I have mixed feelings on the pronoun use, but having read some of her autobiographical writing I don’t think she would have taken much issue with it. This piece is more focused on her work in computer engineering, so I felt it was appropriate to post here.

  • @[email protected]
    link
    fedilink
    English
    331 month ago

    I have mixed feelings on the pronoun use, but having read some of her autobiographical writing I don’t think she would have taken much issue with it.

    It’s fine how they’ve used it because it’s referring to the time before transition, so it’s just being accurate and also means the story makes more sense.

    • @[email protected]
      link
      fedilink
      English
      63
      edit-2
      1 month ago

      A lot of trans people would disagree. Just because someone was forced to conform to their biological sex for years doesn’t mean they felt that way on the inside.

      Every trans person I know, without exception, prefers to refer to their pre-transition selves by their current pronouns and would take issue with the suggestion that they were still a boy/girl before becoming a girl/boy.

      • Rob T Firefly
        link
        fedilink
        English
        27
        edit-2
        1 month ago

        One analogy to consider is when someone comes out of the closet as non-hetero.

        Say you know a man called Joe Schmoe who used to live “in the closet” but eventually came out and said he was gay, he’d always been gay, and he’s ready to publicly proclaim his sexuality. You wouldn’t then look at a photo of Joe taken back before he came out and say “this is a picture of heterosexual Joe Schmoe” because he wasn’t heterosexual, he was a gay man who wasn’t yet able to outwardly live that particular truth. Past Joe was still gay, not straight, and it remains correct to refer to him as gay no matter when in his life you’re talking about. The error of his previous misidentification has been corrected, and his labels thoroughly (and retroactively) updated to reflect that.

        Similarly, it’s correct to always refer to a trans person as their true gender, preferred pronouns, and preferred name, even if you’re referring to a time in their life when they were not yet living that truth. Lynn Conway was correctly identified as a woman with she/her pronouns, and this article does her a disservice through its mixed-up pronoun use.

      • Rhaedas
        link
        fedilink
        91 month ago

        That makes sense, but then the term “transition” seems incorrect. More of a “resolution”.

        • Tywele [she|her]
          link
          fedilink
          English
          101 month ago

          Transition can refer to different aspects like your appearance or how you present socially. So transition is still the right term.

          • Resol van Lemmy
            link
            fedilink
            English
            61 month ago

            That’s why the prefix “trans-” exists, not just for transgender people, but for other things like transportation, transposition, transition, transformation, Transjordan (sorry, I just HAD to make that joke), it simply means “the other side”.

            • Rhaedas
              link
              fedilink
              31 month ago

              That emphasized my point. If someone feels that they had always been a certain way in the past even though they didn’t look it or act it in public, there is no “other side” of themselves. I’m not trying to change the vocabulary, just was an observation of using a word past its usual meaning. That’s how words evolve.

              • Tywele [she|her]
                link
                fedilink
                English
                51 month ago

                There can still be another side, like I said, just in another aspect. Their gender identity might have been the same througout but their presentation would’ve probably changed with time. Thus a transition.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        51 month ago

        Agreed, this is generally true, though personally as a trans woman, I prefer to refer to my child self with gender neutral terms. Others can refer to my child self with my current pronouns, or with gender neutral pronouns.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        31 month ago

        prefers to refer to their pre-transition selves by their current pronouns

        so “I/me/mine”, right? :*P

        • @[email protected]
          link
          fedilink
          English
          81 month ago

          Hah, got me there on a technicality.

          An example though would be one friend I have who was telling me recently about a story from back when we were in high school. When quoting someone who was talking about her, she chose to use her current pronouns and current name even though realistically those wouldn’t have been used at that time. Even if it’s less “accurate” in a historical context, it’s a positive affirmation to be able to say “this is who I have always been, even if I couldn’t share it publicly at the time.”

          And it also helps those in the present who may have never known her back then and might wonder who she was referring to. A bit like how one might talk about the childhood of Lady Gaga and not the childhood of Stefani Germanotta.

          • Tywele [she|her]
            link
            fedilink
            English
            51 month ago

            Also in the case you described when she talks to someone who didn’t know her pre-transition it would be a forced outing using the old pronouns and deadname.

          • @[email protected]
            link
            fedilink
            English
            21 month ago

            I did get the point, just felt like you walked right into that one ;) As for pronouns, I believe each person is different & one should ask them before assuming - but I also think “misgendering” someone in past tense regarding a time before their transition, before being informed about their preferences, shouldn’t be met with the same disdain as the “vanilla misgendering”. In general none of us should be getting our panties in a wrinkle over other people’s way of addressing us unless there’s malicious intent (and even then, getting angry about it is just going to ruin our own day, chances are not theirs if they are that inconsiderate.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        21 month ago

        Why make a big deal about it? Have you ever considered that if the writer respects Conwyay, then the writer is doing what she wanted?

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        11 month ago

        I know there is variance among the community. Of my three trans friends 2 prefere being referred to by their post transition gender in the past tense and once preferes they/them.

        A coworker who came out requested he/him until after they took time off for treatment and then she/her afterwards.

        When asked if he wanted his name updated on an award plaque while away he said no. So when she returned we had only updated her door name plate and info in the company directory.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        -141 month ago

        What they “felt on the inside” is not the same as what they actually were at the time though. Referring to them as he or she is just a statement of fact at the time.

        We had this same thing when Ellen Page became Elliot Page. Then there was an attempt to retroactively change all references and make them Elliot Page, even though the work he did before was as Ellen Page.

        It’s not transphobic to acknowledge the person they were before transition.

        • Tywele [she|her]
          link
          fedilink
          English
          191 month ago

          How about letting transgender people decide that?

          I for one want to be referred to by my chosen pronouns even in the past pre-transition.

    • rand_alpha19
      link
      fedilink
      51 month ago

      Trans person here. I vehemently disagree and would find this treatment exceptionally disrespectful.

      I transitioned at 17 though; referring to someone who transitioned later in life can be somewhat different.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        -31 month ago

        Why though? You were that gender, and then you transitioned to what you are now.

        Just because you weren’t happy as your birth gender doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist.

        • rand_alpha19
          link
          fedilink
          101 month ago

          Just because other people saw me as a certain gender doesn’t mean I actually was, especially not when it comes to my sense of self.

          I’m not trying to erase something that existed, I’m asking my family to reframe my childhood from the way they saw it to the way I actually experienced it. They’re empathetic and they love me, so they do me that service.

          I would ask a reporter attempting to cover my life story to do so in a way that’s consistent with how I want my life to be portrayed. Seems like basic respect.

    • @[email protected]
      link
      fedilink
      English
      01 month ago

      I’m okay with it too. It adds context. If they referred to her as “she” describing the period she was a married father with kids it could be confusing.

  • @[email protected]
    link
    fedilink
    English
    301 month ago

    You’re right, very weird use of pronouns in the obituary. I can only imagine that most of it was lifted from the article from 2000. That doesn’t excuse misgendering someone, they could have updated it for 2024.

    • @[email protected]
      link
      fedilink
      English
      211 month ago

      Some people see their pre-transition selves as being one gender, and only use their post-transition gender to inform their new pronouns later. It was written by a person that interviewed her and apparently held her in high respect. All we can see is that there is an abrupt change in the pronouns, where Lynn presumably could have considered herself to match the new pronouns. We don’t know without asking her if she was misgendered by the article, and we are a bit late for that.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        31 month ago

        Yes, I have no clue how she felt about the article from 2000, and obviously reading it with a 2024 lens is not fair to the original author. I am happy for her that the obituary didn’t deadname her like the original article did, and hope that she would have been ok with the pronouns used the way they did pre/post transition.

  • @AlligatorBlizzardOP
    link
    English
    24
    edit-2
    1 month ago

    Because there’s several comment chains about the use of pronouns and I wasn’t quite sure where to add this, I decided to do a top level comment. She wrote an autobiographical retrospective of her transition on her University of Michigan faculty page twenty years ago about a transition that started long before that (and her main faculty page is a fascinating time capsule of trans history). When I came out as trans in 2012 her page was already a bit dated and the start of my transition, as I experienced it, was firmly in the bad old days. Conway was part of a much older generation of trans people, and there were narratives we had to force ourselves into in order to access healthcare, especially the ideas that we always knew and the idea of being born in the wrong body, and (in her generation but not mine) the idea that you had to be heterosexual post-transition. For some, it fit well enough, but for others it was an act for the doctors just to get life saving healthcare.

    The obituary I posted reads like it was written twenty years ago and would have been incredibly respectful back then. It’s narratively in line with the framework of stories trans people had available to explain their lived experiences in the generation Lynn Conway was part of, and ones that Conway herself used extensively in her autobiographical work. I’m glad public understanding has grown and the narrative frameworks available have expanded. I feel like the obituary is in line with her own lived experiences as she understood them.

    • @[email protected]
      link
      fedilink
      English
      4
      edit-2
      1 month ago

      Thanks for posting her faculty page, I hope anyone who feels conflicted about the obituary reads it! It sounds like the obituary author knew her well and wrote from a place of mutual understanding and respect.

  • @[email protected]
    link
    fedilink
    English
    151 month ago

    It’s an interesting question as far as dead naming as well. Normally it’s just a dick move or an accident because of old habits. But in the case of people who did important work that might be published under an old name it can be useful to get them the credit.

    I’m a computer engineer so I looked up her work to see if I was familiar with it. I was wondering if I would need to lookup her dead name to find her important work. In her case her big book (which I recognized immediately and have on my shelf) was published after her transition so it wasn’t necessary.

    If it had been written pre transition it would have been a shame to not know she was the author.

    • PAPPP
      link
      fedilink
      English
      31 month ago

      There’s some weirdness on that because she did some important but not-very-public work at IBM in the 60s with their ACS/“Project Y” effort that did what we later call superscalar/multi-issue processors like …20 years before those terms existed. As part of that she wrote a paper about “Dynamic Instruction Scheduling” in 1966 under her pre-transition identity that is a like retroactive first cause for a bunch of computer architecture ideas.

      There was almost nothing about that work in public until Mark Smotherman was doing some history of computing work in the late 90s, put out a call for information about it, and she produced a huge trove of insider information after deciding it was worth exposing the provenance. There’s a neat long-form LATimes piece about the situation which is probably the primary source for the history in OP’s link.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        31 month ago

        The 2000 long-form piece and yesterday’s obituary posted by OP are written by the same person, Michael Hiltzik

        • PAPPP
          link
          fedilink
          English
          31 month ago

          …I probably should have checked the byline before posting. It does still come from the same material, just a little more directly.

  • a lil bee 🐝
    link
    fedilink
    English
    151 month ago

    I cite Conway’s Law (and it’s reverse corollary) multiple times a week. I’m sorry to hear this, but her contributions were many and 85 is not a bad run. I hope she was happy and fulfilled, in the end.

  • @[email protected]
    link
    fedilink
    English
    61 month ago

    Fantastic! She was a huge part of the military-industrial complex in computing and her entire work has to be viewed through that lens. While her contributions to the field are numerous and incredibly meaningful, she also wanted to help the military develop machine intelligence and is every explicit way connected to modern conflicts where military misuses AI to murder children.

    • @[email protected]
      link
      fedilink
      English
      131 month ago

      If you’re serious, please elaborate on your points. I genuinely don’t understand.

      Going by Wikipedia here,

      She was a huge part

      Please define huge part. She was a “key architect” in the starting years of a project that fell short of its goals.

      her entire work has to be viewed through that lens

      Why? It was, relatively speaking, an almost small part of her career. She didn’t stay until the end of the project. You even admit that her contributions to the field were many and meaningful.

      is every explicit way connected to modern conflicts where military misuses AI to murder children

      This feels like such a huge leap, that I don’t even know where to begin tackling it. Is Tim Berners Lee in every explicit way connected to the modern privacy hellscape that is the modern internet?

      Make no mistake, if she really did want to help develop artificial intelligence for the military’s sake, fuck her. I can respect someone’s achievements while also thinking they’re trash as a person.

      But I don’t think that’s the case here, and I’m lost as to what point, exactly, you’re trying to make.

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        12
        edit-2
        1 month ago

        These are great questions! Rather than pull individual citations, I’ll point you at these books

        Your last point, suggesting that it’s possible to take DARPA money without intentionally developing weapons, is part of the whitewashing we’ve done of computing that’s incredibly wrong. Make no mistake, I am directly saying a majority of computing pioneers in the US are trash people while respecting their achievements. Their work was done explicitly under the knowledge it was for military purposes. Levine has a few great anecdotes about engineers watching protestors and asking for extra security.

        Your example of Berners-Lee is an interesting one. He’s trash for modern opinions. I don’t know much about the military history, if any, of CERN, so I don’t know their culpability. Conway took DARPA money and architected DARPA projects. That’s her culpability, unless you’re able to show she was coerced and didn’t know about the widely discussed military connections scientists had to know to write their grants for funding?

        Edit: fixed the Weinberger link

        • @[email protected]
          link
          fedilink
          English
          111 month ago

          I won’t know if any of the linked resources are any good until I have time to look them over, but if nothing else I appreciate you taking the time to answer.

          Re: whitewashing, fair point. I’d already read about the issue, but maybe I still need to rethink how I look at computing history.

          • @[email protected]
            link
            fedilink
            English
            71 month ago

            If you’ve read stuff like Hackers by Levy or Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Hafner, there’s a very happy, “look at this cool shit we built” attitude to everything (both books are fantastic and worth the read). Levy’s Crypto begins to dance around some of the dangers when he writes about Diffie-Hellman. MIT AI especially has its roots in this gnarly defense world even though it’s usually portrayed as anything but. The amount of computing used for RAND to support the war in Vietnam is terrible.

    • nifty
      link
      fedilink
      English
      31 month ago

      Sometimes you have to develop defensive or offensive capabilities, and how they’re used are the responsibility of politicians. You’ll have to accept that some citizens support the actions of the politicians to use defensive or offensive capabilities.

      If the non-war side has convincing arguments other than shaming based on assumed moral superiority, then they should suggest alternatives for dealing with aggressive sociopaths (Putin attacking Ukraine, for example) or any number of examples of violent extremism in history from [insert your ideological enemy].

      Humans are still operating on a primitive model to kill opponents instead of alternative ways to deal with them, and blaming one scientist for that ill of society doesn’t make sense. Her contributions to science are separate from the sociopolitical issues under which they came about.

    • BlanketsWithSmallpox
      link
      fedilink
      English
      01 month ago

      Man makes fire and farming. Is subsequently responsible for every death known to man.

      How dare they!

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        English
        81 month ago

        Did man write grants to show how said fire had military applications? If so, how dare they! If not your straw man is kinda lacking.

        • BlanketsWithSmallpox
          link
          fedilink
          English
          -3
          edit-2
          1 month ago

          Fire cook food. Fire also kill…

          So no, it’s really not lol. Most people smart enough to invent shit know that in can be used for evil. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use nuclear energy. There is nuance behind advancing civilization.

          The people intelligent enough to make these things are usually looking far beyond anyone else and the military’s money is just as good as anyones.

          • @[email protected]
            link
            fedilink
            English
            51 month ago

            If you’re writing a grant illustrating its military applications I don’t really care what else you want to use it for. Looks like we disagree about intention so have fun with that.