Saturday, February 8, 2020

I'm Regretfully Leaving the SQL Server Community

I’m leaving the SQL Server community. In the year and a half since I transitioned, I’ve been to 3 SQLSaturdays. I left all of them crying. 

In Iowa City at almost every session I had a large space of empty chairs around me and was misgendered multiple times. 

In Nashville last month a well-known member of the community misgendered me in a class, and although the speaker corrected her, she misgendered me 2 more times that night at the after party. 

In St. Louis last night a speaker misgendered me and in the last session I was in today the speaker pointed at me and said loudly “the guy said.” I’ve never been so aggressively misgendered. There was a member of the SQLSaturday organizing team one seat away from him and she couldn’t be bothered to correct him. I can only assume that she felt the same way. I couldn’t defend myself because I was so physically ill that I was fighting not to throw up. 

When I transitioned and was treated like a non-person by many co-workers, I realized I had to put up with it for a paycheck. But I decided that I wouldn’t go anywhere or do anything where I was made to feel that bad. So, I’m leaving this community. The wonderful people that I’ve met, and in particular, those of you that have been so kind to me since my transition I’m going to miss very much.

23 comments:

  1. Jennifer,

    Hearing about your experience is painful. I hope one day for a world where people are open, accepting, and want to have a genuine dialog with people around them. As a woman in Science/Engineering/Technology, what you are saying meshes with my experience. In my experience, there are allies everywhere, you just need to look, and concentrate on them. I care about you and your experience. Together we can change this.

    Sincerely,

    Julie

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  2. Dear Jenn,
    I'm so sorry to hear about your experiences. While I hope that generally people are better, obviously your story shows that we have a ways to go. If you ever want to talk further, I'm at lori.a.edwards@gmail.com. I wish you all the luck going forward.

    Lori

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  3. Jennifer,

    I'm deeply saddened to hear this. I'm sorry that it has come to this, but I support you making the decision to do what you need to do for now. Should you decide to return to the community, I know that I and many others will welcome you with open arms. Hopefully the rest of the community will mature in that time.

    Feel free to reach out if you need anything, professional or otherwise. I and my family are here for you.

    -D.

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  4. People are human, Jennifer. People make mistakes. I did it once to someone and wasn't sure how to deal with it so I said nothing but that doesn't mean I was being hateful or intentional. I just wasn't wasn't paying attention (my mistake) but I don't do it now and so I have never offended anyone since again. I just wanted to give you some insight into the mind of someone who might accidentally do this. My goal at the time was not to magnify my mistake further.

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    1. ResidentX,Y just centered yourself and your intent over her and the harm done to her. Think hard about why you did this. Apologize and do better next time.

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  5. Jennifer, I'm sorry you experienced that. You deserve better from the people misgendering and the people observing but doing anything. To our #SQLFamily, I expect more than standing by and doing nothing when a fellow human being is bullied.

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  6. I wish that we knew one another. I've been toying with the idea of attending one of the SQL events in Nashville.

    I don't want to invite the same misgendering towards me, so I think I'll just stay away.

    Thanks for the heads up.

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    1. I know the organizer of the Nashville event and supporter of the tech community in the area - Tamera works toward inclusiveness and her community is very supportive. Please don't let this reflect poorly on them. I'd make sure you reach out locally, too and let them know your hesitation and I'm sure you will have the utmost support!

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    2. I'll second what Wendy said as I already did in reply to your Tweet. I know one trans woman going to the event and one trans woman being misgendered three separate times by the same person is easy math, but there were many wonderful people like Wendy there. And Tamera and her crew are wonderful as well.

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  7. People like that wind me right up. They are the ones with the problem. Live your life the way you choose. Screw them.

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  8. Hello Jennifer, I'm so sorry that you were treated in this way. As a former PASS Board member, I am mortified and embarrassed. I'm no longer on the Board, but I'd be keen to make moves to ensure that these people are excluded unless they offer you a full and unreserved apology. I'm also surprised that more people didn't stick up for you, and that is also a painful realisation.
    I have emailed some Microsoft team members and PASS so that this is highlighted in the hope that it never happens again, to you or anyone else.
    If you are thinking of attending another event, and I'm going as well, I'll be right by your side. I'm with you.
    Kind Regards,
    Jen

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  9. Jennifer I am so sorry to hear this. I am a Microsoft employee, and while I don't work on SQL Server (I used to way back in SQL 2005 days), it just hurts to hear about this kind of experience for anyone in our user community. We clearly need to work to get more allies at our community events. Again, really really sorry you had to go through this.

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  10. ‪Sorry to hear about your experience. Take care of yourself. If you do want to return, it looks like there are many peers here that will support you. ‬

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  11. Jennifer,

    I am very sorry you had a negative experience at SQL Saturday St. Louis 2020. I was not aware this happened until now.

    As event organizer, one important goal was to strengthen solidarity around diversity and inclusion in our IT community. I invited LaShana Lewis, a prominent national spokesperson on the subject to speak at a special lunch presentation. The session was well-attended, and I received only positive feedback from attendees.

    I hope that the pain of your experience is tempered by knowing that many who attended engaged with Ms. Lewis about building a more diverse, inclusive, and socially aware community.

    Sincerely,

    Gary

    Gary Polinsky
    Organizer, SQL Saturday St. Louis 2020

    For more about LaShana Lewis and building diversity and inclusion in IT, click through the lunch-time presentation on the event schedule at:
    https://www.sqlsaturday.com/943/Sessions/Schedule.aspx

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  12. Jennifer,
    I was in the last session with you and I apologize for not catching the reference made by the speaker or I would have certainly corrected him. It wasn’t that I couldn’t be bothered, it was simply that I didn’t hear the misgender reference. You were an integral part of that meeting and I was impressed with your knowledge and talking points you came up with for the discussion. I never noticed that you were upset. I wish you had reached out to me at the lecture.

    St. Louis is a great community but we are still working on our awareness. Unfortunately, we are not unique in that regard. I hope you were able to listen to the LaShana Lewis lunch time lecture where she brought up her experiences in the technology community and the challenges faced in having companies become more inclusive. We can always be more educated and understanding.

    Jennifer, I enjoyed our time together at the Speaker dinner and the lecture. Please re-consider staying in the SQL community. We would not only regret losing you as a valued lecturer and participant in our organization, but we would also be losing an opportunity to have someone help us be more sensitive to gender referencing.

    Julie
    Organizer, SQL Saturday St. Louis 2020
    stlssug@yahoo.com

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  13. As a member of the SQL Family I'm sad to see you go, and angry at the reason. In this day and age nobody should be deliberately insulted and it sounds very like that's exactly what happened.
    However, I also hope that you'll find the forgiveness in your heart to speak with Julie and Gary and maybe work with them to help prevent this happening to more people in the future.

    With my love and support,
    Michael Irwin

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  14. I can only echo the above sentiment. Don't quit. Ever. Especially in an environment where you should be among colleagues and peers. The choice you made was always going to lead to a situation like this where you are forced to decide if you are going to fight for you standing or give up. Given the enormity of the decision you already made, the choice to stand and fight seems to be an obvious one.
    I wish you nothing but the best, and the strength to stand tall.
    Chris

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  15. To Jennifer:

    Late Sunday I noticed via Twitter someone was leaving the SQL community. Details made it was easy for all who wished to identify those involved. Sadly I was the “last session speaker”. Oh how I wish I could go back before that fateful session and plead with you to tell me before we started about your circumstances.

    I TRULY apologize for causing you pain. I swear to you that I didn’t know your situation or need. I have never been someone who judges other people's personal lives or issues. As my kindred spirit Spock would say, it would not be "logical" to go after groups of people who have done me no harm. I did not refer to you during that session with a deliberately wrong pronoun. Had I been told beforehand, you would not have been made to feel so awful, and I would not have been crucified by the mob on social media.

    I know what it means to suffer from a situation that is both invisible, and beyond my control. Asperger's Syndrome is a part of the Autism Spectrum, and it makes me appear cold and unfeeling, abrupt and pointed. We have difficulty recognizing social cues and norms, and processing/understanding emotions. I have thought about wearing a sign stating that any odd social behavior is due to a genetic factor that I struggle with daily. It has caused issues in my marriage, with my child … in every facet of my life. It is always there, ready to cause trouble, despite decades trying to minimize its effects. For once it was actually NOT a factor, as multiple others have made the same misidentification.

    I may be boisterous and direct – a dumber Sheldon Cooper if you will. Anyone that has seen me present knows that I can be QUITE energetic while sharing my passion for SQL Server. This directness and passion is NOT aggression though! I will add that in this session I directly called out several people to give them kudos for coming up with one of the few items called out during my quick introductory “what things you can think of that…”. And I that is what I was doing for you – giving you recognition for doing well!

    Jennifer, I am not a judgmental man, and I am not a cruel one. My wife has repeatedly told our daughter as she works her way into the awful teenage years that “her father doesn’t have a mean bone in his body”. Had I know of your gender and pronoun preferences, I would have done my best to understand and accommodate. I may not have executed perfectly, but even a salty old dog can be kind enough to try to learn new tricks.

    I have put so many years, and so much of ME, into helping grow and give to this community, which I passionately love. The past forty-eight hours, as this event has unfolded, not only have I been devastated that I might be part of the cause of someone wanting to leave this AMAZING community, but also due to the many truly ugly things said about and to me on social media. I have been physically shaking, my pulse has been as much as 60%! above normal, I am unable to sleep, hardly able to work, and unable to quell my overwhelming anxiety and intense depression regarding the horrific circumstances I find myself in. My level of concern about this event is greatly magnified by the unknown of what is to befall me as a result of a single wrong word. There are some VERY bad things that could befall me going forward – far worse than the expected banning from any future PASS activities (which itself is a staggering blow).

    Jennifer, I want to explicitly state that there was no malice, no exclusion, no bias, no hate, no aggression – no ANYTHING. I addressed you as I did others in that session, just mistakenly with the wrong pronoun. PLEASE consider staying with the SQL Server communit - it is AMAZING. I, and I am certain others, will do our best to be supportive. We will get it wrong some of the time, but a kind reminder will suffice. I know what it means to struggle with something that is invisible to other people, and the internal strength it takes to keep putting one’s self out there.

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  16. Jennifer,

    I wish you didn't have to go through this. The SQL community is a wide and diverse group, and I've seen tremendous strides over the years for us to embrace diversity. We still have a long way to go.

    You've had a bad experience, and I'm going to encourage you to take a different approach. This is an opportunity for you to stand up and tell your story. I don't know many (or any) openly transgendered people in our community. You have the ability to affect so much change here. Please use your experience to educate us and advance the cause of inclusion. You'll be better for it, and so will the community.

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  17. Dear Jennifer.
    Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cara Hoffman, and I am Kevin Boles' wife.
    I have been an OB/Gyn for the last 25 years. I have been board certified for the last 18 years. I take care of ALL women. who deserve equal, quality care. I have had the privilege of serving straight women, lesbian women, trans women, bisexual women, questioning women.
    Next year will mark my 20th year as a Human Rights Coalition member. I have multiple reasons for being a supporter.
    In every medical practice I've been in, I've kept an HRC sticker stuck to the front of my desk, so patients know they can speak freely and safely.
    I could never have married a man who discriminates against any minority group. He and I have been married nearly 20 years, and he has never shown hatred towards any group.
    Kevin has been personally, physically, and mentally destroyed by these allegations. He has detailed these in his apology letter. I hope you have read it with an open mind.
    Kevin is away on a work trip, so I can't even give him a hug.
    I understand that because of the number of situations you reported, that there are now official investigations into each of these incidents. I am also aware that when you were contacted in the interest of gathering information, you stated you were no longer willing to discuss these situations.
    I know from my work with trans women that you have likely been treated horribly, including physical threats. As strong as your reaction to these events has been, I fear you may have PTSD. You have my utmost sympathy.
    I have been sitting home trying to think of ways to help Kevin, as he has been accused of being hateful and discriminatory. I know him. He is a good man. He has not ever been cruel.
    Last night I reached out to an LGBTQ Facebook group I belong to, to ask them for advice about how best to handle this delicate situation. I belong to this group to answer medical questions, to offer support, and to provide the most current information published by ACOG (American College of OB/Gyn) and ABOG (American Board of OB/Gyn) and to obtain feedback from their community.
    These LGBTQ members were all so understanding, and helpful, and they offered me a number of excellent suggestions. One of them was to reach out to our local LGBTQIA and arrange a possible mediation meeting between you and Kevin, to make you comfortable with the discussion, and to prevent further misunderstandings.
    I do so wish that you had been able to reach out to Kevin after the session to explain your situation. Unfortunately, the story has been made public without recourse. No one has asked about the other parties involved, or what their story might be.
    I would ask that you consider my words, and consider the fact that a man's career and reputation may be at stake, in a public accusation in which he has not been given a chance to speak.
    He has sincerely apologized, and I offer my sympathy for any hurt you may have suffered due to this misunderstanding.
    Please feel free to reach out to me. I will arrange whatever you need to discuss these events. I do hope that you will agree to cooperate with any inquiries. I know it might be painful, but as the charges have been given to investigators, I feel it would be best for you to cooperate by providing information.
    Again, I know you have been terribly hurt in your lifetime. I am asking you to consider that the situation in St Louis was an unfortunate misunderstanding. I do understand your heartbreak, but I am asking you to consider that Kevin had no ill intent toward you, and I would hope you would express the possibility that this was an unwitting mistake.
    Sincerely, Cara Hoffman MD, FACOG

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    1. So I'm just going to say this Cara Hoffman MD, (because that's what I do, I say things out loud…:)) For you to come on Jennifer's blog and post this, to propose this, using your position in the medical community, your accreditation with support groups, etc. vs. having a conversation privately and directly with Jennifer, (who kept names out of the situation and simply wanted closure as she chose to depart) I have a real problem with it.
      This is you blaming her for saying out loud what happened to her. This is you using your title, you stating yourself as a supporter of officially recognized groups that Jennifer would be identified with as a banner to justify a dismissal of her experience.
      From my own experience with other transwomen, it's rarely a single situation that makes one decide to leave a community or event, but a slow, consistent death by a thousand pin pricks. I hear Jennifer and I support her, without persecution of your husband and see it as an opportunity to educate and to be more inclusive, of everyone- Jennifer and your husband. I in no way SUPPORT this path you've chosen to take here. It was wrong, it was practically the definition of gaslighting.
      Full STOP.
      Sincerely,
      Kellyn Gorman

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    2. Came here to say the same thing, Kellyn. But you did it so well I’ll just say 100% agree.

      Cara, you need to delete this comment. Kevin outed himself as being the one who did this. Jennifer has no obligation to protect him or take any other actions.

      You post, Cara, puts the blame on the wrong person.

      Delete