We expecttoday’s changesto theCode of Conductto generate a lot of questions. We’ve tried to anticipate some of the most common questions people may have here, and we’ll be adding to this list as more questions come up.
Q1: What are personal pronouns, and why are they relevant to the Code of Conduct?
Personal pronouns are a way to refer to a person without using their name, when the subject is known.From mypronouns.org:
The vast majority of people go by the pronouns sets “he / him” or “she / her.” A small but increasing number of people use “they / them ”pronouns or another pronouns set – sometimes simply because they don’t want to go by pronouns with a gender association (just as some folks go by“ Ms. ”whether or not they are married, because they don’t think their marital status should be a relevant issue), and sometimes people use pronouns that aren’t associated with one of those two most common (binary) genders because they are nonbinary (ie people who are neither exclusively a man nor exclusively a woman – eg genderqueer, agender, bigender, fluid, third / additional gender in a cultural tradition, etc.).
The goal of our Code of Conduct is to help us “build a community that is rooted in kindness, collaboration, and mutual respect.” Using someone’s pronouns is a way of showing respect for them and refusing to do so causes harm .
Q2: What does the Code of Conduct say about gender pronouns?
The Code of Conduct has two direct references to gender pronouns:
- “Use stated pronouns (when known).”
- “Prefer gender-neutral language when uncertain.”
We’re asking everyone to do two things. First, if you do know someone’s pronouns (e.g. because they told you), then use them as you normally would use any pronoun. Second, if you don’t know someone’s pronouns, use gender-neutral language rather than making an assumption.
Q3: What should I do if I make a mistake and use the wrong pronouns?
If you make a mistake, apologize and correct your mistake if possible (e.g. by editing your post). We recognize that this may be new to many people, particularly members of our community who do not speak English as a first language, and so mistakes will happen as we all learn together.
Q4: What should I do if I see someone using the wrong pronouns?
If you notice someone who is using the wrong pronouns for someone else who has stated them (e.g. in a comment or on their profiles), we encourage you to gently correct them in a comment. Do not state pronouns for third parties who have not done so in Stack Exchange (eg. You know them in person). If the situation escalates, please flag what you see. A moderator or community manager will look into it further.
Q5: How will this be moderated? Will we ban people based on one mistake?
We understand that miscommunication or mistakes may happen, so most situations will just result in a gentle correction or warning. As with any violation of the Code of Conduct, in cases of willful, repeated, or abusive behavior, warnings may escalate to account suspensions and / or expulsion.
Q6: What should I do if I don’t know someone’s pronouns?
When in doubt, use gender-neutral language or refer to the user by name.
Q7: Are we going to force everyone to identify their pronouns?
No. Just as we do not force users to identify their real name, we will never force users to identify their pronouns. This is a voluntary decision by each user to share as much or as little as they are comfortable.
Q8: How should I identify my pronouns if I choose to do so?
Whether and how you identify your pronouns is up to you. If you choose to do so, add it to the “About Me” section of your user profile.
Q9: Do I have to use pronouns I’m unfamiliar or uncomfortable with (eg,neopronounslike xe, zir, ne …)?
Yes, if those are stated by the individual.
Q 10: What if I believe it is grammatically incorrect to use some pronouns (eg they / them to refer to a single person)?
If they are the pronouns stated by the individual, you must respect that and use them. Grammar concerns do not override a person’s right to self identify.
Q 11: If I’m uncomfortable with a particular pronoun, can I just avoid using it?
We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. Explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns because you are uncomfortable is a way of refusing to recognize their identity and is a violation of the Code of Conduct.
Q 12: Does this mean I’m required to use pronouns when I normally wouldn’t?
We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. You are not required to insert pronouns where you otherwise would not.
Q 13: How does this apply to languages other than English?
For now, while the intent of being inclusive and respectful of all gender identities applies to all our communities, the specific requirements around pronoun usage apply only to English language sites. As we determine best practices in other languages, we’ll work with those communities and update guidance for those languages.
Q 14: Should all posts be written using gender-inclusive language? Should we edit all old posts to be gender-inclusive?
The focus of this change is on using correct pronouns when addressing other members of the community. However, writing posts in a gender-inclusive way is encouraged and a great way to make the community more accessible to more people. If you are writing or editing a post and can make it gender-inclusive without changing the meaning, you are encouraged to do so.
Q 15: Is it expected that people go to “About me” to check whether someone has pronouns there when interacting in Q&A?
No. That would be good practice, but it is notrequired.
From @jnat (staff): We ask that you use gender-neutral language when uncertain, and use the stated pronouns once they’re made known. If you wanna “go the extra mile,” looking at the user’s “about me” before interacting is certainly nice, but we’re not requiring it.
From @CesarM (staff):Made knownis when you become aware of the fact. If it’s in the comments, then, fine. Correct and move on. There’s no obligation to go out of your way to seek it out, but if someone tells you directly, comply.