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An Update to Our Community and an Apology (stackexchange.com)
308 points by SnarkAsh on Oct 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 384 comments



Some useful links to the situation. (You can find all these in the responses).

Monica Cellio's account: https://judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5193/stack-...

A news paper article on the situation: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/01/stack_exchange_cont...

A list of mods fired or resigned: https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333965/firing-mods-...

A mods reasons for leaving: https://christianity.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6718/b...


I would like to add that I found https://stats.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5765/moderato... a very comprehensive and faceted summary.


Reading some of Monica’s commentary on this, it pains me to conclude that she doesn’t know just how bad the situation is. She appears to have approached the issue in question respectfully and highlighted her concerns diplomatically, and she believes there must be a “big misunderstanding” because of the extreme response with which she was met. Surely all parties are interested in reaching an outcome everyone can live with, right? Wrong.

The reason her questions and were met with summary punishment was due to the fact that the moral crusaders she was attempting to engage with do not tolerate ideological noncompliance. There was no “misunderstanding.” Chipps and the rest could detect that she was likely to continue to ask questions about the policy, and anyone who dares question such policies is clearly a “bigot” and a “transphobe,” and why would you want someone like that to be a moderator?

Word to the wise: people like this (moral crusaders) will not hesitate to burn your organization to the ground if they don’t get their way. They’ll run coups (like this), condemn you on Twitter, and scare everyone into first being silent, then leaving the org, either out of fear of being the next to be condemned, or just the exhaustion of dealing with it all. I have seen this happen to non-profits, conferences, even private school boards (take a look at Oberlin for an example). If you get crusaders like this in your org, you should consider it an existential threat.

Well, off to delete my Stack Overflow account.


I just deleted mine. Then I discovered on that delete page that you have to separately delete the accounts you might have on other exchanges. This is bad UX.

I searched the net for a bit and it seems the way to do it is via:

- https://stackoverflow.com/contact

- Select Other in the drop-down list,

- Then you enter a message that you want them to do delete your accounts for you.


Yeah I made the mistake of reading about this. This stuff is why Republicans win elections.

If the tech world doesn't realize that having only people on the left and people on the far left is not cultural diversity it will be plagued with this stuff forever.


> The reason her questions and were met with summary punishment was due to the fact that the moral crusaders she was attempting to engage with do not tolerate ideological noncompliance.

> If you get crusaders like this in your org, you should consider it an existential threat.

Completely agree. This destructive behavior alone should be reason enough to reject these people, regardless of the merits of their cause. Nobody should be excluded for questioning some rules or debating some definitions or whatever.

I won't delete my account but I will refrain from contributing to the site in the future.


In terms familiar to users of the religion stack exchanges: zealotry -> schism -> excommunication.


> Well, off to delete my Stack Overflow account

Don't delete your account -- that's a half-measure.

Never use the sites again. Not even the Google / DuckDuckGo SERP clips or some CopyLeft derivative.


-542 before it was locked. That's incredible.

People are really really afraid to talk about this particular topic (which they don't mention in the statement), because this type of call-out to be banned happens a lot.

The book "The Coddling of the American Mind" is an amazing book that documents how this is happening in academia, and it's happening on the software world too. Most people in our industry, in the US, EU and others, tend to be moderate and/or centrists. We don't want to rock the boat; politics is fun to talk about but when that one guy and/or girl goes off in the office, everyone wants to change to topic or go back to their desks and code.

But under the surface, no one agrees with extremism; both extreme fake-left or extreme fake-right. I'd like to think the majority of people just want to live and be kind to each other, but that can lead to ambivalence when people with directional agendas want to push a narrative at the expense of everything else.

If people start talking about the hard issues, but do so respectfully and by making arguments that are sound, we should have clear, rational and reasonable debate. A decision might be made we don't agree with, but as long as the discussion happens, everyone can learn from it and we can agree to disagree and move on.

The polarization of groups of people over ideological lines has never ended well.


Saying that most people don't agree with extreme positions is a bit of a tautology, since positions are defined as "extreme" if few people agree with them. There is therefore nothing universal or fundamentally meaningful about this label, and the same position (e.g. support of interracial marriage) may be considered a perfectly normal or a radically extremist position depending on the time and place.


Eh, in some instances you can define extremeness relative to alternatives, not number of believers. Execution as a punishment is more extreme than a fine regardless of how many people favor execution over fines. I would argue that generally a position being extreme results in fewer believers, not that fewer believers results in a position being extreme.


Agreed. This is how we use the term in political science anyway. Even if an "extreme" opinion becomes majoritary, it remains just as extreme on a supposed "spectrum" of possibles. "More" than "extreme" usually takes you off-spectrum, e.g. anarchy (which is often considered beyond extreme right, at least in Europe) or "hive mind" would fit beyond extreme left ideas of collectivism (a sci-fi concept of unified minds and thinking, like colonies of ants but next level. lol.) Both are off the political spectrum though, can't describe them using the same elements.

Reality is obviously much more "blurry". Most political experts would argue (rightfully so, imho) that most "extreme" views are in fact not "left" or "right" of moderate ones; they sit in a different "plane" so to speak, a third space distinct from left/right (you'd indeed find a lot of right-ish and left-ish ideas mixed in with most "extreme" ideologies; you also find lots of moderate and extreme views in otherwise 'normal' (statistically) parties).

Left/right itself, or moderate/extreme, are also pretty poor and unsubstantial ways to define any idea or anyone, it's a poor man's shortcut to summarize a context, not ideas themselves. Most people today would sit far left of anyone in past history, for instance, while being much more individualistic at the same time.

Reality is complex. The media don't like complex (is media plural? shall I call it something else in pronoun?). Hence, theatric storytelling of the left versus the right, and/or moderates vs. extremes, iced with a general misunderstanding of statistics. I will now refrain from making any conclusion.


> e.g. anarchy (which is often considered beyond extreme right, at least in Europe)

Anarchists are leftists, Ancaps are on the right.


Reminds me of a concept called Overton window [0]. Just want to mention this describes how people behave, as in a human weakness. Not how people should behave to form optimal opinions / societies.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window


> Eh, in some instances you can define extremeness relative to alternatives, not number of believers.

Relative extremeness, sure, but that makes something more or less extreme, not “extreme” without a comparative.

> Execution as a punishment is more extreme than a fine regardless of how many people favor execution over fines.

But execution for most serious crimes was for a very long time a standard position, not an extreme one, while not executing people was an extreme position (though it's now pretty standard in most of the world, with broad—or indeed any—use of execution being an extreme position.)

> I would argue that generally a position being extreme results in fewer believers, not that fewer believers results in a position being extreme.

If you would argue that, go ahead, but you've provided neither evidence nor much argumentation, just conflation of absolute and relative uses of “extreme”, and your example of capital punishment seems to disprove your thesis.


Execution is a good example — there are far more extreme punishments: torture in various forms, punishment of relatives, etc.

A fine is an extreme punishment for crimes like rape, while execution is not. (See the reaction to the Brock Turner sentencing.)


> Execution as a punishment is more extreme than a fine regardless of how many people favor execution over fines.

Not if you are talking about fining or destroying sentient robots. The sentient robot probably has a pretty good back-up system of his mind, so he can just respawn in a different body, his bank account, though, is singular and coupled to the identity that its brain can prove to be. So executing such a robot is not very extreme, it is at most an inconvenience. Taking his money though, is something that has a more lasting impact. At least this is what I made up.

The point I am making is that what is 'extreme' is dependent on context and there is no such thing as intrinsic extremeness.


The issue is the unnaturally fast push towards the extreme left ideas being presented as average/desirable. Most people are caught unprepared, and a subset of people (which is overrepresented in IT) also has an issue with authority and being forced to act a specific way, regardless of the validity of the way.


> I'd like to think the majority of people just want to live and be kind to each other

What you're getting to is the Golden rule in almost all human civilizations: treat others as you would like to be treated. The problem is when this rule broke down because the majority's "would like to be treated" became a hate crime to a small, but vociferous, radical contingent of the population.


> the problem is when this rule broke down

When did this rule break down, in your opinion? When has a society ever fully agreed amongst themselves? There’s certainly not a moment in American history that qualifies, and I doubt you’d find much simultaneous global peace in world history too. It’s never really existed.

There’s actually a fairly compelling argument against the golden rule, often referred to as the platinum rule[0].

The problem with the golden rule is that it assumes everyone wants to be treated the same way, because doesn’t everyone else want to be treated the same way I do? Not necessarily.

0: https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/how-the-platinum-rule-trum...


I'll be honest, I don't find the Platinum Rule at all a compelling argument against the Golden Rule. There are many cases of people in power claiming that their behavior is what the other person "really" wants (such as women "really" want to be treated poorly, or the slaves really prefer subservience as it's their destined station in life). And who am I to be able to speak about what someone else wants? It's a full time job enough to figure out what I claim I want, or want in any given moment vs what I truly desire underneath the socially accepted artifice of what I "should" want or want long term. Trying to presume what others want is pointless, IMHO. But I can do a little presumption and say that for the most part, people are pretty similar, and in those cases where I get it wrong, a mea culpa goes a long way to smooth out the differences. Of course, as much as possible, I will try to customize based on what I think the other party may want, but that is fundamentally based upon my following the Golden Rule, and the Platinum Rule is just a refinement on that, not really a fundamental principle I can base my actions upon.

Of course, much of this may be a distinction without a difference in actual application :)


> such as women "really" want to be treated poorly

This depends how you define “poorly”. Some progressives would say all sex work is harmful to women. Some sex workers who are women would ask how you dare try to rob them of their agency.

It’s not that simple.

> or the slaves really prefer subservience as it's their destined station in life

Again, this depends on how you define “slavery”. To some, all factory workers are slaves in an evil Capitalist machine, subservient to the guy with the capital; all the guy did was start the company, right? But to the factory worker, he might be very happy with the opportunity to work and provide for his family, and for a multitude of reasons might prefer this to whatever else a typical Socialist might believe all people should want to do with their time.

It’s not that simple.


> It’s not that simple.

I agree, which is why I think it's pointless to try to conjecture on what other people want, and jump straight to how I would want to be treated. And of course, even that is tricky, but it's by far a more reliable set of information than guessing the myriad of preferences any given person may have at any given moment. Again, there's still the possibility of getting it wrong, but if I don't know myself as well as anyone possibly could, how can I think that guessing at what others want is going to somehow be more reliable?

So yes, it's not that simple, but the Golden rule is about as simple as you can reliably go on. Anything else seems to me to be bordering on the presumption of omniscience.


You could surely express the golden rule as “A won’t tell B what to identify as and B won’t tell A what words they can and can’t use”. But this requires both A and B to participate.

There is another group C, overlapping with B, people scrutinising your every word waiting for something, anything they can use, out of context, to get you fired. That’s problematic.


"A won't tell B what to identify as and B won't tell A what words they can and can't use".

So:

- Joe won't tell Dani that she can't identify as a she

- Dani won't tell Joe that he should call her "he", not "she"

Do you think these two are really fundamentally equivalent?

If Dani starts calling Joe "she" over Joe's objections, that's totally okay in this schema, right? Deliberately misgendering someone is never harassment?


> If people start talking about the hard issues, but do so respectfully and by making arguments that are sound, we should have clear, rational and reasonable debate. A decision might be made we don't agree with, but as long as the discussion happens, everyone can learn from it and we can agree to disagree and move on.

Ultimately what happens is these issues don't get talked about.

People in the center would rather just have an easy life and not deal with the "cancelling", doxxing, or career consequences that come with having a strong opinion, so don't engage.

That means that the extreme voices on either side end up dominating the conversation.


“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43290/the-second-comi...


> -542 before it was locked. That's incredible.

You're right, I just want to point out for those that aren't aware, this is on stack exchange's meta site. The rules for voting are different, downvotes are more likely than on stack overflow.


Three other takeaways from Coddling:

1) Context and intent matter

2) It's better not to assume the worst (of the other person's intent)

3) Just because something is uncomfortable or offensive does not categorically make it painful.

--

For those who can't be bothered with the whole book the authors did an article for The Atlantic that was so well received they did the book.



This all sounds perfectly reasonable. I am guessing that people lost their shit at these "bigots".

Did that happen, or was this accepted as reasonable debate points?


> the majority of people just want to live and be kind to each other

Once you realize that people's politics reflect their values and the problems they see in their world (and which side they've bought into), it becomes a lot harder to stigmatize the other side...or even take a side.


Conversely when both left and right are pushed towards extremes (compare this story to Trump), it becomes hard not to stigmatise both.


> politics is fun to talk about but when that one guy and/or girl goes off in the office, everyone wants to change to topic or go back to their desks and code.

I don't think that experience is universal.


we should have clear, rational and reasonable debate

I'm starting to wonder if part of the problem is the way debating is taught in school. Certainly when I was in school debate was taught essentially as a sport, a thing that you could win or lose and with tactics and strategies that you could use to help you defeat your opponent. The point under debate was basically irrelevant, and should be able to 'win' no matter which side you where debating, truth be damned. If you conceded ground to your opponent or admitted that you where wrong about something you'd said, you lost.

Having a clear, rational and reasonable debate was never something that was taught or encouraged.


> People are really really afraid to talk about this particular topic

I don't understand how you can say that when we have this huge HN thread (and it's interesting to see who is being downvoted here) and the huge SE threads spread out across the sites.


Getting banned from HN or some other website is way different than getting fired. I'd talk about this sort of stuff here all day long and shut the fuck up at work about anything political.


>Last week we made an important decision for our community. We removed a moderator for repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct and being unwilling to accept our CM’s repeated requests to change their behavior.

Hang on a sec...

>their behaviour.

Wasn't monica fired for suggesting she used gender neutral pronouns generally? Because they said she should use the preferred gender specific pronoun when known?

And now "Sara Chipps" is doing exactly that?!


>Wasn't monica fired for suggesting she used gender neutral pronouns generally?

It's more nuanced from what I understand^. I gather that Monica expressed the desire to find an alternative to using singular they - such as universally using pronoun-free language. Mind you, this was all in discussing a future code of conduct change and its eventual enforcement.

The topic is just very delicate, and in my eyes there is no line that you can draw where both sides are univerally happy. Words spoken/written with the best intentions and utmost respect can still leave others feel hurt or insulted, simply because there are no objective answers to certain differences in perception.

^I am not privy to "insider" info, but I have followed the situation closely and consumed most of what has been said on the metas publicly (outside of chat rooms).


As I understand it she wanted to avoid using any specifically gendered pronoun and be general in her responses, but was told that she must use the preferred pronoun. Totally draconian if you ask me.


That's incredible if true. I've never cared about often being misgendered on the internet. I've also never cared what gender a stranger on the internet is. If I know their gender I might use it but I could also easily forget what they are or mix them up with someone else. Nor do I care if someone mistakes what country I'm from or what political party I vote for. These facts are immutable and no number of mistaken netizens can change them.


What is even more interesting is that this happened because of a CoC that is not even yet in place.



> Wasn't monica fired for suggesting she used gender neutral pronouns generally?

In the comments to the linked question, Monica Cellio says StackOverflow have not told her what parts of the CoC she was violating. I don't think it's public knowledge why she was demodded.

(Is 'fired' an appropriate word to use, when Monica wasn't an employee?)


The most direct statement seems to be from https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/10/01/stack_exchange_cont...

> Asked to confirm that Cellio was the moderator in question, a company spokesperson said, "Cellio (she/her) would not use stated pronouns, which violates our current CoC …


Also from that article:

> Cellio, for what it's worth, does not include any preferred pronouns on her Twitter account.

Yet, when they refer to her, Stack Exchange puts pronouns next to her name, clearly against her own “preferences.” It’s like they’re literally forcing onto her an ideology or worldview which they know she does not share.

What bizarre, hypocritical, vindictive behavior from Stack Exchange.


> (Is 'fired' an appropriate word to use, when Monica wasn't an employee?)

Ben Noordhuis wasn't an employee of Joyent either but that didn't stop them from symbolically firing him:

> While we would fire Ben over this, node.js is an open source project and one doesn't necessarily have the same levers.

https://www.joyent.com/blog/the-power-of-a-pronoun


we made an important decision for our community

It’s interesting that “we”, “our” and “community” in that quote all don’t mean what they seem. “We” are the farmers and “community” are the sheep, is what she means.


They listened and changed it to

> that behavior


Oh it's actually worse than that. The original said:

> the behavior

Some user named Tim changed it to "their".

Full history @ https://meta.stackexchange.com/posts/334248/revisions

Why would they let random people edit such a post? So weird...


That random person probably had the permission level to edit posts.

That’s how SO works.


The title is misleading, this is not an apology.

As a former operator of a (much smaller) community website, I understand the motives behind SE actions. They want to avoid discussions about gender-neutral pronouns and other contentious topics completely. There are only risks and no benefits for SE business in such discussions.They actually do not want discussions, just questions and answers. Jeff Atwood once wrote a blog post about their effort to stiffle discussion on SE sites. Notice how their comments are difficult to use and see.

Unfortunately, SE is many people with different goals, someone made the move to update the CoC, and now SE management has to tame the public outrage.

IMO, the right management decision is to silently fire or move the person behind the CoC update, remove moderator status from Monica forever and publicly define limits to SE discussions in future annoucements.


I'm under the impression that you misunderstand the CoC update procedure. It has not been updated. SE is hellbent on updating it in the future, and they explicitly stated that they are not willing to budge an inch on its gender-/pronoun-related contents. This is not accidental, there is not one single dissident behind it but the entire company.

It will be the duty of the moderators to enforce the new CoC. The discussion in question arose in a mod-only forum (and later on an email conversation) and concerned what behaviors these rules sanction or disallow. It should be self-evident that moderators need to ask these questions and clarify these things in order to enforce them, and that none of this discussion is in itself to cause public outrage (because the public was not to know of any of this in the first place).

Public outrage was _only_ sparked when Monica was unceremoniously fired without any explanation to her or the public. Predictably, the context being described by those privy to it has resulted in lots of pronoun- and gender-related discussions all over the place, but this is neither the primary problem for SE (significant parts of the moderation force leaving is, as well as this being the ~6th community PR nightmare in 1-2 years) nor was it in any way avoidable or unpredictable based on the plans of SE.


Why the hell are pronouns a centerpiece of a CoC?

Just be nice to people. For fuck's sake.


Because life isn't that simple. To one group "misgendering" people is harassment and therefore not nice. To another group being forced to speak as if someone is a gender you do not believe them to be is patronizing and not nice. No one is intentionally being unkind, other than the people who like to wade into the culture war


life has been pretty simple for centuries. this is a manufactured problem. seriously because if youre trans and change your name then people just go with your new pronoun automatically anyway. you literally have to go out of your way to be difficult with this and thats why people have problem accepting it


Trans individuals and other marginalized people often spend a lot of time online as a kind of safe haven from difficult personal circumstances.

People online can be horrible asshats to a degree they wouldn't dare be in person.

These two facts tend to collide and go bad places.

(This comment is only describing the problem space, not taking sides in an argument.)


As other comments here already described, the gender of the person writing questions or answers on SO shouldn't matter at all. If you really want to avoid all issues with this, just randomize usernames for every topic and mandate gender neutral language. There is no need to use gendered pronouns in the Q/A format.


Indeed most writing which demands clarity and precision (legal documents, regulations, military reports, etc.) intentionally avoid ALL pronouns.

In a military report, the enemy isn’t ever referred to as “they” because that pronoun could also be understood to refer to another friendly unit or allied government force depending on ambiguous word order or mistranslation. Instead a term like OPFOR or similar is used consistently instead of a pronoun.

This is what sites like SE should use as a standard: precise and pronoun-free language for both questions and answers.


> Why the hell are pronouns a centerpiece of a CoC?

Because aggressive misgendering including by refusal to use the subject’s preferred pronouns is currently a significant form of harassment which is actively promoted by certain groups.

> Just be nice to people.

The fact that people aggressively refuse to do that is exactly what pronoun policies are responding to.


I'm gonna wade in hip-deep here and suggest that, given the size of the transgender community, the heat and hype of these issues are completely unwarranted.

No hate towards anyone and I'll call anyone whatever they want as far as pronouns.

But why is this a top-3 culture war issue? For a bunch of combatants who are overwhelmingly not trans and shouldn't really care?

We need to think of a way to rise above without throwing anyone under the bus. It'd be better for both the trans community and society at large.


Honestly it is very strange to me that this is being downvoted. The level of outrage that I see is not at all proportional to the number of people affected. This is a very strange phenomenon. I seriously feel that the most heated carriers of torches in this scenario are people who gravitate towards "power play" moments and have happily found a niche where they can be ruthless in their assault.


> The level of outrage that I see is not at all proportional to the number of people affected

If you insist on calling a transman “she” because of his genitals at birth, then (aside from how to affects me because I have trans people I care about, which is, to be sure, the more important impact on me), it also means when you call me “he” it only coincidentally aligns with my preference rather than respecting it. Just because I only can see your disrespect when it's directed at someone whose pronouns don't conform to your preference for them doesn't mean that it's only present there, just that it is masked by circumstance elsewhere.

> I seriously feel that the most heated carriers of torches in this scenario are people who gravitate towards "power play" moments and have happily found a niche where they can be ruthless in their assault.

And I seriously feel that the people with the most intense need to distract from the issue with speculation about why other people might express concern for the issue do so because they have a sode, can't defend it, and so choose instead to distract from opposition to it with irrelevancies.


distract? are you serious? yea this isn't distracting at all to 99.99% of people who can get along fine without worrying about pronoun rules.


thats exactly it. people who have no serious problems so they invent new ones and love to play the moral outrage game because they get power over others

you see so many people who do this then get eaten by the same group when they inevitably screw up some rule in the future


> But why is this a top-3 culture war issue?

It's not. Without suggesting these are the top 3, Abortion, gun control, and immigration are, just to pick 3 obvious ones, a far more central culture war issues than pronouns. (If you aggregated “LGBT rights” as a whole, you might get into the neighborhood of a top-3 issue.)

> For a bunch of combatants who are overwhelmingly not trans and shouldn't really care?

Unless, of course, you are a combatant on the other side, I can't imagine why you'd think that not-trans people shouldn't really care.

> We need to think of a way to rise above without throwing anyone under the bus.

How isn't having the decency to respect people's preferences in the pronouns you use to refer to them (and, though it's a separate but often concurrent issue, the gender you ascribe to them) exactly that?


Mmmm. Look at the size of this subthread. It's like catnip.

And I said I'll use whatever pronouns people want, already, in one of four short grafs. Yet it didn't stop you from wondering if I'm some 'stealth enemy'.

It's funny, these culture war issues.

In the case described, it doesn't seem to have involved any actual trans people either. It was all theoretical, talking about the CoC.

I suppose my talk of 'rise above' means waiting until someone is actually a jerk before correcting them. We don't need cultural uniformity, we just need people to be nice.


yea the problem is all the people getting involved and outraged about things that dont concern them. they even use war terms like "allies" to get that moral righteousness so they feel like theyre in the "fight"


[flagged]


Are you seriously equating misgendering someone with killing them?


The poster was likely referring to the astronomical rates of suicide among trans people.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/09/1...

Obviously, misgendering someone is not likely to be the thing that triggers such an act. But it is part of a pattern of bullying and general disregard that transgendered people face every single day.


Well, that, and there's an orders-of-magnitude difference in homicides between trans and cis people. (And, of course, it's worst for young, black women). Being openly labelled as transgender significantly increases your risk of being assaulted.

That's why misgendering is so insidious - it's stochastic terrorism. The person doing the misgendering can claim that they never meant any violence, but they're still increasing the chance of violence.


Is this a mathematical use of the word stochastic or a soft science use?


Might I suggest that most people who insist on using pronouns derived from one's biological sex (rather than gender) are not attempting to engage in harassment, but are simply refusing to concede a currently unsettled political and societal question?


Ah, yes, the fabled "biological pronoun".

Pronouns are not biological constructs. They don't have chromosomes, genitals, or secondary sex characteristics. They are, by definition, tied to gender.

How would life work if pronouns were determined biologically? For example, how would you figure out what pronouns to use to describe me, if we met in person?

You'd have to ask me to drop trou immediately after we met, which would generally be considered socially unacceptable, or at least a bit forward. But if I did it anyway, how would you know my genitalia hadn't been surgically altered? You could try to cross-reference my secondary sex characteristics, but even those could have been modified hormonally. Really, you'd have to ask for a DNA sample to determine which chromosomes I have, and even that might turn out not to align with the sex I was assigned at birth, much less the one I present today. And what pronouns do you choose if it turns out I have a combination other than XX or XY? It all seems like a lot of trouble and expense for pronouns anyway.

What I'm getting at is that people who make that sort of argument aren't actually saying, "the pronouns I'm using for you are based on your biology". That's just disingenuous, or at the very least shows that they haven't given it any actual thought. What they're really saying is, "the pronouns I'm using for you are what I think you look like, even if it's the opposite of what you tell me you are". I don't see how there's a well-intentioned way to interpret that.

It's so much safer (and easier!) just to take people at their word when they tell you their pronouns, just as you would when they tell you their name.


It would be easiest to call anyone who looks like a woman (or has put effort into trying to look like a woman) a woman, anyone who looks like a man (or has put effort into trying to look like a man) a man, and avoid using any pronouns at all if you're not sure. I'm convinced this is what most people naturally do anyway.


> That's just disingenuous, or at the very least shows that they haven't given it any actual thought.

Or maybe they are thoughtful, caring people that are generally kind but have a different take than you do.

At any rate, your arguments in this thread do not settle the question, even if they were irrefutable. Point being, you just replied to "the issue isn't settled" with an impromptu attempt to finally settle things.


millions of years of evolution that lets us instantly identify a man or woman by sight and other senses

do you think trans people want to be passable because its just fun to do? why else would they care about passing?


Whether one think it's valid or not, people are hurt and suffer from the actions you suggest. Even if no harm is intended, harm is actively being done. At the same time, there is a limit to the linguistic, religious and/or philosophical concessions that pronoun users can reasonably make. It appears to me that that there is not always a middle ground that satisfies both sides.

I (as someone who has no horse in this race) would suggest to put basic empathy and courtesy above "refusing to concede" on some more or less immaterial question, at least where there is no other reason not to. The ideological high horse isn't very high if one knowingly goes about hurting people to stay on it.


Empathy and courtesy have nothing to do with referring someone by generic pronouns. No one is being unempathetic by refusing to call "Joey", Joe, or not referring to Nat by their full name, Natalie. These are all personal issues that one must deal with on their own, either by disengaging from the situation or escalating however they desire and finding a resolution amongst themselves.

Pronouns are no different - if you want me to refer to you as her, and I don't, then you and I will have a problem, not you, me, the mods, my boss, the government, etc.

> The ideological high horse isn't very high if one knowingly goes about hurting people to stay on it.

I have heard this time and time again. If misgendering someone is hurting them in any way, I'm suspecting the solution is for that person to disengage from society, not for society to cater to that person's needs, because they will be misgendered day in and day out for the rest of their life. If someone believes they are being gangstalked, society doesn't modify itself to ensure no one within 500 meters of them has a predictable schedule.


> No one is being unempathetic by refusing to call "Joey", Joe, or not referring to Nat by their full name, Natalie.

I thought not calling people nicknames they dislike had something to do with courtesy and empathy. (I'll also note that you picked very mild nicknames for your example)

> if you want me to refer to you as her, and I don't, then you and I will have a problem, not you, me, the mods, my boss, the government, etc.

Insisting on some level of courtesy is the moderators and the bosses job. As is enforcement if insistence isn't enough. What that level is, and what's appropriate enforcement, that's the tricky part.


> because they will be misgendered day in and day out for the rest of their life. If someone believes they are being gangstalked, society doesn't modify itself to ensure no one within 500 meters of them has a predictable schedule.

That's no good reason to go out of your way to misgender someone or pretend to stalk someone who has that phobia. Yes, there will be problems interacting with society overall, I have no good answer for that. But I do know that knowingly and actively hurting people "because society does it too" when you could trivially avoid it is reprehensible.


> But I do know that knowingly and actively hurting people "because society does it too" when you could trivially avoid it is reprehensible

My argument isn't "do it because society does it too", it's we already have systems in place to give people the therapeutic treatment they need to get past issues like this, which are issues, because it is unfeasible to expect society to shape itself around coddling that person's beliefs.


So let me get this straight:

- You meet Gabrielle, and call her Gabbi.

- She says "I don't like that nickname, could you use Bree?"

- You say, "No, I'm going to call you Gabbi, because you should not expect society to shape itself around coddling your beliefs, GABBI."

Honestly, you probably wouldn't do that, right? I mean, maybe you would, but it'd... kind of make you a jerk. It would be a stupid, stupid hill to die on.

So why is it different with pronouns?


Pronouns are different from names because there is a very strong correlation between pronouns and certain physical aspects of people.[0] What is being asked of people in the gendering debate is to go against this correlation sometimes. Our minds are built on pattern matching and working with such correlations, so it really shouldn't be a surprise that asking people to go against it is going to tick some of them off: you're asking them to enter into a state of cognitive dissonance, which can be unpleasant.

Names, on the other hand, are really quite arbitrary and independent of physical attributes. So yes, there's an important difference.

[0] I believe these kinds of correlation are what people intuitively mean when they talk of biological gender and the like, which make most of the responses against this argument miss the point...


In civil society we forgo our intuitions all the time - our moral intuitions are frequently superseded by law, our intuitions about what atoms look like are superseded by a university Physics course, etc. - but your response I see repeatedly, you don't say we should give into intuition, you say that some people would be "ticked off" by being asked to do something against intuition.

Part of the movement to get people to use the correct pronouns to refer to someone is really just the movement against the epistemic authority of some forms of intuition.

As an aside, in Western society names are generally not independent of physical attributes, and most names are gendered as well. I know very few people with unisex names.


This shouldn't be downvoted; it's a very good point addressing a basic problem with the "call 'em as I see 'em" side of the argument.


"What is being asked of people in the gendering debate is to go against this correlation sometimes."

Yes. Exactly. That's what's being asked of them. To follow someone's request out of courtesy. Again: why is this difficult?


In your quote, you conveniently left out the part about cognitive dissonance. That's what answers your question. It's possible that you personally don't feel this cognitive dissonance, or that you feel it but it simply doesn't bother you. People's subjective experiences can be quite diverse, though, and you need to accept that.

Let me put it another way. Person X asks person Y to take person Z's feelings into account. Sounds reasonable, right? But what if, in doing so, person X doesn't take person Y's feelings into account?

I'd say that'd make person X a hypocrite. There are different goods that need to be weighed against each other here, and person X pretends that this isn't the case.

This is what's happening here. Z = (some) transgender people, Y = (some of) the people expressing concern about pronoun enforcement, X = people taking your current position in this discussion.

In the weighing of different goods against each other, you can reasonably come to the conclusion that person Y should just suck it up because person Z's feelings are simply more important in this case. That's fine, stuff like that happens all the time in society, though you'd be wise to use more reconciliatory language when talking to an actual person Y.

You need to be honest about what you're doing. What isn't fine is to essentially "erase" Y's feelings by pretending that you aren't overriding them for Z's benefit. Because that is what you're doing. (Or maybe you aren't even aware of person Y's feelings. I'm not sure what to consider worse...)

(And yes, the hypocrisy is genuinely what I find most grating about the position you're taking here: the position is often taken by people who claim to champion diversity, inclusiveness, and the equal validity of people's subjective experiences -- but then turn around and selectively decide to not take into account others' subjective experiences when they happen to be inconvenient, and in doing so essentially exclude those others.)


The choice here is:

(1) Bob suffers cognitive dissonance when he calls Angela, a transgender woman, "she".

(2) Angela, who has suffered the cognitive dissonance of gender dysphoria for years, has that revisited on her by Bob's insistence on calling her "he".

So, yeah. I'm privileging Angela over Bob here, because it is his mild discomfort versus her lived-in experience.

Bluntly, nobody has been driven into lifelong therapy and suicidal depression by having to refer to someone by a different set of pronouns. If you want to insist I'm a jerk for denying that these two experiences of "cognitive dissonance" are equivalent, you know, so be it.


I neither wrote nor meant that those two experiences are equivalent. I specifically wrote that one can reasonably draw a conclusion like yours. What I did write is that both experiences are real -- and you denied even that in your earlier comments!

I'd also point out that your example is rather uncharitable. I personally do think Alice is quite justified in asking Bob not to use "he" as a pronoun, but I also think it's acceptable for Bob to prefer using a gender-neutral pronoun such as singular "they". If that had been the example (which it might well have been, especially given the context of this thread overall), your point would be quite a bit weaker, and you ought to feel quite a bit less righteous indignation. After all, if somebody has a problem because of non-neutral pronouns, it'd be rather reasonable to expect them to accept it when people contribute to reducing their use overall -- especially when that also helps to reduce the discomfort of those other people.

Anyway, thank you for acknowledging that other people's feelings exist. Maybe next time you can even use that reconciliatory language I've mentioned.


you realize nobody really has a problem with that right?

this isnt a case about a specific person wanting a different pronoun. its about changing ALL language in the site to be gender neutral. that part is dumb. we dont need to worry about using she and he to talk about alice and bob because "they might be trans"


> stupid hill to die on

Of late I've been saying not the mole hill I'd choose to die on. Also the question what's in it for me if I'm right? If the answer is 'nothing' we're done here.


> Honestly, you probably wouldn't do that, right?

No, and I never said I would, and that example does nothing for or against my argument. So making up a scenario, saying it'd make me <some negative term nobody wants to be associated with>, and asking me "If you wouldn't do X, why would you do Y?" does not sound like it will progress this discussion whatsoever


It won't progress this discussion because you avoided engaging with the question at the end. If I ask you to use a pronoun for me that in your judgement is "incorrect," why is your judgement more important than my request? If you say, "You asked for 'he,' but you look like a 'she' to me, so I'm going to use 'she,'" then why aren't you the one being the jerk just as much as the person who insists on calling someone the wrong name?


first, yes you can call her whatever you want. its called freedom.

second, yea pronouns are different. they are actual nouns in the language used to describe people by what they are. theyre exactly the opposite of names which are completely random things you can claim

third, you know most people use pronouns that match a name and looks? so if you change gender and change your name then people are probably gonna be using the right pronoun anyway


> it is unfeasible to expect society to shape itself around coddling that person's beliefs

What indication do you have that a majority of the "society" in question (Stack Overflow) has a problem with addressing people in the manner they prefer?

In other words, have you considered the possibility that you are the one with an opinion or belief that runs contrary to what this "society" expects of its members?

If so, are you expecting to be coddled?


Judging from the overwhelming negative response to what SO did, I'm confident that I am not the one with the controversial beliefs.


You're seeing what you want to see. The controversy has little to do with that. How SO treated the moderator and handled the issue publicly is what's raising flags.

You know, it's possible to support the pronoun policy while still being against how the moderator was treated.

It seems to be an opportunistic vocal minority that is trying to make this political.


It is already political. I raised this point to another user - changing policies is political. If by, political you mean dealing with government policy, not sure what that has to do with this discussion.


the fact that 99.999% of people throughout history have gotten along just fine without worrying about different pronouns that dont match their gender


I personally concur with the strategy of empathy and courtesy, but others won't, and I don't think that's anywhere close to a good reason to kick them out of civil discussion.

But I simply don't buy the "hurt and suffering" argument. Just because someone has a different opinion and expresses it doesn't mean the hearer is hurt and suffering to any degree that has a snowball's chance in hell of overwhelming the right to have and express a different opinion. The right to express opinions is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than the supposed right to not temporarily feel bad.


Not to use this as an argument but as something to think about: Picture that second paragraph of yours in the context of racism instead of gender. It's not the same thing, but it leaves me unconvinced in the same ways.


>I personally concur with the strategy of empathy and courtesy, but others won't, and I don't think that's anywhere close to a good reason to kick them out of civil discussion.

The very definition of "civil" is "courteous and polite" (Oxford).

>The right to express opinions is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than the supposed right to not temporarily feel bad

For better or worse, there is no such thing as a "right to express opinions" on a privately owned internet site.


No, no it isn’t. In a private forum, you lose your rights as soon as you walk in the door. The host makes the rules, not you. You stay at their pleasure.

Also, I find it odd to describe lack of empathy and courtesy as “civil discussion.” If anything, it is the opposite of civility.


What is 'aggressive' misgendering and aggressive refusal ?


Person 1: “He did a great job on the presentation...”

Person 2: “Thanks, that means a lot. Also, I actually prefer ’she’, but you can also use ‘they‘ if that makes you more comfortable.”

Person 1: “But you are clearly a man.”

Person 2: “...”

Person 1: “Like I was saying, he did a great job on that presentation. I want the rest of you guys to follow his lead.”


Understood. But for simplicity and consistency maybe we should just use first names. No he or she, etc. Just use the first name. Wouldn't that do it?


It seems that was the issue. The moderator in question, as best as I've been able to ascertain, decided to avoid gendered pronouns entirely and in doing so violated the rules.


So someone got sacked for using a person's name instead of a pronoun?


No, it's far away from being that simple, and probably too complicated to summarize in a single sentence. For starters, the discussion was about a future CoC change and its theoretical enforcement. The actual allegation is repeated violation of the current CoC, but no warning regarding that was ever handed out. Nobody (not even the mod in question) has been told the exact violation, despite repeated queries.


You don’t need a reason to kick someone out of your house.


Absolutely, but then everyone can leave and call you a jerk for doing it. Actions have consequences and taking them unilaterally in a community might not go how you want it to.


I have a feeling, based on prior experience, that that is unlikely to be the consequence here.


nope expecting the world to cater to your pronouns is harassment of the 99.99% of people who dont need or want to deal with it. i cant think of a more privileged complaint.

if you want to make extreme choices then youre gonna have to accept that its not going to be as comfortable. nobody owes you anything


A big part of a CoC is making sure everyone is on the same page about what being nice to people is, and presumably "don't willingly misgender people" may be part of that.


For anyone interested, I think this is the section about stifling discussion, in his introduction to Discourse: https://blog.codinghorror.com/civilized-discourse-constructi...

At Stack Exchange, one of the tricky things we learned about Q&A is that if your goal is to have an excellent signal to noise ratio, you must suppress discussion. Stack Exchange only supports the absolute minimum amount of discussion necessary to produce great questions and great answers. That's why answers get constantly re-ordered by votes, that's why comments have limited formatting and length and only a few display, and so forth. Almost every design decision we made was informed by our desire to push discussion down, to inhibit it in every way we could. Spare us the long-winded diatribe, just answer the damn question already.

IDK, seems like Jeff Atwood no longer has much interest in SE and presumably the site is slowly imploding.


> IDK, seems like Jeff Atwood no longer has much interest in SE and presumably the site is slowly imploding.

Well, he left the site and the (SE) company in 2012 to start Discourse, so yes. But I agree with the second half of your sentence ("imploding").


Curious why you would remove moderator status from Monica?

From my understanding it appears that she was demoted for merely posing relevant questions.

As I don't believe SE has even made any specific claims backing up their decision, I'm curious as to why you suggest this is the correct decision to make.


I think they should remove many many more moderators, for no reason other than not doing so risks turning their site and resource into a Wikipedia 2.0, a place where cliquey moderators hang out to discuss their favorite flame bait topics all day, populate gigabytes of meta pages and lash out at unwitting, novel contributors. Wikipedia think a lack of a fancy SPA editor is the reason behind their editor demographics, and they couldn't be further from the truth.

Ideally start with just straight up removing half the current moderators. Pick at random.


Can you briefly describe what you believe moderator duties on SE currently entail? I have reason to believe that there is a misunderstanding.


The Thanos plan for fixing StackExchange, really?


To send the message to other users and moderators that such discussions are unwelcome.

SE has to balance between the need to expand into topics like judaism.stackexchange.com and islam.stackechange.com while remaining a q&a business, not a flamebait-generator business.


They may need to apply separate CoC's to different SE's.

You can't have bona fide Religious SE's and the compelled use of personal pronouns co-exist.

If they think otherwise they are delusional, one will end up waging the other, and dogs only have one tail.


Is that an apology? It reads more like "I am sorry that you are angry, but we did nothing wrong so suck it lololol"

I don't know if the SO mod (Cellio) is in the wrong, but they did not give any explanation why Cellio was removed. I am unconvinced by this update.


If a corporation ever admits doing something wrong, it's admissible evidence in a lawsuit against them. That's why corporations never admit any wrongdoing regardless of how obvious it is that they did.

(And before anyone post the usual "corporations suck" rant, the exact same principle applies to individuals. Anybody who ever watched James Duane's "Never talk to the police" video knows why. Why would it be any different for a corporation?)


That is an odd statement. Corporations admit wrongdoing or mistakes all the time and not to mention there could never be any lawsuit from something like this.

It is just that they introduced a rule and still feel it is a correct one.


Them introducing (in the future) a rule (which we don't know the details of as of yet) is more or less orthogonal to claiming that Monica violated the current CoC.


100% this

Even empathy usually results in admitting a liability inducing stance

You have to just do and let everyone else wonder why

There’s no upside into explaining anything

If it ever reaches discovery and testimony in a court of law, then maybe you’ll get detailed perspectives closer to the truth.

Somewhere along the way users and consumers started imagining this stuff is actually collaborative. Its not.


There's truth to this. I tend to roll my eyes when people say: "I can't believe they won't take responsibility".

It appeals to our personal morals, but not the world we live in. Nobody's willing to fall on their sword.


Right, which is the kind of response I'd expect from a site like stack exchange.


It's hard to be believe that people who are brave enough to deal with LGBTQIA issues in their own lives and face actual in-your-face challenges would actually give a crap what pronoun someone used on a technical forum, and it seems absurd to regulate such behavior. If I don't want to be a dick and am aware of the preference, then I will try and use the person's preferred pronoun - but I'm certainly not obligated to do so on SO or even in person. The other person can take offense or not, it is their/his/her own choice. I suppose the problem can be solved by just always using the person's name, or using other anaphora such as "the OP", or @username, etc.


The problem with forcing compliance is some people are naturally going to want to resist the demand regardless of their personal opinions.

I took a technical writing class in college where I attempted to use "they/their" as a gender neutral pronoun. This was not a political statement, I just felt it sounded more natural. The professor objected and gave me a disproportionately poor grade, insisting that I use either "he" or "he or she" instead. It felt unjust that a paper could be either an "A" or "D" because a handful of instances of "he" were written "they". To me, this felt like the professor was asserting authority, not trying to improve my writing.

When I showed him that the dictionary definition of "they" from Websters website included, "used to refer to a person of unspecified gender," he opted to make fun of me in front of the entire class (by saying, "oh, well if it's on the INTERNET, it must be true") and stand his ground on my grade.

Incensed, I tried my damnedest to get the grade over-tuned. I went to the other professor who taught the class, as she was an English teacher, unlike my current professor who was an Engineer: she took the other professor's side. I went to the Dean of the College with the same outcome.

I opted to make the irrational decision of standing my ground on principle in all future papers, taking a "D" in said writing class. Authority figures should keep this in mind, people have no problem acting against their own interest when you force them to do things, rather than just ask. It should be evident that I'm still bothered by this all these years later, and probably cemented my opinion on this subject for the rest of my life.

Humans are weird.


This is really distasteful.

I had, as a student, a row with one of my professors. We chemically hated each other and it was showing (he was mean, so I was mean as well).

Then came the exam (oral) . 6 questions, I easily answered 5 of them, the 6th was extremely difficult (neeed much more time and literature).

I told him that the first 5 one are easy but that I could not do the last one because (explanation).

To what he said "well, you see, the better, brighter students manage to do it. I will have to just give you 20/20 and not the 25 or 30/20 you could have had as a bonus".

He was looking at me as on a spit on the floor. I was looking at him as on a bird excrement on a window.

But I told him later that he is one of the most rightful people I know and despite the fact that we will never look at each other in a kind way I truly admire his fairness.

Then repeated this to him some 15 years later.


On the positive side, I did manage to convince my technical writing professor to allow they/them in my paper after showing recent style guide changes allowing it in formal writing. This was in 2016, though.


What year was this? It sounds like English standards 10-20 years ago. Not sure whether this would recur today.


2011ish.

To my professor's credit, he was probably 70-80 years old at the time.


I disagree. This is an actual in-your-face challenge that trans people face - incorrect pronoun usage, both offline and online. Using the wrong pronoun for someone is akin to using the wrong name. It's ok if it happens accidentally, but being incorrect on purpose is quite insulting - in part because it's so simple to do the right thing. I don't want to work with jerks.

It matters because even if you don't think it's a big deal, it can be death by a thousand papercuts for others. Seeing "he" used as a default pronoun just reminds me that people will assume I'm a man, further entrenching this idea subconsciously that people like me don't belong in tech. When I'm misgendered online, I have an internal conversation of "Do I correct them? Do I want to be perceived as not contributing to the discussion and be punished for that? Will I be seen as a crazy SJW and attacked for it?" That's a mental stress that cisgender men simply don't have to deal with.

Use gender-neutral language by default. It's not hard, and simple mistakes are forgiven. However, if one isn't willing to put the slightest amount of effort to either avoid pronouns or use the singular they, it shows they doesn't actually care about the concerns of people unlike themselves. And that shows a lot about what kind of person they are.


>Use gender-neutral language by default. It's not hard, and simple mistakes are forgiven.

Not if you're a Stack Overflow moderator apparently.


Is your last paragraph referring to defaulting to gender-neutral after having been made aware/requested by someone, or that gendered langauge be eradicated from the English language?


I'm not any more privy to the back-end conversation than most anyone else is, but it sounds like what's going on is more nuanced than that. It seems that the idea on the table went beyond using gender neutral language by default: It was to using gender neutral language even when the person's gender was known with certainty, out of concern that occasionally someone's gender might be unacceptable.

While bulldozering across the landscape with a single pronoun like that might be preferable to willfully and specifically misgendering people, trans people could still justifiably interpret it as a deliberate act of erasure. I'm certainly having a hard time seeing it otherwise; I just spent a slightly absurd amount of time staring at my screen trying, unsuccessfully, to figure out a better, or at least less provocative, word than "unacceptable" to use in that last paragraph.

There are still a lot of lacunae in my understanding of this story, but the way things seem to be pointing is that the "community standard" that Monica Cellio was in violation of was an opinion as much as an action: It would seem that Stack Exchange wants to make being inclusive (not just tolerant) of trans people a community standard, and, by asking a lot of probing questions about the finer details of pronoun usage, she indicated that she's not comfortable adopting that standard.

I think I agree with others that, while SE certainly figured out a way to make literally everyone angry, there's probably no way to make everyone happy here. I suppose the easy reaction is to say that Monica Cellio was fired for thoughtcrime. And, given that the guidelines in question had neither been adopted nor violated yet, it's hard to argue with that summary. But, setting aside the unequivocally awful way that SE has been handling this situation thus far, it's also true that the organization does have a right to decide that it wants to be welcoming (which, again, goes beyond merely being tolerant). And if they do that, step one is to make sure that representatives of SE are behaving in a welcoming way. Volunteer or not, moderators are public representatives of SE, and so SE does have a reasonable interest in (and right to) directing their comportment when they're acting as representatives of SE. It might just not be possible to do that without stepping on the toes of moderators who have a problem with genuinely respecting trans people.

And if that's all they had wanted to do, I'd be a lot less bothered about this whole affair. As it stands, I'm left fearing that they've managed to do more harm than good by emboldening the folks who like to toss around terms like "SJW", and giving them some legitimately bad behavior that they can proceed to conflate with more reasonably-executed efforts to foster inclusiveness.


>If I don't want to be a dick and am aware of the preference, then I will try and use the person's preferred pronoun - but I'm certainly not obligated to do so on SO or even in person.

I think it's perfectly reasonable and expected for SO to insist that their moderators don't be dicks.


So, the solution you proposed is exactly what the moderators asked to do. Seems fair enough to me. They were told that not playing the pronoun game is the same as harassing whomever they are speaking to.

The whole situation is ridiculous to me. How have we come to a point where not only do people think I care in the slightest who or what they have sex with (or don't, whatever), but they demand I call them by some word they made up to classify themselves as something? Don't tell me what I can or can't say, and I wont tell you who/what you can and can't screw.

How do fascists not realize they are being such? "You don't have proper thoughts on matters so you aren't allowed to speak".


Please do not take HN threads further into flamewar.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Yes, mywittyname & effingwewt -- I obviously sympathize. It's hard to believe that we are destroying the planet, we are still killing each other over tribal-like issues, people don't have access to clean water and sanitation, various groups are disadvantaged based on where they are born, etc. -- and what pronoun to use for a third party on a technical forum is what we're spending our energy on. We need a new gender-neutral pronoun -- I suggest "whoeverthefuck".


There are people committing suicide, being harassed and not being accepted as they are so using wrong gender is pretty fucked up thing to do especially because it is so easy to do right.


This may be insensitive (and I apologize if it is) but if being referenced by normal pronouns is enough to drive someone to commit suicide (or cause emotional distress), I'd argue that this person is in more need of medical treatment than having his or her quirks pandered to by others.

Using a language normally doesn't cause problems for healthy human beings.


"normal pronouns"?


> "normal pronouns"?

What english language speakers normally use when refering to a person, usually based on the perceived gender of said person.


> it is so easy to do right

Using the wrong gender is enough to cause someone to commit suicide? So instead of getting to the bottom of the issue as to why calling someone "him" instead of "her" is enough for them to take their own life, and then putting up the safety nets so that this does not happen (which CAN be done - type any vaguely suicidal query into Google and you can see suicide hotlines and help center phone numbers and locations at the top of the page), it is more effective to pressure others into using the "correct" pronoun?

It is hard enough to get people to talk strictly about work, at work, but somehow it's easier to convince people to change their entire thought process so that they use the terms you deemed acceptable?


So, you consider it your choice to decide if people should be described using Male or female pronouns, and believe it would be fascist for someone to say "actually, I'm Male. Please refer to me as he, not she?".

It just feels impolite to me to not refer to people by their gender. Is it that upsetting to give people their name and gender? What right of yours does this infringe?


No, I'm saying I get to decide what I say, not you. If the gender neutral 'they' ,' you' etc aren't enough for you then we don't need to speak with each other.

What's impolite is demanding I conform to your view and forcing me to learn some words you made up and use them every time we speak.

And again, it's a self-applied label.

Don't force me to use your made up words, I won't tell you what to do with your life.

ps- I grew up in the 80s when gay and trans people were very much oppressed, unlike now. I stood up for their rights, got in actual fights for them on several occasions. And now im called CIS scum for being a straight male.

I have family members I've had to stand with against other family members because they were gay. I love them dearly and even to them I say 'I respect your liberties, please respect mine'.


As a trans person, it feels impolite (well, insulting) to refer to people as the _wrong_ gender. I don't see it as impolite to avoid gendered language in the case of not knowing one's gender, and only impolite in the case of knowing one's gender if great lengths are taken to avoid gendering.


> How do fascists not realize they are being such?

What an outrageous level of hyperbole. It is not fascism to ask others to not intentionally misgender people.


There's a world of difference between using gender neutral pronouns and purposely misgendering.

And even then, intent matters. Gender does not. I dont care who or what you consider yourself, I'm glad we as a society have choices. I want everyone to be themselves, again I've had friends and family memebers whose lives were ruined or made difficult for being gay.

But to tell me if I dont use whatever flavor of the week pronoun, I am harassing someone, and taking my right to speak for not conforming is facism.


The problem here is that people aren't being asked; they're being forced and, in this case, punished.

You don't get to dictate others actions just as they don't dictate yours. When you do, don't be surprised when people start fighting back.


Agreed. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills reading most of the commentary here on HN or elsewhere about this.

I get that there's some details about this case that are a bit ambiguous, but it doesn't seem obviously worth a witchhunt of SO. If it seemed to SO like a moderator was looking for loopholes for not enforcing a CoC, then I don't think it's wrong for them to consider the moderator as working in bad faith and not moderator material.


Likewise. I am shocked by the lack of empathy expressed by many here and on SO. Pronouns may be a small thing for a cis person, but for others they are a way to reclaim an identity denied to them. To deny anyone that basic level of respect is unconscionable, regardless of whether a code of conduct enforces it or not. A person tasked with enforcing community norms who is unwilling to do that and more, who subverts drafting a policy in bad faith, has no business being a moderator.


Out of 5 paragraphs of text, the only "apology" was "We’re sorry for the confusion and uneasiness that caused." which is the equivalent of spitting on someone's face and apologizing with "I'm sorry you felt spit on."

I feel like we're watching one of the pillars of modern software development crumble.


Why would they apologise? They aren't sorry they sacked this moderator. They fully stand by their decision.


Well, for starters:

- The moderator in question still wasn't told what they were sacked for.

- There was no warning, no attempt at allowing betterment, nothing. Established procedure was not followed.

- The moderator in question was not even informed of being let go - they noticed it incidentally while performing their duties.

- They were "terminated" on a Friday, right before a major religious holiday requiring their absence online. The "apology" partially acknowledges this in an incredibly dehumanizing way ("ship on a Friday").


Well, the title of the post is "An Update to our Community and an Apology" so we should expect an apology in there.


Yep, and they're sorry for the uneasiness and confusion. I'm saying they aren't going to apologise for the sacking itself, because they stand by it.


Sorry has multiple meanings in context. I can be sorry you got the hiccups during a speech. That's not an apology.


Some of the responses to this article showcase opinions that I see a lot on Hacker News and which make it really hard to be on this site as a trans person sometimes. There’s a lot of attention being paid to the people who resigned, or whose moderator status was revoked—and how accommodating they may or may not have been—but it seems like very little of them are focusing on the people who this preferred pronoun policy was designed to help in the first place.

I know lots of people in my life who are genderfluid, or who use nonstandard pronouns. They aren’t the caricatures that some of the people in this thread are making them out to be, they’re real people who are out there doing their best and live as themselves, and it’s really difficult seeing this thing they struggle with every day be labeled a “political” issue.


SE is a Q&A site, to answer questions. HN an anonymous discussion. Most messages on both do without names and pronouns entirely. The few times they become necessary is it not better to simply stick to neutral?

Not to be uncaring, offensive, or presumptuous, but to be neutral.

In my life, in a social setting, in work etc I'm going to be much more likely to need to use names and pronouns. I'll make effort to get them right and cause minimal offence, along with keeping friendships. Yet people use the neutral form all the time in conversation as well, sometimes mixed in amongst their names and gendered pronouns.

What is so wrong with that?


well I do not think that using non neutral pronouns or names is offensive to another gender. or at least it shouldn't be. example: in germany there is the word student. it means the same than the english version. in germany it uses a male pronoun, but the simple word targeted all kinds of students, not just male ones. the word just had a maskulin pronoun. unfortunatly it was gender incorrect, so some people came up with studentin, however now we sometimes need to deal with the rest and the languages get totally fucked up by genderfication. sometimes a maskulin pronoun does not target a certain group of people. i.e. using neutral/genderfication of pronouns/nouns most often makes it worse. it actually views the world as binary (only males/females) and is most often no the way the language was designed. (some words have a maskulin pronoun but still target everybody) using our languages differently also does not fix any poblem at all, in some cases it might make it even worse.


Sometimes i consider myself lucky that i don't know anyone seeking special pronouns - because i imagine i would repeatedly use what i visually see, not what they request.

These days i seek to find a gender neutral word i can get into the habit of using (it, or they, or something similar), for fear of mis-nouning someone. Though, i also have the fear that if i use something neutral, when someone requested a specific non-neutral pronoun, i may be negatively impacted.

As someone "on the spectrum" social norms are already difficult. All of this talk just makes me nervous.


Think of special pronouns as names. All the etiquette we have surrounding names apply equally to pronouns.

It's not expected to remember someone's name if you've only met them briefly, but the more you've interacted with the person, the more embarrassing not remembering their name becomes.

Mis-naming someone intentionally, repeatedly, is rude and quickly moves into harassment territory.

But the flipside is also true, if someone demands to be called a long and complicated and unusual name, then that person is rude, and can't expect others to comply or remember.

Pronouns work exactly the same. If someone tells you they prefer a pronoun that is different from the gender they present as, it's polite to remember this and use this when talking about the person. But if you forget, it should be treated like if you forgot that persons name.

If you intentionally and repeatedly mis-gender someone, it is rude and quickly moves into harassment territory.

And, finally the flipside, if someone has an onerous or complicated preferred pronoun, that person is rude and can't expect others to comply or remember.


> Think of special pronouns as names.

That's exactly the problem: pronouns are not names for a reason.

Pronouns are meant to be a finite set of words that can group an infinite set of other words, names.

In many languages gender is the criteria to form those groups. It 's a natural choice if you think of gender as a binary category.

Once you introduce the concept of gender fluidity the most logical solution is to introduce a residual pronoun that includes everybody who doesn't fit in the male/female dichotomy.

To adopt instead a inifinite set of pronouns means to poorly re-engineer a language. It's an extremely important and complex common good, we shouldn't be tinkering with it so lightheartedly.


The use of hurtful nicknames in the workplace can indeed be considered harassment in the eyes of the law and/or polite society.

That being said, not sure pronouns are indistinguishable from names. As a species, we evolved sexual dimorphism alongside a visual apparatus to detect the dimorphism. We are able to tell a male from a female at a glance with high accuracy, even in presence of elaborated disguises. Being asked to call someone we perceive as male "her", or someone we perceive as female "him" is often times difficult. The pronoun is not an arbitrary tag detached from perception, visual or linguistic. Picture a couple more situations:

* A 6ft bearded hulking person insisting to be referred as "she".

* A person insisting that their name is "Susan", but that we should refer to them as "he".

Plenty of people would have to make an explicit effort to comply with such requests, beyond what's required for remembering the mere name/pronoun tag.

Online, we interact with a huge number of people, possibly only for a few brief moments. Most of us simply use the name tag under our eyes, and infer the pronouns using linguistic clues. For example, most people would use "he" to refer to u/henrikschroder. For name tags with less obvious genders, most people would default to gender neutral. Taking offense at people using an inferred pronoun when no other information is readily in sight is akin taking offense at HN readers that don't read the linked article before commenting. Nobody has time to click links on the Internet.

As a culture, we'd do well to stop catastrophising and taking offense at people minding their own business and not being hyper-aware of everyone else's special circumstances.


> For name tags with less obvious genders, most people would default to gender neutral.

This is a bit of a tangent, but I don't think this is really true yet. There are plenty of online forums where I see people using "he" when referring to users with ambiguous nicks. It's probably changing over time though.


> ...if someone has an onerous or complicated preferred pronoun, that person is rude and can't expect others to comply or remember.

To the extent that there is any controversy here, it's in this guideline. I'd just soften 'rude' to unreasonable.

1. I have not seen any code of conduct make room for this scenario. It's taken as a given that pronoun preferences are reasonable.

2. Some people think singular 'they' and 'their' falls in this bucket.

3. Some people think writing in passive voice, etc., should be considered a good faith effort to be accommodating.

Pedantically applied, most codes of conduct make room for the judges and queens to insist on "his honor" and "Her Majesty" as pronouns, at least in some contexts.

I honestly wish some people would decide that this whole thing is too complicated to legislate completely and institute some sort of jury system, at least on appeal, to decide what counts as reasonable.


> To the extent that there is any controversy here, it's in this guideline. I'd just soften 'rude' to unreasonable.

Yes. There's a lot of grey area here. I personally don't think it's unreasonable to ask people to use 'he', 'she', or 'they' regardless of how someone presents themselves.

And I do think it's unreasonable to ask people to use 'xe' and 'hir' except every odd Tuesday when it's 'xim' and 'phe'.

At least recognizing that there is a grey area is better than sticking to the extremes. Rejecting the outlandish pronouns doesn't make you a transphobe bigot, you can't expect everyone to bow to your slightest whims, and accepting that some people prefer different pronouns to what they present as won't dissolve society, and it's not fascism to ask people to respect each other.

> I honestly wish some people would decide that this whole thing is too complicated to legislate completely and institute some sort of jury system, at least on appeal, to decide what counts as reasonable.

I think we're already doing pretty ok with names, without any formal system.

"I'm John!"

"Ok, John."

"I'm Sir Master Kensington Fuckbuttery Waddlesworth III Jr!"

"No, you're Kenny."


Who says, "No, you're Kenny." in the context of an online community: moderated conduct, etc.?

And what if someone wants to go by "The Sampsons" for personal reasons? There's not a precise analogy here, but people infer plurality from 'they' and not 'John'.


You cannot compel people to talk in a certain way. To do so is totalitarian and evil.


If we work in the same place and if I consistently and intentionally call you a different name than your actual name, I'm harassing you, I'm bullying you, and if the place we work at has decent HR policies, I will get fired.

So I am absolutely compelled to call you your actual name, I'm compelled to talk in a certain way if I want to keep my job, and this isn't totalitarian or evil, it's simply having manners and treating each other with respect.


Agreed entirely with this. But it's also just an evolving social norm that these HR rules are based on. (As a few generations back, I assume, males got away with maybe calling their female colleagues "missy".) So, with that, I'm just curious where the average HR stands on pronouns.


This is clearly wrong as we already compel people to be reasonably respectful to each other even in lawful neutral countries.


> You cannot compel people to talk in a certain way. To do so is totalitarian and evil.

I don't understand this argument in the context of an employer / employee relationship. Employers tell employees how to respond to clients all the time.


“Harassment” is a really overly dramatic way of phrasing this considering the definition of the word. Not every slight is “harassment”, calling mild insults by that word comes across as shrill.


> And, finally the flipside, if someone has an onerous or complicated preferred pronoun, that person is rude and can't expect others to comply or remember.

But the person with the onerous/complicated pronoun gets to define how onerous or complicated it is, right?

However I don't imagine many people with non-standard pronouns think they're onerous nor complicated. Seems like you're setting up a straw...thing.


> But the person with the onerous/complicated pronoun gets to define how onerous or complicated it is, right?

What, no? Every person who interacts with the person with the wonky pronouns gets to decide how onerous they think it is. If you insist on using 'xim' or 'phe', be prepared for a lot of confused looks and people dismissing you as unreasonable.

> However I don't imagine many people with non-standard pronouns think they're onerous nor complicated.

Of course not, people love their insulated little bubbles where everyone agrees, but if you want to be a part of society, you have to learn to accept that most people don't give a shit about you and your wants. You might not think that 'xer' and 'phim' are unreasonable, but if the majority of the people that interact with you think they are, then they are, and you will have to adjust your expectations.

> Seems like you're setting up a straw...thing.

We prefer strawperson in this forum. Hay rights are human rights!


> Think of special pronouns as names. All the etiquette we have surrounding names apply equally to pronouns.

I'm bad with names, too.


I've never thought about how changing social norms affect people on the spectrum, but it definitely seems like it would be a lot harder to get pronouns right. In my experience with trans friends, pronoun misuse would just come with a gentle reminder, and if you want, mentioning you have trouble with social norms should give you more leeway. In many left-leaning circles awareness of gender, disability and other things tend to come as a package.

(As an aside I think that people might not take using "it" very well if you are referring to a person - they might see it as dehumanizing)


I don’t want to discount any of your points because it can be difficult to navigate social situations. I just also want to mention that there are also trans people who are on the spectrum, and they have to navigate situations where they need to correct others about their pronouns and assert their identity. It’s not a simple “one or the other” situation.


> changing social norms affect people on the spectrum,

Gender fluidity is much more common among autistic people, so most autistic people handle it just fine.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26753812


Sensory processing disorders are common among people on the spectrum; but they do not tend to handle one-another’s (often opposed) disorders well at all, e.g. people who feel a need to stim, vs. people with misophonia who hate the sound people make when clapping their hands against themselves or constantly grunting. Explained more here: https://autofspoons.com/2017/12/02/competing-access-needs/


Sure, "autistic people are all individuals with different views" is something I can agree with, and it's probably more correct than "autistic people cannot cope with using the word 'her' when asked to do so".


Just wanted to point out something you may not be aware of. I was confused about this which is why I feel the need to mention it - since my first instinct was to assume this mod was in the wrong.

The first discussions of this issue, from a few days ago, made it seem as if the moderator in question opposed a preferred pronoun policy. On further reading about this, the moderator claims that she doesn't oppose a preferred pronoun policy and would not misgender someone, but rather, wanted to clarify whether she could continue to use pronoun-neutral language as she does this out of custom anyway.

At least in my mind, if what the mod is saying is true (and a few other people have backed her up on her account), not only wasn't she opposing the standard preferred-pronoun policy most people are familiar with, she wasn't even opposing anything but rather asking legitimate "edge case" questions to help clarify a policy before it is decided on.

(SE hasn't really given concrete details at the moment about why she was fired, so it's entirely possible the mod did something else problematic, though again, her account seems to be backed up by other mods).


The “focus” is on the moderator because thats an actual person thats been directly impacted, right now, in the present tense.

Someone has just been fired for a hypothetical future thought crime, which is insane, and you’re saying “why are we not focussed on the hypothetical people she might have microaggressed against in the future”.


This kind of comment is what makes discussion difficult. You're just alluding to some kind of indecent opinions which offend(?) you, without pointing out anything specifically. I have no idea what you're talking about. All I gleamed from your comment is that 'someone' is responding in some unspecified way which you don't like, and you follow that up with a strawman about 'caricatures' which I have not seen in this thread.


"And my preferred pronoun this week is blergl." is very much a caricature and variations of it have been made a few times.

As is "Using the wrong gender is enough to cause someone to commit suicide?" when it's pointed out that doing so is part of the pattern they're often harassed with.

EDIT: edited, see below


Except you've made both of those quotes up... I can't find any similar comments in this thread by searching for parts of the quoted text you provide. OP is complaining about responses to this article on hackernews, provides zero examples of what he/she is actually complaining about, and you come to support with quotes you made up to match the perceived grievance? Seriously?


sigh

I wanted to avoid that, but I have replaced them with copy-pasted quotes to make your searching easier.


The first quote is in bad taste, though the context is not as bad, and the comment as a whole lead to a pretty interesting exchange. I see nothing wrong with the second quote, it is not intentionally made to offend, it's part of a reasonable argument. Even if you disagree, or the author is not as informed as you on the issue - that doesn't mean they should not be saying what they did. The purpose of the comments is to discuss things, not to display your ideological allegiances or be right about everything.


Pronouns are political insofar as even having grammatical gender in the English language is a continuous political decision made by a linguistic enclave; and interpreting said grammatical gender as having something to do with gender-identity is another political decision by that linguistic enclave. (Think: adding keywords to a programming language as a political decision.)

Other languages—and even other linguistic enclaves of English-speakers or English-creole speakers—don’t have this problem; either for lack of grammatical gender, or for lack of an association between grammatical gender and gender identity.


Modifying the policies that StackOverflow enforces is very much political.


If non-binary people want a world which exclusively genders them (exclusive of man/woman) they have to pick their own word and stick to it. Adopting an existing gender-neutral pronoun doesn't work for anybody since they might mean cis-gendered people.

So I find it difficult referring to a non-binary person in singular or in particular. I usually just say "non-binary" or trans when it's important, typically only using their name, or not mentioning them at all for fear of misgendering them.


Gender neutral does not imply cis-gendered.


It means both, cis-gendered and not. If you look at "her" for example, it just means cis-gendered females or anyone who identifies as a female.

If, during conversation, we wanted to specify through a pronoun what gender a person was, there is no way to do it purely with pronouns anymore, since non-cisgendered people will sometimes use "they" so to distinguish between cis and non-cis you need to explicitly state it. Or even to specify the plurality of a group of non-gendered people you have to explicitly state it. Which is not typical english.


I think what is confusing me about this is the need for categorization of something that by definition does not have a categorization (non-binary). Why would a new set of pronouns be needed to categorize such a non-homogeneous group when neutrality already captures everyone between the normal binary categorizations?


Non-binary is literally the categorization, I wouldn't say they avoid categorization at all. See, by "they" I could mean anyone, so it doesn't necessarily refer just to non-binary people.

If I had two colors on a spectrum, lets say blue and yellow, we wouldn't call the middle of the spectrum "color", we'd call it "green".

> Why would a new set of pronouns be needed to categorize such a non-homogeneous group when neutrality already captures everyone between the normal binary categorizations?

I think this is the issue, it doesn't necessarily capture them directly. I think there is merit in having a pronoun, but it shouldn't be forced by law (as it is where I live). It doesn't arise naturally probably because there are many different categorizations in the middle and most people are on the poles, which I think is fine.


Fair enough. It's rather pointless to argue on HN about SE.

I'm entirely happy to use whatever pronouns people want. But here, how would I know? There aren't even images. Just names, and very often ~genderless names.

Edit: Also, upon reflection, I suspect that I don't even know the universe of gender pronouns in common use.


Thanks for reminding folx about what this is actually about, this was a great post


When you get militant about subtle behaviours this happens. There is too much nuance in human interactions for policing them to this degree. You will always offend someone. They had a choice of offending those who didn't like gender neutral pronouns or those in the SE community that supported that mod.

I don't really have a horse in that race but I don't see a way they could have come out of that without offending anyone. If we're going through a culture change that changes the way we address people so be it, but it's going to get messy once we start enforcing new social rules.


Stack Exchange as an organization might (somehow) be prohibited from releasing all of the background information that they have used for their decision making. But I am surprised that they haven't released any information, given the serious allegations made against them. And I haven't read anything corroborating Stack Exchange's "side" of the story, whereas a large number of people seem to be standing up for Monica.

I see three possibilities: 1. Monica telling the complete truth, there is a terrible misunderstanding, but SE doesn't want to lose face by backing down 2. Monica is lying 3. Monica is terribly confused

At this point, we all have to assume it's #1. If it's #2 or #3, SE really needs to come out and say something (beyond "we stand by our decision but our process needs updating") for the good of the communities. Stack Exchange is nothing without the community, since 100% of the content on SE was directly contributed by the community.


In one of the comments, by Monica it seems, she's not convinced of any wrong doing:

> "repeatedly violating our existing Code of Conduct": citation needed. "CM’s repeated requests to change": citation needed. – Monica Cellio

And later she clarifies that she doesn't know the specific thing that caused it:

> @Randal'Thor let's start with them telling us exactly what part of the current CoC they think I "repeated violated". There's a lot of discussion in that email including of deeply personal identity-background stuff, so I want to know what the charge is before I decide if that response would help. They didn't even tell me what they think I did. – Monica Cellio

Edit: added 2nd comment by Monica


I've never seen a code of conduct that makes calling someone by the wrong first name a bannable offense. So why is it so with pronouns? IMHO it's because this issue is politically unsettled -- it is not universally resolved across society. A fair percentage of people do not accept the concept of transgenderism, and instead see a transgender woman as a mentally ill man (and vice versa).

While this issue is politically unsettled, it cannot be correct to enforce one side's view by banning people on the other side of the argument if they don't tacitly concede the argument via enforced pronoun usage.

[Personally I hold no strong opinions about transgenderism, I just hate to see society splitting apart.]


> A fair percentage of people do not accept the concept of transgenderism, and instead see a transgender woman as a mentally ill man

A not trivial amount of the objection is because of the singular 'they' and 'their'. I'll cop to being confused by sentences leveraging those formations. One can appeal to etymology, but even knowing the etymology didn't prevent my confusion.

"Be kind" is a good rule. And now there are also practical concerns to be sensitive to.

Point being, it's more complicated than accepting new gender models. And whatever peaceful solution is possible, I don't see any that don't involve decades of patience as folks get comfortable with new grammatical constructs: gender agnostic singular pronouns other than 'it', sentences containing 'their' not implying plurality, or something along those lines.

Keep in mind that the U.S. still uses imperial measurements.


Do any of your friends use they/them pronouns? Most people get used to them with a tiny bit of practice. I've seen Italian, Mandarin, Spanish and Hindi native speakers use them fluently.


"Why are half the rations gone!?" - Inigo

"They said they were hungry." - Vezzini

Ambiguity: Is one person eating too much or did many people get impatient (maybe fine depending)?

It's not just a matter of becoming accustomed. It's definitely more ambiguous.

The only way to clear that pickle up is to get used to clarifying questions as appropriate. Or maybe a "they all" will emerge parallel to "you all", but that sort of thing takes time.

My point is that people asking for singular pronouns should prepare to be patient since, at best, these things take time.


I understand what you're saying but it's seriously not a huge problem — usually there's context to figure out what a sentence means.


What if an author or speaker feels that context is lacking and is not comfortable with the ambiguity? The answers to that question do not sound all that understanding or conciliatory in my experience, especially not as phrased in a code of conduct.

It sounds pedantic, but SE sites are especially attractive to folks who close helpful questions for pedantic reasons.

I just want people to chill out and exhibit a bit of grace instead of bringing up codes of conduct and unhelpful lectures about manners.


Truth and falsehood and opinion are all points on the same spectrum. Typically, facts and falsehoods are mutually agreed upon by both sides, and opinion is what falls in between as cannot-yet-be-determined stuff. But we live in a world where opinion has exceeded its bounds and encompassed fact. Evolution and climate change are still hotly contested. And it is the same with transgenderism: both sides hold different "factual" views (from their own standpoint) that make their broader worldviews paradoxical and irreconcilable, just as if 2 + 2 were 5.


This is not a both sides issue. The medical fields moved to complete affirmation of trans identities a while ago because the scientific evidence for trans affirmation is overwhelming -- literally everything from mental health outcomes to surgery regret rates indicates that.

The other side is both bigoted and factually wrong.


This is exactly my point. The other side looks at you and says you're wrong with equal conviction and their own bevy of justifications. Since you and the other side can't mutually agree on some set of axioms of worldview, both sides' "facts" just become opinions.


The presence of two opposed positions does not imply that they're both equally plausible.

For example: one group believes in evolution, another believes God created the Earth out of nothing 6000 years ago. Without a time machine, neither one can categorically prove exactly what happened. But one side has mountains of evidence, and the other has dogma and ideology.

There's a lot we don't understand yet about how being trans works, just as there's plenty of gaps in the fossil record that we haven't been able to fill yet. But if you ignore all the evidence we do have in favor of cherry-picking only the isolated studies that might support your position, you're no better than the people who think that the scarcity of transitional fossils refutes evolution.


Yes, and at that point the only way out is to:

1. keep the door open for anyone who wishes to change their mind

2. wrest power from everyone else -- workplace by workplace, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, culture by culture.

The pro-trans side is true, and sometimes truth has to go to war to win.


This is because the sex reseachers with a different view were forced out of their jobs by intense activism.


They were forced out because they put hetero/cisnormative society's interests over their patients'. Their main goal always was to fit their patients into society rather than advocate for society to accept greater gender diversity.


[flagged]


Most of the medical community disagrees with you.

You're allowed to believe whatever you want. Science doesn't care about your feelings. Cherry-picking only the studies that can be interpreted to support your opinion, while ignoring the balance of the research that disagrees, makes you no better than the people who insist that archaeological evidence supports young Earth creationism.


nope lol are you in the medical community or are you getting this from twitter activists?

gender identity is accepted as different from sex and because males and females are different so its possible that some people may have gender dysphoria (which is literally a mental disorder like body dysmorphia). nobody disagrees with all that.

but 100 different genders and non-binary is not accepted by science. believing in that is like believing in creationism and flat earth at the same time.


The American Psychiatric Association and the DSM-5 on gender dysphoria: https://www.psychiatry.org/File%20Library/Psychiatrists/Prac...

Notable points: Gender nonconformity is explicitly not a disorder. Gender dysphoria is, but only in "the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition." Approved treatments for gender dysphoria explicitly include "transition" and "hormone therapy, related surgery."

The other major classification system, the United Nations World Health Organization's ICD, has similar language. Feel free to look it up.


yep, all political activism: https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-05-31/...

evidence of banning by sensitive/offended people: https://www.christianpost.com/news/twitter-banned-psychologi...

you really think not picking a gender is not a disorder? yep thats right there next to flat earth then


Your first link doesn't actually support your argument at all. And Twitter doesn't affect the DSM, the ISD, or the worldwide medical consensus.

As I said, you're allowed to believe whatever you want. Science doesn't care about your feelings.


One hopes that eventually it will be like mistakenly calling someone left-handed, with the reality of the situation so obvious there'd never be a need to get angry about it or create rules about it.


It is completely appropriate to enforce a trans-affirming policy. A view that considers a group of people -- other people that participate on the site -- mentally ill, has no place in workplaces, large-scale online forums and polite society in general.


I'm not among this group we speak of, but I will never accept that view of them. They are not malicious, they are just different, and we should be tolerant of them even if they are not tolerant of transgenders.... in the same way that we are tolerant of Islam even though Islam is not tolerant of women's rights.

I consider them (Christians) to be mentally ill what with all that christian god stuff they preach. Do you therefore think I also have no place in "workplaces, large-scale online forums and polite society in general" because I consider this "group of people -- other people that participate on the site -- mentally ill"?

I think this way leads to a Oberton window that only narrows, like a boa constrictor. I prefer broader thinking and more tolerance for a wider set of views.


The goal should be to shift the overton window towards greater justice, not simply broaden it.

Yes, a view that all Christians are mentally ill has no place in workplaces either. This does not mean that you cannot privately hold such views, but that you should not act in the workplace in ways that show you hold those views (so you should not misgender a trans person, for example).


My mother is in her 70s. She won't willingly knowingly recognize a trans person to be of the "gender" they claim, because she honestly believes deep in her mind that doing so is a sin against God and man, and she would be forfeiting her place in heaven. She wouldn't hurt a fly but she's between a rock and a hard place. The only emotion she ever expresses is guilt. I think she is delusional (mentally ill) and I blame religion. If some website decided to kick her off because of a silly pronoun, even though she was behaving entirely sincerely, because IMHO they are intolerant of her viewpoint (and she is not an isolated case), then I would be inclined to leave said website as well.

I will not reply to anymore of your comments as you have expressed your view that I shouldn't be allowed to, and I don't want to offend you any further.


Your premise is wrong. A pronoun is not "silly" to a trans person! If your mother was misgendering a dog that would be one thing, but it's a person we're taking about here. A human being. Your mother does not simply get to hurt other people's feelings because of her religion.

It is still inappropriate to call all Christians mentally ill. I know plenty of Christians who have no trouble treating trans people with all the respect they deserve.


This is sad, but I feel it was an inevitable consequence of allowing religion-orientated stackexchanges to be created in the first place. It's practically inviting a holy war. The people running them would likely be those who care deeply about doctrine, and the chances of a headlong collision over LGBT doctrine were always high.


Yes. It's definitely better if religious people stay closeted and pass as agnostic in public. Being welcoming or officially tolerant of them is clearly too much work to be worth it. I don't see what's in it for me anyway.

Before anyone gets offended, my Granny is religious, so I'm not bigoted or anything.

__The above is ironic to hopefully get the point across succinctly and with impact. A dry explanation wouldn't work in the same way. Or maybe not with my writing skills anyway.__


Exactly.

Commingling under one umbrella, religion and sexual orientation, which are essentially identity-based communities [0], will invariably lead to a headlong collision as you say.

0: http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html


Allowing? Why would you not allow them in the first place? In any case, there shouldn't be any collisions if they are separate network sites except in the case of fiat decisions from the top.


The nature of SE is that each site has a very specific topic. The SE company approves which sites / topics are allowed. So yes, by consequence of how the system works they would have to explicitly approve a “Christianity”, “Judaism”, “Islam”, etc. stack exchange.


This is pretty bad. It would have been way better to post nothing than to post this.

If you want to have a community, then treat your community like intelligent humans. And to be clear, you absolutely _depend_ on the good will of your community. This is non-optional.

Admit your mistake and fix it. And if you think that your mistake was the timing, then talk to someone who understands the situation.


This is what makes me pessimistic about the world will live in. It doesn't matter. SE will probably be just fine. Not enough people will leave for it to matter.


This really seems like a "respect mah authoritah!" situation followed by "oh crap it's blowing up, apply more power! This will not be re-litigated." Looking from the outside as someone who's mostly ignored SE for the last few years, this feels to me like something personal combined with making an opportunity.

I can't help but feel that the current "Director of Community" at the core of this will be moving to a different non-community position before long. It seems like a poor place to have someone who's managed to drive out a significant percentage of the volunteer moderators for the whole network.

And my preferred pronoun this week is blergl.


You may have been making an interesting point, but the "preferred pronoun of the week" bit at the end kind of kills it.

Have you ever met someone who changes their gender identity weekly, or asks people to use a derivation-free nonsense word to refer to them?


I added that bit of snark because a big part of this seems to have been a new (pending) Code of Conduct that apparently could be read as "you're not allowed to use phrasing that would normally be recognized as gender-neutral, you must use individuals' preferred pronouns." I know I'd question that if it meant that (while moderating) I was going to have to go look into what someone's gender pronoun preferences were lest I be accused of violating the CoC.

I haven't read the leaked TL (Teachers' Lounge?) chat transcripts and the whole thing has blown up into a massive drama such that reading all the summaries and resignations and objections and whatnot isn't realistic for me, but I suspect that questions along the lines of "Can I just do this?" were interpreted as challenging the whole new CoC and someone felt like they were being disrespected. The (apparent) summary dismissal outside all existing policies for dismissing moderators would fit with it being a knee-jerk reaction followed by a refusal to back down after a mistake.

Frankly if Monica C hadn't asked for clarification but had simply continued writing in such a way as to avoid using any pronouns this would never have blown up, but I think the question was taken as questioning authority.

Edit: As for the neutral pronoun, yes, more than 20 years ago as part of a community focused around a Usenet group that also had regular social get-togethers all over the country. IIRC, the term(s) in use were zie/zir.

Edit2: And having just done a bit of searching: No, it wasn't alt.polyamory or any related groups, though there might have been overlap in memberships.


I can't find those leaked transcripts anywhere


IIRC I saw references to them being posted to reddit, but I didn't bother even going to look. I have enough problems keeping up with discussions in communities I'm part of without adding chat logs from a community of technical people in the middle of a controversy.


Yes, they proudly call themselves gender-fluid and state that they change pronouns frequently.

And many state to use non-existing words as pronouns such as xhy, requiring a mental effort to remember a new word they invented and also to remember to whom that word is associated, so the satire of using blerg as pronoun is spot-on while also offensive to some.


Ahem. "Blergl," not "blerg." I've expressed a preference for a pronoun, please make the effort to address me in the appropriate manner.


> while also offensive to some

You would think that would be a strong indicator to not do that thing in a public forum conversation, but no accounting for taste, I suppose.


> Have you ever met someone who changes their gender identity weekly

Isn't that what "gender-fluid" is?

> or asks people to use a derivation-free nonsense word to refer to them?

Isn't that what pronouns like "xir" are all about?

You seem more hung up on "have you personally met someone like that?" than "do these people really exist?" The answer to the latter question is yes, they do.


I felt that the last sentence tag indicated the author was thinking of gender-fluid people as abstractions rather than actual human beings; hence the verify whether they were snarking from experience or just spreading negative stereotypes they have no experience with.

I can understand the former; the latter corrodes discourse.

And for what it's worth: we're smart people with the ability to attend to the rules of string coercion in JavaScript; we can treat humans as humans and use the words they prefer to use to describe themselves. It's not actually that hard; certainly not as hard as all this cognitive load for JavaScript quirks. ;)


I felt that the last sentence tag indicated the author was thinking of gender-fluid people as abstractions rather than actual human beings

Fluid as in changing frequently? Maybe, I don't personally know anyone who fits that description and frankly I'd probably be unimpressed by someone with gender swinging like a weather vane.

Nonbinary? Yes, an immediate family member who is also stable in their identification and in a stable long term relationship. Also some folks I've interacted with in professional settings where it's none of my business how they identify.

Also several people from my fairly close circle in college, but it's been long enough since I graduated and everyone scattered that I don't talk much with any of that circle regardless of gender.

My snark was directed more at what sounds like a potentially troublesome change that could add a lot of headaches to what I suspect is already an often thankless volunteer position.


>Have you ever met someone who changes their gender identity weekly

Yes, these people often use the label "genderfluid"

>or asks people to use a derivation-free nonsense word to refer to them?

Yes, just go to Twitter, click any trending political hashtag, and read the bios of the people posting there.


[flagged]


Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


This is what really irritates me about moderating in general. The whole thing is an exercise in power tripping. Considering whether a decision was misguided is forbidden. You must always be dictator. Mistakes are never made.


Devil's advocate: sports referees never admit a mistake, either. There's a calculus where the upsides of correcting a mistake are outweighed by the downsides of inviting more gamesmanship of your decisions.

(I know nothing about the SO situation, purely talking generalities here.)


I'm not sure about that, of course In a game they don't once the cards fall; but there's video review and officials do admit to mistakes after the fact. It's not quite so bad as the situation with moderators IMO. I don't see the same level of power tripping, but maybe that's because I'm not on the field


There is plenty of questioning moderator decisions on the stackoverflow meta, in civil ways where both sides can explain their actions and perspectives. Mistakes are sometimes made and subsequently corrected given the background and opportunity to recognize them.


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