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the best kind of trouble [userpic]
Dreamwidth.org & trans inclusion
by the best kind of trouble (zevinboots)
at April 26th, 2009 (04:33 am)

[crossposted from my journal]

For those of you who haven't heard, there's a new LJ-style player in town called Dreamwidth.org, and I honestly think they're going to be successful. Their platform is based on the LJ codebase, and all the changes they've made are available under an Open Source license.

They have a pretty fantastic Diversity Statement on their website. But when I looked at it, they had gender and sexual orientation listed, but not gender identity and expression. So I wrote them an email.

To my great surprise, I received a response within 48 hours. It was not a form letter. It was from Denise Paolucci, co-owner of Dreamwidth Studies. Here's some of what she said:

Someone else actually pointed this problem out to us today as well, and the minute they did, it was a moment of "sudden and horrible realization that what I actually meant didn't survive the transition from my brain to the screen". When we wrote the diversity statement, we actually did mean for "gender" to cover not just cisgender individuals, but also transgender, genderqueer, and other non-cisgendered expressions and presentations as well.

It took hearing feedback from someone else to realize that just saying "gender" wasn't sufficiently inclusive, since most people see "gender" and automatically assume it to intend only cisgender/binary-gendered presentation. I actually and honestly did not realize that it could be read like that -- which I know is not an excuse! -- and the minute it was pointed out to me, it was a case of "head, meet desk". I do sincerely apologize for both the oversight and the accidental exclusion, and thank you very much for also bringing it to our attention.

I'm talking with a couple of our transgender and genderqueer project contributors to see what the best and most inclusive phrasing would be. Right now, our semi-consensus is that the best solution would be to change the diversity statement from "people of any gender" to "people of any gender identity or expression". I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on that alternate phrasing and whether you think that would be a good way to rectify our accidental exclusion -- and, of course, if you can think of something better than that, I'd love to hear that, as well!

We actually have made many changes from the LiveJournal code that we forked from to actively bring it more in line with our diversity policy, and one of the changes was to specifically be more welcoming of our transgender and genderqueer users. LiveJournal's code (the code our site is based on) offered "Male", "Female", and "Unspecified" as gender options; we've changed those to "Male", "Female", "Other", and "Decline to State".

We thought long and hard about offering specific non-binary gender choices, to avoid the risk that people would feel *more* marginalized by having an "Other" option instead of their preferred gender identity or expression, but our eventual conclusion was that we couldn't possibly list all of the choices that people self-identify as; we thought that it could wind up feeling more exclusionary for someone to be confronted with a long list of options, none of which they identified with. So we decided to go with a single non-binary choice, while letting people use the Bio section on their profile to explain their self-identity if they choose.

We're completely open to re-visiting that decision in the future, but right now the gender option actually doesn't affect anything; the site doesn't customize pronouns for each individual user, and the gender option doesn't appear on the profile anywhere. The only place it appears is in aggregate form on our site statistics page, http://www.dreamwidth.org/stats . If we ever do anything like offer the option to display your gender on your profile, or offer the option to allow your self-identified gender to affect the pronouns the site uses to refer to you, we will absolutely offer a free-text box for people to self-identify their gender expression however they're most comfortable with and offer a choice of pronouns (most likely totally independent of the gender drop-down option, even) including not only the "standard" gendered pronouns but as many of the "alternate" sets of pronouns as we can.

We aren't currently planning anything like this, but if we do, remembering to be inclusive is definitely a top priority. Our official pronoun policy for matters of existing site copy is actually to rephrase things whenever possible so that the text is plural, which neatly sidesteps the pronoun issue altogether!

I'm really glad you brought this to my attention. Please let me apologize again for our accidental exclusion. Diversity and respect -- and having a broad range of opinions, experiences, and self-identifications represented and welcomed in our community -- are very important, both to me and Mark as the owners of Dreamwidth Studios, and to the entire community that's been contributing to the Dreamwidth project. We want to make sure that everyone feels welcomed, included, and respected here, no matter what their self-identification happens to be (on so many different possible axes, not just gender!), because we think that's the way to build a healthy and vibrant online community. Thank you for helping to point out our accidental failure, and I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have on how to fix things so that the language in our diversity statement is closer to the ideal that we're striving towards.

Needless to say, I'm creating a Dreamwidth account. All the functionality of LJ, PLUS they share my values around creation, openness and inclusion. Here are just the first two paragraphs of their Diversity Statement, as it currently stands:

We welcome people of any gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, size, nationality, sexual orientation, ability level, religion, culture, subculture, and political opinion. We welcome activists, artists, bloggers, crafters, dilettantes, musicians, photographers, readers, writers, ordinary people, extraordinary people, and everyone in between. We welcome people who want to change the world, people who want to keep in touch with friends, people who want to make great art, and people who just need a break after work. We welcome fans, geeks, nerds, and pixel-stained technopeasant wretches. We welcome Internet beginners who aren't sure what any of those terms refer to.

We welcome you. You may wear a baby sling, hijab, a kippah, leather, piercings, a pentacle, a political badge, a rainbow, a rosary, tattoos, or something we can only dream of. You may carry a guitar or knitting needles or a sketchbook. Conservative or liberal, libertarian or socialist — we believe it's possible for people of all viewpoints and persuasions to come together and learn from each other. We believe in the broad spectrum of human experience. We believe that amazing things come when people from different worlds and world-views approach each other to create a conversation.

That's hard to beat. They're set up for cross functionality, so it's going to be easy to mirror my posts here, too, at least until everybody moves to Dreamwidth. If you have an invite code, go check it out. And if you don't, they'll be offering paid accounts in 5 days!

Please feel free to repost


Posted by: M.K. Payne,B.Msc. (eoswildcat)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 02:43 am (UTC)

Well count me in, If I can figure out how to join.
sounds like my type of place! (no idea how to deal with invite code places)

Posted by: Amokk (amokk)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 02:50 am (UTC)

Go there, on the main page click "Login with OpenID" and then use eoswildcat.livejournal.com as your login. After that, validate an email. On Apr 30, all validated OpenID accounts will get an invite code.

For more info, here.

Posted by: M.K. Payne,B.Msc. (eoswildcat)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)


Posted by: Amokk (amokk)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)

Welcome. I got a random invite from being validated, so I'm passing it around where it's appropriate. :)

Posted by: James (jame_alec)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)

Sweet, thanks for this!

Posted by: Amokk (amokk)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)

Welcome. I got a random invite from being validated, so I'm passing it around where it's appropriate. :)

Posted by: Aureantes (aureantes)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)
bronze angel

Coolness, thanks....and I think we're all looking forward to being validated. :D

Posted by: www.charliefordjr.com (charlie_ihsan)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)

Thank you!

Posted by: James (jame_alec)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)

Color me impressed!

Posted by: red_trillium (red_trillium)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC)
tree and sun

Thank you for posting Denise's response. She's pretty quick on the uptake even this close to going Live. I was impressed with their diversity statement too and with other things I've seen there. They seem like people who honestly do care about these things. Their views on the site not being 14 yrs under and how they're handling adult content impressed me. And they've changed "friending" so that you can put someone on your "friends page" (reading page there) but not necessarily grant them access to your locked entries.

I joined as an "open invite" and joined some of the comms like dw_maintenance, got an invite code too. It's going along pretty well. Yes, there are bugs but they are working on them and that's what I'd expected at this stage. I don't see myself leaving LJ for DW but I do see DW becoming my main journal eventually and LJ being my back up. The import tool to DW worked for me but still has some kinks to work out & the cross post is easy.

Since they aren't going to open up to non-paid members completely without invites (in the short term and from what I understand possibly long term) I'm going to be rid of the frustrating Russian LJ bots too.

Posted by: M.K. Payne,B.Msc. (eoswildcat)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 06:17 am (UTC)

validated now :)

Posted by: Kate (x_mass)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 08:15 am (UTC)

there a cool bunch, i known people since early set up, and it's not surprising that they would make such a statement

Posted by: Natasha Softpaw (natashasoftpaw)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 08:20 am (UTC)

Yeah, they seem like all sorts of awesome. I'm already there as Softpaw, and looking forward to the launch :-D

Posted by: M.K. Payne,B.Msc. (eoswildcat)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)

regarding the launch- do we know what timezone it will be based in?
-btw I hope that you don't mind that I added you- we have interested and communities in common.

Posted by: Natasha Softpaw (natashasoftpaw)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 09:47 pm (UTC)

Since they're in Maryland, I imagine it'll be EDT (GMT -4), but I haven't seen any mention of a launch time yet, so I'm sure we'll know then. And, I don't mind at all :-)

Posted by: Martin (martinanonymous)
Posted at: April 26th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)

Wow. That's a more thoughtful letter than most trans-specific places can boast of. I'm really impressed.

I'm probably not going over there as I'm on LJ primarily for the communities and the communities are still here.

Posted by: Stormsdotter (stormsdotter)
Posted at: April 27th, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
Gay Viking Holiday!

I posted a link to this page in my journal, and then had a friend point out to me that it's locked. Was there a reason you locked this?

Posted by: the best kind of trouble (zevinboots)
Posted at: April 27th, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)

I feel more comfortable leaving my posts open to members only, especially but not solely due to the outbreak of vandalism in this and other trans-related communities in the past few months.

I would encourage you to repost if you know of another group of people that could benefit from this information!

Posted by: the best kind of trouble (zevinboots)
Posted at: April 28th, 2009 12:42 am (UTC)

Upon further reflection, I've made the post public. Link ahead!

Posted by: the rhythm is the bass and the bass is the treble (gender_euphoric)
Posted at: April 27th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)

but let me get this right -- they aren't opening up to new *free* users come the 30th? only paid ones?
in other words--if anyone has an invite, please LJ PM me. thank you. :P

Posted by: the best kind of trouble (zevinboots)
Posted at: April 27th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)

One good way to get an invite code is to join as a validated OpenID member.

Read the above comment and the thread it started:

Posted by: the rhythm is the bass and the bass is the treble (gender_euphoric)
Posted at: April 27th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)

i validated a few days ago and didn't get a code.

Posted by: the best kind of trouble (zevinboots)
Posted at: April 27th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)

The comment I pointed to said, among other things:
On Apr 30, all validated OpenID accounts will get an invite code.

I can't verify the accuracy of that statement, but you could ask the person who wrote it.

Posted by: the best kind of trouble (zevinboots)
Posted at: April 28th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)

In today's news post, confirmation that all validated OpenID accounts will receive invite codes on April 30:


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