Policies on Trans Issues: Current and Future April 1, 2023 11:45 AM   Subscribe

This post includes Information from loup about how the site's policies on trans people/issues are currently implemented including how transphobic content, sources and members are dealt with, the information they've given me about planned changes based on some brief feedback I've given, and an invitation for other trans members to share their thoughts, concerns, feedback, and suggestions

Hi I'm Chrysopoeia, in nonbinary. This site has been an important part of my gender journey and I care about it.

I started a conversation six weeks ago with staff about making this post, and TDOV seems like a good day to do it.

What I wanted was to have greater insight into how trans issues, transphobic folks, etc were moderated and share that, and for policies and practices to be weighed in upon by trans members.

Trust is so hard to come by these days, and everyone on here who is trans having that insight, and the opportunity to speak about these things was important to me.

From Loup:

Now let me give you some general perspective about how the guidelines are applied in practice. Of course, we do review each report on a case by case basis but overall:

FPPs from transphobic sources (authors or websites) are generally deleted and rejected regardless if they are addressing trans issues or not. MetaFilter is simply not the place to give these people a voice or platform Although I recognize we might not recognize them right away all the time, so we also rely on member reports to catch these on time.

Overtly transphobic comments/content are always removed with a mod note and the members posting such content are banned. No exceptions. While this happens rarely, we'll jump right in and ban the member right away. For example, I've found the last few deletions here, and here.

Comments that can come across as problematic will be addressed by us and we will add notes to the member's profile in case this becomes a trend. If it does become a trend we may ban the member. Here's one example of that.

Comments that may come across as insensitive but not overtly transphobic are trickier and will probably result in private warnings or private mod notes in the member profile. That being said, if there is proof that this has been a trend in the past, the actions we may take will be harsher, all the way to banning you from the site. I haven't found a recent example of this though. I also want to point out that the Microaggressions section was drafted exactly trying to walk that fine line

We'll provide any Admin assistance needed for trans members in their transitions (Username changes, new free accounts, anything we can do to help).

"Likewise there seems to be an internal policy that would be obvious to me and you, but might not be obvious to others, which is that questioning the existence and validity of trans people or the value of gender affirming health care on the basis of whataboutism and anecdotes from anti trans activists or detransitioners just isn't good content. Again, this could be explicit." – I would like a version of this sentence to make it directly to the content policy.


After speaking with Loup and making suggestions while in the process of getting approval to share this, I can also add that they told me the information about transitioning people and new accounts will be drafted as a faq entry, and I've given permission for the above sentence from an email to be put into the content policy.

Beyond that, I want to center Trans/Nonbinary/Two-Spirit/non-cisgender and Queer members in this conversation about what we want and don't want in terms of policies and practices.

I also want to hold space for intersectional voices such as Trans People of Color and non-US Trans folks to speak to particular issues of concern to them.
posted by Chrysopoeia to Etiquette/Policy at 11:45 AM (115 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite

Thank you so much for this post, Chrysopoeia. It is not my place to make recommendations or suggestions, I just want to acknowledge the work you and loup have done thus far. I so appreciate you driving this inquiry, Chrysopoeia.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:28 PM on April 1, 2023 [9 favorites]


Thank you for this post and your hard work, Chrysopeia and loup!
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 8:48 PM on April 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


I appreciate this post and the time and energy it took to get these policies worked out and implemented. It makes the site better.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:41 AM on April 2, 2023 [1 favorite]


None of those mod comment examples of egregious comments say they are banning a user...did that happen in any of those examples? One account is "disabled" but not sure if that was mod driven.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:58 AM on April 2, 2023 [3 favorites]


"just isn't good content" meaning that it's transphobic and bad and the people in question should feel bad?
posted by tigrrrlily at 8:15 AM on April 2, 2023 [1 favorite]


I'm having a difficult time parsing this post -- Chrysopoeia, is there a specific request here?
posted by curious nu at 9:47 AM on April 2, 2023 [1 favorite]


We'll provide any Admin assistance needed for trans members in their transitions (Username changes,

Is this new? When I transitioned mods were very clear that I could not change my username. My only option was to lose my account and start fresh with a new name and new account.
posted by blueberry monster at 9:59 AM on April 2, 2023 [4 favorites]


A username change is something I might indeed ask for at some point, given that seanmpuckett is no longer the name I give people IRL.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2023 [3 favorites]


Seconding blueberry monster, the policy on name changes would have been nice to know (or even exist) earlier. When I transitioned the site policy seemed to be a hard no on name changes.
posted by june_dodecahedron at 11:37 AM on April 2, 2023 [1 favorite]


I’m concerned about the policy around not linking to transphobic publications. Because truly that’s like … every major news organization I can think of. Who is deciding what’s over the line? I absolutely agree with not linking transphobic authors, because I think that’s somewhat easier to judge. Although I have a similar concern - plenty of authors have past transphobic content who have learned and updated their views and are now good or at least tolerable allies. I can think of several instances of trans people being brigaded for being transphobic for having a different experience and view of their transness than is considered “acceptable.” Which, frankly, has been part of the transphobia problem here on Metafilter. Not allowing for nuance of experience and expression results in trans people not being willing to share their thoughts.

I am concerned about the level of policing being outlined here and it makes me feel LESS safe, not more.
posted by Bottlecap at 11:47 AM on April 2, 2023 [26 favorites]


There's such a thing as people we do not need to hear from, because of their well-known transphobic views. Who decides who these people are? Well, I do. Other trans people do. Sometimes we might even argue about it.
Here, on Metafilter, ultimately the mods do. I'm assuming there's eventually going to be a list, if there isn't one already. If there is one, it's only going to get longer in the coming years.

This is not about trans people not reading the room and letting /r/transgendercirclejerk leak. It's about transphobes calling for our annihilation. That's what makes me feel less safe.
posted by tigrrrlily at 3:51 PM on April 2, 2023 [3 favorites]


I mean, I think we agree? I said I agree with not linking transphobic authors. But I do have concerns about how that’s enforced. I have seen things go very badly here towards trans authors who are accused of being transphobic because of expressing themselves outside what’s considered acceptable. I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as making a list in the way you are describing, and I think it really skirts the issue which is that people should be actually educating themselves about trans issues and how to have respectful discussions and how to tell for themselves if they shouldn’t be linking some bullshit that’s dehumanizing. I get the intent, but I also have 100% stopped participating in conversations about gender here because I am the wrong kind of trans. And I do not see this changing anything about that experience. Like point in case, I think I’ve raised some reasonable questions and concerns about how this would work and be implemented and the first response is pretty agro at me even having those questions. What happens when we disagree about who belongs on that list? I don’t think it’ll be fun to be on the wrong side of that pile on, and I think that nearly guarantees that a very narrow range of voices are acceptable.
posted by Bottlecap at 5:06 PM on April 2, 2023 [9 favorites]


I don't think you can say you no longer talk about gender on the site while posting in this thread.

I think it really skirts the issue which is that people should be actually educating themselves about trans issues and how to have respectful discussions and how to tell for themselves if they shouldn’t be linking some bullshit that’s dehumanizing

I'm not going to go look through old comments to determine the exact timeline, but I think I've been saying this on the site for approximately a decade and there has been essentially no movement. At the same time, do I trust the mods to actually be able to assemble a list of known transphobes? No. But not because they're going to overreach or whatever.
posted by hoyland at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2023 [2 favorites]


Nah, this is a policy that people who don’t discuss gender here should have an opinion about. Are we banning the NYT? Their opeds have not been great on trans issues. Again, my questions are about the specifics and how those get decided. This is not an unreasonable question.
posted by Bottlecap at 5:44 PM on April 2, 2023 [5 favorites]


You've misunderstood me, but that's okay.
posted by hoyland at 6:02 PM on April 2, 2023


This sadly won't bring back the many, many people who were driven off the site.
posted by Dysk at 12:22 AM on April 3, 2023 [9 favorites]


(And trans people can very much be transphobic as well. It's hard to be so by talking about your own experience, unless you do so in ways that are universalising. "I see my gender as..." contra "gender is...")
posted by Dysk at 12:34 AM on April 3, 2023


I don't think you can say you no longer talk about gender on the site while posting in this thread.

Isn’t that sort of what metatalk is for?
posted by Phanx at 12:36 AM on April 3, 2023 [6 favorites]


I'd like to point towards this definition of transphobia as a good starting point for discussion of what kind of content should be considered transphobic, particularly in considering whether individuals or media organisations are engaging in transphobia.

I think there's a reasonable discussion to be had around linking to transphobic news orgs such as the Guardian (or really most UK newspapers) and the NYT. On the face of it these would seem to be banned per the policy: "FPPs from transphobic sources (authors or websites) are generally deleted and rejected regardless if they are addressing trans issues or not." This clearly isn't the general practice at present. Should it be?

On the one hand, these news sites do carry things that people (including trans people) want to read and talk about, but on the other hand, making an exception is kind of like saying that taking a zero tolerance policy against transphobic sources is important... but only up to the point that it becomes inconvenient.

My personal feeling is that banning these sources wouldn't make me feel safer on Metafilter, but I think that's partly a product of living in a ubiquitously transphobic world. It would be meaningful for Metafilter to take an actual stance, but I'm not expecting it to.
posted by death valley compound at 5:28 AM on April 3, 2023 [10 favorites]


Speaking as a cis person, so if this is counterproductive to the discussion I 100% understand deleting the below:

It may be that, rather than zero-tolerance, there could be degrees of trust afforded different sites. Some sites are just a bucket of piss, and some sites are a pool that has been peed in. So, some sites (mumsnet? kiwifarms?) might be completely disallowed, while others (NYT? Guardian? The Atlantic?) are in a handle-with-caution category. What does that HWC mean in practice? It could mean a few different things:
  1. Before letting the post go through, show an interstitial warning to the user that the linked-to sites have authored or hosted transphobic content
  2. Some kind of auto-flag that alerts a mod when a post contains such a link
  3. Posts with such links could be put into a queue awaiting mod approval
  4. Combination of options 1 and 3

posted by a snickering nuthatch at 8:29 AM on April 3, 2023 [4 favorites]


[ trans person here ] I think a total ban on premier news sources (NYT, Grauniad, etc) with a transphobic editorial slant is probably a net negative, as there is important non-trans related content that is generated by non-asshole journalist staff. So as to not reward these corporations financially for their shitty ownership, I favour linking to the relevant content in such a way that there is no income generated, e.g. via an archive site, rather than directly or via a gift link.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:33 AM on April 3, 2023 [36 favorites]


Also trans. I agree with the above suggestions -- some news sources (NYT, Guardian, but also more or less every other UK news source, The Atlantic ...). They're too valuable for discussion for a blanket ban, but definitely would love some serious caution around linking to any of their trans "coverage".
posted by feckless at 8:55 AM on April 3, 2023 [3 favorites]


definitely would love some serious caution around linking to any of their trans "coverage".

There's part of me that's reluctant to even endorse that position, even though if mods (never mind members) were able to internalize "it is unlikely that a trans-related post from these publications is something Metafilter needs", it lets them off the hook of actually being able to recognize transphobia, which has been the fundamental gap in trans-related moderation since the beginning of time.
posted by hoyland at 8:59 AM on April 3, 2023


AFAIK neither the NYT or the Guardian are banned, and there's a Guardian post FFP right now.

I do think that transphobia in a major publication is still transphobic and can be reported, and if that sort of BS is covered at all like the NYT being shitty, it is best done through the lens of trans voices and perspectives.

You can see deleted posts here https://mefi-deleted.github.io/ and there's definitely some that were deleted because of transphobic content.

There is not a written banned people/website list, I asked. Because it would be huge. I think they assess when stuff is reported.

curious nu, I guess my thought was that other trans people could weigh in on policies and practices that the site should have to help avoid microaggressions and transphobic content from well-intentioned people (shitty people can catch bans ). Maybe better explanations of the forms transphobia and other forms of bigotry can take.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 9:18 AM on April 3, 2023 [3 favorites]


They're too valuable for discussion for a blanket ban

I totally see this point of view and it's why I don't expect them to be banned outright.

But there's a part of me thinking about why discussion is more valued than definitively excluding organisations that have chosen to be institutionally transphobic. I'd definitely feel unhappy if someone I knew and liked chose to hang around with someone with loud transphobic opinions, no matter how much fun they were most of the time, or how important and influential they might be.
posted by death valley compound at 10:24 AM on April 3, 2023 [4 favorites]


I don't love linking to the news in general on Metafilter. It's usually done poorly. We often get FPPs that direct to fantastic journalism and excellent writing, and that's fine even if the source is problematic. A broken clock is right twice a day. More often, we get breaking news or clickbait type links that aren't particularly notable in any way. I'd flag these as "breaks the guidelines" because I consider "best of the web" a guideline that requires a certain level of quality beyond basic reporting, but I would be making a nuisance of myself.

I would be good with banning "Hey a bad thing happened here's a single article link or Twitter thread" posts. I'm fine with a post on a sad or distressing topic if it has context and the material linked has scholarly or artistic value greater than a typical news article, even if that post comes from a source like the NYT.

To get to the point-- a lot of the news lately about trans people is basically "people still hate you, film at 11" and I don't think it's worth posting a sad news article so everyone can be sad about it in the name of awareness or whatever. I sure do feel like an object of curiosity and not a person when we do that.

The rule about waiting a little bit when a public figure dies to post a substantial post rather than just being like "first!!!" with the obituary post would apply similarly here, I think-- we are not a breaking news site, exactly. I am looking for quality and context over timeliness or newsworthiness, and I'd apply that to all content but especially content that is directly about challenges to my existence.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:51 AM on April 3, 2023 [14 favorites]


death valley compound your link to TransActual's detailed writeup of different forms transphobia takes is amazing.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 12:11 PM on April 3, 2023 [10 favorites]


I think overall the mods are doing a good job -- but my participation is lower so maybe I don't see as much as others. I don't see the things that get deleted. (Thank Christ.)

My main concern is that the mods continue to not fall for e.g. certain people who think criticism in a mefi post, of something a grown adult published elsewhere, is tantamount to harassment or sexual assault, and therefore it is time for righteous actions to be taken!!!

I'd like to point towards this definition of transphobia as a good starting point for discussion

Personally... I don't think definitions of transphobia are a good starting place, or backbone, or ending place? I don't think it's good to stretch the term to try to be an analogue to "sexism" or "racism" so it contains all of anti-transness. I don't find it useful when talking about the specific and material anti-trans behavior that exists out there. Like, I don't know or care how much fear-of-transness exists in Jesse Singal's heart and how much that motivates his slimy opposition to trans politics. I don't care... I just hate what he says and does, and it would not be useful to me to tell anyone he was "transphobic" as if that was the bad thing. To me "transphobia" doesn't matter, it doesn't enlighten, it doesn't help.

Maybe it is to others, idk. But in general, I don't think litmus test / applied definition stuff is a good way to parse things so we can wave around a bright shining sword labeled "transphobic" that we will almost surely just cut each other with.
posted by fleacircus at 12:20 PM on April 3, 2023 [1 favorite]


I guess my thought was that other trans people could weigh in on policies and practices that the site should have to help avoid microaggressions and transphobic content from well-intentioned people
I'm glad you're trying to get input on this. The issues can be broad and hard to spot for many, I suspect.
For example: Should we have FPPs about events overseen by World Athletics? I have to say that as a trans woman athlete (one who will never be good enough to be in one of those events, mind you!), such a topic would make me feel very marginalized. There are enough organizations these days excluding us from various otherwise fun-to-discuss activities that it's going to be a big issue going forward.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 12:53 PM on April 3, 2023 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's good to stretch the term to try to be an analogue to "sexism" or "racism" so it contains all of anti-transness.

I guess I can see wanting it to be like an actual phobia, but it is in practice more analogous to homophobia, which very much does mean anti-gay, not specifically fear of gay people. Similarly, any dictionary I've been able to find concurs with the way the word is used in the wild: to mean anti-trans. It doesn't feel like a stretch to me to use the word the way it's most commonly used.
posted by Dysk at 1:02 PM on April 3, 2023 [8 favorites]


fleacircus

What Dysk said is how transphobia's definition has evolved, but if there's a better word that's less commonly used but that you'd also like to mention, feel free to suggest it. I also don't think misogyny has to come from hatred of women, even if that's the greek roots suggest that that's the word's meaning.

Can you expand on a few things you said because I don't think I followed. Maybe an example would help too.
1. That "transphobic" it's a bright shining sword that we'll cut each other with. Who is us (trans users, MeFi members, etc), and how might we cut each other?
2. I'm not sure I understood your main concern.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 1:20 PM on April 3, 2023


Flight Hardware, I think that's a good point. Do you think they should be banned? If such posts aren't banned, is there something that could be done regarding them, some sort of trigger warning, or acknowledgment of the organization's discrimination against trans athletes perhaps?
posted by Chrysopoeia at 1:27 PM on April 3, 2023


I'm okay with transphobia because hatred and anger come from fear.
posted by hypnogogue at 1:44 PM on April 3, 2023 [2 favorites]


Has there been a clear request from site staff about input into this? I’ve seen too many MeTas (insert song here) where folks spin way the hell off into the weeds with “suggestions” and then flame out when they aren’t used for whatever reason.

Like.. I’m a trans person, I generally feel okay here. I understand that others have had and continue to have other experiences. A vague “please comment on some italic-quoted text” feels bad to me. I need a shared doc somewhere to make edits and comment on ACTUAL policy language. This format does not work for my brain at all. A decade+ experience here tells me that “discuss things in MeTa” is the WORST way to move anything forward here. MeTa itself does not feel like a safe/supportive space.

I can’t tell if we are at the community spitballing phase or if we’re being asked to craft new policy language.
posted by curious nu at 2:00 PM on April 3, 2023 [20 favorites]


What Dysk said is how transphobia's definition has evolved, but if there's a better word that's less commonly used but that you'd also like to mention, feel free to suggest it.

The term I've seen most commonly used as an alternative to "transphobia" is "transmisia" (meaning hatred of trans people). I think in practice this is synonymous with "transphobia". While it avoids debates about whether prejudice against trans people is based in fear, I think it's too obscure to really be useful as a general term. I also think the parallels between transphobia and homophobia are important, so there's value in "transphobia" as a term.
posted by death valley compound at 2:06 PM on April 3, 2023 [3 favorites]


I have a track record of leaving a steaming turd in the thread every time an event that excludes people like me (trans women) is posted about.

If the site decides that posts like that are OK, I suppose at some point someone's gonna have to tell me to be quiet or else.
posted by tigrrrlily at 2:58 PM on April 3, 2023 [2 favorites]


some sort of trigger warning, or acknowledgment of the organization's discrimination against trans athletes perhaps?

I'm not the person you asked, but I'd find either of those options condescending coming from a cis person, to be honest. Either something is good enough to stand on its own or it isn't. I honestly can't think of too many things worth posting where there's surprise transphobia it would be polite to warn someone about and I'd fear that a disclaimer would be viewed as a box-checking exercise that lets people feel like allies.
posted by hoyland at 3:22 PM on April 3, 2023 [5 favorites]


Do you think they should be banned? If such posts aren't banned, is there something that could be done regarding them, some sort of trigger warning, or acknowledgment of the organization's discrimination against trans athletes perhaps?
I wish I could say no to banning. We should be in a place in society where we can talk about all sports without this being an issue. But unfortunately, banning may be necessary.
A few thoughts about why:
1. About a ninety years ago, the NFL banned black athletes for many years, after having previously allowed them. Would we cover sports events from a group doing the same today?
2. And this relates to the NYT and Guardian issue as well: Good allyship has a price. If being an ally is easy, you're probably doing it wrong.
3. Related to that: I don't think sports coverage - or even access to the Guardian or NYT are what people come to Metafilter primarily for. This is a site that provides such variety of thoughtful content. The best stuff I've seen here is not the single-link analysis. It's off-the-beaten-path, unique finds that are the Metafilter treasures. If I do find good sports topics here, they're different in some way. Special.
4. Finally, this whole discussion is asking trans Mefites for input, and I think that's good - but in the end, the job of an ally (which this site is) includes being the one to proactively protect marginalized groups. I've heard it said that in any group that supports its minority members, it's the majority members that should lead the way, because the minority ones can least afford it.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2023 [3 favorites]


I guess I can see wanting it to be like an actual phobia, but it is in practice more analogous to homophobia, which very much does mean anti-gay.

Well I don't think homophobia as a catchall anti-gay label is great either *shrug*. The situations there aren't parallel though because I think like people are more conscious of anti-gay bigotries whereas anti-transness is more emerging from the subconscious. But this is a side topic.

if there's a better word that's less commonly used but that you'd also like to mention, feel free to suggest it.

I mean I often just say anti-gay, or anti-trans, and add whatever specification is needed on top of that.

Like, if we have a list of things transphobia means, and those things are clearly bad on their own, and we are supposed to refer to this list to pass through the transphobia definition magic circle so now we can apply the term transphobia as a shorthand for one of these bad things that we then later have to unpack so say what the actual thing done was....... why not just use that list of things that are bad? We can cut out the magic word definition, a process that is weird just on the face of it, but also has lots of negatives imho, like:

1. opacity to cis people makes it seem illegit
2. when applied, its vagueness and special definition make is seem easily argued against, or refuted or ignored, and it fizzles out into nothing.
3. obscures (from us, from ourselves, as we talk and think about it) what the actual material harms are, getting away from the material basis
4. empowers the sort of bad scoldy people who manipulate SJ language and tear groups apart.
5. now we don't have a term for like the actual subconscious fear of transness lol

so like imho not so great for internal or external use.

All just my opinions, I'm just a person on the internet, these are my thoughts about it, take them or leave them, do as thou wilt etc.
posted by fleacircus at 9:08 PM on April 3, 2023


I'm not sure dancing around the word that means the thing you're trying to say by all common convention is going to make anything less confusing...
posted by Dysk at 10:37 PM on April 3, 2023 [4 favorites]


we are supposed to refer to this list to pass through the transphobia definition magic circle so now we can apply the term transphobia as a shorthand for one of these bad things that we then later have to unpack so say what the actual thing done was.......

Nobody has to refer to any list or even use the term transphobia. I like the TransActual definition because it's based on particular forms that anti-trans rhetoric has taken in the media over the past five years in the ongoing moral panic against trans people. I think it's mainly useful in the context of media that might be linked and might also be a good resource for moderators.
posted by death valley compound at 12:01 AM on April 4, 2023 [4 favorites]


Arguing over whether someone is really “transphobic” or not is a very common thread from anti-trans people, for what it’s worth. Like, Singal has brought this up recently. You are not in good company if this is something you want to get into the weeds on. This conversation feels preeeetty bad.

Unless there is a very specific request from site staff for trans community members to comment on specific policy, I do not think this is going to go in a good direction and we should close this thread and try again with different framing.
posted by curious nu at 8:59 AM on April 4, 2023 [10 favorites]


I've been a member of this site for a very long time (just check my profile), having been around since an era when MetaFilter—and the Internet as a whole—was a lot wilder and woollier and less politically correct than we would want nowadays. My handle is a relic of that age (butts LOL!), but when I transitioned and changed my gender, pronouns and name IRL, I chose not to change the old handle here, because it still makes me smile. I'm a little saddened to hear that some people have had problems with changing theirs if they wanted to, but glad that the administration is making policy changes to make that easier. All told, I'm grateful to MeFi staff—whether trans or cis—and to non-staff folks like Chrysopoeia, who are doing the really hard work of making this site a welcoming place, in a world where those are at a shortage. You're good people. Thank you.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:22 AM on April 4, 2023 [19 favorites]


glad that the administration is making policy changes to make that easier.

Are they? Mods haven't said a thing so I'm still wondering what the changes actually are and what's been changed already.
posted by blueberry monster at 11:14 AM on April 4, 2023 [1 favorite]


In the post:

After speaking with Loup and making suggestions while in the process of getting approval to share this, I can also add that they told me the information about transitioning people and new accounts will be drafted as a faq entry, and I've given permission for the above sentence from an email to be put into the content policy.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:27 AM on April 4, 2023 [3 favorites]


When I transitioned the site policy seemed to be a hard no on name changes.

This has changed. The approach now is "What can we do to help? Is it a new free account, a username change, some older comments removed? Let us know."

And this is true for people who have commented in this thread where someone said no to you previously. There will be some wonky aspects--changing a username will not change comments that mention the old username for example--but holding the abstract idea of the historical record as more important than existing MeFites seemed like not the way we wanted to handle things.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:45 AM on April 4, 2023 [74 favorites]


Thank you for that, jessamyn. That's a really important change.

The rest of this... feels like a lot of idle speculation based on some really fine parsing of the two words "transphobic website." I think there's a charitable reading of the OP where they're not proposing anything absurd, tyrannical, or even new, but just giving a kind of loose and sloppily-worded description of the current pattern—a pattern which works pretty well for most people. Let's all be charitable and take a deep breath.

(Credentials: I'm trans, I was around and yelling loudly for trans discussions when the site handled trans issues way, way worse than it does now, and don't worry, I think banning the NYT would be a hilariously terrible idea.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:20 PM on April 4, 2023 [15 favorites]


fleacircus: that makes sense I guess, I'd love if everything in that link to TransActual had a name and we could have a discourse with references to them. I'll try to use anti-trans more.

blueberry monster and nebulawindphone: The descriptions I quoted are of current policy implementation and practices as related to me by loup in email. If the NYT or The Guardian was banned, I think it would be evident from the Deleted Posts.

curious nu: loup in response to my message weeks ago, asked for feedback from me directly since I wanted staff to provide info on current practices and policies on trans users and issues, stuff that hadn't been explicitly shared, so I could share them in a post.

I provided my thoughts but said that I felt like the opportunity for feedback from all trans users was why I wanted to do a post, to which they said:

"Also, yes, consulting a larger body of trans users is definitely best and I think it should happen. I opened the conversation with you as a starting point given that you had the initiative. Discussing this through more than one channel seems like a good first step forward."

If there's something done in the past that someone here doesn't like, I hope they can speak to it so we can get assurances it won't happen again and isn't happening currently. If there is something that should change, we should ask for it. If there is a accountability and acknowledgment of harm that needs to happen, that should be brought up, in my view.

I think all of those benefit from knowing how things are being done now, as context. Trying my best to give trans folks here that, so we can advocate for beneficial changes.

Something related to that last bit, loup also raised the idea of a Trans Advisory Board, if that's something folks have thoughts on.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 6:31 PM on April 4, 2023 [3 favorites]


Something related to that last bit, loup also raised the idea of a Trans Advisory Board, if that's something folks have thoughts on.

I forget when this got floated previously, whether it was in the almighty shitshow of the last time we tried to have a MeTa about improving the site for trans users (aka when the vast majority of trans users buttoned or were banned) or if it was in the midst of a different disaster (it was in the midst of a disaster, that much I remember). There... wasn't a lot of enthusiasm. I don't know if I'm simply too jaded at this point or if it does go back to something Bottlecap said above -- a lot of this is fundamentally on cis people. I'd be curious to hear from the BIPOC board as to whether they think it's been something that moved the needle on the site.
posted by hoyland at 7:36 PM on April 4, 2023 [5 favorites]


The term analogous to racism or sexism is cissexism. Same as heterosexism for sexuality.

Am too tired to comment on anything else but we do have terms for systemic oppression of trans and queer that have been in use for a long time if transphobia isn’t working for you.
posted by brook horse at 8:30 PM on April 4, 2023 [4 favorites]


In practice, outside of academic settings, homophobia serves the exact function as what you're claiming for heterosexism, and in academic settings I've seen heterosexism used more as an equivalent to heteronormativism.

People should obviously feel free to use whatever words they want. But if you want to be broadly understood, using the words that other people a familiar with is likely going to give the best results.
posted by Dysk at 12:59 AM on April 5, 2023 [6 favorites]


Seriously, why are we quibbling over whether homophobia and transphobia are useful terms? Agreed that heterosexism and cissexism are different. But, really, pick 'transphobia' or pick 'anti-trans', it doesn't much matter.
posted by hoyland at 5:30 AM on April 5, 2023 [4 favorites]


hoyland asked:
I'd be curious to hear from the BIPOC board as to whether they think it's been something that moved the needle on the site.
and I'd like to share my answer. I'm on the MeFi Global BIPOC Board. Here I'm speaking as myself and not on behalf of the group.

(For reference: for the BIPOC board's historical context, mandate, perspective, scope, activities, and plans, please check out the November 28th, 2022 MetaTalk post "What The MeFi BIPOC Board Does". Also, I know it looks like we haven't met recently based on what minutes you can see on the main board page, but we have been meeting every month for nearly a year now, after a more interrupted start back in 2020 and 2021; as loup mentioned recently, some minutes have been recently reviewed & approved for accuracy and are awaiting publication.)

I believe we've moved the needle, and are reasonably well-placed to do more in the future.

The clearest (to me) example of moving the needle, so far: Within the board's scope description in that November MetaTalk, one section is "Advising & Liaising". Our meetings include mods (sometimes travelingthyme, sometimes loup, sometimes both) and we've been an influence in mod policy, like, e.g., helping them understand when a particular kind of mod intervention can have an unintentionally disproportionate impact on people outside the US so they can be more careful about that in the future. We have been a force for staff accountability and transparency regarding moderation decisions and explanations and I believe that has made a positive difference on the site.

Also, early on, we helped with improvements to the microaggressions and community guidelines pages, which are helpful as references for the mods to be able to point to when communicating with users during a mod intervention. They're part of the social infrastructure that help us respond to and redirect our fellow members.

Sometimes our effect is more or less noticeable depending on what parts of MetaFilter you spend time in. For instance, if you enjoyed MeFi Events, the BIPOC Board is part of why the lineup of speakers and performers was more racially and geographically diverse and international than it otherwise would have been. I'd say that's an effect on MetaFilter although I'm not sure I'd call it a direct effect "on the site." (Like, similarly, if we'd had an effect on MetaFilter Chat or on how people acted towards each other at IRL events, I'd say that would be an effect on MetaFilter but maybe not literally "on the site." I get that others may disagree about that definition!)

We've done some foundational stuff that's going to pay off more in the future. Like, because of our request, frimble is working to create tools for board members to read in-thread private notes to give us a clear idea of how mods communicate/document any notable threads/comments, to provide us with some visibility on how mods make decisions. (This has been mentioned in the already-published meeting minutes and the November MetaTalk; I'm not revealing this for the first time here.) And, on the "Research & Data Analysis" part of our scope, we've already done some data collection on existing site threads and behavior that's awaiting further analysis, and we've done some design and preparation work for a user survey.

hoyland, the reason you asked about this is because maybe there are lessons that could be applied for a similar Trans Advisory Board. One reason I'd expect such a board to be more effective, right away, than we were is that you can copy the boring stuff from us. We had to spend time figuring out various bits of procedure, like meeting structure and cadence and medium, and our scope. Any future MetaFilter advisory group for a particular marginalized group -- trans MeFites, disabled MeFites, and beyond -- can just copy those bits as a starting point and get moving quicker. Of course you'd customize things along the way to suit you but it's a place to start.

And you can email us at bipoc@nachomountain.com if you want to talk about that more. (We set up an address that doesn't go through MeFi infrastructure, in case people want a bit more privacy to tell us about concerns. The board can’t promise to respond within any particular timeframe, but will sincerely try to! We’ll use our own judgment about what to keep confidential and what we might need to share with mods, as in cases of abuse.)
posted by brainwane at 5:55 AM on April 5, 2023 [37 favorites]


Thank you, brainwane! That was very enlightening, and I agree that your lessons can also be applied to a trans advisory board!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:18 AM on April 5, 2023 [3 favorites]


I am in enthusiastic agreement with brainwane on all points.

It took quite a bit of doing to get things to the point where the needle started to move -- some good bit of that happened before I came along -- and this startup work is something any other group might gain from. MetaFilter as an entity has, along with the people who make it up, been really receptive to and engaged with our participation as a board. As time goes by, this relationship is getting even stronger.

If the trans community could benefit from anything we've done so far that would be excellent.

Do please email us to talk about this stuff. I'm sure I speak for us all to say we'd be happy to talk to or about any other prospective boards or advisory groups, be they formal or informal.
posted by majick at 6:48 AM on April 5, 2023 [6 favorites]


Thanks for articulating those thoughts on the BIPOC board, brainwane. I am also on the BIPOC board and agree with what you and majick have said!

I especially want to echo the explanations around startup work for any board/group; though essential, it really can be time consuming and tedious. I share a similar hope the BIPOC board’s work on our terms of reference, mandate, scope, etc. etc. would be useful info for any future boards that don’t want to have to do it from scratch.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:41 AM on April 5, 2023 [2 favorites]


If trans members are invited to do a Board, those of us who aren't members of the Global BIPOC board might benefit from that past experience. One thing I'm not clear on is how members were chosen and are chosen going forward.

I've been thinking and talking to some folks and I wanted to bring up a couple of topics for discussion regarding how things are now, what we can learn from them, and whether they should change.

1. Good Discussions: First, are there discussions of trans issues that have gone well on the site, and if so what can we learn from what worked there?

2. Flagging. How well do other trans folks feel this has been working, and is there things that could be inproved?

3. Brigading, I know in the past accusations of "brigading" has been levied against trans users, and I think a discussion of this would be good. In particular, a trans autistic friend of mine was banned, in part, for this, with brigading cited by cortex as a specific problem behavior.

There is no written policy against asking other people to look at something that bothers you, or mentioning brigading that I can find. To me it feels like a way to punish marginalized people for acting within their community. As another autistic trans person, the topic of brigading not being written anywhere and the inability to draw a clear distinction between discussing topics of concern within a community or "brigading" causes me some distress, because it's hard to judge whether what I'm doing is okay.

Can I ask other trans folks on transfilter or other folks that I'm friend with personally to look at something on the site and get their perspective? If one comments subsequently, have I just violated some unwritten rule? So now I generally don't share specific topics of concern with other people who are site members, because I don't want to get in trouble, though I do sometimes look at stuff others have brought up.

Given that we've been sometimes drowned out by cis folks on topics of concern for our community, I would like to feel comfortable sharing topics particularly with other trans users who might comment. This site has helped me better understand my identity, and folks, including folks in this thread, have brought clarity and thoughtfulness and different ideas to issues than I would. Especially given the intersectional nature of the concern, I feel more clarity is warranted on the topic of brigading from the mods.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 11:03 AM on April 5, 2023 [17 favorites]


What is brigading? I don’t know this term.
posted by Vatnesine at 2:19 PM on April 5, 2023 [2 favorites]


Let me look that up for you in Urban Dictionary: brigading.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:22 PM on April 5, 2023


Here is a slightly less... less Urban Dictionary definition (which also more closely matches all the others I've found when searching for it).

Frankly, I'm not sure it's particularly relevant to metafilter, as it isn't something that happens here to a great extent. There aren't the same tools set up to facilitate it as on e.g. Reddit where the term originated. You could mass comment as a group in a coordinated way, or mass flag I guess (but the mods are going to be using their judgement anyway, so that won't get you anywhere).

I just don't see it. I don't see a mefi trans community that's large enough to actually be able to make it happen. Brigading is not three people backing each other up. Brigading is a more norm-destroying large scale invasion, drowning out the signal with noise. Us trans mefites couldn't do that if we wanted to. There aren't enough of us.
posted by Dysk at 9:29 PM on April 5, 2023 [17 favorites]


"Brigading" is a hideously out-of-touch framing of members of marginalized communities talking to each other about their treatment, and speaking up as a group. I obviously don't know the circumstances of the referenced event, but I would very much hope the moderators and other staff would understand how damaging such accusations are against users, and not pull that sort of thing in the future.
posted by lapis at 12:22 PM on April 6, 2023 [14 favorites]


Once again, I think talking about actual events would be more useful than speculating about possible word meanings. If there's a history of the mods banning people for "brigading," let's talk about what those people actually did, and whether we want people to do that stuff here.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:30 PM on April 6, 2023 [5 favorites]


This sadly won't bring back the many, many people who were driven off the site.

So, I dropped away from Metafilter - a long time ago in Internet years - because its moderation strategies did not seem able to engage effectively with the expression of transphobic views, and in particular with members who wanted to target, provoke and insult trans people on Metafilter.

I'm getting the sense here that this was at some point identified as an issue and some steps were taken to address this, either in the form of changes to strategies or changes of interpretation. The microaggressions page seems new, for example.

It's subjective, of course, and there's likely to be a ton of survivorship bias, but I'm interested - has this worked? Is the general perception that positive change has been made for trans people on Metafilter?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:49 PM on April 6, 2023 [2 favorites]


I'm hesitant to say that things have gotten better. They have, but it's more because Mefites have decided "good progressives" don't stand for overt transphobia rather than things actually improving, if that makes any sense.

There have been a few deletions of posts that wouldn't have been deleted five years ago and that definitely suggests some improvement in moderation. I'm thinking of things that aren't overtly transphobic and are posted by people thinking they're being allies by posting, but where the content has extremely high potential to actually harm trans people.

On the other hand, the Metafilter trans community was all but purged maybe two years back, so...
posted by hoyland at 8:08 PM on April 6, 2023 [7 favorites]


I'm starting to feel really uncomfortable. I'm trans, and I feel safe and happy here, but maybe I shouldn't, or at least there was a time when I shouldn't have? Am I wrong? Was there a period before my egg cracked when MetaFilter was hostile to trans people, and I didn't speak up to make things better? If that's true, I feel awful about it. (Or maybe I did speak up, and then I forgot the whole interaction? I guess that's a little better? I confess that I have been having trouble with my memory, and my doctors are aware of it.) Or was there a period after I came out when MetaFilter was still hostile to trans people, and I just didn't notice for some reason? Could I really be that ignorant? Is it my autism making me oblivious? Am I just not competent enough at social interaction to be a member of this or any other other community? (And now I'm probably taking up too much of the thread. If someone reprimands me, I promise I'll change my behavior immediately.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:49 AM on April 7, 2023 [7 favorites]


Was there a period before my egg cracked when MetaFilter was hostile to trans people,
This is one for tigrrrlily to answer, not me, so I'll mention it to her. From what I've heard, Metafilter has gone through various periods of realignment on social justice topics, with trans rights being one of them. Given how long you've been here, I'm sure you were around for them.
I kinda missed the recent trans exodus two years ago, obliviously, but hoyland is right. There were several trans users who stepped away.
posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 5:36 AM on April 7, 2023 [1 favorite]


Faint of Butt wrote:

"I feel safe and happy here, but maybe I shouldn't, or at least there was a time when I shouldn't have?"

I MeMailed Faint of Butt about a similar experience in case it would be helpful, and she said it was helpful to her, and would be helpful if I posted it in the thread so others could read it.

I am a person of color -- I'm an Indian-American woman. I have not felt that this part of my identity made me unsafe or unhappy on MetaFilter, and though other people have experienced racism on MetaFilter and found it decreased their interest in participating, I've never felt that.

I think part of what's happened is that, if I saw something gross, I flagged it and assumed the mods would take care of it, which, in my experience, they mostly did and do. Other MeFites have had different experiences with the mods, or simply don't flag things. I'm glad Chrysopoeia asked "Flagging. How well do other trans folks feel this has been working, and is there things that could be improved?" I've found in the past, in similar MetaTalks, that a lot of people say stuff like "I've never flagged anything" or "does flagging actually make a difference?" and so gathering people's experiences gives us a chance to learn from each other about that. These conversations also provide an opportunity for MeFites to say "I'm afraid because I don't know how flagging works actually" - in which case, here is a detailed explanation, with screenshots.

But also, I may have been oblivious. Somewhat similarly, in much of my in-person life I've been oblivious to subtly hostile social cues; a friend once walked beside me on a city street and told me that I'd been street-harassed, yet I hadn't noticed.

I consider this an asset. My obliviousness to hostility that's directed at me makes it easier for me to do what I want, enjoy public life, rise in my career, and -- if other people mention that they need help -- have the energy to help them (such as serving on the BIPOC Board). I've evidently been situationally aware and cautious enough to avoid getting injured, and although I do look back at one very bad on-the-job experience and retroactively understand "oh that was sexism!!" and it would have been good to recognize that earlier, I'm fine now, careerwise.

So I think it's fine for me to have been safe and happy on MetaFilter even when other people weren't; it doesn't mean I was complicit in racism. You are welcome to disagree, of course!
posted by brainwane at 6:08 AM on April 7, 2023 [14 favorites]


brainwane is an awesome and kind and helpful person. I did give her permission to share some of our conversation with this thread, and I'm glad she did. She, in turn, asked me to share some of my response, so I will:

"Thank you. That does help, a lot, and makes me feel better. I can do the best I can for both myself and others, and I can take others' advice and instruction when they give it, and sitting alone admonishing myself doesn't make anything better for anybody. You are a smart and good person. Thank you so much. <3"
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:46 AM on April 7, 2023 [10 favorites]


So, FoB I'm sure you remember this: in the early days of the site, there were almost no out trans users. (I remember for a long time we had exactly one active openly trans woman.) And a lot of stuff we'd now recognize as transphobic was fair game, often just out of widespread ignorance.

You might remember this: In the early 2010s, a lot more trans users came out. It was a time of very quickly increasing visibility and basic safety. So a lot of people finally felt ready to transition all at once, and some stealth folks from way back when started identifying themselves as trans more openly. Suddenly, there were a lot more people on the site willing to say "Hey, I'm trans and that's transphobic—fuck off." Which generated some useful allyship, some kind of confused but well-meaning attempted allyship, and also some backlash from people who, I think, felt blindsided by the sudden change.

So here's what happened: The mods initially handled the backlash poorly, and it turned into, like, WE AS A SITE NEED TO HAVE A RECKONING ABOUT TRANS ISSUES—and eventually there was solid progress, but also a bunch of hurt feelings and deleted accounts along the way.

So. It was a weird era. Most places you looked, you'd have seen a golden age for trans people on MeFi. More posts about trans culture! More AskMes from trans people looking for support! More cis and trans people speaking against transphobia! (And it was kind of a golden age behind the scenes too: we had an IRC channel and a Dreamwidth community, a lot of us made our first IRL trans friends through the site, people got each other hormones, at least a few gave each other emergency housing...) But if you'd peeked into a few specific epic MeTa threads, or heard some of the venting and strategizing that was happening offsite, you'd have seen a lot of distress and anger and a fair number of people leaving.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:27 AM on April 7, 2023 [13 favorites]


I think that aspect was similar to the earlier boyzone realignment. These things bring long-simmering issues to a head, and the site is ultimately better for them, but the process is difficult and a lot of good people burn out in the process. I feel like that dynamic maybe hit the trans community harder - as a smaller group, x number of users leaving had a bigger impact proportionally.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:58 PM on April 7, 2023 [3 favorites]


That, and rather than having a mod team enthusiastically backing and pushing the change (like with jessamyn in the boyzone days) you had leadership taking a tack of "well this is all very confusing and difficult for people your can't expect them to [actions that amount to basic human respect]"
posted by Dysk at 1:24 PM on April 7, 2023 [12 favorites]


Yeah, you're right, it very much felt like Boyzone Part 2.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:49 PM on April 7, 2023 [1 favorite]


And I seem to remember being pretty conscious of that at the time, and expecting the same tactics to work, and then yeah.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:58 PM on April 7, 2023 [1 favorite]


There was also that one incident circa 2020 on Metatalk - I forget the instigating issue, but at some point cortex had poorly handled a trans member's buttoning, to such an egregeious extent that a bunch of us (including myself) buttoned that day too. It happened live within the thread, with one person being the go-between/doing the report back, and I remember that having a significant impact on the trans userbase here.
posted by creatrixtiara at 11:41 PM on April 8, 2023 [1 favorite]


The "instigating incident" was attempting to have a MeTa to discuss how to make the site better for trans people! (More than that, I don't remember. Though that thread did feature someone telling trans people we should be trying to approach the site constructively or something, like... creating the very MeTa in which that comment appeared. It's definitely in the Hall of Fame of "tell trans people they're not being nice enough" on this site.)
posted by hoyland at 1:20 PM on April 9, 2023 [6 favorites]


It was this MeTa and this one that split off from it.
posted by Etrigan at 4:20 PM on April 9, 2023 [9 favorites]


Oh fuck. That's a user I was extremely sad to see gone, and I'm extra sad now that I'm finding out why.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:54 AM on April 10, 2023 [1 favorite]


I was skimming those earlier MetaTalk threads and one thing I noticed came up repeatedly was people wanting the ability to 1 - delete their history and 2 - change their username (as often as every year!) for privacy reasons. Which is basically (and I mean this colloquially) the right to be forgotten.

It looks like Metafilter has gone from 'nope' to 'we will manually do it for you and you can change your username if you've got a good reason.' I assume the mod-based deleting thing is a technical issue and the username thing is a metafilter culture issue.

In any case, this adds a human barrier to access needs. Also, as much as mods say 'we are happy to help!' (which I believe) I have also heard a lot of 'we have more work than time and we have a limited budget!' which to me when combined with 'sure no problem we will manually delete things for you if it's important to you' comes across as mixed messaging.

Any fully accessible long-term solution includes full user-end access to the delete feature.
posted by aniola at 9:09 AM on April 10, 2023 [2 favorites]


I don't know if the site is any better for trans people but I feel it's stopped getting worse and I see signs it's getting better.

The idea that people with similar interests acting together is brigading is repulsive. Collective action is often necessary whether you're dealing with recalcitrant employers or recalcitrant governments or recalcitrant community owners. I do feel, however, that we are past the point where people working together to change MetaFilter would be called brigading today.

That said, I don't believe that the person who was banned for supposed brigading was banned only for brigading.
posted by hypnogogue at 10:29 AM on April 10, 2023


Mod note: One comment deleted. Bringing up situations that could and should have been handled better is healthy and necessary, BUT Cross-site talk/comments or archived versions of websites where we don't know if the parties involved are okay with them being shared today are and will generally be removed, moreover if the linked URL includes private communications.
posted by loup (staff) at 10:42 AM on April 10, 2023


Well gee whiz loup, I would have asked trappist system (and divabat, who was the go-between for trappist once their earlier account was wiped) if they were OK with me posting that link, but y'know... they both closed their accounts. On account of how they were treated. Which was spelled out in the link.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:51 AM on April 10, 2023 [7 favorites]


Oh, are we already at the part of the discussion where the mod team claims to be protecting those former members?
posted by Etrigan at 11:28 AM on April 10, 2023 [6 favorites]


As a general rule, Cross-site talk/comments or Wayback Machine-type URLs will be removed.

That being said, we should be open to discuss past or current mod actions and policy openly. But this doesn't need screenshots or URLs from other sites that include private communication between people who have not consented to those messages being shared.
posted by loup (staff) at 11:35 AM on April 10, 2023


If you had read the link before deleting it, you would have seen the part where restless_nomad and trappist system explicitly discuss and agree on what parts of the conversation can be shared on the website and what parts would be left out. And then trappist does indeed leave some parts out. In fact, you could also contact restless_nomad yourself to confirm it! What did you want, a notarized form to be filed?

I am getting flashbacks from the MollyRealized discussion all over again, why is this site so lousy at understanding what it looks like when a user gives consent to discuss things for the purpose of bettering the user experience for everyone?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 11:48 AM on April 10, 2023 [5 favorites]


It’d be super cool if a thread started by a trans member explicitly about future policy around trans issues was not hijacked by non-trans users who want to have another public fight with mods.
posted by curious nu at 12:02 PM on April 10, 2023 [33 favorites]


(The Pluto Gangsta: I'm formerly divabat but I can't speak for trappist system)
posted by creatrixtiara at 3:38 PM on April 10, 2023 [9 favorites]


Thank you, I hope I didn't inadvertently pressure you into revealing that. I recognize that I'm not a trans member and I only posted that link because I thought that a conversation about "future policy around trans issues" should include the full details of how poorly trans issues have been handled before. I'm not going to take up anymore oxygen here, anyone who wants the link that was taken down can MeMail me.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:52 PM on April 10, 2023


all good, I mention it in my profile! though I was a bit surprised to find out that one of the instigating threads turned out to be my own and I was the go-between haha
posted by creatrixtiara at 8:33 PM on April 10, 2023


I didn't know you were still here creatrixtiara, but I'm really glad you are. I really appreciate you, you don't even know.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 9:27 PM on April 10, 2023 [16 favorites]


Pulling screenshots is unnecessary when multiple trans folks are here who can speak to their experiences and act as stakeholders and experts on our own issues.

I also truly appreciate loup acknowledging things could and should have been handled better. There have been a lot of instances with trans folks that I've seen in the past that also could and should have too. I feel like things are getting better now though; if they weren't I probably wouldn't have tried to make this post.

I think there's this expectation that some people have, that people need to be perfect. Trans members shouldn't have to be perfect or unemotional to be listened to or respected. Staff members should be able to make a mistake without being called one. I am decidedly not perfect, and I think it's not great to expect it from anyone else. People are not entitled to the perfect version of me they imagine. I try to do my best.

So I think the site shouldn't be built on anyone expecting trans people or really any folks from other marginalized communities to always be calm, cool, and collected when bad stuff is happening.

We also shouldn't have the site be relying on the expectation of staff infallibility. It's unfair to Metafilter's staff, and to other members. So that's another reason I appreciate loup acknowledging issues. There needs to be some trust, that staff will try their best, but will also acknowledge mistakes, and learn from them. That for me is the make or break aspect of a community, and I think that's what transparency and open discussion should provide: a place for future mistakes to be acknowledged and learned from, so that trust can be built.

Thinking about folks sharing stuff, a lot of what mods do does happen in private. So I think if privacy is the major concern, there should be a sanctioned way to explicitly consent to share private messages that current or former users can use, and it should be listed in the FAQ.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 12:09 AM on April 11, 2023 [19 favorites]


My experience has been that in general where Metafilter seems to fail is not in threads specifically about trans experiences, because people tend to be respectful there. But it’s when trans experiences are brought up in relation to other things that people don’t think of as being related to the trans experience that people seem to get in a completely different headspace about it.

Every time I step into a gender/sexism thread and try to talk about my perspective on gender roles as a trans person, I get a lecture on What Womanhood Is Really Like, You Don’t Understand How Much Social Pressure There Is. Y’all. A transmasc butch lesbian does, in fact, know very much about the social pressures placed on women and the consequences for rejecting them. Someone whose gender/sexuality is literally defined by Breaking All The Women Rules does in fact understand The Women Rules and the severe punishment for breaking them. And it’s not like I’m engaging without context—I talk about being butch or transmasc in these posts so that people know that’s where I’m coming from. And yet I am explained The Women Rules over and over and over again, usually by people who insist those rules are impossible to break because women who do so will be socially rejected and cast out… yeah, I know. Ask me how I know.

And I get it, no one is thinking about it from that perspective because it’s not their experience so it doesn’t occur to them that hmmm, maybe this is an absolutely bizarre thing to be explaining to a masc lesbian. And also MeFites aren’t really hip to what it means to be a transmasc or a butch lesbian. I don’t know if people just put me in the “man” category and then don’t think about it any more, which like, I guess kudos for internalizing “trans men are men” so completely but I’m genderqueer and also even if I weren’t I’d still very much know about The Women Rules.

But I think like in these other examples that have been brought up, the conversation was about something that people don’t think of as inherently being related to being trans. Even if the person was explicit about it being related to them being trans, when there’s another topic people care about they’re unable to think about how that might possibly relate to trans people. There’s like an on/off switch, it feels like. Trans threads and trans topics, people can step back and be respectful. Some other topic and a trans person is involved and talking about how it relates to being trans? Totally different ballgame.

Which is what I saw happening in that thread. It became about Metafilter’s right to an archive which overshadowed the respect for trans people and their experience. And people felt the need over and over to explain why the archive and community were SO IMPORTANT. As if trans people aren’t very aware of that, and as if them being trans has no bearing on the situation. It’s weird and I’m sure there’s a specific quirk of human psychology to blame, but it does result in this conflicting experience where Metafilter and the mods are great about Trans Stuff (tm) but not necessarily trans people outside of the context of Being Trans.

I think the mods have gotten better about this—at least in listening when trans people bring it up. Not so much at catching it. Which is fine. It’s on me to flag. But generally the things people say are not so bad that I want them deleted, so I don’t. I just think of Metafilter as a place that’s not great to talk about gender outside of certain specific parameters, but sometimes I make the poor decision to wade in anyway. Which is also on me, so I’m not particularly upset at the mods.
posted by brook horse at 12:22 PM on April 11, 2023 [20 favorites]


brook horse:Which is what I saw happening in that thread. It became about Metafilter’s right to an archive which overshadowed the respect for trans people and their experience. And people felt the need over and over to explain why the archive and community were SO IMPORTANT.

I can definitely see problems with the mods having to work out a chain of verification where someone who has buttoned/been banned wants to give permission for their private correspondence to be shared but can no longer do so via memail - a user on reddit saying "I am this Metafilter user, and I consent to have my private correspondence shared", for example, might be tricky, but an email from the email address used to set up the account feels a lot more reliable.

I think the right to have your identity and posting history deleted has to exist and be accessible, however, and needs to be accessible to people who are no longer active, or who have lost access to their account or buttoned, and it should be nobody's job to try to talk people out of it or create friction in that process.

That goes beyond the private message question, although I think they are related. Some boards I’ve been on treated private messages like regular correspondence - sharing content without permission is considered a faux pas, but you shouldn’t send anything you wouldn’t want to be made public to anyone you don’t trust not to make it public. Metafilter clearly treats it far more like sharing legal correspondence or something equivalent - it’s a serious disciplinary matter.

And, while there are very good reasons to preserve that seriousness - so that mods can use it as a channel to resolve issues through individual diplomacy, for example, without that feeding back into on-site drama, either through direct conversation or by pushing two members into a private room where they can fight without derailing a thread further - this also makes it a vector for low-level harassment, which can be particularly felt by members of marginalized groups.

And, relatedly, while it was a long time ago, I don't know to what extent I am able to talk about the memailed moderator interactions that made me sceptical that Metafilter was a place where discrimination against trans people was going to be taken seriously, but if I don’t reference it I can’t exemplify what I am benchmarking against.

At a rough grain level, I was told many years ago via memail that there were lots of things that people thought were hate speech, and the correct way to discuss the boundaries of hate speech was in Metatalk rather than in a memail conversation with a moderator. That's a statement that will be read as uncomplicatedly factual by some and a gigantic red flag to others, I think.

I can definitely see it, if I think myself into the role of the mod who sent it, as a natural response informed by a belief that the community decides what is and is not acceptable and the mods merely enforce that consensus.

However, I think it hits different depending on what someone’s experience is of being a minoritized person trying to persuade institutions through public channels to take their concerns seriously, when doing so makes them visible and vulnerable to attack from people who hate them and whose attacks the institution does not currently identify as malicious.

That kind of public petition is rarely fun, and it sounds like trying to make the case for stronger protections being built into moderation burned a number of trans people out.

Which I think ties into nebulawindphone's comment:

And I seem to remember being pretty conscious of that at the time, and expecting the same tactics to work, and then yeah.

Because I also remember flagging not working, really.

I think the issue as I perceived it at the time was that transphobia was treated as something that people would have strong opinions about - like cat declawing, say, or OS choice - but not something that had real stakes or caused real harm to the board or its community. So, people deploying transphobic canards and people who protested about those transphobic canards were both treated the same way - encouraged to be more polite to each other or to learn to ignore each other's content, or take it to memail.

I guess I see echoes of that in the phrasing of "just isn't good content" in the post above explaining the logic behind deleting posts that question the validity of trans identities.

I think it's true that transphobic posts of this kind wouldn't be good content, but I think they would not just not be good content. They would be bad for other reasons unrelated to their quality.

There's something uncomfortable to me about the idea that there's a conceptual space for a hypothetical FPP "questioning the existence and validity of trans people" which is sufficiently well-supported and whataboutism-free that it stays up on the front page.

This may be a misreading - the actual weight of the statement might be "there is no way to make that argument in a way that it would be considered good content, so this is in fact a hard line, which is merely being expressed in moderator-speak" - but my reasons for discomfort make sense to me.

On the plus side, a lot of people have reassessed their views as the default “just asking questions/just sharing my reasonable concerns” position has moved progressively further and less equivocally to the right, and better information has emerged about what those questions and concerns actually means for trans lives.

OTOH, a lot of people have also drifted rightwards with that position, but people here don’t seem to be saying here that Metafilter moderation has created a deliberately trans-exclusionary hellscape, and Chrysopoeia at least sees a steady improvement over the last couple of years.

So, I would hope that some of the people who were moderating at a senior level in the early 2010s had gone through that process of reassessment, and I imagine some of the more junior moderators who were not happy with the situation at the time but not able to change it have become more senior and more able to affect positive change. I don’t know if that hope matches up to people’s experience, but things like the microaggressions page specifically referencing transphobia feel like positive steps.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:41 PM on April 11, 2023 [8 favorites]


Oof yeah brook horse, very true.

A lot of folks who will apologize if they get pronouns wrong will, when challenged more deeply, not get it, and then not listen. I think they might value their current level of comfort and worldview or their curiosity over fixing the real discomfort or harm being done to trans folks, not that they likely think of it in those terms.

I think a lot of folks dealing with learning about marginalized folks begin to kind of fit their new understanding about that into their existing behavioral and mental patterns, but without really challenging their underlying understandings of gender. That's a comfortable easy sort of change and it's kind of my baseline for behavior from cis people who aren't allies for me to tolerate them. Laverne Cox was on the cover of Time in 2014, so even if you don't know a trans person or understand it, you should know we exist, and you don't have to understand us to be polite.

I want more than that here though. Maybe that's too much to expect, but it's what I want, and sometimes what I've gotten, which is stuff that made me think and learn and grow. This comment by kushuwamushi changed how I talk about sports and trans women. Reading about how hoyland handles pronouns challenged and changed how I think of them, and labels more broadly.

running order squabble fast You are right, that does leave a lacuna that could be taken to imply that, but what I meant was that trans people should be able to question their own gender, existence, identity, and validity, and the benefits of care for themselves.

What I don't want is any trans person getting censored for talking about their own experiences, or someone exploring their gender afraid to ask questions, but perhaps that language could be better balanced, if that makes sense?
posted by Chrysopoeia at 5:08 PM on April 11, 2023 [3 favorites]


a natural response informed by a belief that the community decides what is and is not acceptable and the mods merely enforce that consensus.

I was kind of gobsmacked when I realised that some people think that this is how things work, and that MetaTalk conversations are seen by some to be where *actual decisions are made*.

I'm a new member but I've been reading Metafilter and MetaTalk for a few years now and I just assumed that MetaTalk was a place where people could post things about MetaFilter and discuss them there. That's it.

Then I had a fuzzy idea that moderators might take note of these discussions, and if they agreed, changes might be made, but the decision is formed by them, based on their own values.

It's utterly and complete the moderators' decision, and they have that power.

Do people really believe that MetaTalk discussions are where the decisions are made, and moderators just carry them out?

MetaTalk is where people who know (or care) about the existence of MetaTalk gather to talk about Metafilter.

If it really is supposed to be a place where decisions are made, its purpose should be much more prominent and easy to parse. For example, it should be called a term that's used in the rest of the world for that kind of space, and every time a discussion about something significant is going on, there should be notifications about it on all the subsites.

For such a version of MetaTalk to be effective, it would have to be... But I'm not going to complete that thought because there is no way a discussion thread can be used to reach democratic consensus.

Just look at the long history of terrible MetaTalk threads for proof of that.

Too few people participate. There's no way to make it a safe space for quiet voices. Angry people dominate and polarise the discussion.

I don't think Metafilter has the resources or the technology to be a democratic community in the way described in the bit I quoted at the beginning of my comment.

Trying to be democratic in this way does a lot of harm, when what's actually happening is that a small number of people use their own judgement. It's so much worse than just openly being "my way or the highway".

No wonder moderators are stressing out if they, in reality, have the responsibility of making big decisions, but have to behave as though everything is decided by "the community".

Sorry, derail, but it seems relevant here.
I want to know if I'm participating in a discussion that's just going to be input for the moderators to consider, and it's their right to accept or discard, or whether decisions are actually being made *right here*.

(Also, brookhorse, your comment on how trans voices are heard depending on the context is ✨absolutely✨ 🎯 spot on.)
posted by Zumbador at 10:01 PM on April 11, 2023 [16 favorites]


Back on topic, after reading through the linked threads as well as the deleted links, I would like to encourage all mefites, but especially moderators, to interrogate to what extent their support of trans and nonbinary people is based on tolerance for people who can't help being broken, or genuine acceptance of us as fully fledged sane adults.

We live in a world where difference is pathologised so intensely that it's difficult even to think about someone being profoundly different without placing them in the category of "not quite autonomous adult".

Unfortunately, in order to make Metafilter a better place for trans people, we have to interrogate many deeply held assumptions about mental illness and neurodivergent people. You can't do that without challenging the way these have been pathologised.

Also, a child's right to privacy and autonomy, and what caring for a child's interests really means.

Just saying "people get to decide who they are" without interrogating your deeper beliefs is not enough because when conflict happens, you'll react according to your deeply held beliefs. ,

For example that a trans person is trans because they're suffering from a mental illness and can't really be trusted to know what's best for them because they are fundamentally irrational and fragile.

That stuff is going to come out under pressure, and it is toxic to us all.
posted by Zumbador at 10:25 PM on April 11, 2023 [10 favorites]


ChrysopoeiaWhat I don't want is any trans person getting censored for talking about their own experiences, or someone exploring their gender afraid to ask questions, but perhaps that language could be better balanced, if that makes sense?

I think I might have misunderstood, chrysopoeia. I read your post as saying that loup had said:
"Likewise there seems to be an internal policy that would be obvious to me and you, but might not be obvious to others, which is that questioning the existence and validity of trans people or the value of gender affirming health care on the basis of whataboutism and anecdotes from anti trans activists or detransitioners just isn't good content. Again, this could be explicit."
And that you had added the "I would like a version of this sentence to make it directly to the content policy" as a note. Whereas I think that maybe you wrote that paragraph with the intent of codifying something that you and loup understood to be an internal policy/unwritten rule and as a dry run for a statement that would become explicit and written down in the content policy.

Either way, I think it does what it intends to do, but I think couching it in terms of what is good or bad content does create an ambiguity, unless we're using those terms generally to exclude what we understand to be hateful content driven by other -isms and -phobias.

However, the successful or unsuccessful navigation of that ambiguity ultimately falls to the moderators, so the question becomes "do the moderators understand this subject matter (and the bad-faith argumentation, dogwhistling, pseudomedical propaganda etc attached to it) well enough to make the right calls on content about trans people on Metafilter, or do they have access to expert counsel that will help them to make the right calls?"

hoyland mentioned above that a consistent issue has been the moderators not being aligned with trans users about what is actionably transphobic, and I think suggested that the issue is self-reinforcing, because more trans people leave as a result. If this is the case, could a steering group fix that? It's not really the role of a steering group, generally, to make a decision in the moment, but to direct a policy that informs that action in the moment. Would more trans moderators, or people who were trusted by the moderators to give good advice (solicited or unsolicited) and who trusted the moderators to take that advice, help to address that?

(Any or all of these things may already be in place, officially or unofficially.)

I think that's always going to be key, for as long as moderators delete posts and ban people, because ultimately the moderators decide what is and is not acceptable subject matter and acceptable behaviour. I've mentioned above where I think that broke down in the past, but that doesn't necessarily have any bearing on the present - there are different mods, and the mods who were mods in the past will have changed as people.

Zumbador: Do people really believe that MetaTalk discussions are where the decisions are made, and moderators just carry them out?

I can't speak for people in general, but I think the moderators believe that, to some degree - while I was noodling around I found this description from Jessamyn of a transition "from "One guy in charge makes all decisions and the users (and mods) have to manage their own uncertainty about what is happening in any given day/month/year" to "The community working with the Steering Committee can guide the path forward for this creaky 20+ year old website and help advise on all complex issues facing the site with better transparency."


So, there's a steering committee, and MetaTalk is a place where opinions from the user base about what should be done and how resources should be allocated can be sought, or given, and the moderators make decisions in the moment about how the consensus of moderators, steering community and community should be applied - at least, I think that's a very crude description of the model. Does discussion on MetaTalk have an impact? I think it's reasonably clear that in the model as described it should and is expected to.

However, that has IME not been the only purpose of MetaTalk. One of the big functions it served was for arguments that are derailing main site threads to be moved away from the main site and into a relatively lightly trafficked and lightly moderated area.

The failure state of this is of course that this also meant that it was a place where users could be more free with their anti-trans statements - so, it was a debating chamber that was also a sewage sump. Which has some issues as a dual-use architectural concept, for sure.

So, as mentioned above the higher bar for addressing interpersonal aggression or general hate speech in MeTa (especially if that hate speech was unfamiliar, and therefore had to be agreed by the moderators to be hate speech based on arguments made in MetaTalk) made it a pretty unhealthy place for trans people to try to make the case for tighter moderation of trans-themed FPPs, because they could be attacked and insulted much more effectively in MeTa than on MetaFilter proper.

I just skimmed MetaTalk's year-to-date and it seems a lot less confrontational than it used to be - which is maybe just a limited sample set, or maybe because people who used it to push back burned out or left or got banned, or maybe because it's being used in a different way because people feel that their views could inform a steering committee decision and thence a substantive change.

I don't have enough information to make a call on that, but it does feel different, and I guess that's what ties this back into the impact of current and future policies on trans people.

"What is the current problem that any changes to policies are seeking to address?" is I think a good question to ask. My guesses would be something like:
  • The board was designed to prioritise the preservation and integrity of everything on it - to act as a repository - and therefore it is technically and organisationally tilted against people changing their names or deleting potentially personally identifying content, which is something trans people may disproportionately want or need to do either because they have changed their public presentation or because they are being stalked or harassed.
  • The current policies are lacking official recognition of informal steps being taken by the moderators to limit transphobic content
  • The moderators are missing knowledge about how trans people experience MetaFilter as users, which is impacting their in-the-moment decision making.
  • Trans users of MetaFilter, because of the above reasons or other reasons, are more likely to leave and/or less likely to have a good experience of MetaFilter than cis users.
  • Possibly as a result, trans people with heterodox experiences of being trans may be treated as anti-trans, because benefit of the doubt and psychological safety is absent.

    I don't have an informed opinion on whether any of those guesses are right - they're inferences drawn from this thread - but I think there are people who do have informed opinions - and the mods in particular might be uniquely placed to speak to what they're looking to fix for by making any changes to policy and/or documentation.

  • posted by running order squabble fest at 6:06 PM on April 12, 2023 [5 favorites]


    running order squabble fest Nope, I said that thing, loup said they themself wanted to include some version of it. Language could be tightened up as you suggest.
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 12:11 AM on April 13, 2023 [1 favorite]


    and the mods in particular might be uniquely placed to speak to what they're looking to fix for by making any changes to policy and/or documentation.

    If they are looking to do any such thing. I think it's kinda telling that the only mod or staff presence in this thread at all has been to delete stuff and tell people off. No commentary on anything else, no indication that they're even reading the thread.
    posted by Dysk at 12:12 AM on April 13, 2023 [7 favorites]


    because people feel that their views could inform a steering committee decision and thence a substantive change

    I took this as the plan. I think that theoretically this is what should be happening. Sadly we have not yet seen SC actively commenting or responding to the many policy debate and proposal threads we have run in the last few months. This is not on them as individuals, they have been distracted and busy with many things, but we need to try to nudge MetaTalk into the structure of effective policy making rather than a void to scream into.
    posted by Meatbomb at 3:23 AM on April 13, 2023 [1 favorite]


    SC's on a kind of hiatus. jessamyn posted a MetaTalk a couple of weeks ago about the status of the Steering Committee. Excerpts:

    "I heard from legal counsel on Sunday night who advised me to stop having volunteers (aka the Steering Committee) doing work for MetaFilter. They also felt that there would be some ways to restructure to make this kind of model work."

    "The SC is not going away, we just need to iron out the compliance part for them to be able to contribute in the long run. SC elections are on hold."

    "The Steering Committee will still maintain their communication networks and access but will not do work for the site."
    posted by Iris Gambol at 1:52 PM on April 13, 2023 [5 favorites]


    Dysk This thread is specifically to invite trans folks to share thoughts, concerns, feedback and suggestions and is meant to be community-led, not moderator-led, and I appreciate that loup isn't jumping in that much and giving trans members, and to a lesser extent allies, a chance to discuss these things freely.

    I've had good luck with the contact form when I want a response though. In fact, I'm waiting for clarification on a few other things, but part of the latest response I have from loup included the following, which maybe speaks to your concerns:

    everything you and I discuss here is totally on record and you can quote me or mention what I said on the grey. For anything policy related that has been discussed prior with previous staff members, I'd recommend you to check with me here first. Not because I want to control what is said or not, but because some of these policies might have changed or might be open for reevaluation (as Jessamyn mentioned in the thread here: https://metatalk.metafilter.com/26293/Policies-on-Trans-Issues-Current-and-Future#1416321). Overall, I think we can agree that leaning towards policies that benefit the members themselves is the common goal we have.
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:37 PM on April 13, 2023 [4 favorites]


    i remember in the wake of MollyRealized asking for my entire post history deleted and closed my original account. you can see references to my old handle littered throughout some of the threads linked here; but i recall by that point i'd more or less given up on the site's moderation team being effective in combating transphobia, given how lackluster their performance had been on race.

    i remain unconvinced about the efficacy of the bipoc board, but i'm not opposed to it; having one for t/gnc members seems to me more of the same, so while i'm not opposed to that either, i'm lukewarm to the idea.

    overall, the atmosphere's improved, certainly. but the trust hasn't come back yet, especially because it seems like there's a tolerance for some who skirt close to the fuzzy line that marks outright bigotry but manage to stay just on this side of it. which is why i tend not to post much these days.
    posted by i used to be someone else at 4:17 PM on April 13, 2023 [3 favorites]


    Chrysopedia, I'm not sure how you can both be happy that the moderators aren't getting involved, and at the same time bringing their comments here second hand. If the moderator input and reassurance is called for, let's have it from the horse's mouth. If it's not welcome our wanted, why being it here at all? Moderator presence in the thread entirely via second hand report is the worst of both worlds.
    posted by Dysk at 4:45 PM on April 13, 2023


    I guess I'd say I'm not looking really for their input and reassurance here, I'm looking for commitments to actual meaningful changes to policies and practices, updates to the FAQ and Microaggression pages, and other real changes, based on what we want to see. This is the best way I know how to get that.

    I definitely understand how frustrating getting stuff secondhand is. I'm not sure how better to thread the needle of having the community lead these discussions and getting the mods to provide information without stepping on that or needing to respond to everything. Just getting to a place where I got the info at the top of the thread took significant time and effort on my part. I know it's not perfect, but I don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

    If you have a better approach you want to take the lead on, please feel free to pursue it, but I can only do my best, not your best. I'll try to be open to constructive criticism, but I don't have any power to make the staff do things the way you want them to. If you want it from the horse's mouth, you might be best off engaging with them in your own way.
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 12:28 AM on April 14, 2023 [6 favorites]


    There is an inherent issue with getting information secondhand. I can't engage with the mods and provide first hand details from them any more than you can. This is on them.

    And I'm also looking for meaningful commitments to changes in policy and practices rather than running commentary, and we can't even get that from three mods it seems.
    posted by Dysk at 1:00 AM on April 14, 2023 [4 favorites]


    Like, I have no issue with you Chrysopedia. I have an issue with how the mods handle shit like this, how they handle metatalk as it relates to trans users and policies in general. If you're going to be inserting yourself between the mods and the rest of the users, you're going to feel some of that ire, much as that sucks, because we have nobody to respond to in this thread but you.
    posted by Dysk at 1:03 AM on April 14, 2023 [6 favorites]


    I've been following the thread silently and avoided to comment much because I think that before we decide or change anything from a mod perspective, we need to sit and listen. There are some things I want to address, though:

    Changing the username change policy is the first step we have taken. This will be spelled clearly in the FAQs as well. Both Jessamyn and I agree that the site needs to adapt to the member's needs.

    Do people really believe that MetaTalk discussions are where the decisions are made, and moderators just carry them out? I think this is a question we need to answer collectively. And yes, it will take time.

    Re: Policy around not linking to transphobic sources: I hear you, this is not easy to enforce 100% of the time and there are several caveats to that. We tend to evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis. We do this because a lot of the moderation work is very contextual. What I think needs to be spelled out in terms of policy is that we don't want to give a platform to authors and people who are openly transphobic in their discourse. As an example, it just happened last week that a FPP was being flagged for having a very transphobic link and we removed it but, honestly, we don't always know who is transphobic outside of the usual suspects so the flag-with-note helps us have better perspective.

    – Overall policy changes: The Community Guidelines, Microaggressions and Content Policy were created/updated roughly 3 years ago, and they are due for a revision that adjusts to the present. This time, I hope that we can get the community more involved on that.
    posted by loup (staff) at 5:46 PM on April 18, 2023 [6 favorites]


    Thank you for the update, loup. I appreciate wanting to sit and listen. I think in this case it would've been good to jump in earlier and let us know that, but I also know that the mods are often held to wildly conflicting standards, and that's a hard place to be in.

    I still don't think MetaTalk is the best way to do this, but we have limited tools available. The next time this comes around I'd be interested in participating in some conversation about "how do we do this".

    I think this was a good start. Thank you Chrysopoeia for opening the conversation again in a constructive way.
    posted by curious nu at 6:28 PM on April 18, 2023 [4 favorites]


    Re: Policy around not linking to transphobic sources: I hear you, this is not easy to enforce 100% of the time and there are several caveats to that. We tend to evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis. We do this because a lot of the moderation work is very contextual. What I think needs to be spelled out in terms of policy is that we don't want to give a platform to authors and people who are openly transphobic in their discourse.

    So, what I think I understand from this is that FPP links to sites that are primarily anti-trans as their raison d'etre should be flagged and deleted, even if the content being linked to is not itself anti-trans (e.g The LGB Alliance).

    Conventional news sites that publish a preponderance of anti-trans content when they publish about trans issues are still usable in general, but their anti-trans content should be flagged - so the NYT in general would be OK, but Pamela Paul's "In Defence of JK Rowling" would be deleted.

    And FPP links to writers who are understood to be anti-trans as essentially their whole schtick can be flagged and should be deleted, regardless of where they are writing - but since there are an awful lot of them it should be explained that this is why they are being flagged.

    Is that about right, loup?
    posted by running order squabble fest at 10:59 AM on April 19, 2023 [3 favorites]


    So, what I think I understand from this is that FPP links to sites that are primarily anti-trans as their raison d'etre should be flagged and deleted, even if the content being linked to is not itself anti-trans (e.g The LGB Alliance).

    Conventional news sites that publish a preponderance of anti-trans content when they publish about trans issues are still usable in general, but their anti-trans content should be flagged - so the NYT in general would be OK, but Pamela Paul's "In Defence of JK Rowling" would be deleted.

    And FPP links to writers who are understood to be anti-trans as essentially their whole schtick can be flagged and should be deleted, regardless of where they are writing - but since there are an awful lot of them it should be explained that this is why they are being flagged.


    Roughly speaking, yes! The whole internet is unfortunately full of transphobic discourse (both concealed and very explicit) so we will need to rely on the community to refine these policies and their application, but overall our goal is to make sure that trans members will feel safe here and, to do that, we need to listen constantly.
    posted by loup (staff) at 11:42 AM on April 19, 2023 [3 favorites]


    Thanks, that's useful. I guess there are some potential edge cases - e.g. I think Matt Walsh's 100 favourite flan recipes would probably get flagged pretty unambiguously, but I can see a situation where someone whose professional output is generically inoffensive, like an Oliver Burkeman type, puts out something FPP-friendly and unrelated to trans people, that gets put on the front page, and then that becomes a locus of debate.

    I guess that's the question about how uncanny-looking a tree has to be for its fruit to be considered universally inedible - so, not having an FPP on Pamela Paul's defence of JK Rowling (anti-trans content published in a media outlet known for overplatforming anti-trans stances, poor quality and likely to lead to poor quality of discussion) makes sense, but a piece about gerrymandering in the New York Times would be OK, even though once you follow that link you're one click away from Pamela Paul, in part because if one starts banning New York Times articles for adjacency to anti-trans content, it becomes hard to link to a lot of reputable current affairs content, because one also has to block FPPs linking to the Wall Street Journal, The London Times and so on.

    (Whereas if there's a decision as a general policy not to let through FPPs leading with content from The Free Press or Afterellen, even if it _is_ just "Matt Walsh's 100 favourite flan recipes", it feels like that doesn't punch as big a hole in the set of addressable FPP topics, because those are relatively small and relatively content-light publications, although it's still no doubt something that could be debated either way. As a practical rather than an ethical principle, if you want Andrew Sullivan's blog content you can subscribe to it.)

    A lot of this kind of thing has to be decided on a case by case basis, I am sure, and it's hard and potentially unproductive to make statements ahead of a testable case, but I agree that having a set of principles that one can point to the guides those case-by-case considerations is useful when navigating the "why have you deleted/have you not deleted this FPP" questions. I'm thinking aloud here more than saying "it should be thus", or even "is it thus?".

    I have I think another question, though, which relates to a current (non)FPP ... I think that by this logic building an FPP around e.g. "The Witch Trials of JK Rowling" would be difficult to do (anti-trans content published by a media outlet known for overplatforming anti-trans stances). However, there was - after several deleted tries - an FPP about the Harper's letter which was allowed through because it linked to the letter but positioned the FPP to be primarily about the response to it.

    I've been slightly surprised not to see an FPP about Contrapoints' recent Megan Phelps-Roper/JK Rowling-oriented video. Has that just not happened yet, or is it something where attempts to create an FPP are complicated by the kind of media and opinions one has to link to to create an FPP about it?
    posted by running order squabble fest at 7:34 AM on April 20, 2023


    A lot of this kind of thing has to be decided on a case by case basis, I am sure, and it's hard and potentially unproductive to make statements ahead of a testable case, but I agree that having a set of principles that one can point to the guides those case-by-case considerations is useful when navigating the "why have you deleted/have you not deleted this FPP" questions.

    Yes, this. And in particular, they let the conversation be about policy rather than feelings. "Matt Walsh's flan violates the guidelines—you might not know his history, so I'll explain why" is likely to be a pretty sane thread. (Though that's not guaranteed: as you point out, sometimes reasonable people disagree, and sometimes that gets heated.) It's when no guidelines exist, or when we don't trust mods to follow them, that we're forced to resort to "Y'all's continued acceptance of Matt Walsh's flan makes me afraid for my safety on this site," and that's a thread that's just way less likely to go well.
    posted by nebulawindphone at 8:38 AM on April 20, 2023


    ...also, I can't help but reflect that Matt Walsh's flan is the sort of phrase that, were it not deeply objectionable, would make a great Mefi username.
    posted by nebulawindphone at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2023 [2 favorites]


    is it something where attempts to create an FPP are complicated by the kind of media and opinions one has to link to to create an FPP about it?

    Well, and probably there's the factor of where you think the conversation would go if you posted it. If it's just another "look, horrible people doing horrible things!" then there's not much to talk about and everyone feels bad? And the amount of...like...oversight that could take, would be terrible. Especially if it turned into one of those threads where everybody's got to one-up everyone else on how mad they are. (And I guess, just historically, there has been kind of a divide here on Contrapoints, and that gets uncomfortable in a thread as well. But maybe that's just me!)
    posted by mittens at 3:52 PM on April 20, 2023 [2 favorites]


    I think this is the last day this will be open, and I wanted to express my thanks for everyone who participated.
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 9:51 AM on May 1, 2023 [9 favorites]


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