This may be a bit weird, but I voted to close my own question and I'm grateful to the other 4 of you — Yvette (she), Beloved Fool (they), Sonic (?), and Robert (I'm guessing he) — who quickly followed suit.

As multiple people told me in the comments, the question isn't helpful and only serves to further entrench everyone's positions and be unkind to each other. That wasn't my intention, and I'm sorry. I realized too late that there was absolutely no common ground to stand on.

For what it's worth, had we been able to talk to each other face to face, there might have been more chance of understanding each other.

Anyway: It's been a good run here on the network for the last few years and I've enjoyed my time, but it's time to make room and say goodbye, at least for now.

Best of luck resolving this mess we found ourselves in. Maybe we can at least agree that nobody wanted that. I sincerely hope you all succeed to rebuild what was damaged in the last days, and again, I'm sorry if I have added to that damage.

I saw people are voting to reopen this. You are of course free to do so, but my personal preference would be to leave it closed and let it die in peace. This question isn't the best legacy to leave behind.

I've left a minimal version of the original question behind. It no longer contains my half-baked attempt to find middle ground, which I assume was one of the reasons many found the original offensive, but it leaves enough context so Leopold's answer still makes sense.

If you're not too young, you might remember Things you should never do, Part I. In it, Joel Spolsky talks about iteration vs rewriting code. I thought some of it applied to the current situation if you liberally substituted "SE communities" for "code".

If SE management meant to iterate originally, it sure looks like they skipped a couple of steps and are now dealing with a revolution instead. What would be the problem with slowing down a bit instead of staying the course? The turmoil here isn't the result of iteration. There are CMs who were openly wondering (in chat) how close SE came to dying.

Social change rarely works if it's prescribed to a society from the outside. Radically changing people's thoughts by force has, as far as I'm aware, never worked long-term, and not for the lack of trying.

What actually works to change societies long-term is slow iteration. Small moves, Ellie!

LGBTQ+ activists, SE policy makers: Why insist on letting revolution run it's course when iteration's chances of success are better? (Or, if you don't think this is a revolutionary change: Why not slow down and continue in smaller steps that can actually be recognized as iteration?)

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    I'm voting to close this question because people who said it was unhelpful were quite obviously right. I'm sorry for posting it in the first place, I should have known better. I would be much obliged if the people who upvoted the "unhelpful" comments also voted to close. And with that, I think I've said everything I needed to say on the SE network.Goodbye everyone! Oct 15, 2019 at 15:29
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    @Pascal I do really appreciate you for trying to find a middle ground. I think this just goes to illustrate just how much the two sides (at least those of us who are still arguing here on Meta) are just talking past each other. It’s really just a sad situation all around. If this is it for you, thanks for all your contributions over the years and I wish you good luck in the future.
    – divibisan
    Oct 15, 2019 at 16:16

3 Answers 3


You are referring to a classical problem in activism: Should activists settle for small realistic improvements, make as few waves as necessary, and maintain a respectable image to get public support? Or should they be firebrands and demand what's morally due, as loudly and uncompromisingly as it takes?

Why not settle for partial progress?

Many modern activist groups, especially for LGBT+ causes, fall squarely on the firebrand side.

This is partly a matter of principle. Nobody likes to be told they can't have their basic rights and dignity, but if they beg very nicely they might get some scraps. Few people nowadays regret that the US civil rights movement demanded full racial equality.

Small changes can easily slide into negotiation and concessions: "I'm able to give you this, but it's unreasonable to want more" versus "You were cheated out of your rightful dues and I'll restore them to you as quickly as possible". This is missing from your code analogy: think of trying to improve a code base when every hour of refactoring must be begged from a manager who wants to rush features out the door.

It's also a lesson of history. Early groups for the rights of gay men, in the US primarily the Mattachine society, focused on individual support and specific court cases. They didn't accomplish much. The Stonewall riots and groups founded after it made much more radical demands, on account not only of gay men or lesbians but also bisexual and trans people, including disreputable groups like cross-dressers and sex workers. That sure worked.

An especially sharp example is the AIDS crisis in the US. Quiet lobbying for research funds did not work; ACT UP calling the FDA murderers did. Larry Kramer, the founder of ACT UP, describes this in the play The Normal Heart.

Modern LGBT+ activism is often patterned after these movements.


Are firebrands really more successful?

Lessons from the past might not generalise. Modern LGBT+ activism is more like old LGBT+ activism than it is like refactoring code, but it still differs.

Moreover, many examples of successful radicals were actually paired strategies, with one visible firebrand group enabling quiet work by a respectable group.

At what cost?

Both approaches only consider the cost to the movement, in terms of public support and personal harm to activists. Neither takes into account harm to nice things that aren't political causes.

I'm perfectly willing to kill off the Buddy Deane Show to integrate a television station. I would happily destroy Stack Exchange if it somehow brought about full equality for trans and non-binary people in all of society.

But this may destroy Stack Exchange to help trans and non-binary people on Stack Exchange, which is just silly.

Arguing about a hot-button issue is more fun than answering questions about x86 branch prediction or em dashes. I've seen many great places for technical work devolve into debate halls, and I'm scared this is about to happen to Stack Exchange. If it does, nobody will benefit.

Where's Monica?

While there are good reasons to demand GNU/Hurd-like perfection, I don't see that it couldn't have waited a month.

As far as I can tell, publishing the CoC changes before resolving Monica Cellio's situation was just stupid. It paints trans and non-binary users as the evil thought police, it polarises the debate, and of course it's awful to Monica.

The current revolution probably wouldn't be so revolutionary if Monica was here as a moderator to calmly explain what she supports.

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    This, really just this. Can we now go back to or normal lives?
    – Luuklag
    Oct 15, 2019 at 6:45
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    Thank you for this, especially the "Why so radical" part gives an insightful answer to my question. I guess it means that while social change here is unlikely to work by using coercion, a compromise will also be out of reach (for now). Oct 15, 2019 at 7:10
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    "publishing the CoC changes before resolving Monica Cellio's situation was just stupid". Not to mention, Monica's situation itself is stupid. How do you botch a firing that bad and then proceed to shoot yourself in the foot over and over again?
    – SolveIt
    Oct 15, 2019 at 13:28
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    Respecting people's identities (which includes pronouns) is NOT radical, and "It paints trans and non-binary users as the evil thought police" is a concern trolling argument. As a trans user, this is not the case.
    – ave
    Oct 15, 2019 at 13:45
  • @Leopold: I accepted this answer; I actually wanted to wait for some more but I see the no serious ones beside yours are coming. I considered deleting the question, people saying it's unhelpful were obviously right, but I see your answer has become quite popular and I don't want to rob you of all these upvotes, in case you care about the reputation (and I'm not sure what happens when the answer no longer has a question to attach to). Oct 15, 2019 at 15:17
  • @Pascal FYI you couldn't delete the question if you tried (not without a diamond anyway), since it has a positively-scored answer. Oct 15, 2019 at 15:19
  • @MathieuGuindon: Ah. Didn't know that, I've never tried to delete a question before. Thanks for the heads up. In that case, I'm voting to close. A bit belatedly, I guess :-) Anyway, I'm out of here. Oct 15, 2019 at 15:20
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    @Ave You’re certainly right about reality. But if I was a transphobic bigot who wanted to stir up hate, I don’t think I could have arranged this whole situation better. I think that’s the sense Leopold meant it: that the timing of the 2 events gives a lot of fuel to the haters and bigots out there. (And since it needs to be said, I’m not calling people who disagree with the policy bigots, just saying that bigots are probably pretty happy with how this has gone down)
    – divibisan
    Oct 15, 2019 at 16:11
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    @Ave: I've edited to avoid the connotations of "radical"; feel free to suggest further edits. I don't know how to address your point about Monica's still-unresolved firing: it did create more hatred against trans users than before. Oct 15, 2019 at 20:22
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    Can confirm: queer moderators and members of our communities are reporting that SE's actions have made things more difficult for our already-marginalized members. That's terrible. :-( Oct 15, 2019 at 20:51
  • Except radical activism doesn't help when it instills fear and pain instead. The forcefulness of modern activism is exactly why Trump got elected. When you try to bring about change by force or fear, eventually people have enough and push back, often much too far (again, see Trump). Less radical change is slower moving but actually changes hearts and minds in meaningful ways. Oct 16, 2019 at 4:29

Every time they have changed the CoC of conduct it just made it harder and harder for reasonable people without any malicious intent to comply with it because all the loopholes introduced, to the point that they got tired of spending more effort on trying to comply with the CoC than on the answers to the questions and still having to deal with the trolls that language lawyer and weaponize every change.

Assuming malicious intent and accusing people of malicious intent is abusive in and of itself, but every one of those I ever flagged was Declined.

Result; Profiles deleted ...

and if you are one of those that say that CoC being used as a weapon was never a problem, you are a complete hypocrite, because I am telling it you it was, and is why I quit!


I see no rewrite or radical changes here. All this recent meta drama about pronouns is the result of just one new sentence in the Code of Conduct:

Use stated pronouns (when known).

A simple, easy to follow change that is irrelevant to most interactions on the SE network, which are about inanimate or abstract objects (computer programs, mostly) or which are addressed directly (second person) to a person, and so can use the gender neutral "your".

No, the drama is in some people's reaction to that change. People who don't want to do that.

What lays most of the objections bare is the Schrödinger's pronoun. Apparently, using third-person pronouns never happens because we only talk about inanimate technical matters and simultaneously using someone's stated third-person pronoun is an enormous inconvenience and imposition.


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