say stuff that aren't true. It's okay. But listen to us when we correct you. As the people who suffer from the oppression, we know best what is and isn't right for us.

Use your downvotes.

There is nothing more depressing than seeing something transphobic highly upvoted and without any downvotes.

Don't take any risk.

If you see something borderline, flag it/edit it. I'm all for "assuming good intent", but when it can hurt someone else feeling (even unintentionally), then I would rather be too cautious than not enough.

  • 9
    Honestly, I've had a bad experience with the last one there. I've even been suspended from chat for flagging something that was eventually deemed acceptable. The fact that I was just trying to help was seemingly lost. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:20
  • 2
    @RobertColumbia Yeah, I had "bad" experience with that too (flag being rejected and no action taken (like editing) because the comment wasn't offensive enough...). But I won't stop doing it. The more people flag one thing as being "not nice", the more likely people are to realize that it is, indeed, "not nice" (or that it could be interpreted this way at least). Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:24
  • 9
    Can I add to your second point: don't imply that all of us are "snowflake SJWs" who will scream at you if you get our pronouns wrong even by mistake. Because that's just as annoying, especially when I hear it coming from the same people insisting "well not all of us are unwelcoming..."
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:27
  • 3
    @F1Krazy I edited to add something about being "oversensitive". I didn't talk about the fact that we won't scream at people misgendering us, though. I don't want other queer people to feel like they don't have the right to be mad about that. I also don't want them to feel like they are being "tone policed". Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:42
  • 3
    @Ælis Trans people definitely have the right to be angry about being misgendered, I didn't mean to suggest that they don't. My point is that it's hypocritical for people to assume that all trans people are like that, and then turn around and say how dare we suggest that all SE users are unwelcoming.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:47
  • 1
    @F1Krazy True that x) But I don't think adding this to my post would be really relevant. Feel free to add that as a separate answer though :) Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:48
  • 14
    "the right to be angry about being misgendered" Is there such a thing? And is it universal? I get misgendered once in a while even as a comically stereotype white male and I'm certainly annoyed that I have to correct someone the same way I'm annoyed at banner ads or red lights. I assume it's more annoying the more it happens. But I'm not angry. At what point does the right to be angry begin? My personal line would be "when it's intentional, repeatedly and meant to insult", but were should we draw that line?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 14:39
  • 5
    @nvoigt it's very individual. Some people don't care at all, others are hurt on the first instance, others are hurt when it's repeated, and with a lot of variations between. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 15:13
  • 2
    When I first looked at your post, I felt a big weight of negativity. But then I saw I could relate to all the fine print you wrote! So, I drafted a more positive version. It wouldn't fit very well in the comments; and since the ideas are all yours, I don't think it would be right to post it in an answer box. So, I am going to very tentatively put it as an update at the bottom of your answer, as a collaborative contribution. But if you feel it doesn't fit well there, please do a rollback.
    – TempGuest
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 2:46
  • 2
    Regarding use your downvotes, unfortunately, we can't differentiate I upvoted this because I agree with the transphobic message and I upvoted this because I agree with this user taking a stand against a moderator being fired without any communication. I sincerely hope the upvotes on certain posts are because of the latter, and do hope you don't feel like the voting majority is transphobic. If something is purely transphobic with no other message, per your last point, a flag is probably better (but can be accompanied by a downvote of course).
    – Erik A
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 16:07
  • 1
    @ErikA Unfortunately, I did feel like the majority didn't care at all about transgender people. In my mind, they wouldn't have upvoted otherwise. They could have done nothing, downvote or left an answer/comment to clearly express their point of view (without having to upvote something transphobic). Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 16:16
  • 6
    Hey folks, I'm trying to not touch the delete button on comments if at all avoidable (have been trying the last few days) but long back-and-forth conversations get really hard to preserve if even one comment steps over into hostile territory (even considering how emotional the conversation is). Deleting 1 or 2 comments basically makes the whole thread incoherent, which results in it all being ultimately removed. If at all possible consider an answer if it looks like a conversation is going down a rabbit hole. Thank you!!!
    – user50049
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 3:17

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