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Lavender mods had written a letter to SE pertaining to their issues. They asked roughly for three things:

  • Pay attention to the complaints by LGBTQ+ users about disrespect
  • Consequences for disrespect should be clearer and applied consistently
  • Offer sensitivity training for mods that request it.

To date, that letter has been signed by 171 members of the lavender community and their allies.

No question a lot of ink has been spilled over the pronoun issue. At this point, for better or worse, SE seems to have reached an equilibrium of sorts. There is an official update to the CoC. The disastrous initial FAQ has been walked back somewhat in favor of a softer line. Although some people remain not completely satisfied, the revised FAQ does at least have a positive net score at present (91 vs -1927). Fewer new threads are being posted to meta.SE about these issues (in contrast to Monica's unresolved situation, which seems to be the major remaining source of strife). So it seems like this situation is beginning to settle down and that SE and the community have reached a 'resting point' for the moment.

I am wondering how members of the lavender community feel about the changes made so far, and the implied future trajectory. Here are some specific questions:

  1. Do people feel they are, or will be, safer and/or more welcome, for example?
  2. Do the changes made seem adequate from trans users' point of view, at least as a first step?
  3. It isn't clear what the status of the request that sensitivity training be made available is. Is that fact a source of consternation? Etc.

Notes:

  • I am explicitly asking the members of the lavender community for their perspective, not even really that of their allies. Many of the changes have been from SE in response to, or on behalf of, the lavender community. I want to provide a forum for members to speak for themselves. I'm interested in hearing what they have to say.
  • I am aware that the issues surrounding the lavender community have unfortunately been entangled with Monica's unjust treatment, but I ask respondents here to leave those issues aside for the sake of this conversation.
  • Likewise, I am aware that there are other legitimate perspectives on these developments, including freedom and compelled speech, religious concerns, difficulties for non-English speakers, and difficulties for people with autism and social phobias, among others. I share many of those concerns. I am asking that the focus of posts here be on the lavender community's perspective. I ask in part because there has been at least one thread that has discussed the other side of these recent changes, but I am not aware of a thread that specifically asks the lavender community about their views.

So, it seems this has been closed for the following reasons:

  1. I'm creating a venue for members of the lavender community to defend their viewpoint, and
  2. the only answer I want to hear is that the issue is more or less resolved.

Neither of these interpretations is correct. Moreover, I have trouble seeing how they follow from what I wrote.

I am neither advocating for or against the recent changes. I wonder what trans users opinions of them are. There have been many places where users have criticized the changes and members of the lavender community have tried to push back (e.g., saying things like, 'the new CoC doesn't require that', or the like). I'm not aware of a place where they have stated their own perspective outside of the context of an argument. Responses could be things like, 'I would be fine with an even softer line than the second version', or 'when I flag something I think is trans-phobic, it seems more likely to be deleted now'. It could be something entirely unrelated; I don't know—that's why I'm asking. I'm asking for a statement of their current perspective, not a defense of one side of a particular argument. I cite the lavender letter in the first sentence. The word "pronoun" does not occur even once in the letter.

I am not requiring that members of the lavender community feel like the issue has been resolved or hasn't. I do argue that the tensions around this issue appear to have lessened, but I also acknowledge that they have not gone away. I don't know whether trans users think the big issues have been resolved, look like they will be resolved in time, or (still) look like they're worse. N.b., several posts during the height of tensions suggested trans users felt less safe as a result of the changes. Is that still true?

For what it's worth, the on-hold notification reads that this question, "... does not appear to be about the software that powers the Stack Exchange network... ". That's true. This question is about policy and cultural changes in the SE network, and how members of the lavender community feel about them. However, there have been lots of questions about these changes over the past month that were likewise not about the software.

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    Fewer post != matter resolved. It might just be that people have just left, or, it might be that they've realized that SE doesn't care so there is no point complaining about it. – Script47 Nov 8 at 19:56
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    @Script47, I don't think it necessarily means the matter is resolved. If I did think it was resolved, there would be no point in asking. Likewise, it might be that members have left, etc. Again, that's why it's worth asking. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 8 at 19:58
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because You are calli g out a specific set of users to basically defend their viewpoint which I think is unfair. Also this question is phrased in such a way that to me it appears the only answer You want to hear is that the issue is more or less resolved. – Luuklag Nov 8 at 20:26
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    @Luuklag, I am not calling out members of the lavender community to "defend their viewpoint". I don't know what they are going to say (I doubt they all have the same take). I suspect I will agree w/ some points, but not others. But I am interested in their perspective. There have been threads that ask about the contrasting perspective. Furthermore, I don't necessarily want "to hear is that the issue us more or less resolved" (a point that seems somewhat in tension w/ your first claim, btw), eg, if they remain upset about the sensitivity training, they would think the issue is not resolved. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 8 at 20:30
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    But how does one even verify if someone is a part of that community? For that matter, how does one even join that community? – Script47 Nov 8 at 20:45
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    @Script47, it's just a request on my part; I have no way to identify respondents & no way to enforce non-members from posting. But I would like to hear whether trans people feel better now, eg (you may recall during the height of tensions, there were several posts that they felt less safe). In general, the situation seems less tense now. The new FAQ has a positive, but low score. We know some users remain unsatisfied. Are trans users just as happy w/ the current version? Do they like it less? I've seen people arguing back in threads, but I don't know what their own take is. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 8 at 21:13
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    Meta is a little like Jeopardy. Everything is in the form of a question. But often the questions are really statements. It has been fascinating watching people try to infer my agenda from questions I've asked where my only agenda was to get an answer to the question, or express shock that there really was no subtext. – rockwalrus-stop harming Monica Nov 9 at 22:17
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    I feel your pain, @rockwalrus-stopharmingMonica, or perhaps you feel mine. I really just would like to know how trans users feel about where we are now. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 9 at 23:56
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    IMHO this post is a dis-service. The pronoun issue is a distraction and a Red Herring. The problem is with the relations between SE Inc. and SE users and moderators especially, and the way this network is being managed/handled by SE Inc. And LGBTQ+ are not collectively on one side of this issue or the other. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Nov 12 at 21:24
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    @einpoklum-reinstateMonica, I have a strong suspicion that there are trans users on both sides of several of the recent contentious issues. Other than all being trans, they don't necessarily have anything in common, so I would expect opinions to vary on any issue. The point of this post isn't the relations b/t SE & users per se. I'm just wondering what LGBTQ+ users think right now. In a sense, I'd like an update on the lavender letter. Those who aren't interested can completely ignore this. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 12 at 21:32
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+100

Someone invited me to answer here. For the record, due to the way the situation has escalated, I'll be leaving the network indefinitely on Friday, because I don't see any way the situation can be resolved in the near future with the current trajectory.

Do people feel they are, or will be, safer and/or more welcome, for example?

Hell no. After the initial issues with Monica started, things actually got worse. In my time here, I've only been targeted once for being a part of LGBTQ (and in retrospect, I kinda asked for that when there was a known troll in the room - long story, not important). SE has never been a safe space, and I'm actually glad it isn't. The fact that it's able to host a wide array of opinions and beliefs lets the entire community grow as a whole. I've learned a lot from people with different opinions than me. Some communities end up being slightly isolated, but anyone who's active in global concerns still interact with the massive amount of diversity - to some or another degree, most groups are represented. Religions, LGBTQ, women, and more I'm failing to think of.

There's always going to be a certain amount of clash between some different opinions, but provided the right environment, respect can still exist even if agreement doesn't. Unfortunately, the way SE handled it pushed an opinion for a highly polarized topic into a userbase disturbed by pre-existing issues, and the firing of a (from what I can tell) highly respected moderator over this.

SE firing Monica because of the (at the time) future CoC (and allegedly the current one) is one thing, but they've failed to justify their actions. This caused drama and pinned a lot of people against the CoC. I was against the version of the CoC the first leaving moderators (initially leaked here, which was followed by another explanation here - see the 1 in the post) presented, which I hoped was an early, unrefined variant. I instantly saw it would target certain opinions and beliefs, in addition to risking the exclusion of some LGBTQ members (including, but not limited to people who don't use pronouns and people who switch pronouns). To be clear, the version I'm referring to is one that was unofficially posted, without the full details (as in screenshots) by leaving moderators before the official release of the first FAQ.

Anyway, what do you think happens when there's a problem cause? Blame is assigned, and the heat is turned up. Pretty quickly, before the release of the CoC, rather nasty chat messages started appearing, along with comments, questions, and answers purely out to be rude or troll. Some LGBTQ members active in the discussions have been pressured to justify all kinds of things.

What bothers me with Monica's case is the inconsistency between what's been said and other cases. I've run into a couple of mods who said they wouldn't enforce it. I've run into one mod who was outright rude over valid chat flags on outright transphobic content.

Before I continue, I need to be abundantly clear: I'm not saying they should be suspended; I'm pointing out an inconsistency. These mods weren't suspended, but Monica was, from what I've understood, for behavior very similar to that of other mods (with the exception of the one involved in chat flags). I digress.

The way SE handled the situation caused:

  • Many people to be angry
  • Many people have left or gone on strike (or both, in reverse order)
  • The exclusion of LGBTQ
  • The exclusion of (some?) religious groups
  • A split in the community, as well as causing the community to turn on itself
  • Damage to real individuals (notably Monica)
  • Damage to the community
  • A massive increase in activity on MSE, with mods fired and suspending activity, causing flag handling times to skyrocket and giving enough time for situations to spiral entirely out of control.
  • Caused debates around languages that build significantly more on gender than English

Moreover, some people have raised concerns about the effects on non-native speakers. Or, simply put: no one wins.

I'm going to expand on the third point, because this might not be obvious to everyone. SE's goal was to include LGBTQ, but it backfired. I've classified this drama as a perfect storm: General, preexisting dissatisfaction + (SO) HMP and front page paywallification + Twitter-driven development + licensing + (bad) ads + tracking + Monica + CoC = 🔥. LGBTQ ended up being targeted by some of the opposition (and I need to emphasize "some": there are lots of people opposed to the CoC who haven't acted in a bad manner that caused damage to any groups, regardless of what certain tweets may indicate).

Instead of being protective, the CoC caused hate, not against the CoC for being phrased in a bad way, but against the group it was intended to protect. The effective equivalent of this, for those of you who don't see the problem, is attacking a person instead of a change they made. There's been multiple attempts at targeting Sara, for instance.

I've talked to a couple of other trans people who've been in the direct line of fire more times than I have. I guess I've either gotten lucky, or presented the right arguments. There has been a lot of nasty stuff, and I think a lot of people, SE included, forget there are real people on the other side of that comment/message/question/answer. Not to forget the new external threat.

At the end of the day, SE didn't do anything to fight the components of the perfect storm, and more posts fueled it. Heat leads to anger, and a few angry discussions lead to hate. The tension is still there, and that's the primary reason I don't feel safe here anymore. People who previously could at least coexist before this started, in spite of disagreements, are now unlikely to. The split in the community is the worst part here, because it kills the initial diversity that made the site great. In some communities, it might not be a problem, while in others, it'll create a noticeable divide.

If you want to talk optimal given the current general world view on trans and non-binary people, amending the CoC on pronouns would've been better in the form of a subtle notice going for a considerably more open approach - one that makes it clear mistakes are accepted, that highlights the importance of gender-neutral language, and that makes communication run on a good-faith level based on mutual respect, but that still covers intentional misgendering as something that shouldn't happen.

On the other hand, I'm probably being naive, at least based on a lot of the opposition. I honestly don't see the problem with accepting in spite of disagreements. There's lots of people, things, and actions I disagree with but still accept. I guess that's not the general point of view.

Fewer new threads are being posted to meta.SE about these issues

I can't speak for everyone, but I've given up. The mountain SE isn't going to move, regardless of how much effort you throw at it. This is one of the reasons I'm leaving, but I'll have to get back to that later in a more appropriate place. A lot of the CoC opposition's arguments return to Monica or free speech, which deadlocks some discussions. The release being done the way it was made the community receive the change negatively before it was released. That alone was a warning sign SE should've taken seriously.

They've so far ignored the letters as well, and I can't believe they've taken over a month without coming up with a reply. Good faith only stretches so far, especially when status requests are ignored.

Do the changes made seem adequate from trans users' point of view, at least as a first step?

Sure, although they could still do with some modifications. SE has a lot of different opinions and beliefs from people from countries all over the world, but forget to factor that in. At its core, the CoC is a step in the right direction. As I mentioned earlier though, it's not optimally phrased and isn't phrased in a way that includes not just LGBTQ, but as large a part of the community as possible (some people will always leave over a change like that, but minimizing it should've been a goal, to preserve the existing community. 100% inclusion might not be practically possible).

My biggest issue with the CoC is the way it was weaponized and the way it was posted, but my biggest concern is the way SE didn't handle the situation. It led to the firing of a moderator, who from what I can tell doesn't seem nearly as bigoted as a certain article in The Register would have it. They went to the media instead of their own community. Meta is (incorrectly) cited to be 0.015% of the users, at least on SO, but they're more or less making meta entirely useless with their actions


But no, I'm not happy with the way the events went. For me personally, it's not exclusively about the CoC, but it's the entire situation: all the problems, the way SE handled it, and the way it's gotten out of control. I hate seeing the effects it's had on a community that I personally once saw as welcoming regardless of background. It's always had problems, but there's a lot of ways that could've been taken to mitigate those problems without causing more, and without directly touching controversial topics. The situation is a lot more complicated than some posts make it out to be, and that's mainly because some of the effects leading up to the triggering situation have been slightly ignored.

SE have hurt a lot of people along the way, including people they wanted to protect. They pushed away not just (at least some of us) LGBTQ members, but also other users with all kinds of backgrounds. The community, the primary reason I liked SE, is slowly dying instead.

I hate that the only way I see forward is by leaving, but I don't see another choice. Again, this is something I might get back to some time in the next three days, because it'll turn into another wall of text.

Edit 15.11.2019: I've expanded on my reasons for leaving here (disclaimer: my blog)

Sorry for the long post, here's a puppy.

  • 26
    Absolutely. Far be it for me to cast any aspersions upon a long post, but I think we can all agree that the TL;DR here is that Stack Exchange took a pool of gasoline (an extremely controversial social issue, regardless of your personal views on it), threw a lit match on it, and then sat back to watch it burn. I agree with so much in this answer, but especially your pointing out that the diversity of opinions is not only inevitable but desirable, and that true inclusivity is only going to come by embracing that diversity. (With the obvious caveat that everyone must be treated with respect.) – Cody Gray Nov 13 at 2:54
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    "I can't speak for everyone, but I've given up." You can speak for me on that point. And thanks for the puppy. – Inactive - avoiding CoC Nov 13 at 3:28
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    Thank you so much for sharing this. As I commented once before, I've really appreciated your contributions over the past few weeks. I don't know any trans &/or non-binary people in 'real' life (at least that I know of). It helps me to connect these issues to actual people. I'm very sorry to hear that you intend to go. Perhaps in time, you'll change your mind, but I wouldn't want to push you to do something that isn't right for you. I'm sure this has been very difficult. Thanks again. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 3:50
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    Also...pesky length limits keep preventing me from including this, but I want to say that I am also saddened to see that you've made the decision to leave. I absolutely respect your decision, and I can understand it, but that doesn't make it any less of a shame. I've watched you grow immensely over the past year, and while I'll admit that I didn't vote for you the first time you ran for moderator, you would be a strong candidate in my eyes were you to choose to run again. Best of luck to you in your future pursuits, and thank you for all that work you did while you saw fit to participate. – Cody Gray Nov 13 at 6:34
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    Thank you for taking the courage and effort of writing your story. I'm sad to see this whole mess caused you to strip part of your username apparently. I hope we can welcome you again in the future, under better circumstances. – Luuklag Nov 13 at 7:21
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    @Luuklag Me too. I'm going to leave my remaining 7 accounts (the deletion of the rest got me 198 emails from SE xd) because I still hope there's going to be a change, but I can't stay and be used as "proof" SE is still supported by its users. There's also some personal factors counting in that I don't feel comfortable discussing. I still hope things will change, but it's clear SE has no intention of changing their mind. Maybe a couple lawsuits will, but if it takes consequences of legal action to change their mind, then I'm not sure if I want to continue anyway. That's a problem for future me. – Zoe Nov 13 at 7:35
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    @Zoe thank you for your contributions. I know you from commenting my questions on meta. Initially you came across as aggressive / rude, which forced me to say that to you there (can't find the question where that happen). Then, after that initial incident, got the chance to "hear" from you in at least in two other questions (different days), and you got the opportunity to show you care. Sad to "hear" you're leaving, let me know if there's anything i can do to help. Wishing you only the best! – Tiago supports GoFundMonica Nov 13 at 8:11
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    Regarding people with changing pronouns, that seems... impossible to enforce on a site with static post content. Assume a user XXXX, who uses he/him today, and I answer his question using those pronouns. Then next week it's she/her and suddenly I'm breaching the CoC ? || Also, while cute, that's hardly a puppy anymore. Still ty. – Gloweye Nov 13 at 8:23
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    It's been really great knowing you Zoe and I'd like to thank you for your hard work, friendship and - most importantly - for your jokes :). I and your other friends in the chat rooms you frequent will miss you. Good luck, and I hope we'll see you back here one day - preferably with a diamond next to your name. – Stephen Kennedy Nov 13 at 11:10
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    expletive, not you, too? I understand. Still sorry to see you leave. – Vincent Nov 13 at 11:15
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    This post sums up in essence my position as well. This was done in the worst possible way and it has actively caused people, including me, harm. I've been slowly cutting back my activity around here, while still hoping beyond hope that SE would somehow fix things, but at this point... the future looks bleak. I doubt I'll be around in any capacity beyond certain contributions to sites such as Puzzling for much longer. – user58 Nov 13 at 11:49
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    It's saddening to see you leave. I respect your decision, but I was hoping, perhaps against hope, that you'd run for moderator in the next SO election because I think you'd have a real shot and would be a great asset to the team there. – mag Nov 13 at 13:31
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    You will be missed. That is the real tragedy here: that the community loses members like you! – GhostCat says Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 15:33
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    I'm angry for you. Being an RO with you is awesome and I will really miss your valuable contributions as a person and seemingly as a font of all SO/SE knowledge. And of course the odd technical question I throw your way! We lose people like you we lose so much. For anyone thinking this is a non-issue, the UK (and likely elsewhere) has seen a frightening rise in transphobic hate crime. I hate SO/SE being a place where lavender members don't feel safe. – QHarr Nov 13 at 16:14
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    I may have been the first person to leak that the CoC was being changed, although apart from saying "CoC", I am not sure I gave anything away. – StrongBad Nov 13 at 18:38
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TLDR: I feel less welcome, and I don't think it's fixable.


I'm trans, and currently only partially out to friends and family, not yet out at work. (Some of Rebecca's answers have been very helpful to me in this process.)

For years, Stack Exchange in general, and particularly one of the medium-size sites closely connected to my work, have been a very meaningful community for me. It's not like I've formed any close personal friendships, and I'm not a mod, but I've learned a lot, I've helped a pretty decent number of people, and there are a significant number of users who I respect and think of as part of my broader work community. I've also had a large number of people I know in professional contexts tell me that they have seen many of my answers on here; my main account uses my real name.

Then, all of this happened. When I first ran across it, a few days into the initial flurry of meta posts, I was mostly reading it just as "ooh, drama." Then as I realized what it was about, I got more invested. So invested, in fact, that I ended up coming out to the friend whose couch I was reading it on at the time, to explain just why I was so invested. (This was going to happen soon anyway, it was just the impetus.)

In these early phases, I was like everyone else upset about the company's actions. I was also uneasy with a few of the responses, which were quite invalidating to trans people (especially, but definitely not exclusively, nonbinary people). But I was able to explain it to myself as mostly about Monica's mistreatment, outside of a few weirdos, and of course that is mostly what it was about at that point.

Then came the COC update + pronouns FAQ. To my reading, even the initial one was clearly well-intentioned and more-or-less reasonable. There were some issues, to be sure. But in my point of view (and this is please not the space to have those arguments), they were mostly relatively minor issues, and/or people nit-picking aspects of the rules in the worst possible light. Some of that is natural on a site that's largely made of programmers. Some of that is natural given the frame of mind people had entering into this after the debacle with Monica (and relicensing, and HNQ, and...).

But the overwhelming unanimity of opposition to the FAQ felt largely, to me, as if the broad consensus on StackExchange is that the challenges of trans people just do not matter. I don't want to argue about whether this is true for most people; that's how it felt.

But for me personally, coming from a position of (by global standards) extreme privilege, and with my career in a reasonable place, trans issues are the main thing I worry about every day. Will society at large, and my peer groups in particular, accept me – not only not vocally denouncing me, not only saying supportive things when I come out to them, but actually treating me as a full human being worthy of respect?

I got in a few arguments about this around the site. Nothing that, if you go through my comment history, will seem very extreme. Nothing that I felt like should have been deleted, though a few of my comments were (I think questionably, though I understand why they were). No outright severe transphobia, like I know many people have gotten, because I wasn't very "out there."

(I got a little bit of outright transphobia on the question I made this account for last year, but it was quickly deleted and didn't really stick with me. It doesn't bother me so much that a few random internet people are full-on transphobes; I already know this very well.)

What hurt, mostly, was the arguments with a few users who had been in the "person I respect and think of as part of my community" bucket. There was nothing necessarily terrible about these. Nothing that I felt I needed to flag for a mod (and indeed I know the conversations were read by several mods). But not only were these users I respected, in my opinion, trivializing these things that to me are significant harms, it seemed like they had the majority of public opinion on their side in a community I formerly felt welcome in.

Comment, with 2 votes: @<anonymized> This isn't the appropriate place to get into a full discussion, but I wanted to let you know that as a closeted trans person in the field, referring to this as "the pronouns nonsense" is exactly the kind of behavior that makes me feel unwelcome and afraid to come out. SE has certainly behaved very poorly and I don't at all begrudge people resigning/boycotting/etc because of that, but please be aware that the precipitating issue is something that affects probably more of your colleagues than you realize. – anon. Response, with 6 votes: @anon i also feel unwelcome by introduction of coerced speech – <anonymized>

The comment votes have since evened out a bit, but the seeming widespread acceptance that "coercing" people into accepting me and others like me as a person is so much more of a problem than the core challenge in my life right now feels exceedingly unwelcoming.

(There's a good explanation here of why the "compelled speech" argument feels so invalidating.)

I know to a lot of people this doesn't feel like a real issue. Comment, with 4 votes: "anon, you are not harmed by my usage of pronouns." And indeed, I'm not too bothered by the constant barrage of transphobic news stories (especially in England for a while, now ramping up in Scotland/Australia/New Zealand, ...), and am sometimes amused by outright transphobes on Twitter.

But having this community, that I felt like part of and has substantial overlap with people in my career, mildly reject me? That sucks.

It's happened more than once in the past month that I've been browsing meta in the office in the afternoon and gotten so upset that I needed to just go home.

I have literally cried about this in therapy.

(Though I'm still getting used to increased estrogen levels and generally cry a lot more than I used to.)

I'm not, for now, disengaging from Stack Exchange. I'm still answering questions on my main account. But I'm avoiding meta, I'm spending less time browsing on HNQ, and I definitely feel less welcome.

I don't know if there's really anything anyone can do about that.

New contributor
anon is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • 17
    Thank you for this. I know that it's a hard thing to have to post. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 4:21
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    An addendum: like I said, I've mostly disengaged from meta for a while. When I was asked to answer this post, even getting the notification that I had a ping on this account caused an immediate gut-punch of dread. I initially said no, but decided to anyway after there were a few other reasonably-received answers. But, potential commenters, please know that my attitude right now is basically this. – anon Nov 13 at 4:21
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    The jpeg makes me sad. Here is Zoe's puppy. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 4:26
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    @anon You are not alone. – heather Nov 13 at 6:20
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    Thanks, @heather. I'm...substantially older and significantly less involved in all of this than you are. I very much appreciate what you've been doing here. – anon Nov 13 at 6:24
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    This post is enlightening, specifically the chat post link. Thank you for sharing. – Gloweye Nov 13 at 8:59
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    Thank you for your perspective, and my compliments for keeping a level head through all or most of this. I don't mean to ignite anything here, but I would like to clarify that the 'compelled speech'-argument usually doesn't refer to using he or she, but to a combination of two things: First, the usage of neopronouns, which most people don't connect to any identified gender, and second and most importantly, the required active usage of these pronouns by the CoC. That is, even gender-neutral language can be grounds for suspension; one must write the word the user on the other end requires. – Inactive - avoiding CoC Nov 13 at 12:18
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    Thabk you for taking the tine and courage to share your story with us. I really appreciate it, and hope that in the future we can be a more welcoming community, where you feel safe (again) to be a part of said community – Luuklag Nov 13 at 12:19
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    I just want to point out that the dismissal of concerns about coerced speech and the insistence that they mean not accepting you as a person can also feel very invalidating. – Stop harming Monica Nov 13 at 15:01
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    @Inactive-avoidingCoC wish I could downvote that comment. That sort of compelled speech argument is also problematic. – heather Nov 13 at 15:07
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    @Inactive-avoidingCoC I did: "That sort of compelled speech argument is also problematic". The compelled speech argument doesn't stop being a problematic argument because you stopped aiming it at binary people and instead pointed it at nonbinary people. Your response indicates that you didn't actually think about anon's excellent answer. – heather Nov 13 at 15:17
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    @heather I was wondering why it was problematic, I should have been clearer. What part of this excellent answer shoud I have though about? Or is your last sentence purely meant to be inflammatory? Either way; the argument is not aimed at anyone, it is reasoned from the perspective of someone who doesn't have genders (or similar concepts) to tie to the many neopronouns going around. – Inactive - avoiding CoC Nov 13 at 15:31
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    @Inactive-avoidingCoC Your previous comment sounds to me like "Oh, but the compelled speech argument is not what you think it is." However, your version of the argument is essentially the same, IMO. Whether it is about he/she or they or neopronouns does not seem to matter much and "required active usage" is just the "compelled" part of the argument. So why should your version be less problematic? You might want to clarify but you have been warned: rehashing the "compelled speech" argument is going to hurt. – Stop harming Monica Nov 13 at 17:55
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    It always felt that a lot of intolerant users are using the outrage chain to fuel their hate and prejudices. Some are genuinely supportive of Monica, but many just want to justify their aggressiveness towards different cultures, genders and sexual orientations. – Lyd Nov 13 at 18:08
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    Let me say that I want trans users to feel welcome, I genuinely support Monica, & I am genuinely concerned about coerced speech. For one thing, Monica was fired not for misgendering anyone (she never did) but for refusing a specific usage of 'they'. She wanted, & tried very hard, to find another way that would be acceptable, but instead she was thrown out like garbage. Reasonable people w/ good intentions should be able to compromise. Compelled speech is weaponized & can be used arbitrarily. That is problematic to me. Reading anon's answer helps me understand the other side of the issue. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 18:45
38
  1. Do people feel they are, or will be, safer and/or more welcome, for example?

    I transitioned years ago. Nowadays I'm aware that people (on the internet or otherwise) who stir up trouble do it because of unfamiliarity. When most people meet me in real life, including (and sometimes especially) conservative types, they seem to just "get it" in their own way.

    It's different for people on the internet, who don't meet transgender people in person: they might not "get it". Some treat transgender identities as some kind of game, not a human being's actual life. When someone misuses or mocks pronouns, it's a small reminder that I am considered inferior. Unfortunately, the recent situation has promoted much pronoun mocking, but hopefully it'll settle down. Like most websites: don't read the comments.

    The diamond moderators may not be familiar with transgender people, so I don't know if they will "get it". If I report something, will they understand? Maybe, maybe not, but a lot of people in the past have not understood, and often make it worse. Having something concrete in the CoC indeed makes me feel more welcome.

    Feeling safe is different to feeling welcome. I'm aware there are people on the internet who are willing to spend a considerable chunk of their lives lowering the quality of life of transgender people. They are reported as doing things like contact that person's employer, family members, doctors, etc., and provide them with carefully curated anti-transgender material. Maybe one day they will come after me. There are no rules that Stack Exchange could concoct that could protect me from this. I never truly feel safe anywhere.

    However, over time I have come to understand the real-life world is nicer than the internet makes it seem. When someone's newly transitioned, it's scarier, whereas nowadays I'm very much established as a woman. I use my real name as my username.

  2. Do the changes made seem adequate from trans users' point of view, at least as a first step?

    The relevant part of the CoC seems okay in my view, it's succinct and doesn't draw attention to transgender people specifically. By this, I'm referring to:

    Use stated pronouns (when known). When in doubt, don't use language that might offend or alienate.

    It'd be nice to also be firmer against pronoun mocking, but one step at a time. I'm guessing pronoun mocking will become less popular when non-transgender users are willing to respond "you're not being clever; you're being a dick" (in today's vernacular). Perhaps currently it's considered "edgy" or "original" or something.

  3. It isn't clear what the status of the request that sensitivity training be made available is. Is that fact a source of consternation? Etc.

    Sensitivity training may backfire, further polarizing users. I don't consider this a top priority: if it's going to be implemented, it needs to be done carefully. In the meantime, there seems to be transgender people on Meta.SE who are willing to chip in.

Perhaps starting a "gender and sexuality" Stack Exchange site might help. (I asked about it on Area 51 here.) However, Sexuality has failed in the past: not once, but twice. But these sites seemed more about having sex.

  • 11
    "When someone misuses or mocks pronouns, it's a small reminder that I am considered inferior." While I understand and respect how it might make you feel this way, it is really important to remember that someone else's ignorant mocking does not diminish your status as a person. It diminishes theirs. – Cody Gray Nov 13 at 2:59
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    Thank you for your answer. I appreciate hearing your perspective. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 3:31
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    I don't speak about it much though it isn't particularly a secret, but... almost four years into transitioning here, and I'd upvote this answer twice if I could. Thank you. – Adam Lear Nov 14 at 5:42
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    +1 for the clear, concise explanation of how the CoC changes have a positive effect on you. I've been looking for this for almost two months already. – Stop harming Monica 2 days ago
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I got invited to answer this post. I wrote this very quickly in that sort of heated frustration you get into. If you find typos or feel like links should be added, comment or edit (and thank you).


  1. Do people feel they are, or will be, safer and/or more welcome, for example?

Let me change this question: "Do people feel they are safe [as it stands]?" Nope. Not at all. There's been someone who posted that they were targeted by neo-Nazis, which is nice and terrifying. I've seen transphobic comments all over the place. A question, not deleted until four hours plus after it was posted, on meta said (basically a direct quote), "the LGBTQ+ community is the source of the problem." LGBTQ+ moderators and users are leaving and resigning (legitimately! who wants to stay in a not-safe space? I have my reasons, but often I've been questioning why they are sufficient) leaving less LGBTQ+ people to help fight for what is necessary.

The worst part? People are focusing on Monica [note: Monica's pain is major and needs to be resolved; please read this with the fact in mind that I support Monica's quest for reinstatement wholeheartedly]. Aza's resignation wasn't noticed until Monica's thing blew up. A moderator who said some absolutely outrageous stuff a couple months (might be more) ago [can't share, TL, etc, etc; suffice it to say it was far more egregious and offensive than anything Monica said] had, as far as I can tell, zero consequences in spite of multiple complaints. I'm not the only one saying things aren't safe. People have been saying there's problems over and over for years. Has SE been paying attention? Nope. Not until now, and they're not doing a great job of it right now. [Note: CMs are wonderful. Thank them for the work they do.]

When the news about Monica broke, the vitriol was tremendous. Half the meta mods had resigned/were inactive. Those that were left were overwhelmed. People like me, including me, were flagging, were responding, were trying to stem the tide. No help. Didn't work very well. I'd thought I was pretty welcome here. I can basically see now that for a reasonable percentage of the SE population, I am not.

This is not the fault of the CoC. This is the fault of a much deeper rot. In that, I appreciate the CoC for finally beginning to deal with these issues. But the way SE just abandoned the situation when it started to burn hurt. The way SE hasn't listened to the complaints we've made in the past or now hurts. Safe? Welcome? Right now, nope. In the future? Maybe, but it's going to take work.

  1. Do the changes made seem adequate from trans users' point of view, at least as a first step?

I like the new CoC. I think it's good and appropriate. Definitely a good first step (though there's many more to be taken).

  1. It isn't clear what the status of the request that sensitivity training be made available is. Is that fact a source of consternation? Etc.

I feel like this is a good place to point out that on the meta post where the mod letters (including the lavender letter) were posted, Sara Chipps wrote "thanks for this, we will be writing a response very soon" - that was October 8th. Needless to say, there has been no response.

I saw a lot of moderators fall somewhere between outright hurtful to genuinely confused. That's why someone thoughtfully suggested required sensitivity training for mods, and I think it's really a fantastic idea. Mods have actually requested it before, but of course nobody even paid attention to it until there was a fire (oh, wait, SE still hasn't paid very much attention to it).

It seems like a simple, immediately actionable thing that would improve things. The consternation here largely rises from the fact that there's been no conversation about it or acknowledgement of it.


Why do I stay? It's because I love modding. I love writing and answering questions. I've learned so much here, and (hopefully) I've taught a few people something here. I love the community I mod, Quantum Computing, and a couple of others, like Physics and Literature. I love a lot of the people. I have felt like my age did not affect the seriousness with which people took my words. Except now, apparently, something else is.


This issue is not resolved.

It will not be resolved until the LGBTQ+ community feels welcome, because the broader community is welcoming.

It will not be resolved until people, especially SE, listens.

What do you think are the odds of that happening?

  • 6
    Thank you for sharing this, heather. I would have hoped that since the revised FAQ was published it would have felt to people like things were stabilizing, but I can't tell, since I'm on the outside. It is helpful to know the true status. I also gather the sensitivity training is a bigger issue than I thought, even though it basically hasn't been mentioned since the letter. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 4:11
  • Thank you for this thoughtful answer. I would really like to understand why SO didn't invest more time and resources to make the community understand, once the FAQ was published. I would have expected Sara Gibbs and others to make hundreds of comments in the days afterwards, kind of going all in. But it didn't happen. I guess I will never really understand that. – Trilarion 2 days ago
16

Do people feel they are, or will be, safer and/or more welcome, for example?

No, I don't feel safer/more welcome. When I'm posting on 'neutral topics' on sites I frequently post on, no problem ; and there never has been, even when questions specifically address the representation of LGBTQ+ individuals, which is on-topic for one of those sites -- the moderators there have got my back, even if their personal views might be at odds -- about which frankly I have no idea, as they don't let them affect their actions.

Elsewhere the question hasn't come up: Lua and VBA, Pets and Gardening tend not to open the topic -- although I noted a tone change in the responses to my questions on the technical sites when I switched from a username without gender connotations to one that included the damning word 'girl' -- which is off topic here, but I will say I'm big bad and old enough to snort with laughter and move on. 40-odd years of active feminism gives you sufficient armour to identify and ignore the [fill in your choice of perjorative noun here].

But on Meta, I'm treading on eggshells all the time -- Will this post attract the trolls? Am I prepared to deal with them? Have I expressed my opinion in a sufficiently guarded manner that the mob won't howl in outrage if it isn't the popular opinion?

And yes, I'm characterizing some (not most) of what I've seen here over the last 4-6 weeks as a mob -- I've seen and held rational discussions that involved a number of participants; but also observed and tried not to participate in less structured discussions that make no pretence to respect alternative viewpoints. It's hard to feel safe/comfortable when it appears that the 'wrong' opinion will result not in disagreement but vituperation. (And that's before we get to the trolls). With the exception of the trolls (and that -- I hope -- very few who are genuinely opposed to welcoming LGBTQ+ individuals), the members of the apparent 'mob' might want to reflect on this fact: "four legs good two legs bad" is not a welcoming ethos. Let's talk, rationally; we might have to agree to disagree. But we don't have to make anyone miserable or scared.

Right now, I'm scared to participate here without a censor looking over my shoulder.

  • 4
    You had to overcome that trepidation to post here; thank you for doing so. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 18:09
9
  • Pay attention to complaints of disrespect by LGBTQ+ users

I do feel like SE Inc is listening to our concerns and complaints, but I also feel like they aren't really responding (or at least, not enough).

Some time ago, I wrote this question and I find it frustrating that SE Inc hasn't officially responded to it (directly, by posting an answer or indirectly, by posting something else somewhere visible for everyone).

I know SE Inc is paying attention and care about us. But I know that because I have seen multiple tiny signs. What saddens me here is that those signs are, indeed, tiny and that other members of the lavender community may not have seen them. I don't want members of the lavender community to feel like SE doesn't care (enough) about them. I don't want to feel that way either.

That's why I wish they would have made a post about it. Maybe they fear that talking about the recent event will just add more fuel to the fire (especially since they can't talk about the Monica situation because of all the lawyer stuff). Maybe they are very right to fear that. But still, I wish they would talk about it and acknowledge our pain.

  1. Do people feel they are, or will be, safer and/or more welcome, for example?

I definitively believe that this new CoC will make me safer (at some point... in the future... when the dust will have settled down...). However, for now, MSE is still burning with hatred and I don't feel really safe here at all. However, I do feel mostly safe on the rest of the network, which is nice.

  1. Do the changes made seem adequate from trans users' point of view, at least as a first step?

As I said, I do believe that the new CoC will make things better, so yes.

  1. It isn't clear what the status of the request that sensitivity training be made available is. Is that fact a source of consternation? Etc.

As far as I know, "sensitivity training" isn't something that is really done in my home country (France). So, not having it isn't a "consternation" to me. It's just the "normal" way of things.

However, I always loved the idea of such training. I have no idea what it could look like, but I fully support the idea of having such a thing. I would, myself, love to have such a training (even if I'm not a moderator).

  • Consequences for disrespect should be clearer

I have always find that the consequence of violating some rules weren't clear on SE (I'm on the autism spectrum. I really want things to be very clear). So, really, this hasn't changed much.

  • Consequences for disrespect should be [..] applied consistently

I'm not a moderator. I don't know who is punished for what. But I have heard things and I'm not really optimist about the fact that this is currently the case. I still do hope that it will be at some point, though.

  • 2
    Thank you for adding your perspective. It's worth considering how the perspectives of non-mods differs. Sensitivity training would basically be an optional set of slides or a blog post, or something like that, that explains to people who aren't very familiar with all of these issue (eg, me) what it's like for trans people, & how various things that might seem innocuous to me may make life difficult for them. – gung - Reinstate Monica Nov 13 at 14:35
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    To the downvoters on my answers and on the other one of this threads, why are you downvoting? I don't want to assume bad intent, but it does makes me feel like my voice and the voice of other trans people are unwelcome here. – BelovedFool Nov 14 at 9:58
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    @BelovedFool "downvoting..does makes me feel like my voice ... are unwelcome here." That's a general problem with voting based systems. The mainstream comes out on top and less popular opinions end up with a negative score. I have seen this hundreds of times on meta.stackoverflow for almost all kinds of topics (anything really). Votes should not be an indicator of unwelcomness though and the current score of your answer (+7) is in my experience a sign of quite high quality of the contribution. It may just be disagreement with the content and disagreement may not always be bad. – Trilarion 2 days ago
  • @BelovedFool You and your voice are not being downvoted; your answer is being downvoted. On other SE sites this signals that someone finds the answer of low quality, but on Meta this is often used to signal disagreement with the post. This is not a judgement of your person, but of what your wrote. FWIW I also disagree with parts of your answer, though not enough to downvote or to make a fuss about. That doesn't mean I don't think you're welcome here, or welcome to post here; it's just that your views on the matter clash with mine. – Inactive - avoiding CoC 2 days ago

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