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One of the questions people have raised about the new rules about pronouns is how users will know what pronouns are preferred.

We've had a trolling question which got quite an edit history when the user included their preferred pronouns at the bottom of the question, and I agree that particularly on Stackoverflow (rather than sites like Interpersonal Skills or Workplace), this should be considered as 'noise' since it isn't the strict Q&A this site is about. (The codez should work whatever your gender).

Currently, the suggested way of displaying your pronouns is to put it in your profile's 'About Me' section. However, this is suboptimal, since it requires opening a new page.

I suggest adding a 'preferred pronouns' field in the user profile, and displaying this on a user's usercard. There's currently a 'new contributor' label, so it could be similar to that, with she/her pronouns or whatever they choose.

In comments, it could be appended to the reputation score that currently gets shown when you hover over a name:

4,305 reputation, she/her pronouns

The default would be blank. No flair updates, no hover-in-comments update. If a user fills in this field in their profile, then it will show.

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    This is more likely to be implemented, but both would work. – Aza Oct 12 at 21:16
  • @Aza oh, didn't even notice this has been requested before. I should do more research – marcellothearcane Oct 12 at 21:18
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    It's cool, no worries! It's a good idea, and both have been proposed (though I think yours is the first actual feature request for this one?). – Aza Oct 12 at 21:18
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    What about people who don't want there pronouns displayed on the user card? I guess they just need to get over it right? Also why clutter the user card with pointless information? This is not Tumblr, the gender of the user should not matter, those who care can write it in their profile, most people don't even care enough to do that. – Mark Kirby Oct 12 at 21:24
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    @MarkKirby They wouldn’t have to list their pronouns at all and people would keep referring to them using gender-neutral language as they currently do now. – divibisan Oct 12 at 21:28
  • @MarkKirby see the last paragraph. – marcellothearcane Oct 12 at 21:29
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    "They wouldn’t have to list their pronouns at all" Then what is the point of it? It would be a pointless feature and it is asking for trouble from trolls who think it's funny to write rude words in their user cards. – Mark Kirby Oct 12 at 21:32
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    @Mark the point is making it easier not to misgender people who explicitly tell us their gender. As for rude words, make it a dropdown of options and feature-request new pronouns as and when needed. – marcellothearcane Oct 12 at 21:34
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    @rjzii it's not quite, since this is about adding an explicit field, rather than making your 'about me' visible. See concerns on that question where the only 'about me' someone might want to add is less than the character limit. – marcellothearcane Oct 12 at 21:35
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    It might be better if we would all stop focusing on grammar. – tchrist Oct 12 at 21:39
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    @tchrist I never thought I'd hear an ELU mod say that! :D – marcellothearcane Oct 12 at 21:42
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    Pronouns are part of the mechanics of grammar; they are not lexical terms. If as it appears that talking about grammar makes people uneasy or upset, we should stop upsetting those people. – tchrist Oct 12 at 21:49
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    FYI: apparently there are some privacy/legal implications with doing this (or encouraging folks to record this sort of information anywhere). We're researching it, but probably gonna be something that has to be handled slowly, carefully and deliberately to avoid creating even bigger problems. – Shog9 Oct 12 at 22:12
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    @Shog9 What privacy/legal implications could there be with providing a Standard way to communicate preferred pronouns (without any requirement to do so)? Defining how to announce your preferred/required pronouns should have come way before making their use mandatory... – piet.t Oct 13 at 9:18
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    I have no more information than y'all do on this, @TylerH. Just wanted to let folks know that we're not ignoring these requests, but... That there might be unforeseen hiccups should we wish to proceed. – Shog9 Oct 14 at 19:33
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Regardless of whether you support the October 2019 version of the Code of Conduct or not, it's clear that a lot of users are apprehensive about it. In response to the FAQ, users have come up with many "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenarios that they fear might get you punished.

The staff are responding with comments that mostly say "calm down, just act normally and it shouldn't be a problem". The community is also desperately hoping to go back to simpler times. We somehow mostly got along, before this CoC pronoun controversy made everyone fearful. How can we cope now?

The answer, I believe, lies in the text of the Code of Conduct itself (emphasis added):

Be inclusive and respectful.

Avoid sarcasm and be careful with jokes — tone is hard to decipher online. Prefer gender-neutral language when uncertain. If a situation makes it hard to be friendly, stop participating and move on.


No bigotry.

We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion — and those are just a few examples. Use stated pronouns (when known). When in doubt, don't use language that might offend or alienate.

In case it isn't clear how we can easily comply…

  • Gender-neutral language is preferable, but not required.
  • You need to use a user's stated pronouns only after the user tells you.

If your proposal to add pronouns to user profiles is not implemented, then someone would have to explicitly tell you "actually, my pronouns are 'she/her'" — and you'd have to blatantly disregard that request, probably within the same conversation, to violate the Code of Conduct.

On the other hand, if it becomes the norm for users to explicitly declare their gender or pronoun in a specific standard place in their profile, it places a burden on every user to respect that declaration, because the user's gender is known. It becomes easier to make accusations of "This user misgendered me! My pronouns are clearly stated in my profile! Moderators, I demand justice!" If you neglect to look at the user card, you could be starting every interaction with one strike against you.

I get the feeling, based on the staff's "what's the big deal?" tone, and the fact that they didn't concurrently roll out a pronoun feature with the Code of Conduct change, that they don't want the latter scenario, where it's easier to take offense at mistakes.

Also, keep in mind that the vast majority of users — especially hordes of new users that we're supposed to keep welcoming — won't have read the Code of Conduct, much less the complicated explanatory FAQ. Most users — new and experienced alike — won't look at profiles or user cards either. Whatever system we have in the post-October-2019-CoC world needs to work intuitively. How do people work in real life? We make and respond to gender hints, based on names and appearances (i.e. images). Sometimes we guess wrong. Mistakes can be hurtful. But they're not actionable grievances unless the offender maliciously refuses to comply. Let's keep things that way, shall we?

  • This should be on the front page. Wonderful overview. – user474678 Oct 16 at 1:12

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