Mumsnet moderation principles for discussions around gender identity and sex
Mumsnet will always stand in solidarity with vulnerable or oppressed minorities.
Mumsnet is also committed to freedom of speech. Sometimes these two principles come into conflict, rarely more so than in the recent debate about what it is acceptable to say, or not to say, about trans people, and changing opinions about gender and sex. Some have criticised Mumsnet for allowing posts that some trans people find offensive, even hateful. Others have complained that we have “censored” comments which broke no laws and deserved to be heard. To try to create a more civil and mutually respectful conversation, we are spelling out a few principles for how discussions about trans issues will be moderated on Mumsnet.
- We believe in free speech and civil debate. So we will, for instance, allow people to discuss biology and scientific evidence.
- We don’t allow posts which are derogatory or aggressive towards trans people. We believe there are ways to express both opinion and facts without crossing this line.
- Sweeping negative generalisations about any group, including trans people and gender-critical feminists, won’t be tolerated.
- Free speech by definition applies to all; for a debate to take place, opposing views which follow our Talk guidelines need to be tolerated, even if you disagree with them.
- We won’t allow aggressive or rude behaviour towards our moderation team.
If you cannot accept the above principles and persistently ignore them, then I’m afraid you need to accept that Mumsnet isn’t the right place for you.
We’ll be introducing a three strikes system whereby users deleted more than three times in any rolling six week period will have their membership automatically suspended and we’ll then take a view as to whether they will have membership reinstated.
We absolutely understand that some users may have concerns about accidentally triggering deletion and will want complete clarity on what merits deletion – and we must admit, given the enormous resource that goes into moderating these discussions, it’s tempting to try to come up with a definitive list of banned terms. But in our experience, hard and fast rules simply spur the determined on to circumvent their spirit – and what we’re trying to do here is create a more civilised and constructive discussion, rather than operating a tick box on language.
That said, it’s clear that most trans people find the use of pronouns or names that they or others have consciously rejected, to be hurtful and would therefore struggle to engage in a discussion with those who insist on using them. The same is true of the expression ‘Trans-Identified Male’ or ‘TIM’. Likewise, many feminists are affronted by the term ‘cis’ and ‘terf’, so using these terms will make civil debate less likely. As we’ve said, context is everything – but our moderation team will most likely delete these expressions if we feel they're being used in a deliberately inflammatory way.
As you can appreciate, this is a challenging issue to moderate, and very often decisions are subjective. As such there are bound to be a few inconsistencies. We strongly believe, however, that those abiding by the spirit of constructive and civilised discussion will not be at risk of being banned for any length of time.
We do not want Mumsnet to be a place that feels inherently hostile to any group, be that trans people, gender-critical feminists or anyone else (except perhaps trolls). If you can abide by our rules – the spirit and not just the letter – we want you to feel you can be a part of the community.
One thing we can simply no longer tolerate, however, is rudeness and aggression towards our mod team who are doing their utmost to allow this difficult but important conversation to go ahead on Mumsnet, sometimes in highly stressful situations. So please do bear that in mind.
We’ll also be taking a dim view of the continual and persistent reporting of posts that don’t break our guidelines, as each of these need to be investigated, which is a huge waste of the mod team's time and energy. Anyone who repeatedly reports similar types of posts that aren’t worthy of deletion – ie simply to be vexatious – will be suspended.
We hope that you will understand where we’re coming from on this. Mumsnet has thrived on being a place where people can find intelligent and differing opinions and enter into civilised discussion. This is an issue which has tested our ability to discuss it to the absolute limit and it’s no surprise to me that there are very few sites or publications where it’s still possible to do so. But we fundamentally believe that with a bit of an effort all round then we can allow all voices to be heard and, hopefully, even move towards some form of acceptable and constructive compromise.
Justine Roberts - CEO and Founder
13 June 2018
19 June 2018
Here is a compilation of the clarifications that we've posted since the new guidelines were released:
Will you let posters know if they have had a post deleted?
We can’t promise to send an email about every deletion we make on the boards but if we're issuing a strike we will always get in touch.[updated Nov 2019]
Will there be a mechanism for ensuring that posters aren’t suspended because they’ve quoted a deleted post?
Yes. we won’t count these posts as a strike.
Will FWR be the only area of the boards where we have a three strikes system?
We haven't had to formalise this elsewhere, but in practice, three deletions would usually lead to a suspension elsewhere on site.
Will you be including the expression ‘TRA’ in your list?
We don't think this is a slur per se – but as ever we'll keep an eye on context and tone.
Am I allowed to criticise someone for their actions or express a negative view on them even if they happen to be trans?
Of course, yes.
Will you consider deleting posts that associate transgender people with autogynephila (AGP)?
This is something we'd look at on a case by case basis, though we'll definitely delete posts which generalise.
Will I be deleted for saying 'male women' or 'male transperson' or 'male person', or for including them as part of the male population?
We'll continue to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, taking tone and context into account. We'd be unlikely to delete if it's said in the context of a civil discussion of biology.
If it’s used on principle rather than to express a specific point, we’d likely delete it on the basis that it undermines civil debate.
If it's said with the apparent intention of belittling an individual, we'd likely take the view that had progressed beyond a discussion of facts/biology and towards a personal attack.
Can I use the expression ‘TIM’ (trans-identified male) in conversation with one another, as long as we don’t use it in conversation with someone who is themselves transgender?
‘TIM’ focuses heavily on natal sex. We don’t wish to prevent anyone from asserting as part of their gender critical position that transwomen are born male, and as ever, there is room for mods to exercise their individual judgment. But we think trans people will feel unwelcome if users habitually use a collective term which defines them by an aspect of their identity that they have explicitly rejected, so we’ll usually delete collective terms for trans people which centre on natal sex.
Can I use the expression ‘trans woman’ or ‘transwoman’?
Can we refer to the fact that some individuals have male sex organs?
We’d be likely to allow discussion of an individual’s transition status if it’s absolutely necessary to the discussion, but intrusive discussion of an individual's genitals is likely to be deleted.
What about, for example, Karen White – is it ok to say he is a man and call him 'he'?
We think we've allowed for flexibility and context here; we’re unlikely to delete where an individual is primarily known for extreme or criminal actions undertaken before they transitioned.
This is a complex issue, and the bottom line is that it’s very hard to square these opposing positions when there is such disagreement over the fundamental terms of the debate. In order for a dialogue to take place, therefore, it's probable that everyone will have to live with some contradictions and compromises. We’re convinced, though, that the only way forward is through civil and constructive debate, and we’ll keep this goal in mind in all our moderation decisions.