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Cover image for An Organizer's Guide to Pronoun Buttons

An Organizer's Guide to Pronoun Buttons

sublimemarch profile image Fen Slattery ・9 min read

As a transgender person who attends and organizes tech meetups and conferences, I spend a lot of time answering questions about how to be more inclusive of trans and nonbinary folks. In this... not-so-short guide I've answered almost all of the questions I get about how to use pronoun buttons or stickers at tech events. Hopefully this will be helpful to you, whether you're a trans person looking for a resource to point others to, or a cis person looking to be a better ally!

What’s a pronoun button?

A pronoun button is a small pinback button (or sticker) worn by a person to indicate what their personal pronoun is. These are worn by attendees along with their name tag at events, such as conferences and meetups. Many trans and nonbinary (enby) folks also wear pronoun buttons as part of our day-to-day life.

Okay, but why have them at events?

Simple, it helps us trans and non binary people to be safe. If everyone wears them, it helps remind attendees that pronouns shouldn’t be assumed, and that we should respect the pronouns other people use. It’s not right or good to assume someone’s pronouns, as getting them wrong can cause physical and social dysphoria. In addition, when trans and enby folks are pressured to disclose our status (as can happen when we are misgendered), it opens us up to potential emotional, mental, and physical harm.

When everyone at an event has a pronoun button, no one needs to assume anyone else’s pronouns, and that’s a good thing.

Also, supplying pronoun buttons makes it very clear that trans inclusion is important to your conference and that people will be supported when we need to be gendered correctly. It also makes it very clear to attendees that anti-transgender bigotry won’t be tolerated.

So I just provide some buttons that have some pronouns and I’m good, right?

Definitely not. You’re going to have to do some educational work with your attendees and other folks running the event. Luckily, I’m here to help you out!

Note: they’re not “preferred pronouns,” they’re just pronouns.

My pronouns aren’t a preference, they’re my pronouns. They’re mandatory. Don’t refer to pronouns as “preferred” at any point during your event, otherwise people are likely to get the idea that it’s optional to respect the pronouns of other people

Why not just print pronouns on badges?

It’s totally appropriate to ask attendees for pronouns when they register, but don’t print them on their name tags or badges ahead of time. Instead, provide stickers or pinback buttons or something that they can apply themselves the day of the event. This helps a bunch of different people, including:

  • Genderfluid folks, who might use different pronouns at different times. They can’t necessarily know which pronouns they’ll use at the day of the event, and they might change the ones they use throughout the day.
  • People whose pronouns change between registration and the event. For example, someone who publicly comes out as trans after registering might now have a different name and use different pronouns. (Be sure to let people change the name on their badge the day-of!)
  • Folks who aren’t sure if they’ll feel safe, and closeted folks. I’ve definitely gone to events where I wasn’t sure if it was safe to be openly nonbinary, and then later elected to grab a “they/them” button after I felt more comfortable.

How do I get buttons?

There are lots of sites online where you can get custom buttons made, and I especially recommend you check out companies run by trans people for this! You can also order sets of pronoun buttons online, instead of having a design custom-made for your event.

Other options include buying a button maker (they’re about $130 online) and making a bunch of buttons yourself. I’ve done this before for an event, and it saved money and was lots of fun! Plus, now we own a button maker!

Stickers are a cheaper option than buttons, although they can’t be reused. They’re a lot easier to transport, though!

The least expensive option of all is just having a marker available for attendees to write their pronouns on their nametags. For low-budget events, this is a perfectly fine solution, although you’ll have to spend a little more time explaining things to your attendees at check-in.

What pronoun options should I need?

If you ask people for their pronouns on their event registration forms, just get buttons with every pronoun that was provided, plus some other common ones. Don’t forget, only ask for pronouns ahead of time if you actually need them for anything, and be sure to explain what you’re using them for.

If you don’t have any data on the pronouns your attendees use, you can estimate which buttons to get based on your expected audience and the common pronouns they use.

For example, for an event aimed at programmers (a field with way more men than other genders), I might get about 45% he/him, 40% she/her, 10% they/them, and 5% with blanks. For an event aimed at women and non binary people in tech, I might get 70% she/her, 20% they/them, and 10% blanks.

An event specifically aimed at transgender and nonbinary people will have very different needs, though! Then I’d suggest getting a good mix of she/her, he/him, they/them, several neopronouns, and blanks.

Wait, what’s a neopronoun?

Neopronouns are pronouns that aren’t they/them, she/her, or he/him. Lots of folks use them! Some neopronouns are:

  • ze/hir
  • xe/xir
  • fae/faer
  • ey/em

And there are lots more! Just as we can’t assume the pronouns someone uses, we also can’t assume that they use more common pronouns, so we need to either have neopronoun buttons available or have plenty of blank buttons for people to fill in. In fact, always have blank buttons in case of cool neopronouns you didn’t think of, or if you run out of other buttons you need.

How do I give out the buttons?

My recommendation is to just have the buttons out on a table at check-in, with both a sign explaining what they’re for, as well as having staff nearby to explain them.

Make sure the person staffing this area is well-informed about pronouns and the use of the buttons at your event (heck, show them this guide!). They should be patient and able to explain pronoun buttons again and again. They should be able to politely and firmly address unkind or accidentally rude questions, keeping your code of conduct in mind.

What do I put on the sign explaining buttons?

Your sign by the buttons should be simple, and instructing people to take a pronoun button for themselves. Use encouraging, inclusive language and invite attendees to ask an organizer for more information.

An example:

Please grab a pronoun button for your name badge!
These let us all know how to address one another,
and help everyone feel more comfortable.
When you meet someone, look for their pronoun button!
Any questions? We’re happy to help, see an organizer!

Who should be the staffer explaining pronoun buttons?

It’s super important to not make a transgender or non binary person be the one staffing this table! It shouldn’t be our job to do this educational work, especially at an event when a staffer will be explaining things over and over. Find a cis ally who can do this work, who trans and enby people trust. (Of course, if a trans of enby person wants to be the one staffing the pronoun button table, let them!)

What if someone won’t take a button?

That’s okay! As I mentioned before, some folks might not be sure if they feel safe taking their pronoun yet. There are also people who prefer not to have pronouns used for them, and instead prefer their name just be used instead.

Encourage people to take a button, but don’t pressure them or make it mandatory.

What if people want more than one button?

Always let people take more than one button! This accommodates genderfluid folks, whose pronouns can change, and people who don’t want to be out 100% of the time. As long as no one is taking armfuls of buttons, it’s fine! (And if someone is taking armfuls, chat with them about how you can help them get pronoun buttons for their event!)

How do I make sure my attendees understand pronouns?

There’s some educational work you’ll need to do, and you need to do it in a way that’s safe and not harmful to your trans and non binary attendees.

Before you event even begins, share information about potential attendees about the pronoun buttons you’ll have, similarly to how you’d share other inclusion or accessibility information. For example, a simple line on your website like, “Pronoun buttons for all attendees” will do the trick. In your code of conduct, make sure to include that you expect attendees to do their best to respect everyone, including by being attentive to pronoun buttons and using pronouns correctly.

At the beginning of your event, during other announcement you’d make to attendees, talk about the pronoun buttons. You should remind people that you code of conduct prohibits harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender identity and presentation.

Then, actually enforce your code of conduct!

What do I say during event announcements?

Here’s an example:

As you might have noticed at registration, we have pronoun buttons available for everyone! If you haven’t grabbed one yet, we encourage you to do so after our opening talk.

Look at pronoun buttons when meeting someone new, and ask for their pronouns if they aren’t wearing a button. Then, use those pronouns when talking about them! Understand that not everyone is comfortable sharing, and you should default to just using their name or a neutral pronoun (like they/them) in place of a pronoun if you don’t know their pronouns.

We also encourage you to introduce yourself using your pronouns, like, “Hi, my name is Fen, my pronouns are they/them!”

What if an attendee isn’t using pronouns correctly?

If you find that someone is having a hard time understanding how to use pronouns correctly, take them aside and answer their questions. Understand that using different pronouns and asking for them is difficult for someone people to do at first, including neurodivergent folks. Help people learn to just simply apologize, use the correct pronoun, and move on if they mess up someone’s pronouns.

Making accidental mistakes with pronouns is okay, just don’t let people do it repeatedly. Think of it like accidentally stepping on someone’s toes. If you do it once, it’s no problem, you just apologize and move on. However, if an attendee is stepping on the toes of everyone they meet, you need to step in.

Conversely, remember that many trans and nonbinary people have our metaphorical toes stepped on everyday. Sure, someone misgendering us once isn't a big deal, but when are toes are stepped on constantly, it hurts even more.

What if an attendee isn’t using pronouns correctly, and not just because they’re having a hard time?

If they’re intentionally disregarding pronouns or being disrespectful, consult your code of conduct and take action to make your event safer. I’d personally consider it similar to harassment.

What if a lot of people are messing up pronouns?

Take them aside and deal with it privately, no matter what. Don’t address the entire group, assuming that everyone is having a hard time using pronouns correctly.

Don’t make a post-break announcement about how you’re seeing lots of people disregard buttons. And absolutely don’t have the entire room practice misgendering someone, and then practice apologizing for it as a way to deal with it.

Yes, this happened at a conference I was at once. Yes, I walked out. This makes your trans and nonbinary attendees feel incredibly othered and unsafe. It makes it seem like you assume your audience is all cisgender, privileged folks, which isn’t true. This makes trans and enby people feel like we don’t exist, or we’re some weird “other” tiny group that doesn’t matter.

If you absolutely have to make some sort of public statement about it, keep it similar to your opening announcement about looking at pronoun buttons. Remember that you likely have trans attendees, whether you know it or not.

Who should be doing this work of correcting people and helping attendees who are having a hard time understanding pronouns?

Don’t require trans and non binary people to be a part of this educational work about pronouns and pronoun buttons at your event. Don’t pressure us to do this work; we have to do it all the time. Cis organizers should handle the bulk of the work, if possible.

How do I know if I’m doing this correctly?

If you want to know how you’re doing, ask a trans or enby organizer or attendee if they’re comfortable talking with you about their experience. If they say yes, then ask for feedback.

Heck, you ideally should be paying someone (a trans or nonbinary person) to check over your plans for the event to ensure it’s actually inclusive of trans and enby people.

So, remember:

  • Have pronoun buttons or stickers available
  • Educate your attendees about using pronouns
  • Enforce your code of conduct
  • Pay a trans or nonbinary person to help you make sure you’re doing this right!

Looking for a trans person to educate you or your organization further?

Contact me at fenslattery.com! This guide is also available as a print-ready zine, and it's pay-what-you-want. (Cisgender folks, if you learned something, please buy a copy or throw me some $$$ on ko.fi!) Looking for more basic info about pronouns? Check out my pronouns 101 zine!

Posted on Oct 25 '18 by:

sublimemarch profile

Fen Slattery

@sublimemarch

Accessibility lead and front end engineer. they/them

Discussion

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Highlight of the article:

Pay a trans or nonbinary person to help you make sure you’re doing this right!

 

As someone who organizes a lot of events, this is really helpful and in-depth. Definitely bookmarking for later use, thank you so much!

 

Great article! I just attended DjangoCon where we were allowed to choose our pronoun buttons. Here's a friend's tweet with photos of our pronoun buttons (including a blank option) and lanyards (color-coded for photographing preferences):

twitter.com/_sagesharp_/status/105...

Loved how thoughtful this conference was in their planning.

 

Ooh. Color coded photo lanyards are also A+

 

That's awesome! I've seen events use buttons for photo permissions, but those are way harder to notice from across the room. This is a great solution!

 

We had photo permission coloured lanyards at Scotland CSS earlier this year and it was my first time seeing them. I'd never considered it before and I guess I assumed that we'd all have our photos taken whether we liked it or not (hey, my first conference). I thought it was cool.

 

This guide is FANTASTIC -- thoughtful, thorough, and accessible! Thank you so much for putting this together. Will be sharing with friends who organize events <3

 

Thank you so much for writing this! As a trans masculine person, I get asked about this sort of stuff all the time and having a resource to point people at rather than having to re-explain the hows and whys of pronoun buttons is amazing! The example copy you provide is particularly useful. Thank you for taking the time and energy to do so!

 

Awesome, I'm so happy it's a helpful resource! I kept wanting something to point folks to when I get these questions, but I couldn't find anything. Ta da!

 

Thank you so much for writing this! We need more go-to guides so marginalized populations don't have to justify their existence over and over again. This is important work.

 
 

This is a really helpful guide for conference and meetup organizers who want to be more inclusive but might not be confident about the best way to do so. Thanks for writing it!

 

A lot of great stuff here. Thank you for posting this. :)

 
 

To be honest, do what you want and wear buttons and stuff, but don't expect others to be interested in it, pay attention to it, or even pay for it.

 

We removed your other comment further down in this thread. Please take some time to review our code of conduct. Even if you have a differing opinion, you should remain respectful and constructive. If you have any questions, please email yo@dev.to.

 

I mean, if you’re an event organizer and you want to run an event that specifically disregards a portion of your attendees, that’s your prerogative. It’s a shitty thing to do, and I wouldn’t recommend it, but no one is stopping you. This guide is for people who care about running quality events that make a space for all its attendees so that everyone can focus on the important stuff: good code, excellent presentations, and networking. If that doesn’t describe you, cool. Good to know.

 
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How does it distract from anything? The article itself says wearing buttons are optional; if you don't want to wear one, don't, but making them available for people that want them just helps those people. How does it take any time for you to look at a table of buttons, think "no thanks," and move on with your life?

@thejessleigh and @veraticus , thank you both for remaining civil and constructive in your responses throughout this thread. We really appreciate your participation and proactiveness in helping us maintain an inclusive and respectful community.

Names and personal connections at conferences and events are important. Are nametags and badges distracting? Are stickers and swag distracting?

If anything, it'd be super distracting to be at an event and constantly be misgendered or othered. Imagine how distracting it'd be to be at an event where people get your name wrong over and over again. Or imagine if you signed up to go to an event and the organizers didn't care enough to figure out if you had a dietary restriction -- it'd be pretty distracting to find out there's nothing you're able to eat for lunch and then scramble or go hungry for the event. Making accommodations for the people you're hosting is a key part of planning an event where people CAN focus on the subject matter at hand.

Also, if you don't care about what a person's pronouns are, why the resistance to using them?

Thank you so much for this comment! As a trans person and a person with dietary restrictions that are hard to accommodate, I can totally confirm that it's hella distracting to deal with at events when organizers don't put in a little effort.

 

No one is requiring you to be respectful of others. It's just a kind thing to do. If you don't want to be respectful no one is forcing you, but I think that says more about you than anyone else.

 
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Your comments have been removed for violating our code of conduct and for showing a lack of respect toward the author and the community.

Please read our code of conduct. You can send us also an email to yo@dev.to.

 

Why add a comment like this when you could just do nothing instead?

 
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Your comments have been removed for violating our code of conduct and for showing a lack of respect toward the author and the community.

Please read our code of conduct. You can send us also an email to yo@dev.to.

 
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I don't believe gender is a social construct

You're just wrong here; a huge component of gender is social. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_role

which means as a man I refer to women with "she" not because she identifies as a woman but because from my point of view she is a potential mate

English may not be your first language but this construction is really gross. Pronouns are indications of a person's gender, not their mating potential. If someone tells you what their gender is, then afterwards you might have a good guess as to what their pronouns are. Or if you're feeling confused about it, you should ask them.

Which means if I don't use the pronoun you chose you'd like to be refered by I'm not disrespectful towards you

It's not really your opinion that matters here, right? The people you're talking to find it disrespectful to use the wrong pronouns, so you can't claim that it's not actually disrespectful. It is. You can say you don't intend disrespect, but the people you're referring to will still feel disrespected. The only way to cure that is to listen to them and not be disrespectful.

You either bend the knee or you're an enemy to the cause (which think about it for a second, would be considered very rude on any other subject)

Like using the names people ask you to call them by? Or respecting their religion which you may not agree with? Or by not being racist towards them if they're of a different race to you?

You should be tolerant of the differences of those around you. You're not the one being oppressed by someone asking you to respect those differences.

I don't believe that the movement currently showing and pushing for the use of these pronouns is actually anyhow representative of the actual trangender community

There are literal transgender people represented right here telling you to use their pronouns properly. On your side, there are no transgender people. So your belief is (once again) incorrect.

To put it more clearly: if you misgender someone, you are being a jerk and should apologize to that person and use the correct pronouns from then on. This should happen independently of whatever you imagine their genitals or gender identity to be -- because frankly you don't know! All you have is their word for it, and you should believe them.

My reply is probably spitting in the wind because your comment is almost certain to be moderated out of existence, but I hope that you can take the time to reflect on why your opinions are offensive to trans people and maybe begin a journey that gets you out of the place you're at.

 
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My mative[sic] language is french

If this is true, how can you possibly have any objection to arbitrary genders for nouns? Unless you truly believe the moon is female, then you use pronouns that agree with the noun without thinking of "mating" in your own native tongue. Same deal with pronouns for people, what's so difficult about that?

The topic is vastly discussed and wikipedia helps nothing but hurting your credibility.

The idea of gender as socially informed is accepted by pretty much every sociologist, psychologist, and gender theorist in existence (as that Wikipedia page you didn't bother reading summarizes extremely well). You say the topic is "vastly discussed" but you seem uninformed about the expert consensus -- also your objections don't track with anything anyone knowledgeable in this field says, so my guess is you actually don't know anything about this and you're just asserting your position. I'd be happy for citations to prove me wrong.

I was not referring to pronouns in broad usage but pronouns used to refer to other people in a social context, which is the actual topic here.

There is no difference. The pronoun assigned to a noun is arbitrary and can be irregular; so too people. The pronoun you use on a noun could be incorrect because you've misidentified its gender in grammatically gendered languages; so too people. If you treat the two categories as exactly equivalent (which they are) you'll see why your position is absurd.

and it should be fine for you as long as you know I am not disrespectful but only have different beliefs.

This is pretty laughable. You can, of course, say whatever you want, but you can't control other people's reactions to what you say. If you say something offensive and then explain it, no one is beholden to forgive you or not feel offended. And if they don't forgive you, you're still the one at fault. You should strive not to be disrespectful, instead of blaming the people you've hurt for being hurt by you.

Nothing about being a jerk or whatever, simply two adults agreeing to disagree.

No. In this case, a person is telling you the correct form of address for them and you're telling them you don't care. That's rude, and would make you a jerk.

You should not compare names with pronouns, name have uniqueness, which means that name does not represent anything except identity.

This is also absurd. Names are not unique to individuals, clearly; they're not even inherently gendered. (For example, "Pat" could be "Patrick" or "Patricia" so says nothing about the gender of the person the name describes. You would need a pronoun for that.) In your mother tongue, pronouns are required to refer to a noun properly -- and in both French and English, nouns can be entirely replaced by pronouns but still refer to the same "identity."

So no, names and pronouns are not unique. Both are necessary. They do not necessarily have anything to do with the gender of the thing to which they're referring, and have no standard for doing so. Pronouns aren't special, they're just attachments and replacements for nouns.

me not believing that activists are representants of the invisible mass is actually quite decent for an hypothesis.

Your hypothesis, again, is wrong. Transgender people, as this article and the many comments on it demonstrates, want people to use the proper pronouns for them. If you think otherwise, feel free to find some trans people and ask them how they would react if you refer to them by the incorrect pronoun. The results will clearly surprise you!

that I have more opportunities or that I oppress you.

The rest of your comment is honestly just trying to cry about how you're the real victim here. Let me reframe the conversation for you:

Person whose gender you don't know: "Please use these pronouns when addressing me."
You: "No, I'll call you whatever I like."

Do you not see how that makes you a jerk?

you're overly spitting propaganda without any concern of moderation

What propaganda? Also, my comments have been substantially in line with the Code of Conduct for this site. Can you say the same?

 
Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

My pronouns aren’t a preference, they’re my pronouns. They’re mandatory. Don’t refer to pronouns as “preferred” at any point during your event, otherwise people are likely to get the idea that it’s optional to respect the pronouns of other people

You're talking about mandatory speech. This denies human right for free thought. This is wrong.

I think it's reasonable that it's not up to you to decide how other people gonna formulate their thoughts.

 

You can think whatever you like, I'm not sure how this denies your "freedom of thought" in the slightest. You can also say whatever you like too! But if someone asks you to use certain pronouns when referring to them, using the wrong pronoun is akin to intentionally saying someone's name wrong: it's flagrantly, absurdly rude.

If you're flagrantly, absurdly rude, then other people might ask you to be more polite ("please use the correct pronouns"), or they might just ask you to leave ("you're still not getting this right and you don't seem to be trying, so we don't want you here anymore"). And they're free to do that too.

 

if someone asks you to use certain pronouns when referring to them, using the wrong pronoun is akin to intentionally saying someone's name wrong: it's flagrantly, absurdly rude

I don't reject the idea of using special pronouns for a person. That may happen if I feel empathy and compassion towards that person; if I voluntarily agreed to use pronoun he wants me to. But I reserve my right to refuse. It's up to me to decide what words I shall put in my mouth.

Analogy to the names is not entirely correct. Names do belong to individuals. Pronouns do not belong to anyone, they are shared among all speakers. They are descriptions of broad categories that people have developed over many centuries.

So it's not about asking to use proper name. It's about asking to distort the meaning of the categories in your head. And that's a very rude thing to ask.

it's flagrantly, absurdly rude

Don't you agree that demanding a person to distort the meaning of his own words is even more rude?

But I reserve my right to refuse.

This is the hill you're choosing to die on, but weirdly no one is fighting you for it. It is 100% your prerogative to say whatever you want, no one is arguing that. It is similarly the right of the people listening to you to decide that you don't deserve to be heard at their events.

Pronouns do not belong to anyone, they are shared among all speakers. They are descriptions of broad categories that people developed over many centuries.

This is sort of ironic coming from a Russian (assuming your flair is correct), where nouns have grammatical gender. Remembering and using the proper pronouns for a person is the same as doing so for any other noun; some nouns have different genders than you might expect, some people also have different genders than you might expect. You just remember the pronoun with the noun. People in grammatically gendered languages way more complicated than Russian and English manage this miracle every day without somehow losing their grip on those "broad categories that people developed over many centuries."

Don't you agree that demanding a person to distort meaning of his own words is even more rude?

This is fairly absurd. I don't care what mental gymnastics you have to undergo in order to not be rude; if it takes a thousand mile journey of self-discovery, or if you just wake up feeling good, the end result is the same to the people you're talking to. Your mental state is not their responsibility, only your actions and words are. If you're incapable of reconciling your mental state with not being a jerk to others, that is your fault, not theirs.

If you just can't manage this, then they are within their rights, again, to throw you out. And if they do, you're really not the victim here.

Names and pronouns are the same b/c they're both part of how we identify people, and how people identify themselves. The very purpose of pronouns is to be a substitute for a name when referring to people you're talking about!

The purpose of language is communicate information. Using the wrong pronoun communicates the wrong information to others about the individual you're referring to. You're telling others something false about the person - and spreading that false information can actively cause harm.

So yeah, I'd say it's way more rude to purposefully and intentionally be mean to someone than it is to ask someone to use accurate and respectful language.

Here's another analogy:

Someone in a crowded car going "it's rude to make me distort my body to avoid stepping on your toes!" and then intentionally stomping on everyone's feet is way more rude than asking someone else asking people on a crowded train to be careful as they walk so they don't hurt anyone by stomping on their toes. It's not impeding on that person's ability to be in the car by asking them to be courteous to the people they share that space with - it's how everyone can ride the train free from the pain of squished toes.

2Josh

I don't care what mental gymnastics you have to undergo in order to not be rude
not being a jerk to others

You assume that refusing to obey to use preferred pronoun is a bad thing to do. I don't think that's true, that's not something that people commonly agreed on. It's controversial.

If your assumption was commonly accepted, then my comments wouldn't receive any upvotes. But that's not the case. So "not using perferred pronouns is rude" statement is not well established yet. It's not accepted as universal truth yet.

People in grammatically gendered languages way more complicated than Russian and English manage this miracle every day without somehow losing their grip on those "broad categories that people developed over many centuries."

I think you haven't fully addressed the problem with meaning distortion. I believe it's a serious one.

Imagine that you obliged by authority to refer to people the way they prefer to identify. To assign meaning to the things that you perceive.

You see a person and perceive her as a woman, but forced to call her a 'male'.
You perceive blue color, but forced to call it 'red'.
You perceive something as injustice, but forced to call it 'justice'.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

This leads pretty quickly to the well know state of doublethink, as old socialist George Orwell has well described. He also noted that:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

If you are not allowed to assign meaning to things the way you perceive them, then you lose independence as a thinker. You becoming a slave. Adopting such policies of compelled speech will undermine very idea of free society, turn people into slaves. This is more dangerous that hurting someone's feelings.

Don't you agree that keeping society from slavery is more important than avoiding to hurt someone's feelings?

It's controversial.

Being a jerk to someone is not particularly controversial, though you can cloak it in whatever ideological clothes you like. I also don't care how many hearts you get online: it might surprise you to know there are many jerks on the Internet.

Don't you agree that keeping society from slavery is more important than avoiding to hurt someone's feelings?

Honestly the rest of your argument is just slippery slope nonsense. No one is asking you to redefine your concept of anything. No one's asking you to call all men women, or freedom peace, or anything like that, and no one is asking you to think it either. A few, select people might one day ask you to use a different pronoun for them than the one you'd expect. So let's calm down with prophesying an Orwellian future, yes?

In fact, I'm willing to bet money you've already had your thoughts "enslaved" this way. I'm sure you've misgendered someone in the past. Maybe you saw a man walking down the street, said "excuse me, sir" and then realized it was a woman. Oops! Did you stop them and launch into a long-winded argument about how them not resembling the gender you expected meant they were enslaving you? Or did you just apologize like any sane person would and move on with your life?

Now, think of that woman. Maybe she gets misgendered all the time -- she just doesn't look like people think women look like. It makes her tired and unhappy, so she puts on a button so people know how to properly address her without a tiresome conversation. Would that also test the limits of doublethink? Or are you starting to understand what's going on here?

p.s. Orwell was writing about totalitarian governments and their absolute power to reshape the lives of individuals, not powerless minority groups politely asking individuals for respect. Context is important!

@veraticus

Being a jerk to someone is not particularly controversial, though you can cloak it in whatever ideological clothes you like.

Of course being jerk is not controversial.

Calling person a jerk because he refuses to obey to compelled speech demands -- that's what I stated as controversial. I don't think it's true, and I believe many people would support my position.

Okay, you seem to disagree with me on this one.

A few, select people might one day ask you to use a different pronoun for them than the one you'd expect.

I'm totally fine with that, as long as I have freedom to say no.

Did you stop them and launch into a long-winded argument about how them not resembling the gender you expected meant they were enslaving you? Or did you just apologize like any sane person would and move on with your life?

As I told earlier, I'm totally fine with using pronoun that person prefers me to use, as long as I do it voluntarily.

Compelled speech is the issue, not the pronouns.

It makes her tired and unhappy, so she puts on a button so people know how to properly address her without a tiresome conversation. Would that also test the limits of doublethink? Or are you starting to understand what's going on here?

As I told earlier, I'm totally fine with that.

Compelled speech is the issue, not the pronouns.

not powerless minority groups politely asking individuals for respect. Context is important!

Well, if this @thepracticaldev community adopts such policies of compelled speech, then me and people that upvoted me might be excluded. I wouldn't call it powerless.

Compelled speech is the issue, not the pronouns.

There is no difference. No one is asking you to subjugate your thoughts or speech, they're asking you to use the right pronouns for them, when you might not know said correct pronouns. If that requires "mental slavery" on your part, the problem is you, not the ask.

This is why I said earlier that your mental state about this is irrelevant; all that matters is getting the pronouns right. If that requires some crazy redefinition of the categories of male and female, or the very concept of pronouns themselves, that's on you. I would hope that a few people not visually conforming to the gender you expect wouldn't require crazy mental gymnastics.

You even agree that it is possible and you're fine with it. I'm telling you the ideal you're fighting for is not related to this fight. I hope you recognize that now.

And, just to reiterate: obviously you're not required to get the pronouns right. But then you'll be removed from the communities where getting them right is important. This is not an abridgment of your rights, it is an exercise of the rights of the community.

Well, if this @thepracticaldev community adopts such policies of compelled speech, then me and people that upvoted me might be excluded.

What policies are you referring to here? As far as I'm aware, no one in these comments or the original article has suggested anything even remotely like new policies or policy changes.

But, even if they had, I feel I must point out to you that @thepracticaldev community is not a totalitarian government. They cannot force you to change the way you think on threat of pain or death. If they adopt policies you don't like, you may leave (or be forced to leave), and suffer only a little unhappiness. Don't cheapen Orwell's very real warnings about excessive government authority by applying them to a minority group and a voluntary online community.

I'm telling you the ideal you're fighting for is not related to this fight. I hope you recognize that now.

What policies are you referring to here?

Actually I was referring to following quote in the article:

My pronouns aren’t a preference, they’re my pronouns. They’re mandatory. Don’t refer to pronouns as “preferred” at any point during your event, otherwise people are likely to get the idea that it’s optional to respect the pronouns of other people

These things can't be mandatory, only voluntarily.

Don't cheapen Orwell's very real warnings about excessive government authority by applying them to a minority group and a voluntary online community.

This policy of compelled speech is already adopted in Canada. For now it seem to cover only pronouns, but that's how it starts.

Orwellian nightmare is not that unrelated as you may think.

I think we had thoughtful and constructive discussion. Thank you, @veraticus .

These things can't be mandatory, only voluntarily.

The correct reading of that sentence is: "don't use the word 'preferred' when discussing my pronouns, because they're mandatory to address me properly." I think you might have misread it -- or, at least, I'm entirely uncertain how you've spun the idea that proper pronoun use == slavery from what @sublimemarch said there.

This policy of compelled speech is already adopted in Canada. For now it seem to cover only pronouns, but that's how it starts.

I'd be happy to have a discussion about Canada's legislation of intentional pronoun misuse as discrimination! Of course, that discussion is mega off-topic for this comment thread and is also entirely unrelated to the article here, because again, this is discussing not government laws or even this community's policies, but how to make attendees at engineering events feel comfortable. So let's keep our reactions confined to that and try to avoid hyperbole and slippery slope.

Vladimir stopped engaging with me after I invoked the Paradox of Tolerance and let him know that CoCs protect him too, so I'll be (relatively) brief because I don't want to engage people who don't engage me.

Please be mindful of bandying about terms like "slavery." There is actual slavery in the world, and historical slavery is one of the most egregious parts of human history. Equating a request to be respectful about pronouns to slavery is incredibly disrespectful to...well....pretty much everyone.

Also, I'd like to reiterate a point Josh made early on - you keep asserting your right to refuse to use pronouns and keep talking about free speech. No one is fighting you for this hill you're trying to die on. We all agree you have the right to refuse. And event organizers have the right to decide against giving space to people who refuse basic courtesy.

Imma pop out of this discussion now. I've said my piece, and given that you keep hammering home a point that no one is fighting you on, I've ceased to believe you're engaging in this discussion in good faith. I hope I'm wrong. Have a nice day.

I've ceased to believe you're engaging in this discussion in good faith. I hope I'm wrong.

I was sincere and tried to tell the truth as I see it.

Have a nice day.

 

Comparing a nonbinary person letting you know how to treat them respectfully is a far cry from being thrown in a gulag. No one’s acting as the thought police here. They’re just letting you know how to be an inclusive event organizer and attendee. If you choose not to do so, on one is going to physically harm or imprison you. They might just freely formulate the thought that they don’t want to talk to you or invite you to events they put on in the future.

 

Hey! You said:

No one’s acting as the thought police here.

But I have read following in the article:

If they’re intentionally disregarding pronouns or being disrespectful, consult your code of conduct and take action to make your event safer. I’d personally consider it similar to harassment.

As far as I understand, person that refuses demands to pronounce certain words is going to be excluded. Isn't it policing?

If you show up at my event are rude to the other guests, you are not entitled to stay there. Private events are not public spaces. This is pretty standard. Restaurants reserve the right to refuse service. Even major public transit lines have Codes of Conduct. So does this very site for that matter!

Participating in a group space often has a price of entry. For events that want to be inclusive of gender minorities, the price of entry is that you use people’s pronouns the way they ask you to. You’re free not to, and they’re free to decide not to have you in the group.

Restaurants reserve the right to refuse service.
Participating in a group space often has a price of entry.

This is reasonable. Organizers have right to set up their own rules. They can exclude any people that don't follow the rules.

What I found disturbing is that policies that were marketed in the article as inclusive turned out to be exclusive in nature, as we just figured out in our discussion.

These policies exclude people who value their right to formulate thoughts in their own words.

The article didn't specify the negative impact that organizers gonna have for adopting such policies. I think it's worth noting, at least in comment section.

I mean. We're venturing into Paradox of Tolerence territory here. If you decide that you're a free thinker and that a Code of Conduct is exclusionary to you, I'm clearly not going to be able to change your mind.

But I think you're thinking about this on the wrong axis. If you came to my event and (grudgingly, I assume) agreed to abide my event's rules, then I would protect you as fiercely as anyone else at the event. If people decided to start using the wrong pronouns for you to prove a point. Or if they denigrated you in reasonable discussion, or anything like that, that would also be a violation of the social contract. Codes of Conduct aren't a one way document used to target specific groups of people. They're a covenant that protects everyone who agrees to abide by it.

Maybe you don't want that protection, and you'd rather have a public fight with someone that has no social consequences from the event's organizing body. That's certainly a preference you're entitled to, but it doesn't mean that it's a reasonable expectation for all the private events you attend.

This seems slightly disingenuous -- you can say (and think) whatever you like, but there are consequences for your speech, and freedom of speech doesn't shield you from those consequences. In this case, the consequence of being rude is that you will be ejected from the event. It's not substantially different from you cursing constantly at everyone: the organizers aren't required to listen to you use swear words all the time if they don't want to, and would be perfectly within their rights to ask you to stop and then throw you out if you refuse. You would be silly to argue that they violated your freedom of speech in this case. They simply heard what you had to say, decided it had no merit, and closed the doors.

 
Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

Please don't let this community become a sounding board for political opinions. Excellent or slightly less good developer or tech oriented content is what I've loved getting from this place and I will always come back for informational articles. A political dungbattle serves only to cloud the beautiful structure of programming - placing form over function. Seems a tad backwards.

 

This is a guide for how people who want to make other people more comfortable can do so in engineering contexts. I'm uncertain how that's political. It also isn't significantly different from other programming-adjacent content on here. But even if it were, you're not required to read it, especially if the content didn't seem pertinent to your interests from the title or lede.

In the future, if you see content that seems uninteresting to you, I would suggest you don't read it, and then also don't comment on it.