A bit of time has now passed since Stack Exchange decided to implement the new code of conduct. I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but I am curious to see what the actual results of this are. One criticism of the CoC is that it won't help the community it's designed to help.

Putting politics and beliefs aside my questions are,

  1. Can anybody link to an example where one of the new policies regarding gender pronouns was invoked?
  2. How was it handled?
  3. Did the new policy help or hurt the person on the receiving end? (optional as it could be a matter of opinion)

(This is not intended to start a debate. I would just like to see if the new CoC is being used and if it is helping or hurting with real concrete examples.)

Feedback from a moderator who handled one of these situations would be greatly appreciated. Also the more examples the better. Additionally I would like to focus on the "average" user.

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    “Did the new policy help or hurt the person on the receiving end?” — I’m not sure a negative example can really be linked here, since e.g. deliberate misgendering is expected to be flagged and removed. In this case, indeed, feedback from a mod is necessary. Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 0:09
  • 1
    Good point I just thought of that and yes mod feedback would be best. However I still think there could be an example if it was accidental and or handled civilly by both parties. I'm not sure if I should change that because it's a bit opinion based too.
    – user709560
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 0:11
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    this question alludes to a case where it hurt the person on the receiving end, and others by proxy.
    – user245382
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 0:14
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    This is just a personal anecdote, but I have found myself using "she/he" instead of "they", NOT out of perversity, but because singular they is sounding more klugey to me simply because I am noticing it more. I do this only when there is no indication that the person does not like she/he. If someone said "I am a they", I would apologize and use they. So far, no one has objected.
    – user540056
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 0:32
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    @PeterMortensen: Why do you use "Active reading" as an edit summary? "Active reading" has nothing to do with editing a post... Imo, your edits are usually better summarized as "Corrected spelling, grammar and punctuation."
    – Cerbrus
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 13:59
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    If it was never needed to be enforced, would this be considered evidence that it's an effective deterrent, or that it's pointless? Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 14:46

2 Answers 2


Can anybody link to an example where one of the new policies regarding gender pronouns was invoked?

I don't have links for you, as that would result in calling users out by name. But yes, there have been profiles that have been reset where people used titles like 'your majesty' or 'emperor' in response to the changed Code of Conduct. These profiles were changed back.

As for 'use gender-neutral language when unsure', I have seen people talk about, then making an effort to switch from defaulting to 'he' to either he/she or they, in posts and chat.

For 'use stated pronouns when known' someone made a userscript to help you see other's pronouns in chat, and more users added pronouns to their profiles based on that.

On Interpersonal Skills Meta we also had a question about editing pronouns in answers to match the ones used in the question. It's not new: This was already done before the new version of the Code of Conduct. But it did spark some thought about how such edits were best done.

I've also seen a few chat conversations where people pointed out that 'actually, I prefer they as a pronoun when you talk about me', and those went over quite well.

Did the new policy help or hurt the person on the receiving end?

When the change was just implemented (also probably because of the way it was implemented) I know the change did more harm than good. There was a lot of unrest and some trolling over it, and some things still haven't settled yet.

But in the end, I do believe having the change out there makes it clear that using the wrong pronouns is language that alienates or offends people, and having that black on white is nice. In the end, I feel the policy does help people to feel like they can be themselves and respected when others talk about them.

  • Thanks! Great to hear from a moderator perspective. One last question I have, when you spoke of this situation, "I've also seen a few chat conversations where people pointed out that 'actually, I prefer they as a pronoun when you talk about me', and those went over quite well." From your experience have you seen this happen before the new COC was implemented? Was it handled just as civilly as the example you mentioned?
    – user709560
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 23:55
  • It would also be nice to know how often these exchanges occur?
    – user709560
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 23:56
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    @user709560 I've seen a few of them, some of those went horrible ending in long discussions about language... But I've also seen some go great before we had the new CoC, it really depends on the 'audience' I guess. I didn't keep a tally, but I see them happen quite regularly in chat, especially when a new user drops in, where people talk about other people. (I am also counting the 'tink is actually a female' here ;) ).
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 18:42

I'm aware of two cases where the policy was invoked:

  • The first time was probably invoked in error: a user picked "Attack Helicopter" as a username, and a CM assumed it was a reference to the "I identify as an attack helicopter" meme, rather than an interest in actual combat helicopters.

  • The second time a SE staff member removed information about pronouns from a user's profile, then pushed the updated profile to all sites the user had an account on, even those where the profile was previously blank or anonymous. It's unclear if the user was trolling or not, but the action has definitely created uncertainty over the use of non-standard pronouns (in this case, inflections of the username). It also harmed the user by exposing profile information on sites where it wasn't previously exposed.

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    That user just happened, of all the possible pronouns, chose something not having any of the characteristics of a pronoun, and exactly the same as a meme/joke used to ridicule the idea of non standard pronouns. And the CM made a mistake by concluding they were ridiculing? No, I don't think so. I think the CM just responded in a non confrontational way, to give the person a chance to back down.
    – Raedwald
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 1:47
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    @Raedwald, if you're referring to the user currently known as "Skooba", it wasn't a pronoun, it was a username (and avatar).
    – Mark
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 2:00
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    There was no error in either case and its disingenious to say so Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 2:30
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    @Mark There is a precisely 0% chance that that user changed his username to that string at that time “out of an interest in actual combat helicopters”. There is a precisely 100% chance the CM read the situation right and took the correct action.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 3:28
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    If you actually read the answer you linked about Skooba you'll note that the person that answered was perfectly fine assuming good faith that it wasn't intended to reference the meme (even though it is almost certain that it was intentional) but yet still supported the removal of the name. You'll also note the answer has wide community support. Nowhere is there any evidence of a mistake being made in any way (because no mistake was made). Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 4:36
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    @JourneymanGeek How was there no error on the second?
    – Peilonrayz
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 8:11
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    “No, my son is also named Bort” Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 10:42
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    @JourneymanGeek as a second: I don't see the evidence that the second was not an error. We know people with relevant experience came forward to say that's exactly what it has been made to look like, & were disappointed that this appearance has been left to stand. I get that it can be really hard to address trolling and individuals' privacy. But if you don't want people to keep coming across this and having a "wtf" reaction? Then the site needs to address the issue. Acknowledge the appearance of a mistake, and that the concerns have been looked at. Rule out the apparent mistake going forward.
    – sourcejedi
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 11:31
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    @JourneymanGeek If there was no error, why was the situation reversed?
    – Skooba
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 15:03
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    How would any of these cases been handled before the new CoC? Would they just have been ignored? Handled by a mod after a complaint? Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 22:22
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    @AskAboutMonica, I'm certain the first would have been ignored -- in the absence of a gender-identity-focused code of conduct, there's no reason to believe the username is anything but a username. I'm less certain about the second, but I suspect it would also have been ignored.
    – Mark
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 22:39
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    @sourcejedi A mistake assumes that there was something unintentional. I think every party involved had a very clear idea what they were doing, if not the results. Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 0:19
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    @JourneymanGeek I updated my profile as the original FAQ suggested. I believe this suggestion was changed due to scraping concerns. The results I imagined were that some people would read my profile and address me the way I desire, without the need of a fairly awkward "no my pronouns are ...". However, another user brought up my pronouns, and it has instead devolved into random people making various statements about my intent. I didn't intentionally start this witch-hunt. I made the mistake of following the FAQ, and believing that people would assume good intent. I was wrong.
    – Peilonrayz
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 11:22

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