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Re: An appeal to empathy on actual hurt caused by this thread

From: Christine Lemmer-Webber
Subject: Re: An appeal to empathy on actual hurt caused by this thread
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2022 23:14:38 -0500
User-agent: mu4e 1.6.10; emacs 27.2

Taylan, thank you for the thoughtful response and to listening to what I
said.  It's too close to bedtime for me to be able to respond
coherently, but I will do so tomorrow.  Just wanted to leave this hear
in the meanwhile so it was clear you were heard.

 - Christine

Taylan Kammer <> writes:

> Hi Christine,
> Thank you for opening up.  It was definitely not apparent to me that you
> had such a reaction to the thread.  As we know, text doesn't convey the
> nuances of human communication very well, and I had read your initial
> emails as rather relaxed, or at worst mildly annoyed.  Had I realized
> that they were coming from such a stressful position, I would have
> responded differently.
> My heartfelt apologies in that regard.
> For us to be able to build up better mutual understanding and empathy in
> the future, perhaps it would be good for me to open up about some things
> as well.
> ---
> Frankly, I think we're more similar than anyone taking a glance at the
> thread might ever think.  I've had experiences with gender dysphoria as
> well, and my dis-identification with male peers has certainly played an
> important role in the development of my severe chronic depression.
> I'm a rather reserved person when it comes to personal matters, not as
> open about my feelings as you are (and good on you -- it's not doing me
> much good to be the way I am in that regard), so I don't want to go into
> too much detail, but let's just say I've had multiple near-death moments
> throughout the years in relation to my condition, and the latest bout of
> severe suicidal thoughts was just a few months ago.
> The partly hostile responses (from others, not you!) I've received in
> the thread have been anything but pleasant, to say the least, but have
> not led to a major breakdown, perhaps thanks to the medication I'm on,
> which might be why I was able to respond a few more times...
> I've packaged higan for Guix, back in 2015.  Near (then byuu) helped me
> revitalize some of my fondest childhood memories with the emulator he's
> built.  After taking some interest in the program's workings, I was also
> briefly active on his web forum, and had positive interactions with him.
> We weren't close personally, but I had built up a *lot* of fondness and
> respect for him.  The news of his suicide was absolutely awful to me.
> Moreover, a certain web forum that shall not be named which was behind
> the bullying campaign against Near/byuu (and countless others) also has
> a "profile" of sorts written up on me in one of their threads, as a
> potential future bullying target or something.  So far I've been spared,
> but they do have my home address, and my employer's details are a web
> search away.
> All of which is to say, I *deeply* empathize with your position, and at
> no point would I ever wish to inflict this type of pain on anyone.
> I would like to sincerely reassure you that the sole purpose in sending
> the patch, and subsequent messages, was to pledge for another view to be
> respected on equal regard to the one that's already correctly respected.
> The reason I've felt strongly about that, pressing me to reiterate the
> position in the subsequent thread by Zimoun, was of course not some
> twisted wish to cause hurt.  Rather, it was because that perspective is
> based on the experiences of countless AFAB people who have been hurt in
> countless ways, just like the perspective that is currently rightfully
> encoded in the CoC is based on the experiences of trans people.  (I've
> also found the sex-based perspective to have strong explanatory power
> w.r.t. my personal problems, although I've come to see that as almost
> irrelevant in the face of everything else I've learned.)
> ---
> There's one thing I've not been able to understand.  I don't know if you
> wish to respond any further, but if so, please note that the following
> is a completely genuine inquiry, and not meant in any confrontational
> manner at all, just like the rest of this email.  I think it would be
> very helpful for the future if you could help me with this:
> The key reason the thread / my mails have caused hurt seems to be that
> they've come across as an attempt to debate transgender experiences.
> What I've not been able to understand is how that happened, since I
> actually tried very hard from the beginning to make it as clear as
> possible that I had no such intention.
> For example, I had said things like:
>   "I can assure you that I'm 100% fine with the CoC mentioning gender
>   identity and, for example, if someone were to make inflammatory
>   remarks towards the worldview of transgender people in this community,
>   I wouldn't hesitate opposing that."
> And in the summary:
>   "I sincerely have no issue with the CoC protecting people based on
>   gender identity or other transgender status, and am equally
>   disinterested as others in having debates about that topic."
> Yet something seems to have gone wrong.
> There was one email, my response to Liliana, in which I've touched on
> the debate itself, but that was even before your emails so I don't
> think it was that...
> Reading over my mails, I just don't understand why they might have been
> misunderstood so badly.  If you could shed some light on that, I would be
> very grateful!  It would certainly help me avoid mistakes in the future,
> if I were to talk about these matters in a different place.
> I hope this message reaches you in the empathetic way it's meant.  I've
> decided to sacrifice about half a night's sleep to write it, because it
> was certainly important enough for that.  Well, I probably wouldn't have
> been able to sleep anyway. :-)
> Kindly,
> Taylan
> On 25.02.2022 20:42, Christine Lemmer-Webber wrote:
>> Taylan, I respect you and your work.  I don't think you realize how much
>> hurt you've caused here, and I want to take your contributions at good
>> faith.  But this has continued for days and it has definitely hurt a
>> lot.
>> I just got out of a presentation that I've been in crunchmode preparing
>> for all week.  It was a technically intense presentation with a demo
>> that required a lot of engineering effort to get there.  I was stressed
>> enough.  But the demo went well.  Everyone was excited, including me.
>> I got off the call, and normally what I would feel after something ended
>> like that was relief.  But I didn't feel relieved.  I felt... tired.
>> And then I started crying uncontrollably for over an hour.  Because the
>> pressure of the presentation was so great that I had to push down and
>> push down all the feelings I had about what was happening on this
>> thread, but when it was over, they overflowed.
>> And I don't believe, I don't want to believe, you meant to cause harm or
>> hurt.  You have several messages recently clearly indicating that you
>> feel you have been accused of things.  This is not an accusation.  This
>> is an appeal to empathy.
>> Normally I would have left this be quiet, or send an email one-on-one,
>> when things reached this stage.  But I tried to help this conversation
>> end in quiet, and it hasn't happened, and it's been days.  So I'm
>> relaying my experiences here.
>> Taylan Kammer <> writes:
>>> On 24.02.2022 14:21, Ekaitz Zarraga wrote:
>>>>> I suspect you haven't properly read any of my mails and jumped to 
>>>>> conclusions
>>>>> based on a quick skim, or something like that.
>>>> Well, I've been reading them and some people told you to stop and you still
>>>> continue. People already told you were bothering them.
>>> I haven't posted anything after Andy and Oliver asked to take it off-list,
>>> other than responding to Blake's accusation of course.
>>> Before that, nobody told me to stop or that I was bothering them, unless I
>>> missed it?
>> I did...
>> And maybe you missed it, but I definitely did.  I *definitely* did.
>> This was on Monday, it is now Friday.  Here's what I said across my
>> two emails:
>>  - I had already expressed that my very first reaction was wanting to
>>    support broader language but NOT to have a debate about trans experiences:
>>    > My first thought when looking at the top of this thread was,
>>    > 'well I would be okay with adding a word if it isn't an *entry point*
>>    > for debating trans experiences on list' but it looks like it's likely
>>    > to be so
>>  - And then I said that, as a person affected, I didn't feel comfortable
>>    debating these topics on a technical mailing list:
>>    > I'm a transwoman with intersex characteristics.  I've certainly
>>    > read a ton about sexual and gender therory, have read plenty of
>>    > books on it and I can say without a doubt that I really just don't
>>    > feel comfortable debating these topics on a technical mailing list.
>>  - And then, when I saw your email where you had pulled back, I tried
>>    to help everything close in a way that was friendly:
>>    > Ah okay, hadn't seen this post before I replied.
>>    >
>>    > It seems the issue is closed then.  Look forward to everyone getting
>>    > back to hacking. :)
>> Shortly thereafter I stepped away from my computer and went downstairs
>> and went downstairs to prepare lunch.  Morgan, my wife (who is also a
>> Guix user, btw) said, "Are you okay?  You look stressed."
>> And I relayed what happened on this thread.
>> "Is *that* what's being debated on this list?  I'm not a Guix
>> *developer*, but I am a Guix *user*.  That kind of gender essentialism
>> makes me both really want to join the mailing list so I can weigh in
>> and really *not* want to have to weigh in because I don't want to have
>> to deal with all that.  That's not the kind of community I want to
>> participate in."
>> We co-presented at the FOSDEM room together in the "Lisp but Beautiful,
>> Lisp for Everyone" talk.  A major portion of the talk was about Guix.
>> Another major portion of the talk (since "who's representing feminism"
>> keeps coming up) was about Morgan's experiences *writing her
>> dissertation using a markup language which is secretly a lisp dialect*
>> on "Women and Wool Working in Ancient Rome".  Her PhD, Masters, Major,
>> and Minor were all embedded in gender and sexual analysis through the
>> lived experiences of women, primarily cisgender, throughout history.
>> No matter how many books you and I have read on gender and sexuality,
>> I can guarantee you Morgan has read more.
>> Anyway if there are any other cisgender women who have presented about
>> Guix in a video presentation I would be pleased, but as far as I know,
>> she's the only one I've seen do so.  Corrections extremely welcome.
>> Active steps to pull more women into our community, strongly encouraged.
>> But at the time I said, "Oh, I think it wrapped up.  The person who
>> raised it backpedaled and I tried to be friendly in softening the
>> closing by saying 'cool let's all get back to hacking!' so I don't think
>> we have to worry about it anymore.
>> And then we had lunch, and I thought it was over.
>> Imagine my surprise went I sent what I had thought were three very
>> clear, but polite, signals asking to not debate over the the experiences
>> of transgender people on this list, one of which was a friendly
>> acknowledgement that it was over from the person who raised it.  But the
>> most uncomfortable thing for me was that the reply first thanked me for
>> being polite about things, but used it as an *opening* for *another*
>> entry point about that.
>> Can you imagine how that feels?  How that looks?
>> And then it continued for an entire week.
>> Here I'll say something I haven't said previously: I did not come out as
>> transgender for a long time because I was *afraid* to come out as
>> transgender.  Maybe you know, it's a popular past-time on the internet
>> right now to bully prominent trans technologists into suicide as a kind
>> of game.  Here are two examples:
>> I currently consider suicide by online bullying to be my highest
>> mortality risk factor.  Having a community where I feel safe, it's not a
>> small thing.  The Guix community has felt like one of the nicest, safest
>> places in FOSS.
>> This week it felt a lot less so.  The first immediate gut drop I felt
>> when I thought "I hope this doesn't turn out to be a hidden entrypoint
>> for someone to begin debating my lived experiences" turned out to
>> absolutely be true, as far as I can tell.  That's how it felt to me.
>> On that note, just earlier today, you said:
>>> The inclusion of 'sex' in the CoC would be to recognize the issues
>>> faced by female-born people.  As far as I'm aware, no female-born
>>> person has taken part in the discussion at all, because none seem
>>> to exist in the community.  (What a coincidence.)
>> Well as said previously, there's at least one.  She's not on the
>> guix-devel list, so she's cc'ed, because I don't want anyone to think
>> I'm misrepresenting her.  She's not on the list but she read everything
>> I wrote on here before I sent it.  And that's one cisgender woman (with,
>> again, no small background in women and gender studies), who *is* a part
>> of this community and has even presented at a conference in a heavily
>> Guix-related talk, who has expressed that she wouldn't want to be taking
>> part or associating herself in this community if it takes a gender
>> essentialist turn.
>> At any rate, here's the thing.  Taylan, I really like your work, I would
>> like to think that you didn't mean to bring harm or hurt like this.  But
>> you asked for someone to point to it, and I decided to speak here
>> because, since this went on for a week, it must not have been known or
>> understood.
>> At any rate, the updated upstream CoC, seems great.  +1 from me.  As I
>> said, if it wasn't as an entry point for a debate of experiences, as
>> just talking about protecting *also* sexual characteristics, great.  But
>> if it's an entry point for a debate, and it *has been*, about
>> qutestioning the lived experiences of trans folk on the internet,
>> consider that it already sucks being a trans person on the internet and
>> for the most part we just want people to be nice to us so we can do our
>> damn work and live in peace.
>> And I would like for this thread to not, ironically, fork into exactly
>> the same thing I am asking to end.  Acknowledge maybe, and move on.
>> Or just move on.  Thank you.
>> Your hacker Guix friend,
>>  - Christine

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