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Edit/Preface

A lot of the objections so far, especially in the comments, seem to be 'this isn't useful to me, therefore it's not useful.' I would like to edit to clarify that I, and I think most LGBTQ+ users would agree, can personally say quite firmly that this change would be very useful/positive for me. I would request that if you personally do not feel this is a good proposal, that you evaluate why you think so - is it because you are assuming it's not that useful, in spite of many LGBTQ+ members, both on SE and off, saying pronouns/changes like this are incredibly important, or is it because you have an actual objection (safety, privacy, etc)? I'm happy to respond to and engage with the latter. I must admit the downvotes with comments along the lines of "this doesn't do anything" are disheartening. Have we really learned nothing from 2019?

Reasons for proposal

I understand standard practice right now is to put pronouns in the 'About Me' section of one's profile, which of course also has the advantage of showing up in one's hovercard as a result of Can we make the "expanded user card" privilege universal?.

However, I think a separate pronoun field (much like the current separate field for location) is worth adding, for several reasons:

  1. Encourages pronoun inclusion in profile/normalizes pronouns. Creating a separate field for it reminds users that this is a piece of information worth including, and thereby normalizes the inclusion of pronouns in the bio, which is good for several reasons:
  • Improves safety of LGBTQ+ users (harder to 'pick them out' - see for instance I am non-binary - recent events have made SE less safe for me (and other members of the LGBTQ community) - if large swaths of people, even non-LGBTQ+ folks, are stating their pronouns) and also indicates acceptance of LGBTQ+ folks (speaking from experience, I feel a lot safer on a site/at a location if there's some indication of acceptance - whether that be a 'safe space' sticker, someone wearing a pronoun pin, anything along those lines).

  • General ease of communication. Fairly self-explanatory, I think.

  • Reducing the occurrence of 'the default is male [especially in programming/on SO] so I'm automatically going to assume you are' (this is not me making something up, but a pretty common phenomenon - see, for instance, Any thoughts on how to react to gender-specific language?). This is very much something to consider in terms of the gender gap in technical fields, along with just general welcome-ness.

  1. It's becoming pretty common, and is an important piece of information about a user! LinkedIn, Instagram, Slack, Zoom, a lot of company/university specific platforms, and so on all have pronoun fields that are optional to fill out. I understand that 'everyone's doing it' is not a reason in and of itself, but I do think it's indicative that there's a pretty broad shift towards pronouns being a thing, much like name (or username), that is part of what you need to know about someone else online. (I'm not asking this field be required, to be clear.)

Proposal

There's two approaches I can think of for this. Both involve having a pronoun field that displays near where location is displayed to profile viewers currently (both on the main profile and on the hovercard).

  1. Provide a blank field for pronouns - I personally feel like a freeform box would be nice, and would allow users to put whatever they'd like without the limitations of a specific list (especially convenient for users who use neopronouns, multiple sets, or who change pronouns regularly). This does, however, likely place more of a burden on moderators as I can certainly see a few...unfortunate individuals deciding to make transphobic jokes or similar. Of course, moderators already handle inappropriate profile content to some extent, so how much of a workload this would add is debatable.

  2. Alternatively, you could have a system where a few options are given (e.g. he/him, she/her, they/them, 'no preferred pronouns'/'don't use pronouns for me', and 'ask me for my pronouns'/other - ideally including neopronouns, but I think the ones listed are a reasonable minimum) that the user can select as many as they'd like from. (Credit to a comment in chat from Cairdcoinheringaahing for the idea of multiple selection and to Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog for the 'no preference' option.)

With either proposal, ideally one wouldn't be able to pull out users with specific pronouns using the SEDE (again, see I am non-binary - recent events have made SE less safe for me (and other members of the LGBTQ community)).


Responses to objections to prior similar proposals

Response to Mouse over hint for pronoun

I am aware of Mouse over hint for pronoun and how heavily downvoted it is. Engineering headache is one thing that I am unaware of - that is why this is a feature request (though I would think that while it is not easy to implement, it's not drastically hard, seeing as similar fields already exist for location, personal websites, etc) - but I would like to respond to the other objections there:

Note that there has already been fear of profiling and harming users based on their gender identity. Putting that in a specific field will make that a lot easier.

As per the question already referenced, people have already done this with profile scraping. There is not really any downside to a separate pronoun field, especially if it is kept out of the SEDE as mentioned. However, there is an explicit advantage: its presence implicitly encourages folks, whether LGBTQ+ or not, to add their pronouns. It acts as a normalizing force, and I would bet that if it is introduced, putting pronouns in one's profile will become a lot more common. (It's certainly true on other sites I've been on - for instance, in every Discord server I've been in, if there are pronoun roles, the majority of users end up picking one, regardless of whether or not they are LGBTQ+. Obviously somewhat anecdotal, but I do think this will translate.)

a feature based on a policy that already has serious issues with the community.

Honestly, I think this whole issue needs less emphasis, not more.

Firstly, see my normalization points above. Second, pronoun fields have seen large positive effects on many other sites, and the events in 2019 are far enough distant that we can simply do what is clearly best for a significant subset of the community and is also just good practice (see subpoints to #1 above). Finally, I would like to posit that perhaps the need for 'less emphasis' could be better obtained by not reacting extremely negatively to the mere use of the word 'pronoun' and encouragement of its use, and not by ignoring requests surrounding pronouns altogether.

Tl;dr - the objections on the last request for this feature either no longer apply, have been addressed in this proposal, or do not make much sense. I would prefer a full answer to this, instead of handwaving the issue away.

Response to Feature request: Add pronouns to usercards?

I have also been asked to respond to Feature request: Add pronouns to usercards?, so here we go. The argument here is probably best summarized in this paragraph:

if it becomes the norm for users to explicitly declare their gender or pronoun in a specific standard place in their profile, it places a burden on every user to respect that declaration, because the user's gender is known. It becomes easier to make accusations of "This user misgendered me! My pronouns are clearly stated in my profile! Moderators, I demand justice!" If you neglect to look at the user card, you could be starting every interaction with one strike against you.

In other words, if we make a place to explicitly include pronouns, then if someone doesn't check that location and accidentally misgenders someone, they'll get in huge trouble just because of an accident; therefore, there should be no explicit place to include pronouns.

I'm going to be very blunt: this is a ridiculous argument. Here's how I'd respond:

  • There already is a place to include pronouns - the 'About Me' section. People include pronouns there. Therefore, in the hypothetical scenario in the answer to this proposal, the onus is already on users to check for pronouns. So this isn't even a new issue. My proposal makes it easier to find pronouns, and therefore harder for users to make the mistake in this hypothetical scenario.

  • The reason I find this truly ridiculous is simple: if someone makes a mistake, they're not going to get hammer banned. It just isn't going to happen! It's easy for someone with pronouns in a field to go 'hey, I think you missed that my pronouns are [x]' and someone to respond 'oh, got it,' and edit whatever reference. This happened during 2019 to me - a different moderator referred to me with the wrong pronoun on accident even though I'd stated my pronouns, I corrected that moderator, the moderator apologized and switched, and all was fine. The answer is panicking over something that will not happen.

  • I also don't appreciate the mischaracterization here that a user will auto-go 'moderators, I demand justice!' I literally can't think of a single situation where I've been misgendered where my initial response wasn't either a) silence because I don't have the energy to engage or b) 'hey, by the way, my pronouns are actually they/them! thanks!' I've never 'gone nuclear' in the way the scenario is proposing.

  • Further, the characterization there that moderators will auto-ban someone is...kinda strange. Most moderators I've met are eminently reasonable. Do you really not trust them enough to use their judgement?

  • Anyway the argument as a whole feels a bit straw man-y, which is why I didn't respond to it in the first place.

Tl;dr - the requirements for the hypothetical situation in this proposal are already the case, and the negative result in the hypothetical scenario comes out of nowhere. I fail to see how it is actually relevant to the proposal in question.

Response to Please add pronouns to profiles on MSO

Objections here include:

If you want to display your pronouns, put them at the top of your about me, that'll already show them in your user card. There's no need to add specific functionality for this.

See points 1 and 2 under reasons for proposal, directly responding to this, as I anticipated this would be an objection.

A user is a user. There's no need for pronouns. When you address my user, use my nickname or "you". When you talk about my user, use "they".

I find this rather disingenuous for a couple reasons. First, see the third subpoint under my first main point under Reasons for proposal - they/nickname/"you" isn't the default, and it's never been, even for non-LGBTQ+ folks. This isn't just about helping LGBTQ+ users, but also normalizing the fact that he/him shouldn't be a default either. This was somewhat addressed in the Code of Conduct, which encourages the use of gender neutral language, but this brings me to my second point about this. Pronouns (or the absence thereof) are a critical part of how we express ourselves most of the time. I could rephrase this objection as

A user is a user. There's no need for a username. When you address a user, just use "you" or a userID number. [And so on]

I think the objections to this rewriting are pretty obvious. I'm sure some will argue this is not an equivalent example, but seriously: pronouns are part of people, and even if you don't personally feel this way, understand it's true for some people and that that's worth respecting, even if this isn't personally helpful to you. A proposal doesn't need to help everyone on the network to be worth implementing.

Stack Overflow is not about users. It is about content. There's no need to know each others pronouns because that is an irrelevant detail.

I find this rather disingenuous as well. The content is created with/by other people. The need of a 'third place' for general socializing/community has been talked about multiple times. Yes, it's a place for content, but it's also a place where humans (and occasionally dogs) interact. Pronouns are a part of that.

If you really must share this personal information on Stack Overflow then use "About me" section on your profile. That is the only place where personal information is allowed.

It isn't. There's space for personal websites, GitHub, location, and many similar things already.

Tl;dr - SE is a content site but also a community. A not insignficant subset of people in the community feel more respected when pronouns are acknowledged and used. QED.

Thanks for making it to the end of my long post, sorry for the text wall!


Repeating the plea I made on my other feature request.

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    This option wouldn't be suitable for me - I don't like to express that a specific pronoun is suitable/preferred for me. Having this field would encourage users to ask others who've left the field unset for their pronouns, which for me, isn't something I'd want to be asked. (I didn't downvote this, by the way - I think it's a great suggestion for many of those who aren't in the same bucket as me.) Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 20:31
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog have replied as requested. Also, I'd propose in your specific case then that you'd use an option such as 'no preferred pronouns/don't use pronouns for me' in that field - edited my proposal to reflect this idea. Thus, I could see it being useful for you as well.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 20:35
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    Also, just to be clear: I don't object to being referred to with a pronoun. I just don't like expressing that only specific pronoun(s) are acceptable to me. I'm just perfectly fine if I'm referred to by any pronoun. Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 20:40
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    @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog thank you for the clarification - just to make sure I understand, would you be comfortable with 'no preferred pronouns' being in that space in the bio? It seems based on your explanation this would resolve your objection/help your personal situation, but I want to be sure I'm not missing a detail/misunderstanding.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 20:41
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    Very similar proposal at MSO: Please add pronouns to profiles Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 20:42
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    Re "Improves safety of LGBTQ+ users (harder to 'pick them out' [. . . ])": Wouldn't this still make it easier to collect non-binary users since they are the ones most likely to have chosen "they/them"? I can see how it would make binary trans folks safer, but I fear this would make non-binary folks or anyone else who choses "they/them" less safe. Am I missing something?
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 20:47
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    @terdon here's how I see it: first, nonbinary users already choose in some cases to put their pronouns in their 'About Me' section. This is hopefully clearly equally unsafe to having them in a sub-field. Second, having pronouns in more bios normalizes things and (to a more limited extent than for binary trans folks, certainly) still makes it harder to automatically go 'oh, pronouns are here, therefore this person is LGBTQ+' - obviously if they're less common pronouns that can be noticeable, but it's less immediately noticeable. Finally, the field isn't required and can be left blank.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 20:58
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    I still don't see the point despite the counter arguments against my (the first) comment on MSO: "My proposal makes it easier to find pronouns, and therefore harder for users to make the mistake in this hypothetical scenario." - But, why? People make mistakes, let them, and correct them. I don't care how easy it is to find your pronouns, I am not going to look for them. If I make a mistake, tell me and I'll work to not make it again. And we don't need the pronouns written down for that, we just need people to admit mistakes and move on. Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 21:04
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    To be clear @Auden I was the first MSO comment: "If you want to display your pronouns, put them at the top of your about me,.... There's no need to add specific functionality for this." :-). Regardless, who's to say I'm not personally affected by it? I've been misgendered plenty of times, I don't criticize those people for doing it though, nor do I get upset when it happens, I just ... move on. You also need to think about how this will affect people with English as a Second Language, where they don't have an understanding of how other pronouns even work. Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 21:15
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    @Nick also I hope you can see the difference in impact misgendering would have on someone who's perhaps relatively more secure in themselves versus someone who is trans/genderqueer who has probably had to deal with this several times in the past day alone.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 21:20
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    No thanks. 1. we can use the about me so it shows up in the expandable user card. 2. I don't care if I'm called "he" or "they". Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 21:52
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    Also generally - I don't think there's any public fields excluded from SEDE? Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 1:09
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    This post would benefit greatly from being shorter, and having an attractive markdown. This currently reads horrible, so I didn't even attempted to do so, the title alone was enough for me to disagree with. If you wan't to make a convincing case, make people wan't to read your post.
    – Luuklag
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 13:14
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    RE: Have we really learned nothing from 2019? I had hoped we'd have learned not to make a mountain out of the pronoun molehill. Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 14:24
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    Second, I do not like the (unfortunately common) style of quoting sections of posts and directly responding to those sections. This puts too much emphasis on the way the other posts were written, and risks confusing general objections with the specific objections in that post. I think it would be better if you only try to summarize the counter-argument as you understand it (perhaps even better if you try to "steelman" it) and only respond to that, instead of the posts directly. (You may still refer to the particular posts when relevant, of course) Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 12:19

3 Answers 3

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Preface

Before I will discuss the contents of your proposal, I first want to emphasize that I acknowledge that this proposal (or rather, the issue that it should resolve) is very important to you personally, as well as to other members of the LGBTQ+ community. I also appreciate that, despite the fact that the similar proposals you cite have been poorly received, you nevertheless come here with a proposal, and that you are willing to accept constructive criticism.

As you may have guessed by now, I am not in favor of this proposal. The main reason is that while I am roughly in favor of the goal this proposal tries to achieve, I do not believe that this proposal will reach its intended goal, and that there are costs associated with this proposal that are not worth it if the goal cannot be reached.

In this answer, I will first make my case against this proposal in general, and then against a specific part of the proposal (the predetermined number of options). I do not intend to convince you to drop this proposal, but I do hope I can provide an argument that shows it is possible to be against this and related proposals on SE, while not necessarily being against the goal it tries to achieve for the benefit of the LGBTQ+ community.

Against making a big deal about identity (on SE)

Since, as you note, it is already possible to state one's pronouns in the "about me" section on the usercard, the main purpose of a dedicated pronoun-field would be to highlight or normalize pronouns as part of the user identity. (You can even make a different text on the user-card to highlight your pronouns more prominently by using the summary:-tag, as explained in this answer, and use the pronoun assistant userscript to view pronouns stated in the "about me" directly from the chat interface)

I think it makes sense that, for this reason, pronoun-fields are being added to discussion platforms such as Zoom, Discord, etc., "social network" sites, or systems that record personal identity1 (universities, paying customers of a company). However, SE is not a "social network" or a platform for discussion. As such, personal identity is not that important2, and we should not add features that make a big deal out of them. Why would it be harmful to add it then? SE reduces the focus on personal identity in order to emphasize personal participation and achievement3. This is the great gamification gambit. I'd say it has worked quite successfully. This argument has been made before, see the first paragraph of this answer, for example.

What's with the "location", "website", "twitter/facebook/etc" fields, then? Well, the simple answer is that these fields can be added without making a big deal about them.

The complex answer is, well, we live in a society. As it stands now, it is impossible to change things related to gender or gender identity expression and not have people make a big deal about it. While this situation will probably not last, and eventually normalize, the question is when, and whether we should instead wait here on SE until society is "ready" for it. (Society will never be ready for it if we keep waiting, but note that society is broader than SE. This is not an argument against making a big deal in general, only on SE in particular) I can also see that the eventual goal is normalization of personal pronoun statements, but this cannot be reached from the present state of society without making a big deal about it first.

This is deeply unfair, and I understand that this convinces some people to support the cause. Still, I personally do not believe that SE, a complex multi-cultural knowledge sharing community, can be one of the first pieces of society to be moved. (Note that the amount of attention given to gender identity and LGBTQ+ issues varies greatly across cultures) Furthermore, I believe trying to force these sort of things from above is not a good nor effective way to implement the changes if the community is not ready. Hence, I am against this proposal on practical grounds. (For completeness, I also have some issues on an ideological level, but those are weaker than the fact that the LGBTQ+ community strongly desires these changes, so those are not sufficient for me to be against this proposal, and there is no need for me to discuss those here)

Please do not limit the field to predetermined inputs

Beyond the proposal itself, I also have an issue with a specific part of the implementation. I'm strongly against limiting the field to a predetermined set of inputs. Not only does this differ from similar fields (such as location, website, neither of those have to resolve to an "actual location" or "actual website", even though that is technically feasible to test), but I also find the argument that it might be used for trolling rather weak. Users already can and do put fake/offensive pronouns or genders in their "about me" for trolling purposes! We deal with this by flagging and moderator action, like any other offensive content on user profiles. I agree that making an explicit field would increase the likelihood of people inserting (potentially offensive) nonsense, but that is simply a consequence of increasing the attention to pronouns. If it is not possible to put offensive terms in the pronoun field, trolls can still put it in the "about me" field.

Finally, limiting a field to a predetermined number of inputs means you need to decide which inputs are valid, and as we can see in this post, this isn't easy. There likely still are some valid and important inputs that we missed. If the set of valid inputs increases in the future, these need to be updated. Someone will have to decide this in the future. All this is very complicated. The pronoun assistant userscript has an option for a "freeform" pronoun description. I recommend following this implementation, and have both a list of common pronoun-pairs, and an option for a free-form text field.


1: By "personal identity", I mean the identity you use in your daily life, that you take to work or school, and use to go shopping and such. You may or may not use this identity on SE or elsewhere on the internet. The pronouns you ask others to use for you on SE may or may not be those that are associated with your personal identity, but I assume that for most people that consider these pronouns important, they are.
2: A possible exception could be MathOverflow, where most users expect others to use their "real name". However, this is because their "real name" is the professional identity of the user, used to publish papers and such. Also, MathOverflow is exceptional in the SE network in many ways, so I would not base network-wide policy solely on their practices.
3: For a concrete example, take the "user box" below each post. It only contains the user avatar and username in order to identify the user, and contains both the reputation and badges prominently. Note that neither the avatar nor the username needs to be part of the users' "personal identity".

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    For your first section, I would ask you look more carefully at my response to the MSO proposal (the last response in that section), particularly where I explicitly discuss the idea that "Stack Overflow is not about users. It is about content." I feel like I responded to your first section already, in a sense. As for the latter half, I admit that I personally feel like a freeform box would be nice, but I had hoped that people would be more amenable to the proposal if it didn't put as much of a burden on the moderators - that is, I hoped to preempt an objection. I'm open to either approach.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 16:51
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    (Edited my proposal to reflect this.)
    – auden
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 16:52
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    @AudenYoung In that case, I'm not sure if I'm getting my point across. There is much more to people than their "personal identity", at least, as I've defined the term. If you go to a bar or something, then personal identity is often central to the purpose of your visit (unless you just want to get drunk, I guess...). But if you go to a public library, it is usually not. I'm arguing SE is more like a library than a bar. Of course people are still important to a library! But what matters less is who they are, i.e. their identity. Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 17:07
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    Sure, there are some people who practically live in the library who have gotten to know each-other and care very deeply about their respective relations and identities. Still, this is not the case for most visitors of the library, and it is not part of the primary mission of the library to support this socializing, even if it at times does so. Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 17:07
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    That said, I shouldn't take the library analogy too far, because SE doesn't just have books laying on the shelves, all content is actively written by people. Nevertheless, many people can and much prefer to write this content without involving their personal identity in the matter. So, since I believe personal identity is not required for the core mission of SE, I think we should be careful in increasing its relevance when this may have adverse effects. Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 17:07
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    Thanks for posting this answer; it'll help prevent the question from being automatically deleted, as even though it's disagreed, I think it's a valuable reference addition to the site. Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 19:16
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    @Discretelizard of course there's more to people than their personal identity, and yes, SE leans more towards, as you put it, library than social network. But perhaps what this misses is regular patrons of the library often talk with each other and the library staff, and will probably discuss the latest books, potential improvements to the library, and so forth. Using the library analogy neglects that libraries are...pretty active social spheres! Honestly pretty much any academic sphere is also a social sphere, as apparently aloof as it might seem.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 23:12
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The problem with trying to critique this feature request is, some of the reasons against it are frankly uncomfortable.

While on one hand - it does normalise using the correct gender for the individual - I do wonder if it would have the 'opposite' effect from encouraging gender neutral language. I tend to write my answers for 'the reader' over 'the person who asked the question' (and write questions in first person, or generally), but not everyone does.

The second is:

Improves safety of LGBTQ+ users (harder to 'pick them out')

I'm not entirely sure this is true. There's lots of instances where there's some frankly nasty folks who go out of their way to make things difficult for others who are different. While we don't have the massive automated troll bots of Twitch - it does make folks easier to pick out (even without SEDE - there's examples of folks information getting scraped from user profiles in the distant past). This isn't a great reason not to do it, but safety is ensured because we as a community deal with trolls and they're not safe here.

On the other hand, not having a pronoun field is... security by obscurity, and that's a terrible way to do anything

The third is:

SE's generally worked on reducing PII available via the site. The age field was sunsetted, and looking at the profile editing page

enter image description here

The only private/personal information there is one's full name, and that's only for the developer story, and IIRC teams. It seems somewhat at odds with the direction SE seems to be taking design/safety-wise over the past few years. Naturally I'd be happy to be told its otherwise, but that feels like something that'll affect the prospect of the FR turning into a feature.

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    "it does normalize using the correct gender for the individual" I don't think that part needs normalization. It is already part of civilized discourse. I also don't see how having separate filed would in any way improve safety of LGBTQ+ people and if widely used it would have negative effect on people that want to keep their anonymity - they can be picked out because they don't have any pronouns added. So "helping" one group of people can put another group in the spotlight. Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 7:43
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    Additionally, Stack Exchange is not a forum nor social network and emphasis was never on people, but on content. We don't care who userXXXX are as long as they are constructive contributors. That is why identifying and personal fields are minimal. People can choose to be represented by their real name and picture, but those fields never feel like enforced information. Starting to put fields like pronouns, birthdays and similar feel more intrusive. Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 7:47
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    While one can argue that pronouns are needed for interaction, they are seldom needed and people have successfully communicated without having special field so far. How (in)significant pronouns are is the fact that some languages even don't have gendered pronouns. Some other languages don't have neutral pronouns and when you talk about unspecific people, equivalent of "he" is used. In global community, this may also bring additional problems for people not used to pronouns. Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 7:50
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There are good reasons why some people might want to specify their preferred pronouns in some contexts, some of which you've mentioned. In a parallel universe somewhere, this idea might be nice and straightforward. Some people have pointed out that SE isn't primarily a social network, but as you say, it is seen by many as a community - there's an understanding that there are people behind the questions, answers, and comments.

Unfortunately, parts of that community have a capacity for acrimonious discussion about a range of subjects - and the the events of 2019 have shown that this is one of those subjects. Notably, the hostile dialogue around those events also involved SE staff. You suggest that 2019 should be seen as a long time ago, but what will have changed in the last 2 years? It's not as if society at large has got any less excited about polarizing debates.

Perhaps a relevant question would be "would this proposal reduce the degree to which pronouns are a sore point in the SE community?". As currently suggested, there seems a risk that it wouldn't - in particular, the suggestion to limit a dropdown to a few options seems to lead to an inevitable debate about what those options should be.

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    Oh, I have very much noticed the very mention of the term 'pronoun' seems to auto-incite, as you put it, acrimonious discussion. I had hoped 2019 was long enough ago it'd be alright, but so it goes. Regardless, I don't think the goal of the proposal is to make it less of a sore point, but rather, to make people more comfortable and hopefully, eventually, normalize their presence.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 23:10
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    @AudenYoung I think what I'm saying is that one of the initial goals of any proposal around pronouns on SE at this point in time has to be to make it less of a sore point, otherwise there's a "can't get there from here" problem - for me, thinking of pronouns in connection with Stack Exchange primarily brings about thoughts of how unpleasant people can be to each other, rather than anything related to safety, ease of communication, etc. Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 10:08
  • Let's pretend it is 6 to 8 years later. Would it matter who initiates the feature request? In other words: suppose the product design team starts a product discovery on this area. Would that be well received? If not, what is needed to change that? If the community brings it up again, any suggestions how / by who that should be done?
    – rene
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 18:32
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    @Auden Presently in 2021 the world has anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers protesting that their freedom is being curtailed because masks (not vaccines as of today) are mandatory in some states and some stores. There are people who prefer to ingest horse deworming pills rather than vaccinate themselves and protect their closest family members. Imagine the trolls on SE crawling out of the woodwork and making up ridiculous pronouns because they don't want to be told what to write in their personal profile. 2019 was just "yesterday", the nutters haven't disappeared they've been further galvanised! Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 19:39
  • @Mari-LouA I personally do not feel these trolls should dictate what we do or don't do.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 19:40
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    @topomorto believe me, thinking about anything LGBTQ+ in connection with SE makes me wince because of how poorly the community tends to receive it, which frankly just hurts a lot. I think it's pretty notable that there's even a comment with someone refusing to read the actual proposal and disagreeing based on the title alone. There's no winning here. That being said, I'm not sure why the people who would benefit from this have to tiptoe around all the people who get up in arms at the mere mention of pronouns. I guess what I'm asking is - what needs to change about this proposal?
    – auden
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 19:42
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    Or is this permanently 'ask again in 6 to 8 years, when it's less of a sore point.' (Maybe normalization will make it less of a sore point. We have to start somewhere.)
    – auden
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 19:42
  • @Auden Yes, you have start somewhere but in the meantime imagine the hurt, the frustration every time an LGBTQ person see a profile with a provacatory pronome, and you will see them if this voice becomes a fixture. There are users who are especially vulnerable who will feel that these invented pronouns are attacking them personally. Changing mindsets takes time, years and you never do it by "force". Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 19:45
  • @Mari-LouA I don't need to imagine it! I saw it constantly here during fall of 2019. So many frustrating and painful comments. To respond to your last sentence: I'm not here to change mindsets of trolls; trolls aren't welcome on SE anyway. There will be frustration and hurt as people put ridiculous stuff in their pronoun field, yes, but people have been terrible since time immemorial. The response isn't to accede, but to ban those who would hurt others and support those who are hurt.
    – auden
    Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 19:50
  • @rene Culture can change a lot in a few years, and not always in the direction we might expect. Perhaps the spread of views on this subject within SE communities might have narrowed, or perhaps the language around gender in the wider world will continue to evolve in ways that provide solutions to some of the concerns raised by members here. Maybe we'll all be speaking Mandarin, or making our own ideograms to express ourselves. Maybe people's grammar skills will have regressed to the point where third person pronouns are an archaic construction... no crystal ball here! Commented Sep 13, 2021 at 20:24
  • @AudenYoung "what needs to change about this proposal?"- well, nothing, if it's the proposal you want to make! You've very reasonably said that a dedicated pronoun field would encourage and normalise the usage of chosen pronouns, and explained why it would help some people. Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 8:57
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    On the flip side of the argument, people have pointed out that they value a depersonalised SE experience, focused as much as possible on the function of the site rather than its participants, and expressed concerns that encouraging and normalising chosen pronouns would be a step away from this - which is arguably just about as logical and emotionally valid as your own position. Commented Sep 14, 2021 at 9:03

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