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I'm issuing a general retraction of this update. I regret writing it, given many intervening events. This note is now deeply misleading as to my thoughts and their interaction with what's happened since it was written. I'm not in the mood to rehash specific changes in my mindset and outlook, especially since those thoughts and shifts don't deserve to be put into a public light. There are many parts of this letter I still agree with, but there are enough parts of this letter I disagree with to warrant clarification -- and I disagree with them strongly enough that I feel the need to edit. More for my own integrity than the public eye, truthfully.

I'd placed more specific retractions on this post, which are visible in the history but should be ignored, as I recognize they were potentially misleading and don't convey the subtler nature of what has changed and why. The only way I could convey that is by writing a new note, which I won't do.


As promised, I'm on my way out. I am unsustainably exhausted after the past few weeks, and... it's time for me to go. I don't see another way. But I have some final thoughts, and I can't leave in peace without writing them down. This post is not about me.

I will perform a magic act: to cut a gnarled root cleanly in two. I know the anger about this topic is real, but for this post, outrage will hurt far more than usual. So please, for the sake of dialogue, I would ask that you set it aside for a moment.

You'll also have to forgive me for writing this in a question on Meta, especially a post this long. It's important that I put it somewhere it will be seen.


If you believe my resignation is directly linked to Monica's termination, I have a few things to say.

First, I acknowledge that my resignation was vague. I didn't want to break a trust relationship with the moderator team. Even now, I am getting questions about it that I refuse to answer. If I'd included too many details, said too much that could be construed to veer towards individual condemnation, it would have been reckless and rendered my action pointless. But there are many more public details now than when I submitted my letter. There's still a lot I can't say -- sickening things I have heard and seen that I do not want to publicize. But for you all, I want to connect as many dots as I can, because my vagueness has left room for injury to Monica.

Anything I say here is already public knowledge, published by others before me. I will go no further than what is available, but thankfully, this time I don't think I need to.

The 'single incident' I refer to in my resignation is the days-long sequence of events culminating in the closure of the Teachers' Lounge. Multiple events that betrayed disregard have occurred in the past, though usually with specific individuals. None carried sweeping breadth. Each case example I listed in my resignation is an allusion to one or more real events that took place. This time, however, was unique. I stepped in when TL was already embroiled in discussing the legitimacy of trans people, by proxy of a pronoun issue. It was the closure of the TL that pushed me over the edge into resignation. That act killed a discussion already severely weighted against queer members. It was no relief. Silence signals an end to action. So I quit, and in quitting made my thoughts known, so that the general population might have an inkling of awareness for the depth of the problem. I sincerely believed Stack Exchange would not act, as they rarely do, outside words and postures.

For this reason, Monica's termination came as a shock to me. I had no advance knowledge that she would be flat-out removed. That was not what I asked for, and not what I wanted. To be clear: Monica did make a post that I still sincerely believe reflected a misconception about queer justice, but the post she wrote does not in my eyes warrant vilification. From what I've read, I believe Monica understands this pain now, and I see no reason to believe it was her intent to cause pain. We live, we share, we learn. Hers is a positive story, and I sincerely hope to see her vocal in support, when the opportunity arises in the future. But even if she does not agree with my assessment, the reaction against her has been incommensurate. Even if her post inadvertently started that discussion, people whose views are intentionally degrading came out of the woodwork and to my knowledge are still here, often vocal, always consequence-free. There is a deep hypocrisy in this process, and one that has recklessly harmed someone who means well.

The actions taken to date are not justice, not for her, not for us. Any eye for justice must also know the foibles of imperfection, and moderation is always an imperfect act. With Monica, clarity of expectation was warranted. Open and honest dialogue about the process for managing those expectations was warranted. With the moderator community, taking a clear stand with actionable guidance was warranted. Immediate removal was not. Absolute silence was not. The public statements we saw, implicating her in an act of bigotry, were not. And the severity of this stain on her personal reputation is not; this, especially, does lasting damage.

Even the people who are enraged by her removal would do well to remember that systems of power are in play. Protracted fighting over her and her reputation, without an eye for the system that caused these problems, is misplaced and can easily wound her further. In truth, this issue will always, always be a much larger issue than any single person, even while systems are created and reinforced by those who own them.

With people, seek compassion. Against systems, be relentless.


If you believe my resignation is not linked to Monica's termination, I have a few things to say.

I've been explicitly reassured by Stack Exchange that my resignation did not cause Monica's termination, but it's naive to believe I had no part to play.

Voices seeking justice create pressure. When we're heard, which is rare, it's often difficult to predict the impact that will have. I'm not seeking to dismiss culpability by saying that. While minoritized people are not responsible for the actions that systems of power take in response to our vocality, we would be remiss not to be careful about how we are heard. A lack of clarity on my part contributed to her enduring harm.

More importantly, I have to date been unsure how to approach talking about this issue, and in my uncertainty, I have stayed silent. I have harbored a fear that, given the way public discourse has aligned, speaking out for Monica would lump me in with those who are against queer justice. But there are actions I could have taken that work both toward queer justice and to mitigate a harm to Monica. Others have grouped her with people who fight against queer justice, and my quiet has contributed.

For my silence, for my trepidation, for the effects of my opaqueness, I am deeply sorry.


That's all I have to say. I am tired, so please let me rest.

  • 6
    I would like to understand the reasons for your latest changes, if you would be so kind as to contact me privately. (Did somebody ask you to make these changes?) – Monica Cellio 14 hours ago
  • 5
    @Monica I was not asked to make these changes. – Aza 14 hours ago
  • 5
    Thanks for clarifying. I'm confused because AFAIK we haven't interacted in quite some time, and would still like to understand if you're willing. I don't want to bother you if you're not, so I won't comment again. – Monica Cellio 13 hours ago
  • 5
    @Aza it seems like you no longer believe that Monica is well-intenioned and that she does, in your opinion, fight against queer justice. Could you verify whether I've properly interpreted your edits? I'd like to make sure I understand. – I am Monica 13 hours ago
  • 6
    @IamMonica I will note that I say my retractions should not be understood as a negation. I'm using them to mark statements that I do not think are true as written, which in most cases mean there are caveats significant enough that I can't reconcile with leaving this letter unannotated. Interpreting this to mean "Monica is fighting actively against queer justice" is not correct. There is no diametric here. (I'm not doing this for the public eye; I'm doing this for myself.) – Aza 13 hours ago
  • 8
    To be fair, you purposefully posted this somewhere it will be seen. If that motivation has changed, I understand. It's been months since you originally posted. Still, disclaimer or not, those strikes seem to carry with them a damning implication. If you choose to err on the side of opacity again, I understand; though, you should be aware that others may interpret your edit as I have. Thanks for taking the time to reply. – I am Monica 13 hours ago
  • You're right, @IamMonica, those line-item retractions could be confusing and are easily interpreted incorrectly. I've switched to a general retraction. – Aza 13 hours ago
  • 1
    As currently written, without examining the revision history this post is not very clear. Although on the main sites I'm deeply against "update X", "update Y" antics and more in favour of an integrated narrative, perhaps on meta you could make clearer the new content? – Lightness Races with Monica 12 hours ago
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    If this is a general retraction, then why not just delete most of the text? – anonymous 12 hours ago
  • 4
    @anonymous The text has historical relevance and has been linked in multiple places. – Aza 12 hours ago
  • 1
    @Aza Sure, but it wouldn't be the first time someone just replaced a "historical document" with something along the lines of a quick note saying it was retracted. – anonymous 11 hours ago
109

Aza, we've worked together for many years now, and I'm sorry to see you go. Thank you for taking the time to write this; I know it can't be easy, particularly as exhaustion sets in. You said a few things that I would like to highlight, as they resonated with me deeply:

So I quit, and in quitting made my thoughts known, so that the general population might have an inkling of awareness for the depth of the problem. I sincerely believed Stack Exchange would not act, as they rarely do, outside words and postures.

...

Even if her post inadvertently started that discussion, people whose views are intentionally degrading came out of the woodwork and, to my knowledge are still here, often vocal, always consequence-free.

...

While minoritized people are not responsible for the actions that systems of power take in response to our vocality, we would be remiss not to be careful about how we are heard.

The connecting thread here is one of unintended consequences: words or actions created with an intent lost or far removed from those that they eventually inspire. Like the snowball that starts the avalanche, much can be set in motion with little effort or intent, and then quickly become impossible to stop. The initiator can only look on in dismay as chaos spreads out before them.

I know that all too well. A message in chat, a tweet, a quick answer to a question here, a small copy change in a UI... Little actions with big, irreparable consequences. And while we're each responsible for our own actions... We cannot entirely separate those actions from those of others in our society. We are each part of something larger, and what we do and say - or don't do, or don't say - influences others far beyond what we can hope to know or control.

So much of the current situation seems bigger than any one person can influence or own. It is tempting - even moreso than usual - to look at our own actions as immaterial, and seek to pin blame for each harm on someone else, or everyone else. I see this in my own actions, and in that of many others here. But as long as we remain, we each bear some of the burden, some of the responsibility for both what has happened, and what will.

There were many instances over the past year where I could've gotten in front of this current debacle. Where I could've said something to redirect the course of events, or comforted someone hurting... or said something other than what I did say, and in doing so given someone pause instead of tacit encouragement. I could've tried to learn instead of being annoyed at the interruption, or tried to listen instead of talking. Instead I told myself it was someone else's problem, someone else's area of expertise. Someone else owned this, I was just watching... And in doing so, I allowed many more to come to harm.

At some point, each of us must be willing to look in the mirror, and consider - as you have here - what role we've played. And accept responsibility for our part.

Thank you for setting an example here.

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    Thanks, Shog, for taking the time to write this. I hear this, and I understand the problems you (& the team) face. – Aza Oct 8 at 22:43
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Thank you for this. One of the most important messages this sends, IMHO, is that this is a failure of the social system, and not a LGBTQ versus anti-LGBTQ issue. You give support to what I had already started to believe - that neither "side" was the primary aggressor, but that a good-faith debate and discussion blew up in everyone's face.

Thank you again. It's been a hard road for many of us, no matter where we "stand". What we have to do is keep talking - talking to resolve issues, talking to find common ground, and talking to prevent future meltdowns.

  • 5
    "As soon as we begin to argue, we've already lost."-paraphrased. When the dialog ends everybody loses in effect – Mgetz Oct 8 at 20:37
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    To be clear: there is a point at which the appropriate action is to remove someone from a space. Talking alone can never solve these problems. When someone is in a position of authority, that bar is significantly lowered, because even a tacit nod from someone with influence can have severe ramifications. So it should never be discounted as an option. I also acknowledge that it was badly misused here. – Aza Oct 8 at 21:24
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    i think this helps to understand how things went so far of the rails. Talking may be painful, but one of the key justifications of Free Speech is that not talking can be even more painful. Sure, SE is not legally bound to support Free Speech, but the reasons why Free Speech are good still apply. SE ignored those reasons to its own detriment. Their censorship created only more problems. – MSalters - reinstate Monica Oct 10 at 12:09
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I'm not a mod, I don't know what happened in the Teacher Lounge. But you seem to burden yourself way too heavily for what happened.

You can only control your actions but the way people acted based on them isn't up to you.

You don't know what is going on in people's minds and you can't predict the future. It's easy to say after the fact "I shouldn't have done that". But how could you have not done it without knowing more?

Having tiredness issues and some difficulty to communicate, I strongly believe that no one should be forced to talk if they don't want too and if they aren't ready to.

So please, don't beat yourself up for your silence. Please, stop rehashing what you could have or should have done. It's okay, I understand.

Have some rest Aza, you deserve it.

19

I really like that these words are written in the spirit of treating others with kindness and empathy. Thank you.

Get some rest!

18

Unfortunately, I only got to know you since this whole "mess" came up. But the things I saw from you during the last days, they were truly astonishing. Reasonable thoughts, combined with deep, clear empathy.

So, I think it is a great loss for our community to lose you, and I wish I had met you earlier on, and not in the context of you being on the leave.

Bon voyage, wherever your path will be leading you!

-2

Honest to goodness this whole mess makes me sad. Just sad. So many good people are hurt and it's a mess.

I'm sad to see you go Aza, but I also understand the need to care for yourself.

I wish you well. I'm secretly hoping that down the track you return. In fact it would be good if we could reach an accord and Monica would return if the details behind the sacking are able to be resolved.

Best of luck in your endeavours and it's a privilege to be in touch with you off the site. xx

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    Hey! I see you removed the part about account deletion from your profile, does it mean you changed your mind and decided to stay? crossing fingers – Shadow The Princess Wizard Nov 3 at 7:44
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    @ShadowThePrincessWizard yep I'm staying. But low key. sorry I haven't replied to your email yet. – Nobody Nov 3 at 9:15

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