5:03 AM
A: How can the prohibition on pronoun avoidance possibly be enforced?

ColeValleyGirlI can only answer with an example from within my own family. My sibling's partner has suffered long and deep hurt from the refusal of his birth family to refer to him as 'he/him' after his transition. They go out of their way to refer to him as 'Chris' (or rather his own gender-neutral birth na...

I agree with what you're saying, but I see a catch-22 here. I know many non-native English speakers who actively avoid gendered pronouns, or learn to speak in a neutral way because they get confused. So if we require them to use pronouns, then we're causing problems for non-natives, but if we don't then we're causing problems for trans individuals. IMO it's important to start with assuming good intent - but that requires all parties involved to agree to assume good intent as a starting point
@cegfault, except way back in the mists of time when I was a moderator, the number of times I've had to use a third-party pronoun about a specific non-historical individual in the SE network is negligible. Also, I think we're doing people a disservice if we assume they're not capable of changing the way they use language, whatever their experience to date; and that others will immediately leap on mistakes as evidence of a crime 1/5
If you're 'talking' to a specific person, you usually use "you". If you're talking about a generic person, "they" isn't hard to use -- IMO this is how you should refer to generic people in a question or answer anyway, except on certain sites/questions where gender maybe significant to the matter at hand (e.g. IPS, Parenting, Workplace -- the 'soft-skills sites'). You might end up on some sites discussing named individuals (e.g. History, Genealogy, the sites focussed on specific religous beliefs) and gendered pronouns are usually unobjectionable there (as long as the right gender is used). 2/5
If you're talking about a specific person whose chosen pronoun you don't know, it's good written practice anyway to identify them specifically initially (Username, or OP) to avoid doubt and then switch to a gender-neutral pronoun, typically they. (Reintroduce the specific identifier is thongs get a bit tangled, for clarity, but stick mostly with pronouns). If they respond (or somebody else responds on their behalf) and says "Hey, I'm he!"/"Chris is a he" or some other pronoun, switch to it gracefully. If its a pronoun you're not familiar with, ask for forebearance if you get it wrong. 3/5
If your worldview is such that you cannot accept using a pronoun you disagree with, you have two choices: disengage politely without declaring your opinion to the world; or be rude either by continung to engage ignoring the chosen pronoun or explaining at great length why you can't continue the discussion. Being rude is contracy to all int incarnations of the CoC I've ever seen -- it's just the new CoC highlights a form of rudeness that other might not have recognised before. (4/5)
All this starts from an assumption of good intent -- reinforced by demonstrations of good intent by shifting to the chosen pronouns when requested, and apologising/accepting apologies for mistakes made through unfamiliarity. It's only when bad faith is demonstrated that action needs to be taken (5/5)
Wow. Did not intend to spark any fires here. I think we're in agreement. I only meant to comment on assuming good intent as being important; a hard-set rule saying "use preferred pronouns or we kick you off the site" can be interpreted too harshly, so assume good intent is important to. For example, I'm assuming the "you" and "you're" in your five comments are being used in a non-personal way (ie, you are note talking about me individually but "you" as in "anyone").
Unless I have mistaken something, I think we agree
Agreed -- we agree. (And yes, generic you).
@Goyo, if it is hard for somebody to use a pronoun because it is unfamiliar, or because they find aspects of language or social interactions hard to navigate when the rules change, then we (the generic we) can help them by explaining, gently nudging... all the usual things we do with people who are encountering novelty to some sort thar doesn't immediately 'click' with them, without judging them when they make mistakes, as long as their intent is good. (1/)
Yes, I am assuming that everyone involved wants to help other people, not just punish their mistakes -- while acknowledging that there are those few whose first priority is not to be nice to everyone; those are the ones who need clear rules spelled out and underlined in thick red ink, so that there is a basis for calling them out when they deliberately set out to hurt people.(2/)
If it's hard because it doesn't fit in with somebody's perception of how the English language works (or what is 'best' English), and they cann't accept that language usage evolves and there are many styles of 'good' English that they could adopt/adapt, well, that's a tough one to deal with, but they are not compelled to engage in those circumstances. Maybe they will develop a modified style later, when they've been able to observe some alternatives and get comfortable with them; or maybe not -- they always have that choice. (3/)
Likewise, if it's hard because a chosen pronoun challenges somebody's worldview, they are not compelled to engage; the only compulsion that exists is not to be rude and that should not be hard either.(4/)
I'm not dismissing the fact that there's a learning process involved for some, and that others will never be able to adjust to the change. When I say it isn't hard, I truly believe that for many users it is a trivial change, and that for most of the other users for whom there are difficulties, it's possible to ease the adjustment.(5)
And if I've missed an explanation that somebody has given for it being 'hard', please point me to an example so I can understand.
Sure, and if it is hard for somebody being addressed in a way they don't like then we can help them by explaining and gently nudging too. But I strongly suggest you do not that. It is like telling them that they are wrong for feeling the way they feel. I certainly would not appreciate you doing it for me. Also IIUC what some CMs have stated, disengaging because of pronouns is not OK.
5:03 AM
@Goyo, there is a difference between helping somebody learn a new use of language, and explaining to somebody that their existence is wrong. But I believe you know that already. The CoC and associated FAQ does not compel anyone to engage; my understanding is that if somebody openly stated that they are disengaging because of pronouns, that is unacceptable (rude) but if they never engage at all, or withdraw from a conversation silently (as we all do all the time when there are other demands on our time) it would only become and issue if there was a clear pattern of behaviour.
I would never tell anybody that how they feel is wrong, or that what they believe is wrong (even if I thought so) -- I would however correct an error of fact or understanding, or suggest an improvement to clarity of expression, because that is what these sites exist to do. I would also point out where somebody might be inadvertently close to breaking the CoC because of a misunderstanding (a gentle nudge, I phrased it).
Moderators do face some extra challenges, because there are circumstances in which they cannot disengage if they are to fulfill their role, and I realise we may lose some excellent moderators as a result, which is a real pity. As an ex-moderator, I always tried not to let my personal beliefs get in the way of performing the role fairly, but for some people that isn't possible and I understand that. On some sites, it might be possible for a moderator to defer to another moderator (silently) if that was acceptable to the other moderators or CMs, but I don't know if that would be acceptable.
I would be happy to continue the discussion here; chat.meta.stackexchange.com/rooms/1373/… -- or elsewhere if people wish it for any reason.
+1 for your analogy. Thank you for taking the trouble to see the alternate point of view. I'm surprised you don't proceed to the obvious conclusion: It is a mistake to attempt to legislate language in either direction. My top comment on the entire network is about exactly this topic.
@wildcard, I don't see your conclusion as obvious
That's a really good post/answer. Thank you for writing it. I don't agree in parts, but it's well thought-out and makes a great effort at empathy with people you don't agree with. That's the spirit we should cultivate, I wish there was more like that. Also, your characterization of SE as a group of different communities, some of them more welcoming than others, is spot on IMO (for me, that means I contribute(d) in those where I feel comfortable; I mostly stay away from others where I don't feel good). Upvoted, obviously.
5:03 AM
Chris and his history make a strong point, yet its hard to divine the intent of strangers on the internet. For me avoiding gendered language is safe, is deeply rooted in identity and pain, and is hard to change even when actively trying (as one does when it is honestly requested). And if your forty years finds proper pronoun use easy, my thirty has remembering names near impossible, so remembering which pronoun for which online screename might last one question. The Coc, and you, call avoiding gender malice...is it so easy to judge what may only be nonstandard use? is it possible to tell?
@Megha, I agree -- which is why I always assume good intent, until there's 'unmistakeable intent to do harm'. And yes, remembering (or guessing) the pronoun that goes with an online screen-name will be error-prone -- but easily corrected once you're made aware. (There are individuals I interact with in chat or comments on a regular basis and have done so for some years, and I have no idea about their gender; if they care to inform me in future, I'll probably remember but only because of the frequency of our interaction).