Bottom line up front (BLUF):
Those of you reading this post: if you genuinely care about being respectful towards this issue, to the people affected by it, you would do well to stop for a second and just try to consider whether these things are as "irrelevant" as a lot of you seem to feel it is. And to stop and consider that your comfort as someone who might have to double-check how you write here can and should be balanced by considering the comfort of people who are regularly worried that their identity is going to be invalided by being here.
I'm seeing a lot of comments to this post saying the same thing over and over, from different people: "I didn't see any attacks against LGBT people, what are you referencing?"
And before I dig into that, I want to explain something: bigotry is not a binary. Bigotry is not "I hate trans people!" and then any statement that falls short of that extreme becomes acceptable. It's a spectrum of misbehavior, ranging from outright, extreme statements of intolerance, to subtle cues that give off the impression that the user is just being polite to avoid social repercussions for a belief or statement they know would be much poorly received if they expressed it honestly.
And then there's behaviors and beliefs that aren't outright bigoted, but sound like arguments that bigots use, and for Trans and NB people on this site, seeing those arguments, even from people who don't intend to use them that way, are troubling and disturbing. This, incidentally, applies to the post that Monica made in the FAQ Meta that she later deleted after this was pointed out to her.
And in that same vein are arguments that are bigoted, but which the people presenting them don't realize are bigoted.
These factors, in combination, are why I think a lot of people reacting to these issues aren't seeing the problems that a lot of trans and non-binary folk are.
So with that in mind, what are we talking about?
I'm going to limit this just to the recently posted FAQ Meta on the Code of Conduct Changes, because it gives us, I think, a good litmus test. Moreover, I'm going to start with the most highly upvoted answers on that post, because I don't want to just find the vocal minority and prop them up like their voices are the only ones that count. I want to focus on the posts that got the most support on that meta, and explain why, as a member of LGBT community myself, I was made to feel uncomfortable by their content.
So we'll start with the most highly upvoted post on that meta, which includes the following paragraph:
I will call you xe or zir etc if you want, but I really don’t like that it’s phrased that if you’re uncomfortable you have to, or get out. I have so much respect for the LGBTQA+ community, but how far do I have to participate in order to engage a user on a question?
So, speaking as a member of the LGBT community, this reads like a more eloquent version of the "I'm not racist, but..." argument people use when they're about to say something racist. If you're someone who has "so much respect" for the LGBT community, why is being told to respect someone's pronouns something that feels like extenuating effort for you?
I don't want to do whole thesis' for each post, so I'll make this brief: just because the matter of self-identity doesn't seem like a large priority to you doesn't mean the person on the other side of the conversation feels the same way. Many people are uncomfortable adopting the default-identity associated with Internet Anonymity (I say with personal experience, being frequently referred to as male despite having not put my gender anywhere on my user profile until relatively recently—which does not include male pronouns), and being treated as such, even implicitly, is uncomfortable.
So yes, being respectful of trans-people means being willing to take the extra few seconds to engage with their identity, if they specifically want that. I get that this is new for a lot of people, and I'm not prepared to exalt SE for their [honestly, kinda crappy] presentation of this change in expectations, but that's how it is.
Next Post. I'm not going to talk about every post, because not literally every single post was objectionable.
So, what about "bad-faith" pronouns like "attack-helicopter" or "Your grace"? Does one still have to use those pronouns?
How does one determine whether or not a pronoun is "legitimate", especially if they are unfamiliar with it?
You flag for a moderator and they'll take a look at it.
Personally, this kind of response frustrates me, because those aren't even pronouns, they're titles. And more importantly, we're not robots. We can gauge for ourselves whether we think someone is acting in bad faith or not. And even if we suspect someone is acting in bad faith, we don't need to react by behaving in ways that will hurt trans people. If someone shows up in a chat room insisting they identify as an attack helicopter, and refuses to cop to any kind of insincere trolling behavior, that doesn't mean we need to start acting like trans people using pronouns correctly are somehow responsible for this behavior, or that a code of conduct mandating respectful pronoun use somehow caused this.
To someone that has English as a secondary language, and where gender-specific pronouns don't exist in their primary language, it may seem absolutely absurd that an subject like pronoun usage ends up in a code of conduct.
What happened to common sense? What happened to just not being an a-hole?
A: "He should do X and X"
B: "(I'm a <gender>, )please use <pronoun>"
Both: Moving on
The problem with this post is that the user is acting like the hypothetical conversation they've described is the only way these conversations have ever played out. But they're not. Conversations on this network don't always play this nicely, and that's why we need changes to the Code of Conduct. The previous "Be Nice" policy was not helping ensure that conversations stayed at this level of respectful and obvious.
There were many conversations, especially in the chatrooms on the programming stacks, that were openly contemptuous of the identities of transgender people. It seems likely to me that much of the purpose of these changes to the Code of Conduct was to specifically try to address that issue.
Compelled speech, even in the name of a worthy cause, has no place in civilized society. Period. Our values reject it.
Forcing people to choose between violating their conscience or leaving, in the name of inclusiveness, is an Orwellian nightmare that has no place in our community. Our values reject it.
A reminder, in case it wasn't clear that I was working from highly upvoted posts, is that this response garnered a net total of 600 positive votes. This post, which calls a policy of respecting a trans person's pronouns, Orwellian, was extremely positively received by the community.
Do you understand how uncomfortable this makes me? How uncomfortable this is for many LGBT people on this network? It's not just that this one user said The Bad Thing™, but that there were hundreds of people who actively cared about this issue that affirmatively agreed with this stance—and these people constitute a majority of the people who cared to respond.
This makes me feel unsafe. This makes me feel like the community does not respect trans people, and it makes me feel the same paranoia I have to try very hard not to feel in unknown communities; that no matter what niceties people put on their words, that they don't genuinely see me (or any other trans person) by how we identify. And personally speaking, I'm still working through my identity! I can't even imagine how these kinds of statements must feel to other members of the community who are more "out" than I am.
And—again—this post was extremely highly upvoted. This isn't some fringe belief of the network, this is something that a lot of people here seem to strongly agree with.
I'm stopping here because, frankly, I have other things to do with my time, but those of you scoffing at this, stop and actually try to think about how the LGBT members of this stack perceive responses like this. I don't know whether each of these posts really mean the hyperbole, of they're just using intense rhetoric without thinking through the implications—but you need to understand that from our perspective, there's not a big difference.
I don't care whether these people are just being incendiary or if they're actively trying to be harmful, because I can't know what they're really thinking. I can only know how these statements fit into patterns of toxic, bigoted behavior and the rationales given for those behaviors.