Moderation decisions about several posts in the LGBTQIA+ Thread

Just gonna drop this link here about the importance of pronouns

The fact that iNaturalist staff have still not address a thing about the pronouns is…very telling.

If “be respectful” does not, it seems, cover us that we should be called by our pronouns, which is literally the most basic thing someone can do to show respect of trans and queer people; is quite disheartening.* If it did, staff would have stopped it, never needed to put the thread into slow mode, and never would have needed to close it over the weekend.*

As to the assertion that the mod team does not have the knowledge to correctly moderate this issue; I have troubles with that. My understanding is that Tiwane is as profile says, “iNaturalist Staff: iNaturalist’s Outreach and Community Coordinator”. Outreach and community coordinators should have this very basic high level issue well understood. If it is not understood, then action should be taken to properly train staff with seminars lead by LGBTQ+ people, or basic research, just as if there is confusion on racism issues, seminars from BIPOC / people of the global majority leaders, should be attended, to learn.

I hope iNaturalist used this long holiday weekend to properly educate themselves.

I am done talking about this: I am asking for formal and public apology, as well as an actual policy put in place to protect trans and queer people, which explicitly includes things such as using our correct pronouns. Our existence, and our respect, is not up for debate.


I wish all my fellow queers a joyous two-days- til Pride… and a strong, wrathful June for all those on the front lines fighting for our freedom to love and live – whether they be in Florida or Iran.

while I heartily agree with @sunguramy I will note that slow mode and temporary closing of threads is not a punishment – it is buying time and preventing a thread from spiraling into further chaos when people get heated. it’s the right thing to do, assuming that when the dust clears, decisive action is taken.


Apologies for the late reply. We’re meeting as a committee about the issues raised here and will have a response later today (California time).


I have concerns with iNat moderation which relate to this, in that the focus seems to be reducing conflict and if there is conflict focusing on both people as at fault, and usually both people are threatened with consequences if there is any form of conflict. While i think it is true that in this case here no one was malicious or intentionally hurtful, overall the idea that any conflict means both people are at fault is flawed and pretty damaging and can really empower toxic behavior. I’ve seen it happen multiple times on iNat, unfortunately, and I feel like that is a big part of this issue here as well. I don’t think any of the moderators mean ill will either, i think everyone is doing their best, but the fact is sometimes one person is in the wrong. In many cases like this one it’s just a matter of education or a misunderstanding. Sometimes it’s something darker though. We don’t start out assuming ill will but it’s also naïve and nonfunctional to assume that ill will never exists because… it does. I have also seen cases where awful behavior is permitted just because someone is ‘important’ to the naturalist community or good at identifying species or something. This is, needless to say, a horrible path to go down. I hope this will also be considered when you look at this. If it isn’t, iNat really isn’t a safe place for marginalized folks. Thank you.


I’m glad you said it. Both of you.


Ive been debating all day what to say but honestly my feelings have been expressed succinctly enough already.

All I’ll add is people need to familiarize themselves with Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance.


I split off this discussion from here as it was specifically about moderation decisions.


From other topics, where comments are flagged for moderation, I got the impression that:

  1. Forum moderators are iNat staff and don’t engage in the forum topics as often as the most active users leading to hours or days delay.
  2. Forum moderators take a hands-off approach, preferring that individuals resolve conflicts one-to-one in topic conversations.

Is the above correct, and if not, how does the forum moderation process really work?

If it isn’t already then, there should be a link to this in the LGBTQIA+ thread. It’s not just about moderation, it’s specifically in regards to Queer people, it’s on topic and relevant.


Discourse automatically does that.


We’ve received multiple requests in the LGBTQIA+ thread and in independent communications over the long weekend. We would like to at least provide clarity into our policies and our actions. We will go into detail shortly, but here’s a short summary:

  1. We start with the assumption that people mean well, as we’ve stated in our Community Guidelines.

  2. Intentional misuse of pronouns is not appropriate behavior on iNaturalist. We view this behavior as hate speech against gender as a protected attribute. We have also made it clear that we consider it disrespectful in our Community Guidelines.

  3. Four posts in this topic were flagged as inappropriate. One we judged inappropriate with regards to our Community Guidelines so we hid it. Another we judged to be disrespectful, but it also became an important part of the conversation, so we agreed with the flag but left the content up. The third we judged to be appropriate and dismissed the flag.

On to the details:

Who is speaking

I am writing on behalf of the iNat Community Circle, a group of paid staff who support our Outreach and Community Coordinator in issues relating to content and community moderation. This group is voluntary but open to any member of iNat staff. It currently includes both myself and iNat’s other co-director, Scott, along with Carrie and Tony. When I say “we” I am referring to the Community Circle. We formed the Community Circle in August of 2022.

Our Process

We delegate much of the moderation work on iNat to the Forum mods and iNat curators, but the Community and Support Coordinator represents staff in performing most official decision-making. When that person thinks an issue merits other perspectives, the Community Circle meets to make collective, consent-based decisions.

iNat has no police force monitoring every single thing that is said in every discussion we host. Volunteer and professional moderators respond when people flag content they find objectionable, and they do their best to apply our Community Guidelines and our own judgment to each case. Literally judging every single piece of content for appropriateness would require algorithmic moderation, a technology that we have not discussed but that I don’t think anyone on staff is comfortable with.

Regarding technologies and capabilities, flags on Discourse (this discussion platform) can be ignored, they can be rejected if the mods don’t agree the flagged content was inappropriate, or they can be approved with a variety of options, including hiding the content, leaving the content in place, suspending the author of the flagged post, etc. Discourse does not provide an option for mods to explain why they took the course of action they did aside from additional posts like this.

Our Decisions and Actions Here

Last Friday there were many posts in this topic, and three of the posts were flagged as inappropriate. Tony decided to put the topic in slow mode, which limits people to one post per unit time (he chose 1 every 30 minutes). The purpose of slow mode is to give everyone a chance to participate and have time to compose a considered response. He also asked the Community Circle for help, so we all read through the posts and met that afternoon to discuss the flagged posts and further moderation actions.

Three posts in this topic were flagged as inappropriate on Friday. The first was, in which the author wrote,

As I was raised, referring to a human as “it” was to insult that person, to treat him/her/whatever as non-human. Therefore, I’m not going to do it.

We view the expression of misgivings about using a pronoun that has historically been used to belittle and demean people as appropriate, but we view the stated intent not to use the pronouns an individual has asked others to use as disrespectful, so we accepted the flag to express our agreement that the post contained inappropriate content, but we left the post up because there were many constructive responses to it, and we felt that removing it would remove important context for anyone reading the discussion. Furthermore, we applied our own guideline to “assume people mean well”, in addition to the explanatory context the author provided, and viewed the post as a mostly well-intentioned attempt by the author to engage in discussion by disclosing her own feelings. The part that was inappropriate did not cross the line into our definitions of hate speech or insult because they require intent to do harm.

The second flagged post made assumptions about how trans people think and feel which we viewed as insulting and not productive to the discussion about the use of pronouns, so we accepted that flag and hid the post. We cannot link to it here since it is hidden, and restating the inappropriate content would defeat the purpose of hiding it.

The third post was We view some of the phrasing as bordering on inappropriate, but largely in the service of honesty and not in an attempt to attack or offend anyone. We view this kind of honesty as a requirement for discussions that lead toward increased understanding of the diversity within any community. Furthermore, we could not find a way in which this post violated our Community Guidelines, in isolation or in the context of the author’s history on iNat. Thus, we rejected the flag because we view that post as appropriate.

A fourth post was flagged on Tuesday: Like the third, these are honest expressions of opinion and we see no violation of our Community Guidelines, so we rejected the flag because we judged the content to be appropriate.

Other Actions

Today the Community Circle met to decide how to respond to various requests we received over the weekend and new flags in the topic. These are the actions we decided on:

  • Making this explanatory reply so everyone has insight into our process, our interpretation of our own policies, and our actions

  • Specifying in this post that intentional misgendering is not tolerated in the thread.

  • Updating our Community Guidelines to explicitly state that we view intentional misuse of pronouns as disrespectful


Moderators are volunteers, they are not iNaturalist staff. They’re awesome and invaluable but they have other jobs, interests, and responsibilities. iNaturalist Staff (paid employees) are labeled as such on the Forum, like you’ll see next to my name on this post. I personally check in many times a day, but I also have to do technical support, bug testing, attend meetings, and many other things. It’s a small team so we each have a lot of responsibilities.

For what it’s worth, if a post is flagged by three users it should automatically get hidden until a moderator can look at the flags. So if there’s something really objectionable, flagging is the best option to get it out of the conversation quickly.

I’d certainly prefer that, as long as the topic remains constructive and abides by the guidelines. People may never come to an agreement but I’d hope they may at least understand each other better. I think you’ll find that very few posts/threads are hidden or removed, aside from spam or people asking for ID help (in which case they’re encouraged to post to iNat).

Temporarily closing a topic or putting it on slow mode are two options. Those are all designed by Discourse not to end discussions, but to allow people to cool off and/or give everyone an opportunity to weigh in.


We are not asking you to be cops. Nor are we asking you to monitor every single thing in every single discussion. Literally nowhere has anyone asked you to do this.

Again, literally no one is asking you to judge literally every single piece of content. You are not listening to what we are asking and are instead creating a bad-faith exaggeration of our requests so you can shoot that down instead.

So…Someone can misgender me, or anyone else they want, as long as they say they’re doing it out of respect?


No, they cannot. However, expressing unwillingness to use pronouns is not the same thing as misgendering in our view. Someone might never refer to you in the third person, or use your name or username in place of third-person pronouns. If someone used different pronouns after engaging in a discussion like this that would have informed them of your pronouns and their comment was flagged, that would trigger actions like hiding, investigation, potential temporary suspension, and possible permanent suspension.


When multiple trans people are telling you something is misgendering, you listen.

Announcing to everyone on the thread including me that someone is not going to use my pronouns is misgendering and encouraging misgendering.


I feel like this is splitting some hairs that might not need to be split that finely. Yes, technically someone saying they don’t intend to use pronouns isn’t exactly the same as directly using the wrong pronouns on someone, but its still expressing an intent to not use the correct pronouns. And for LGBTQ+ people, that is a very important point. If that person truly intended just to use someone’s name for the rest of their interactions, that is fine, and they were perfectly open to clarifying that after the point, but there is zero need to make another post saying that they just aren’t going to use the preferred pronouns because those pronouns are uncomfortable to them.

The US is an extremely scary place for minority groups right now, and that includes the LGBTQ; an opinion can be a scary thing for a marginalized group when the underlying reason for that opinion is bigotry, and there are many people that hide their outright hate under the guise of opinions because there are so many people willing to brush opinions aside as a non-issue.

And honestly, I feel like (and hope) most of the problematic posts in the other thread were coming from a place of ignorance and not outright hate, but that doesn’t change there are people that hate the LGBTQ+ community. That want them dead. That want their children taken away. That wouldn’t care if they committed suicide. So there are some hackles up, because we are always hypervigilant for the the signs of that undercurrent of bigotry, because it is so prevelant right now


I am just going to leave this here for Staff.

The response I’ve seen here is very disappointing, I am hoping a formal apology will be made about the response given, and that the paid inat staff at minimum will attend some kind of formal training by inclusive queer organizers on proper response here, because the reaction given-- to like a post made by someone who is being transphobic, to leave those posts up for so long, and to shut down the positive discussion that followed the tension instead of leaving an apology about the delayed response to the transphobic incident… it’s very telling, especially when the site is looking to showcase it’s queer userbase for brownie points, yet can’t even do the basic step of shutting down transphobia when it happens and instead punishing everyone who was having a nice discussion long after the fact.


putting this here too for reference.


also, I find there is too much focus on rules and not enough on empathy or learning. I agree with @kueda 's choices of what to do on the flags. but that’s really not the point here, the point is that people are hurt and you’re not acknowledging them.

also I seriously have to make a confession here… I’ve been away for a year and change, but I AM a forum moderator. I just returned like a week ago so I was intending not to use my mod powers for a while. I haven’t totally disclosed everything because I used to be extremely active here and I wasn’t quite ready to out myself and I really didn’t want to be deadnamed.

I will say that the weird timing and delay of the slow / lock was NOT because of the later posts, it was just… hesitation and looking for additional input behind the scenes. Including mine. I know it’s easy to be scared of some greater conspiracy of bigotry, but the staff and mod team are people too. they can get overwhelmed or not be sure what to do. It’s been tiring for me too.

eta: I also removed the “Forum Moderator” title-card by my name in hopes of anonymity, because there’s like seven of us. The shield icon is still an indicator of my mod role, but I was kinda hoping to lay low… doesn’t seem like there’s a point now I’ve thrown myself into the middle of all this.


I think it is disrespectful to tell a person that their view, that using the pronoun ‘it’ is offensive, is ‘wrong’ and to be condemned, and that they must now use the term. I feel horrible referring to a human being as ‘it’ and find it dehumanising. Are you to say my (I share the sentiment) feelings and beliefs are less important?