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Jeremy Abbott
Jeremy Abbott

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Happy Pride: Your IDE is Already Political

June is LGBT Pride month. As acceptance of LGBT people has slowly improved, businesses have capitalized on this acceptance by giving their products pride themes. As a .NET developer (F# for life!), I was cautiously excited when I saw this:

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Excited because I use VS Code everyday. Excited because I really enjoy working with Microsoft tech like .NET Core, F# and Azure. Excited because I have friends/acquaintances that I admire that work at Microsoft. Excited because in the rare moments when I don't feel like an imposter I tell myself that someday I'll be smart/good/qualified enough to work there.

If you follow the VS Code retweet to the Microsoft blog post you'll find this (emphasis mine):

Actions speak louder than words!
We’re donating $100,000 to the following nonprofits in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States to celebrate and support their work on LGBTQI+ equity:
Established in 1985, ACON is Australia’s largest health promotion organization specializing in HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTQ health.
Egale works to improve the lives of LGBTQI2S people in Canada and to enhance the global response to LGBTQI2S issues. They do this by informing public policy, inspiring cultural change, and promoting human rights and inclusion.
Mermaids is the only U.K.-wide charity working to support transgender or gender non-conforming children, young people, and their families. Their goal is to create a world where gender-diverse children and young people can be themselves and thrive. Mermaids promotes education and awareness, and offers information, support, friendship and shared experiences to those in need.
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning young people under 25.

The blog post also talks about the Microsoft Store awarding a grant to Destination Tomorrow.

These are all exceptionally important organization, and I'm really grateful that they're supporting them. Thank you Microsoft.

Don't Read The Replies...

The replies to VS Code's Twitter avi and retweet were pretty divided when I checked. On the negative side were a lot of "uninstall" replies, or "I'm switching to Atom." That last one is funny because Atom came out of GitHub, which is owned by Microsoft.

One reply caught my attention though. "Keep politics out of my IDE."

Gif Audrey Hepburn smoking and lowering her glasses in surprise

Earning a living is a political act. Being "out" at work is a political act. Going to the doctor is a political act. Unfortunately healthcare in the U.S. is tied to employment in most cases, but I digress. If you're able to say "keep politics out of x" you are privileged. Politics affect the life of LGBT people everyday.

When you say "keep politics of out my IDE" you are saying "I work with LGBT people who face discrimination on a regular basis and I don't care, or I'm actively doing it." FULL. STOP. LGBT people contribute to the languages you like, the IDEs you use, literally the science that makes your job possible.

There are no federal protections to prevent LGBT people from being fired, being denied healthcare, being evicted from their home, being denied access to public accommodations, for simply existing. The Equality Act passed by the United States House of representatives would make discriminating on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. It's currently being blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican.

Many of the IDEs that we all use are developed and/or sponsored by companies that donate their own and/or their employees money to politicians through Political Action Committees (PACs).


Sometimes businesses create pride campaigns in good faith: they take the proceeds and donate them to non-profits that advocate for LGBT equality as Microsoft has done this year. It's great that Microsoft recognizes that their (in their own words) "actions speak louder than words," but...


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Microsoft is not unique in this, or even necessarily the worst offender. I guess because I really like Microsoft, I hope that they'd do better than this. I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

As is pointed out in Pinboard's thread, it's not "corporate" money. Okay... but Microsoft set up the program so that employees could contribute, and the money came from that program.

Detractors will point out that I contribute to this in some way too, and they're not wrong: I have an Office 365 subscription, I've paid out of pocket for Azure things that didn't belong on my employer paid MSDN account, I earn my living working with Microsoft technologies, and that's probably not going to change any time soon.

The reality of course is that you'd be hard pressed to find a cloud provider or "productivity suite" that isn't culpable in some way. Office is ubiquitous in business, education, healthcare (Google Docs is an option if you don't mind the constant spying). Try telling my accountant boyfriend that he and his team have to stop using Excel.

The Pinboard thread is especially worth paying attention to because our trans friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues are especially under attack right now by the Trump administration. You can find an exhaustive 861 item list of the anti-LGBT actions taken by the Trump administration here. Since Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and election violence towards people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, LGBT people, especially black trans people, has increased significantly. You should also consider following Parker Molloy on Twitter who tweeted that link from Glaad:

I'm not sure if it's worth noting, but Apple does not have a PAC. That doesn't mean Apple isn't problematic in other ways, but that's a story for another time.

How does this get fixed? Getting money out of politics would help. Given where we're at though just stop donating to bigoted candidates/policies. It's easy. I've never donated to one. Microsoft has very smart employees they can figure this out. If you must have a PAC, have it be managed by the underrepresented groups harmed by bigoted public policy.

Closing Thoughts

Shout out to the folks that put in the work on Microsoft's pride campaign. I'm sure you worked hard on it, and didn't make the decisions that have lead to these political contributions. Shout out to Microsoft for donating $100k (just this year) to such worthwhile non-profits. Now please stop donating money to politicians that want to harm LGBT people. How do you think you're own LGBT employees feel knowing that their employer is giving money to people that want to deny them basic human rights?

Finally, I really do want my VS Code icon to be rainbow colored all the time pretty please. But if I can't have that at least stop donating to bigoted politicians.

Top comments (2)

powerc9000 profile image
Clay Murray

Like they say there's no ethical consumption under capitalism

cartermp profile image
Phillip Carter

Thanks Jeremy, this was a wonderful read.