Over the past weeks, the uproar has been vast, spanning the new Code of Conduct, Stack Exchange's conduct over the years, and more. Gallons of internet ink have been spilled by everyone involved, including myself.
If you don't know me, I'm heather. I am a moderator on Quantum Computing Stack Exchange, and I'm a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or the Lavender community. On October 6th, I posted a letter I had co-written addressing Stack Exchange about the current situation and how it was affecting the Lavender community.
In the Lavender letter, I wrote
We are human, we are hurt, we are tired
I am not the only one who is hurt and tired. I am spilling ink today to talk about something different, to extend an olive branch, and to reach out under the belief that we are all human here.
Monica Cellio is a highly respected member of this network. I talked with her last night for a long time (with the help of Journeyman Geek as mediator), and we came to some resolution about our situation. I speak as a member of the LGBTQ+ community when I say the following:
- It is clear to me personally that Monica meant no harm by her avoidance of nonbinary pronouns (I say as someone who uses they/them among other pronouns). I believe that while there were problems with what she said, she meant all the best, and that is a starting point for a conversation, not an ending point for a long and productive relationship with Stack Exchange.
- It is clear to me that Monica was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that Stack Exchange took these unfortunate circumstances and used Monica as a scapegoat for something that had been festering across the network for a while, and did so in a way that is, quite frankly, unacceptable to me and to many others.
- It is clear to me that while there are problems in how this site handles LGBTQ+ issues (and, to be honest, issues surrounding tolerance and kindness in general), these issues do not stem from Monica, and it is beyond time that Monica gets a sincere apology and closure. Then we can all move forward with the understanding that we are humans talking across our screens in an attempt to make this site a better and more comfortable place to learn and help others.
I say that Monica and I have come to a resolution, and I say this because we talked. We talked understanding that we come from different backgrounds, with different perspectives. We talked understanding that we each carry different baggage with us. We talked knowing that we were there to understand each other, and that there would be more talking after this conversation, and the next and the next.
I post this today in an attempt to reach out a hand, and to ask all of you to do so as well, to ask Stack Exchange to do so as well. Talk to those around you remembering the faces behind the screens. I believe many things about the current situation, but this post isn't about that. We need to start healing. There will be much more to say, of course: about the Code of Conduct, about how Stack Exchange can regain our trust, about how the LGBT+ community has been marginalized on Stack Exchange. But this seems to me like a pretty good place to start.
Monica, I am sorry for the hurt you have experienced these past few weeks. I cannot claim to understand what you have been going through, but I hope that you can find peace with Stack Exchange. I hope that they can remember that behind the screens and the web of legal concerns lies a person affected deeply by their words, and reach out.