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Over the past week we've been busy reviewing our previous FAQ to directly address concerns over pronoun usage. We tried to anticipate likely questions, but… missed the mark a bit. Inspired by the Community's excellent curated one, we created a new combined FAQ and, after running it by the moderator team, we're happy to officially release it. Check it out in its new question: What does the Code of Conduct say about pronouns?

We know some of you may still have questions or additional clarification on some points. We're happy to further improve the wording of either questions or answers or add answers to new questions. This post here is the place to talk through that. For ease of voting and responding, please limit each answer to one specific concern.

However, note that debating the core of the new rule ("please use stated pronouns") or the validity of people's identities or gender expressions is off-topic for this post, and we won't be entertaining those debates at this point and posts that aren't questions or requests for clarification may be deleted.

Please also note that the FAQ is very long as it is but the questions in it represent a broad spectrum of questions we've seen repeatedly over the last weeks. It doesn't cover many edge cases as an FAQ is not meant to cover/address every edge case that may come up - trying to preemptively legislate for everything hypothetically is a bad practice. Some of the bridges we will have to cross when we get to them, and the Community Management team will work with Moderators to deal with those as they come.

So, with all that said... Here's the place to post your requests for clarification/new questions.

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    (10K+) If anyone wants to see the old FAQ, it's here. – mason Oct 23 at 14:50
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    @aCVn The Wayback Machine has several archives of the FAQ, including an early revision 2 hours after it was posted. – Stevoisiak Oct 23 at 18:10
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    Reminder that comments on meta, like the main sites, should not be used to hold a long, increasingly-tangential discussion between two people on a third person's post - they get all the pings, you get nothing. Meta Stack Exchange Chat is a good venue if you just want to have a conversation with someone . – Shog9 Oct 24 at 1:11
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    @Shog9 there is functionality to move comments to chat, is there not? Deleting all of the comments on a post makes it look bad, especially when other controversies on the site have a wildly different outcome for the comments there. – justcool393 Oct 27 at 16:35
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    That functionality is very limited, @just. You get one shot per post, and if a conversation is headed south then the onus is on you to moderate it in potentially two places. In heated moments, it doesn't pay. Would be nicer if we had a way to lock comments. – Shog9 Oct 27 at 16:47
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    @Ooker I think a mod edited in that 10K note on my comment. Yes, I can see the question too since I have an answer there. But I can't see all the other answers or comments since I'm not 10K. – mason Oct 28 at 12:24
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    @Shog9 Locking comments would eliminate constructive feedback. Non constructive comments can be deleted anyway; no reason to remove the good ones as well. – Fermi paradox Oct 29 at 7:41
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    Some users feel threatened, belong to groups other than trans/non-binary, and would feel much safer if their own language desires were also included in the CoC. How can such users achieve the same language protections as trans/non-binary people? – Gershom Maes Oct 29 at 12:28
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    3rd-person pronouns are already covered. I'm asking about other language controls which would make additional groups feel comfortable. – Gershom Maes Oct 29 at 19:22
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    Hi Cesar ♦. I have 3 yet-unanswered clarification questions posted below for SE to respond to, each in a separate post as you requested. Are you still providing answers in this thread or is this too old and I should post my questions as new question-posts? Thanks! – user-2147482600 Oct 31 at 19:27
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    cc @Shog9 ♦ who is pingable ^^^^^ – user-2147482600 Oct 31 at 19:28
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    Before official release was this discussed with the community too or only moderators ? – Vivek Mishra Nov 1 at 11:12
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    Is there an alternative online community with more sensible CoC? I7d be happy to join there if there are already ongoing efforts – user454322 Nov 8 at 5:37
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    There are limits to even our masochism, @Fermiparadox – Shog9 Nov 8 at 23:09
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    Meanwhile, on a site somewhere else, "people" are just asking questions and getting answers... – James Nov 9 at 3:29

66 Answers 66

2

Why not stick to simply dictating behavior ("don't be disrespectful to each other or intentionally misgender anyone")?

I think that this policy is overly complicated for what it's trying to accomplish. Why not just have something like the following:

We're trying to make the site welcoming and inclusive to everyone. Sometimes, transgender members have been made to feel unsafe and/or unwelcome. To help everyone be able to participate in the community equally, please ensure that you either use people's preferred pronouns or write in a gender-neutral way for everyone.

Controversies regarding gender identity are, in general, out of scope for the site. Please refrain from arguing or debating with other users related to this topic.

Rude or discriminatory behavior based on gender identity will not be tolerated. If you see someone engage in this type of behavior, please flag the comment(s) in question as "Harassment, Bigotry, or Abuse." Violations of this policy will result in a warning from moderators, and continued violations after that will result in suspension.

1

You advise that questions and answers should be free of references to pronouns.

Do you plan on introducing a feature for making one's pronouns more accessible?

I mean by this, for example, a colored dot near the avatar or an expandable card with a visual cue when there is something to expand.

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    This is not answered by the FAQ, but Stack has previously implied that there are some legal implications to this and they may not introduce an official feature for this purpose. – Aza Oct 23 at 5:54
  • @Aza Well I thought it was on topic, how we interact with a rule is closely tied with how that rule is accessible. – Arthur Havlicek Oct 23 at 5:56
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    Oh, don't worry, I definitely think it's on topic, I'm just not sure an FAQ can really answer it. But it's a useful question and worth answering here, anyway. – Aza Oct 23 at 5:57
  • @Aza do you have a link where SE implied that? I expected some UI support for pronouns, at least a field where one can write own preferred pronouns. – Piro says Reinstate Monica Oct 23 at 6:03
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    If I'm not mistaken @Aza is referring to this comment by Cesar M – Bart Oct 23 at 8:11
  • @ArthurHavlicek I would prefer a tag. Something like [they:@Arthur Havlicek], but it will be long to write. – aloisdg says Reinstate Monica Oct 23 at 9:20
  • @aloisdg: So what if a user changes his name? [they:<userid>]? Nobody's gonne check a user's ID to write a tag to automate one of several forms of pronouns... It's easier to avoid pronoun usage in sentence structure altogether. – Cerbrus Oct 23 at 11:02
  • There is a userscript that adds this feature: stackapps.com/q/8440/34061 – divibisan Oct 23 at 14:20
  • Legally they can't recommend the feature, but I don't think they'd get into legal trouble simply for providing it, as I know of many, many GPDR compliant sites that allow you to OPTIONALLY display your gender in a special place, or to have badges that happen to include gender or preferred pronouns as an option. I suspect that they are just being overly cautious right now, since there is no such feature on SE yet. – trlkly Oct 25 at 9:35
1

What does "stated pronoun (if known)" mean, and does "general knowledge" from U1 apply?

There are many cases where someone's pronouns could be argued as "publicly known" / "general knowledge", but grepping the string on the FAQ, as it is currently written, only gives U1: "I'm not a moderator. What should I do if I see these rules being broken?" Can I apply public / general knowledge when creating new content, or does the principle of public / general knowledge only apply if one sees the rules being broken?

If not, then, what does "if known" mean? Do the pronouns need to be explicitly stated by the person, or can it be inferred from existing official documents? I.e., are the pronouns only known when the person state "please refer to me with the pronoun $pronoun", or is it OK to refer to the current Queen of England as "she" because I know she owns a ship called Her Majesty's Ship Belfast (and because I'm inferring from her title as the Queen)?

Looking forward, if I were to discuss certain government departments in the future, where the British monarch may have been changed, and I do not know the gender of this future monarch, can I still use, say, HM Passport Office, with the HM assumed to mean "His/Her"? Or do I have to start calling it "TM Passport Office" for "Their Majesty's", which at present is not the actual name of this department?

0

Thank you for this vast improvement of the FAQ. I found your first attempt at the FAQ to be very confused and self-contradictory. This is much less so.

There is an answer in implementation that is still too vague. I hope you can remove the ambiguity.

10. I want to let people know what my pronouns are. What should I do?

How (and whether) you identify your pronouns is up to you. In many cases it's unnecessary. Please don’t put pronouns in your posts unless it’s somehow relevant.

One of the biggest problems with the previous FAQ is that it did not provide good guidance on this question, and in fact recommended filling posts with clutter. I'm glad you're taking a stand and saying that pronouns don't belong in the question (with exception of certain sites where it's relevant).

But the FAQ isn't "What shouldn't I do?", but "What should I do?" This answer has to assert a solution to that question.

From what I've seen in answers to other questions (and implied in FAQ Implementation 11), it seems you want the OP to put their pronouns in the comments. If that's the case, it should be stated plainly in this answer to the FAQ. Perhaps: "How (and whether) you identify your pronouns is up to you. Please don't put pronouns in your questions unless it's relevant to the question. If you want to post your pronouns, the comments section is the most appropriate place."

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    There's no reason to present them until necessary. When it is necessary, it will be obvious where they should be presented. – Kevin B Oct 23 at 18:23
0

Thank you for taking the time, effort and, to at least a certain extent humility, to listen to our feedback and make these changes. I believe they are an improvement compared to the original version of the FAQ.

In the But what about...? The edge cases. #4, there is

You can often avoid using pronouns altogether. It's actually pretty rare to need third-person pronouns at all on most Stack Exchange sites. But conspicuously avoiding using pronouns for one group of people while using them normally for others is a way of refusing to recognize their identity, and that is discriminatory. ...

This doesn't specify any groups or people it only applies to, so I assume it applies to everyone, in particular it appears to allow members to completely avoid using pronouns. However, in the So, as a curator or moderator, what's my role? M2, there is

Using incorrect pronouns or conspicuously avoiding using pronouns is disrespectful. ... If you think you will find using pronouns as stated difficult, please try.

To me, not using pronouns at all is about as conspicuous as you can get. This seems to state the earlier statement doesn't apply to moderators, so they have to use pronouns. If this is not the case, then this section should be reworded. I suggest adding an initial clarification to the first sentence above so it would be something like

Unless you're not using pronouns at all, using incorrect pronouns or conspicuously avoiding using pronouns is disrespectful.

Alternatively, if the earlier part doesn't apply to moderators, you should make that explicit there. However, I wish & hope that is not the case.

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Here's the place to post your requests for clarification/new questions.

Q: What happens when someone is genuinely against using non-binary pronouns?

Are their rights revoked in favour of the CoC "enforcing" the usage of someone's preferred pronoun?

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    I believe we should all have "equal" rights. I believe your reasons for introducing the new pronouns rule in the CoC is because you too feel people have rights and their rights should be supported, and clearly comes from good intentions. But "enforcing" this in CoC is a different kettle of fish and I just wanted to know your take on the question. There's no rule in the Coc for eg someone calling me Bob instead of James. Nor a choice for me to not use a specific pronoun, which I may have a valid reason for. This is not equality. – James Nov 9 at 3:52
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    'Equality' is not what you are describing. I'm a member of a minority (which is irrelevant). I do not want to be referred to by a slur for that minority. Some people want to use slurs. They believe they have 'valid reasons'. The idea that my desire to not be referred to by a term that is offensive is somehow 'equal' to other people's desire to use slurs, and therefore enforcing rules preventing use of slurs is 'not equality'... is way off base. – Beofett 2 days ago
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    @Beofett you've entirely twisted my words. Where do I mention "slur"? Just not using specific pronouns.The site is filled with slurs, people calling eachother noob and stupid for not googling etc. But sure, let's address special cases and not others as those are more important. – James 2 days ago
  • Also, this is not a statement, it's a question. I mean downvoting is free and all but bit silly really. – James 2 days ago
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    You're confusing my providing an example to illustrate one of the problems with your claim, with "twisting your words". Also, I believe we should *all* have "equal" rights.... This is not equality. is not a question. It's a statement. – Beofett yesterday
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    @Beofett You say you're a member of a minority but it's irrelevant. So why mention it? And that is my point and question about equality, you can mention what you want, but (question) do I not have the "equal right" to ignore it? I'm not saying we should, I'm asking the question. No-one has ever kicked up a specific rule or problem when people don't refer to a doctor as Dr, even if they ask. Surely in a world with freedom of speech and equality, once you enforce one thing you take away some freedom? You just have to want people to be civil, but this covers a lot of ground and can't be enforced. – James yesterday
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    And just to avoid poisoning my character... I do care, and I have a trans gender friend who I refer to with their preferred pronoun. But I choose to do that. Sure it would be unkind and uncivil to not do so, then we wouldn't be friends, or less close. But is it not a choice? Is it going to become a legal matter for not using a gender pronoun (there are cases springing up BTW)? There are many things in life people would "prefer" others to do, but with "equality" you just have to ask and want, not expect or enforce. – James yesterday
  • @James if you are a cis-gendered male, and I insist on referring to you as "she", "they", or "it" even after you correct me, that will be considered harassment and I will be dealt with accordingly. It doesn't matter what my excuse is. No one's getting special treatment. – DoctorDestructo yesterday
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    @James So why mention it? As I just explained: as an example to illustrate the problem with your perspective on "equality". Telling people they can't call someone a slur (again, this is an example) might be "taking away some freedom", but "freedom of speech", outside of the context of the US Constitution (which only applies to government enforcement, and excludes all private institutions), is not the same as "freedom of consequences for your choices". Letting "people [be] free to chose not to be kind" is not "equal" to people's right to be treated with respect. – Beofett yesterday
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    To put it simpler: you say with "equality" you have to ask and want, not expect or enforce, but in essence you are saying "your desire not to be singled out and harassed is less valuable than the desire of others who wish to be able to be rude or unkind, should they so choose, because expecting or enforcing that behavior 'costs' more than we are willing to commit". – Beofett yesterday
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    To add further clarification on what in retrospect is ambiguous phrasing on my part: the fact that I am a member of a minority is relevant to my example, but which specific minority is not relevant, since it is for illustration purposes only. – Beofett yesterday
  • @Beofett "in essence you are saying "your desire not to be singled out and harassed is less valuable than the desire of others who wish to be able to be rude or unkind, should they so choose" Not sure I said that when all I've referred to is "equality", this means" equal" not biased. It doesn't matter what the choice is or desire, any kind of rule like this removes equality. It's this simple: Forcing anyone to do anything at all strips them of the freedom to not do it and to have freewill/choice. This is not subjective, it's entirely fact based on definition. I am expected to obey CoC. – James yesterday
  • Then I'm not sure what you think "equal" means. You're comparing apples (wanting to be treated with respect) to oranges (not being told you can't be rude). The word "equal" is entirely unrelated to that comparison, just as it is entirely unrelated to freedom to say what you like without consequences. The part about freewill/choice is a red herring, by the way, as is the idea of "compelled speech". You always have the option of not engaging. The CoC doesn't force you to use someone's preferred pronouns. You can exercise free will and not participate in discussions. – Beofett yesterday
  • @Beofett "not being told you can't be rude" I don't understand why you read my comments like this at all. I've made my stance clear but you insist on twisting it. I don't want to be rude to anyone, I made this entirely clear. If you cannot see that enforcing the use of gender pronoun is removing freedoms then I do not wish to engage in debate with you any further. Have a nice day (EDIT I'm not talking about letting people be unkind or intentionally use the wrong ones, just in case you thought that of me too) – James yesterday
  • It's ironic you're here debating about the enforcement of people using gender pronouns is fair and justified, yet you twist my words to make me look bad and think bad of me. We don't need enforced gender pronouns to be able to be civil to each other, nor avoid defaming other people's character) – James yesterday

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