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When efforts arise to formalize or corporatize a community, there's often understandable concern that the effort could destroy the very community it seeks to grow. [...] Any effort to grow will fail if members sense that the community leadership is neglecting important values or introducing unwelcome ones. For-profit corporations are particularly at risk for this if they value members for their revenue potential rather than for their contribution and commitment. Leaving any meaningful portion of core members feeling disconnected or abandoned is a real danger when formalizing or corporatizing a community and can lead to its destruction.
- The Art of Community

Mr. Kauderer is not here. But since the cemetery is the home of those who are not here, come in.
- If on a winter's night a traveler

Isn’t it nice that they’re being so nice to us?
If I’m not mistaken I think they might like us.
Aren’t we lucky to be here?
Stop moving, they’re taking a picture.
Smile for the camera, Evelyn.
- A Campaign of Shock and Awe


I am resigning as a moderator of Literature Stack Exchange, effective immediately.

My departure is not on good terms. I have not notified Stack Exchange. I will be around for a short period if I am permitted to be, and then I will not be returning. I do not expect to return at any time in the future, barring all but a major upheaval to the status quo.

By other mods, by staff, and by the entrenched power structure of Stack Exchange, I have been made to feel unwelcome for my queerness. This particular pattern is abusive and makes an ironic mockery of kindness. Community Managers make apparent effort to correct the situation; we are then gaslit into believing progress has been made when it is evident that the state of affairs has not changed in years. It has affected many friends from across the network, and I'm afraid that it will continue to affect others who come after me.

Community Managers have treated us like expendable resources to retrain bigoted moderators. They draw vocal bigots from the woodwork with prompts to discussion, and then vanish, forcing us to decide between tacit approval through silence or defense of our own against an unchanging torrent of bigotry. I think they hope that the more we share, the better the situation will become. That has never been true. The same voices push back against our presence, every time.

They have disbelieved our pain; and when they signal their belief, they do not act to repair it. It is abhorrent that moderators are freely permitted to argue against spoken human respect for our trans, incl. nonbinary, peers. Many of us have expressed this pain to them personally, and on the occasion when we are acknowledged, no action is taken.

They place us in positions where we must defend our right to be here, and then silence our ability to do so when we are too loud; when we are inconvenient. They say it is exhausting, that they need rest. Only the privileged party can rest. Only the privileged party can elect to pretend, for a while, that we do not exist. And when moratoria are placed on speaking of our transness among moderators, only the cisgender among us are relieved.

They believe humans can be retrained out of bigotry if they are friendly enough and simply have positive discussions; they fail to recognize their own complicity in bigotry. While I firmly believe all humans can be guided out of bigotry under the correct circumstances, it is naive optimism to believe Stack Exchange will be able to evoke this paradigm shift in their moderators, now or at any time in the future. They cannot generate the personal circumstances necessary to do it, and the choice to wait is a harm.

Each day that passes, Community Managers have access to a breadth of corrective tools, but refuse to implement them. Kind words and good faith alone are insufficient, and this has always been the case. Even then, they tell us to be patient and wait; they always want more time. This problem has been allowed to fester, and queer moderators are the accepted sacrifice. The only remaining route is censure, and I no longer have confidence that Community Managers are capable of doing so.

My resignation comes on the back of repeated hostile behavior, deep violations of trust, and permissiveness to bigotry; but yes, a single incident has sparked my action here. In the spirit of "break systems, not people," I do not intend to share receipts at this time. Please do not ask for them.

Stack Exchange staff have kept discussions with queer moderators to private rooms, requested only private emails. Stack Exchange knows these problems exist -- we have informed them time and again. This is exclusively a means of protecting the network. Too many moderators would be upset about vocal and active queer support, and it would back CMs into a corner. But someone needs to say it publicly, even if I will burn bridges by writing this.

I hope they can change. I believe they can change. I am afraid they will not. I will not stay to learn the answer.

After five years, resigning in strength,
Aza Hodges

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    You're not the first moderator to resign for these reasons, and I'm sure you won't be the last. I've considered it myself, honestly. Cheers, and I wish you the best of luck in your future. – Wipqozn Sep 26 at 17:51
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    Thanks, @Wipqozn. Best of luck to you, too. :) – Aza Sep 26 at 17:55
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    You've been a part of this site since its genesis, the mod candidate I supported from the moment your nomination went up. Both your knowledge of SE workings and your consideration and compassion have been invaluable to this community. I noticed you've become less active, but never expected this. From my ignorant perspective, it's hard to see the reason to quit, but it's your decision and to be respected. On a personal note, you've been around as a ♦ for as long as I've been on SE, and it's hard to believe that you quit over differences with SE before me! :-) All respect and best wishes. – Rand al'Thor Sep 26 at 20:11
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    It’s really very difficult to understand from the outside what the issue is and why any of it is relevant to moderation. However I’m sorry you’re having a difficult time and hope things improve. – Spagirl Sep 27 at 15:17
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    Though it's been a while since I was active on Lit, I, too, wanted to add my thanks for your service, both here and elsewhere on the network. You've played a huge role in creating and maintaining this corner of the Internet, and that won't be forgotten. I'm sorry that you've been through some crappy stuff - you didn't deserve it. I hope that the future brings happiness and hope. – HDE 226868 Sep 28 at 23:00
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    @HDE226868 Thanks, it means a lot. Hope to see you around. :) – Aza Sep 28 at 23:12
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    Thank you for coming forward with this though. Knowledge of this outside the mod team might make SE reconsider how they approach this. I really hope they do anyway. – user4523 Sep 29 at 17:40
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    Aza I joined this community so I could comment. You have my support. I can only imagine it's been a hard journey and it can get too much. The problem with bigotry is people usually don't recognise it within themselves. Particularly that subtle form, which can be the most difficult to combat. – user7839 Sep 30 at 2:49
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    Thanks, @YvetteColomb. It's a baffling situation, and I can see a lot of bigotry coming out of the woodwork in response. I hope this place can be made better, in the future; either through personal or communal change. All the best to you and your lovely horses. :) – Aza Sep 30 at 3:37
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    @ZachLipton Unfortunately I don't think I can be much clearer without posting message logs. It was quite explicit; even if the words "you can't talk about transphobia" were not said, that was the working policy, at least up until the day I left. I'm sure the dam has broken since then, on account of... [waves hand] all this. It doesn't strike me as intended to harm, but it also strikes me as at minimum rather naive to an obvious harm it caused. Two days ago I would have said it was a deliberate by pattern; now I'm not sure how to evaluate. – Aza Sep 30 at 5:02
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    I am abhorred by the response of the SE community to these issues. The flood of moderators resigning in defense of Monica while none are mentioning the continued exclusion of LGBT+ members from our communities is not excusable. I have written an answer on meta that I hope expresses that some of us support inclusive communities. – StrongBad Sep 30 at 13:29
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    Thank you for posting this. It is unfortunate that it only got the visibility it did in light of the broader network storm. – AGirlHasNoName Oct 1 at 1:51
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    @AnkitSharma It's sincerely appreciated, and I understand. I'm going to take some time to think and see what happens. I don't know where the network's going from here, but I'll certainly keep watching. My hope's not gone yet. Have a lovely week, Ankit. :) – Aza Oct 3 at 5:52
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    Why all sources lead to music videos? – user541396 Oct 4 at 0:38
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    @user541396 I know this is a Literature site, but I just had to multi-class. ;) – Aza Oct 4 at 5:05
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Link to pt. 1/2

I remember the first time I cut a friend out of my life, after coming out. As civil as I could ever try to be, it was unpleasant, and I lost more friends than one.

This friend was rude as hell. He was always quietly judging, somewhere in the background. He liked to make his judgments known. That should have been a warning, long before I came out, but I persisted because I cared.

After I came out, he'd make smaller comments. He'd misuse my pronouns. He'd talk with mutual friends about how "odd" I was, as if I were a gossip piece. These disrespects stung, from someone I trusted, and very quickly wore away the foundation of our friendship. These comments, I could (generously) excuse as him learning. He wasn't, but I could believe it, if I wanted to.

What really broke us were the more significant comments, though these came later. Comments that told me, he thought of me as a walking penis. Someone with the ability to fuck, to make a proper woman reproduce. That he saw me, who I am, as a "choice" I had made to become less than human in his eyes. That he saw me as less deserving of respect than my peers. That I was weird, to him, and did not deserve to be heard, at least not as much as he did. That my problems were just less capital-R Relatable than his, and couldn't, often shouldn't, be shared with a general audience. That children should be protected from me.

I'd try to express to him that these were wrong, that these were damaging, but he'd tell me, "there are both sides to this issue." He'd tell me, "you need to stop talking and listen to me, for once." He'd tell me, "I deserve respect, too."

At some point, I cut contact. I refused to respond. If we were to be at an event together, I would silently not show up, and say I was busy. What could I reasonably say, except "fuck off"? So I said nothing, and left. Exeunt.

This ticked off our mutual friend group. They thought I wasn't doing my part to keep the group together, warm, and fuzzy. They thought I should be willing to put up with some disrespect for the sake of the greater group. They thought both that I was standing up for myself too much, and that if I kept talking he would some day learn.

I told them, nearly verbatim: if I am talking with you, it's because I believe you can change; if I stop, it's because I've given up that hope. Civility plays no part in that.

I lost a lot of friends, with my answer. Life is better without them.

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    I'm probably done with Stack Exchange, for now. I'm gonna go make my queer-as-hell partner some chicken tikka masala, because it's their birthday soon, and I love them to bits. – Aza Oct 4 at 21:07
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    I hope I haven't missed you. I re-posted this when I saw your answers. Take care. We don't know each other, but I wish you well in your life and endeavours. virtual hugs and support – user7896 Oct 5 at 12:06
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I remember, when I came out to my parents, that I was worried. Yes, one part was the fear of rejection, one part was fear of isolation. But one part of me was worried -- sincerely worried -- that I would have to be uncivil.

My family used to share meals each night, around 7. It was a quiet affair, in which my parents talked and I was to listen. I was not allowed to speak. Or, more accurately -- I was only permitted to talk if the words from my mouth were wise, relevant, and cogent. And as a six year old, I was obnoxious; who has ever heard of a "wise" six-year-old? I was loud, boisterous, had a disregard for others' personal space and no sense of boundary for the disturbance my actions could create. I was none of the things my parents wanted me to be.

My parents saw this as a problem, and they saw that it fell on them to correct. Their duty as parents, as they saw it, was to train me like you would a dog not to be disruptive. To provide negative reinforcement, to rub my nose in it when I shat on the conversation. To provide treats and positive reinforcement when I was able to hold it in. To remain, in their eyes, civil and kind. What they really meant was: quiet.

So when I came out as trans, I was worried. Worried, because there were certain questions they could ask me that I could not answer "civilly." They might ask: How can we respect you? And the conversation would be fine.

And then they might equally ask: What are you asking us to do? Who are you? Why have you killed our son? I'm sad to say these are the questions they opted to ask, and they are not ones I am able to answer in mutual respect. I could only answer: I am who I say I am; I have a set of uncompromising and genuine needs you are unfamiliar with; and you have never had a son.

These answers weren't courteous enough for them. I was taking up space. I was taking actions with consequences. And worse, I was unyielding. Not only was I disturbing the peace, I had weighed my options and deliberately chosen to do so.

It broke our relationship. To this day, I am lucky that my parents stuck with me, but even now our relationship is fractured and in pieces. They are still picking up pieces of a broken window they smashed on reflex.

Many other parents sincerely wouldn't try.

Link to pt. 2/2

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    (Really, the first question my mom asked was, "so... does this mean you want to try on my underwear, or something?" which is honestly more memorable and horrifying, but probably less relevant.) – Aza Oct 4 at 19:53
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It's taken me a while to get around to writing a response here. Not because I don't care, but because I do. The mix of emotions surrounding this post and the surrounding incidents are making it very difficult for me corral my thoughts into a coherent response.

When the first three moderators were appointed - you, me, and Hamlet - you were the most experienced one, and, by default, you became our team lead. I was a new, untrained, inexperienced rookie, and you became my mentor, in a way that I'm not sure you even realized. If I had a question or a doubt, I directed it to you, and you would always answer helpfully, clearly, and non-judgmentally.
For a while, I didn't feel confident enough to take moderator action without checking in with somebody first - and that somebody was, the vast majority of times, you. Whenever we had any sort of doubt related to moderation, I looked to you.

You helped shaped my moderation style and development in a very real way. Considering I was 14 years old at the time, your guidance was invaluable and changed not only the way I conducted myself here, but also influenced me in real life. I will carry that influence with me for the rest of my life, and that is no small thing.

I continue to operate with the lessons you have taught me and continue to teach me, and I hope that I'll be able to continue to do so in the future.


On a more sober note, I've witnessed firsthand the phenomenons you describe. It is a sad state of affairs, to say the least, and I hope that Stack Exchange will eventually come to realize the damage they've done by shooting themselves in the foot. They have alienated some of the kindest, most reasonable people I've ever known, and driven them away. I struggle to believe that even now they realize quite what they've lost. They claim to be making steps to rectify the issues, but I have as yet seen no reason to believe that they will be able to competently handle it. There seem to be only an ever-growing number of missteps.


Your stepping away from the site is undeniably a blow to us. We've just lost our most experienced moderator and one of the most respected contributors to the site. However, you've gotta do what you've gotta do. We'll certainly miss you, and I'll be holding out hope for your return.
But please, please take the time that you need away from the site. Do not come back to us out of a sense of obligation or guilt. Recover from the toxic environment you were exposed to, as much as is possible. Heal. The current debacle is not a conducive environment for healing of any kind. It's been exhausting me for weeks, and I do not want you to needlessly go through that as well. Whenever you're ready, the site will be here, waiting.


Most of all:

Thank you.

I thank you for having helped shape this site from its beginning. I thank you for trusting us with you at your most vulnerable. Thank you for everything you have done for the site and for me, personally. It's been an honor and a treat to serve alongside you.

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