I wasn't happy with what was happening on the thread - any of it really. I identified earlier on that I was too close to it and asked Maia to step in, which she did, and things calmed down, but then became inflamed again when a new voice entered the thread. I could see the comments coming in but was not able to do anything to step in, wasn't sure if Maia was either, and then finally just did something on Friday.
This was definitely a case of doing something being worse than doing nothing. I am deeply sorry.
By the time Maia emailed me to tell me, gently, that that wasn't my best moderating work I was aware I'd stuffed up, because I felt bad about how I had handled the thread. The comment I made to close things off didn't even make proper sense - I asked someone to stop commenting on the thread at the beginning and then a sentence or so later said I would be closing comments entirely. How nonsensical is that? And it should have been a signal to me that I wasn't in the right headspace to deal with it, and should think about doing something less definite or just keeping away and seeing who else was available.
I've seen a few critical tweets and I'm pretty sure there are some critical blog posts out there too - I haven't read those yet, and I mention that only so that you have that context in mind as you read this. I may not be responding to a question or point you've made because as yet I'm unaware of it. Yes it's a willful ignorance, in part, although mostly born of having no online time this weekend to look at blogs or write this, any earlier than just now. I sincerely wish I could have got to this sooner. I hope to be able to read that stuff, and reflect on it, sometime this week.
For the record, I think the key error I made was picking a side. And picking a side not based particularly on merit but on who was annoying me least at the time. Crappy decision-making process leads to crappy decision. Both the process and the outcome were mine to control, and I stuffed it up.
What to do now with that thread vexes me, and I welcome feedback, in comments here or by email if people prefer. I am not that keen on reinventing history by just deleting my mistakes. That feels dishonest. However there are things on that thread, some written by me and others not, which probably shouldn't stay here. And, as said previously, the only tools we have for moderation here are total deletion or making a guidance comment ourselves. So none of us can excise the bad bits from any comment and leave the rest untouched, or indicate that we've made some snips.
Please accept my heartfelt apology. I know some people may feel they can't and that sucks, and it is my fault and I have to wear that.
Comment direction: If people could kindly stick to topic, which is discussing what to do with that comment thread now, and/or tips for moderating better, that'd be appreciated. If you want to ask me questions I'm ok with that, but may not be able to reply promptly over the next week. Please don't take silence as anything other than I can't get to the blog much over this time. I won't be the only person modding on this thread, and in fact I may not mod on it at all, will see who else is able to do so.
ETA, 1050 Monday: Very quick note to say as a result of the discussion in comments my thinking has shifted on a bit since I wrote the above. Please read the comments if you want to engage in this discussion. And a warning, it is quite a robust discussion, so I suggest people be prepared for that. Hope to be able to write a proper update to this post in the next day or two. Just to confirm, I am not moderating this thread, but am participating (although probably not much today).
ETA, 11.59pm Monday: Things have moved on quite a lot for me since I wrote this. You can follow that thought process in the comments, where I've tried to record it. As this post is no longer accurate and at the risk of disappearing into my own navel, I'm going to summarise where my thinking is now at so that this is a bit of a more accurate record for those who don't/can't wade through the nearly 70 comments currently on here.
- Basing moderation decisions on who was annoying me least = WRONG. And for clarity it was Acid Queen who I found difficult to deal with in comments, not Scar. This has led me (with some appreciated prompting in comments) to think about why I found that difficult, and reflect on AQ's v valid point: "If you find yourself getting annoyed by what somebody is saying, please take the time to question whether that irritation is actually a feeling of privilege being called out. Often it is." I'm particularly ashamed that I didn't even understand that the sides I was putting people on and picking between were lining up as cis versus trans. What a dolt!
- My moderation stuff up was intrisincally related to the subject matter of the thread, i.e. transphobia and cissexism. I was thinking about them (in my post above) as separate things, but understand now that wasn't right. I apologise wholeheartedly for enabling and reinforcing transphobia in a way that was in itself also transphobic.
- Writing the moderating comment that closed the thread in a manner that acknowledged the difficulty some parties must have had in writing on the thread, yet missing the difficulties for those calling out the transphobia in the first place was an awful way to end things. I was trying not to read as thanking one side, but that's totally how it came across, so I failed badly.
- Good intentions don't mean a whole lot to the person who you've hurt. While I think there is value in doing the right thing for the right reasons, if you do the wrong thing for the right reasons, well, you've still done the wrong thing. Which isn't to say good intentions are worth nothing - they are imho the best starting point for doing the right thing next time.
- In moderation I have struggled with identifying transphobia and cissexism in comments. I have deleted some blatant (to me) stuff in the past, but the more subtle (to me) bits evade me. This is not because they aren't there, or can't be understood, but because I haven't noticed them. And I can improve what I know and what I notice.
- I've written all this not to make excuses or to justify. I genuinely want to learn from this and do feel like I have learnt (although a lot of what I've learnt is that I have a lot more to learn!). For me part of how I learn is to discuss, clarify, think things through, and I do this most effectively in writing and with assistance from those with more knowledge. I've written all this to explain what I thought I did wrong and why, and it's turned out that actually I was largely off target about that, so I'm glad I went about it this way, otherwise I probably would have worked that out by making a similar stuff up in the future. For those who think this is an unnecessary exercise in excessive apologising on my part, you can think that and I can't do anything about it.
- This whole experience has been a big wake-up call for me and I have some significant self-educating to do. Thank you sincerely to those who have been helping me to do that with their comments below (and privately, and elsewhere), you shouldn't have to do this and I appreciate the effort very much.