Paizo Update from Jeff Alvarez

Monday, September 20, 2021

My public statement on Wednesday was a fundamental expression of Paizo’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, values that I share both personally and professionally. It was an opening statement—not the final word on the topic by any means.

Words are important.

But I also know that actions are even more important.

As a result, I want to share with you a number of actions that address some of the concerns that have been brought to our attention over the last week.

The welfare and safety of our employees is paramount. No employee will ever be fired for whistleblowing or advocating for employee safety and wellbeing, and we have never fired an employee for doing so.

Following our return from Gen Con, the Executive Team will schedule individual meetings with our managers to give them a chance to share concerns directly. In the coming weeks, Paizo will issue an independently managed employee engagement survey to provide all employees with an anonymous means to provide candid feedback. The information provided through this process is aimed at addressing employee concerns and driving change to create a more positive workplace.

We take all claims of harassment seriously. Our CEO Lisa Stevens released a statement in 2019 that underscores Paizo’s stance on this matter, and it applies today as well. You can read that here: https://paizo.com/community/guidelines.

We held staff-wide in person anti-harassment training in 2018 and initiated annual mandatory online training earlier in 2021.

We are currently finalizing a job description to fill a vacant full-time HR position. You’ll see this posted in the next few business days, and we’ll be looking for a candidate with expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is important to all of us that this professional can help us to maintain Paizo’s shared commitment to our values in recruitment, hiring, and daily operations.

In the meantime, we are encouraging our employees to make use of the free independent human resources hotline Paizo initiated in 2018, where they can report grievances of any kind in complete confidentiality.

Paizo makes decisions about employee convention attendance based on the business and community needs of the show, irrespective of gender or gender identity. However, it is time that Paizo evolves from the longtime practice of employees sharing rooms during convention and business travel. As such, we have enacted a one-employee-per-room policy that will be our standard moving forward. Employees can request to share a room if they so choose.

We are extending Paizo’s existing work-from-home timeline through at least the end of the year. Employees that want to work from the office can continue to do so but will need to abide by the company’s existing vaccination and mask policies. We will continue to follow CDC guidelines and keep our employees as safe as possible during the pandemic by offering work-from-home and a safe office space for those who prefer that option.

Over the last several years, we have invested heavily in Project Management to help the company get a better sense of workload in the Creative Department, implementing company-wide project management software and increasing the size of the project management team. This work has already resulted in increased production schedule lead times, and Paizo will continue to leverage this valuable resource to provide better work/life balances for our employees.

In the same period, the creation of additional management positions within the Creative Department has also helped give staff better access to managers, and to empower those managers to better gauge deadlines and workloads. As with our Project Management initiatives, this is an ongoing process, but it is already bearing fruit and improving not just Paizo’s products, but the lives of the brilliant creatives who make them possible.

To clear up some confusion that has worked its way into the conversation, freelancer relations remains the purview of the Creative Department. Paizo freelancers who appreciate their strong relationship with our developers, editors, and art team can be assured that we have made no changes on this front.

Finally, based on feedback from the staff, we changed professional cleaning services in 2017, and the offices have been cleaned and vacuumed on a regular basis since then.

These aren’t the only things we are doing. We are building strategies to address the challenges facing the company and will strive to be more transparent about our plans as we build stronger lines of communication with everyone at Paizo. We are committed to listening. We are committed to continuing to improve based on the feedback of our teams. There will be more messages, and more concrete actions, to come.

--Jeff

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The fact that their main official statement can't admit that the hotel policy is in the conversation right now because of institutional transphobia within the company is my primary concern. If Paizo is a company that puts trans women on the covers of books but can't admit when they've failed and harmed real trans women in their employ, then they aren't a company I want to support.

Systemic change takes time. Admitting they've screwed up on a progressive/inclusive focus they've publicly espoused does not, and the fact that they seem to be taking pains not to is a huge strike against them already. Each day that passes with it not acknowledged makes their commitment to queer folks ring more and more hollow.

Wayfinders Contributor

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keftiu wrote:
I've stated mine very clearly probably half a dozen times now: communication from the top that admits they had transphobic abuses within the company, an apology for that, and tangible change in policy or staff to ensure no trans person suffers for their identity within the company again.

^ This.

A communication from the top is what is needed here. I think everyone has been waiting for Vic and/or Lisa to acknowledge there was a problem, and to commit to a future where Paizo's internal values live up to those expressed in their creative work.

The problem with any systemic bias is that often the oppressors don't realize that they are oppressing. Admitting what happened, and unlearning biases is hard cognitive and emotional work. We all will fail to live up to our own ideals sometimes. I know that I have. But then someone has corrected me, and I've said, "You're right. I made a mistake. I have learned, and I will do better."

Making that acknowledgement and committing to change... I believe that is the deeper step that is wanted.

Hmm


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Fwiw, I believe Vic and Lisa have effectively retired from actual operations (even though they're still listed as holding executive roles).


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Thomas Keller wrote:
At this point I'm wondering what will satisfy people. What, precisely, do people want here?

This question has been asked repeatedly, and many people have answered this question in great detail over and over again. Most of the people who have asked this question have not engaged in good faith with all of the explanations offered them, which leads me to believe that this question has mostly been asked to derail discussions. I don't mean to say that this is your intent, but as an explanation of the context that colours how people might perceive your question.

No one owes you or any other random member of the community these explanations. If you cannot be bothered going back and reading the explanations that have already been offered, that is fine, but it is unfair to expect others to perform that labour for you.

When one party (the people asking for accountability) asks another party (Paizo) for something, they don't owe an explanation of the details of what they want to a third party that has no standing in the matter. If Paizo wants to ask for details, that's great. But people who aren't Paizo aren't entitled to answers and justifications of what is being asked of Paizo, especially after those have already been made available.

It is fine* to ask the question, just don't go thinking you are entitled to an answer.

*Well, it is only fine if you are unaware that it has been asked and answered already. If you are aware, it is obnoxious and obstructive to keep asking it.


Nothing about the doxxing?


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To reiterate another thing (and I hate that I am reiterating this for the reasons I stated in my previous post):

I want to keep playing Pathfinder and keep working on my PF2 based setting and keep making and sharing homebrew content and keep being on these forums and to keep giving Paizo my money, as do many of the others here with concerns about the transphobia stuff.

But as a trans person (and even if I wasn't a trans person, I would feel the same, because being from a minority shouldn't be the only thing that makes you want to stick up for that minority) I won't feel comfortable buying Paizo products (and will have the other stuff I mentioned above be a gray area) until there is some kind of direct acknowledgement of whether they refused to let a trans person room with a cis person, or some kind of acknowledgement of whether they had a policy or practice (even an informal practice) of refusing to let trans people room with cis people in place.

If they did have a transphobic policy in place, all they have to do is say "we did, and we see now that it was wrong, and we are sorry, and here is a vague plan for how we will improve", and then make a good faith effort to follow through on that.

Instead they tried to avoid the issue of whether there was such a policy or practice by changing to single rooms.

I'm not on some crusade to bring down Paizo or anything, I just want them to show enough accountability that I can be comfortable that I am not supporting transphobia by giving them my money. I want to go back to throwing money at a product I love, but can't do it until I know it is ethical to do so.


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What we want is simple.

We want accountability, clear communication, and a visible commitment to do better with actual visible steps begin taken. The fact that it is actually hard at this point to keep the number of transgressions straight is indicative of a real problem and it is one that will get worse with time until the company either drives us fully away or rots from the inside and collapses.

From the doxxing, to the transphobia, to the allegations of creepy behavior/discriminatory language getting tossed around by the higher ups, to a firing that led to someone quitting in solidarity, to the housekeeping situation actually violating OSHA, it's getting out of hand and these are only the things that have reached a bunch of outsiders. There is a rot in the corporate culture of Paizo.

Personally, as far as I am concerned, most executives are entirely expendable on a good day but I recognize most folk aren't as keen on a reckoning as I am. The heart and soul of the company has always been the creatives that came up with the products we love and the fine folk who did the hard, hard, work of actually getting those products out the door. Their protection and happiness should be what the company as a whole serves, otherwise nothing else happens.

What I'll take is a clear communication as to the meaningful steps being taken to address these allegations. Admitting fault and working to be better is not a sign of weakness or failure. In this climate it would probably be embraced by the community at large.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. If Paizo starts losing customers over this, it won't be a short-lived boycott. It will be because Paizo and this industry as a whole have driven players away. Impassioned, strange, wonderful players who will be gone and the hobby will be the worse off for it.


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Steve Geddes wrote:
Fwiw, I believe Vic and Lisa have effectively retired from actual operations (even though they're still listed as holding executive roles).

Well then, it is definitely worth someone calling them on the Star Wars phone and telling them that the company they own is under a cloud of allegations. I see at least two options:

1: They know, but don’t know how to respond

2: They know but don’t care.

I guess there is:

3: They don’t know

Or

4: They know and are working on a response

Or possibly

5: One of them got stuck in the replica fake carbon freeze unit and the other one is having trouble successfully dressing like an Ugnaught and is thus still trying to figure out how to open it.

Whichever one of those it is or isn’t is possibly not as important as knowing that they own the company, and whether or not they have a guiding hand currently they are to my mind, ultimately responsible for every facet of how the company runs and how it presents itself.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Yeah, I think I gave the wrong impression there. (I got several PMs about it too).

I offered that just as a bit of info that was perhaps not widely known (I’m not even sure if it’s 100% true!) I didn’t mean to suggest they should or shouldn’t do anything or mean to suggest they were responsible or were absolved of responsibility.


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In all fairness to Aaron, I do not think his recent post was meant to stand as a Statement Two. It was just him trying to helpfully recap what's going on with the aftermath of the first statement.

Everything I said still applies, but I don't want him to feel like he kicked a hornet's nest just by trying to bring us more into the loop to the extent he was allowed. I do appreciate that!


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

On a holiday too!


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Aaron Shanks wrote:

"We have enacted a one-employee-per-room policy that will be our standard moving forward." That policy change was immediate.

"We are extending Paizo’s existing work-from-home timeline through at least the end of the year." That policy change was immediate.

While these are good things, I hope that someone at the senior level at Paizo understands that the next statement has to have some context around this. You don't get to have a policy that specifically targets trans employees and then say "no it's ok, we changed it, everything is fine now."

I would also add that there's the outstanding issue of misuse of Paizo customer data. I would like to see something about that in the next statement.

At the moment, Paizo are doing a really, really good job of telling me they don't want my money any more.

Grand Lodge

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Mergy wrote:
Now do it for the hotel room situation. Why did you change the policy? What was wrong with the room-sharing policy that prompted this change? Did you just get some hotel coupons and thought it was the time to upgrade? Or was there SOME OTHER REASON the room-sharing policy was changed?

Yeah, I thought about the room issue after my previous post. It made me think about the court scene from A Few Good Men when Kaffee nails the Colonel Jessup with the conflicting orders. If trans staff members are treated the same as non-trans staff members, and there is no effort to discriminate the trans staff members or appease any potential transphobic staff members, then why was it necessary to change the policy? Presumably a trans staff member has the same ability to approve of a room mate as a non-trans member and if two adults are capable of agreeing to room together, then why is it necessary to change the policy? Is it so mgmt does not have to be "bothered" with "dealing" with the trans staff members? If so, then it just goes to perpetuate the problems that already exist.

The room policy is an interesting change considering Paizo spends a tremendous amount of money on convention travel and accommodations, especially at Gen Con. Putting two staffers in a double room, just makes good financial sense. Not to mention going solo eats up twice as many available rooms which is something that tends to be in short supply at conventions.

And how does this affect org play volunteers? They routinely share rooms at Gen Con. If the staffers are getting their own rooms to avoid any possible conflicts that might arise from a non-trans staff member sharing a room with a trans staff member, then wouldn't that mean that org play volunteers would be given solo rooms? If not, and org play volunteers will continue to share hotel space, why are they capable of making adult decisions about sharing that space and staff members are not?


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Steve Geddes wrote:

Yeah, I think I gave the wrong impression there. (I got several PMs about it too).

I offered that just as a bit of info that was perhaps not widely known (I’m not even sure if it’s 100% true!) I didn’t mean to suggest they should or shouldn’t do anything or mean to suggest they were responsible or were absolved of responsibility.

Heh. I for one didn’t think you were trying to “say” anything other than exactly what you did say Steve - just giving information.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
keftiu wrote:
Thomas Keller wrote:
At this point I'm wondering what will satisfy people. What, precisely, do people want here?

I've stated mine very clearly probably half a dozen times now: communication from the top that admits they had transphobic abuses within the company, an apology for that, and tangible change in policy or staff to ensure no trans person suffers for their identity within the company again.

Others have made their desires clear in their posts. I assume you haven't read them; it's well worth doing.

Yes, you've been very clear and thank you for that. I fear you're setting yourself up for disappointment, because it seems to me admitting they had a transphobic policy would be opening themselves up to lawsuits. I'm no lawyer, so if I'm wrong about that I think your requests are completely reasonable.

I'm afraid that I haven't kept up with every single post here and there are many pages to go back through. What I have seen are vague calls for accountability, and I'm not sure what that looks like.


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Thomas Keller wrote:
... it seems to me admitting they had a transphobic policy would be opening themselves up to lawsuits.

Yeah, it's funny how being publicly accountable sometimes leads to being held publicly accountable.

:P

But in seriousness, yeah, there's really nothing we can do about that. I'm already very disappointed in the company. They never should have let it get this far. There's one path forward to maybe making things right, and it may not be a path they can take. If that's the case, I guess it's too late for them. We're just being honest about what we need to trust Paizo again.

It may sound harsh, but it's really not our responsibility to offer leadership an easy means of achieving forgiveness, Nor to outline a route for forgiveness that they can cleanly follow. It was their responsibility not to commit or enable the transgressions that now need to be forgiven. It sucks, but we didn't make it that way. They did. Over the course of multiple years, they enabled it, or perpetrated it--it doesn't matter which--to the point that multiple ex-employees willingly came forward and started a scandal about it because they didn't think anything would change otherwise. They made this mess for themselves.


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Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Thomas Keller wrote:
... it seems to me admitting they had a transphobic policy would be opening themselves up to lawsuits.

Yeah, it's funny how being publicly accountable sometimes leads to being held publicly accountable.

:P

But in seriousness, yeah, there's really nothing we can do about that. I'm already very disappointed in the company. They never should have let it get this far. There's one path forward to maybe making things right, and it may not be a path they can take. If that's the case, I guess it's too late for them. We're just being honest about what we need to trust Paizo again.

It might be possible to craft policies that are explicitly anti-transphobic without admitting past transphobic policies, if that's necessary for legal reasons.

As opposed to policies that implicitly fix known problems without even referencing the transphobia.


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That would be a step, yes. But "Paizo does not discriminate" has always been the mantra, so I am not really going to be impressed by that. Paizo did discriminate, and worse, they did so while profiting off the perception that they didn't. Paizo simply posting a reassurance that Paizo treats all employees equally and rejects transphobia will be meaningless to me. That's, again, a bummer, and it sucks, but that's kind of what happens when you subject your employees to transphobic policies for years and then people find out about it. It's what should happen. It should suck. It should be Paizo's job to dig their way out of that, and they should care enough to try.

I edited my post above a bunch, by the way. Bad nervous habit. :P


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

In medicine there’s a process called open disclosure. It’s a big topic to describe meaningfully, but it basically involves sitting down with the patient (or often the surviving family of a deceased patient) and explaining: here’s what happened, here’s what we did wrong, here’s what we learned, here’s how we’ve changed and learned. Is there anything we can do to help?

There’s often pushback from doctors on the grounds that admitting fault “opens us up to lawsuits” but the research is clear that one of the big advantages is that it decreases litigation. Turns out the world isn’t full of people trying to make a buck out of their trauma - people want to be heard, want to understand what happened and want to know it’s not going to happen to others in the future.

If you’re not willing to do the right thing because you might get sued, then you’re not willing to do the right thing.


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Yeah, America is way less litigious than popular culture likes to imply, and a heck of a lot of lawsuits are escalations from a company stonewalling the plaintiff--the last resort of someone who felt completely unheard.

Spicy Kobold Takes:
Okay, someone should probably say it: If Paizo thinks someone in Crystal's shoes would be within her rights to file a lawsuit and win, maybe that's what should happen. If Paizo thinks they'd lose a lawsuit over their treatment of employees, maybe they kind of deserve to.

I'm not saying I want that. I doubt really anyone does. But as long as we're all here playing Devil's Advocate, I felt like I should take my turn at it.

Also, I may be a little burnt out and cranky after a month of basically nothing and an increasingly glaring dearth of evidence that Paizo is actually going to do anything about the one allegation everyone agrees is a problem.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Steve Geddes wrote:

In medicine there’s a process called open disclosure. It’s a big topic to describe meaningfully, but it basically involves sitting down with the patient (or often the surviving family of a deceased patient) and explaining: here’s what happened, here’s what we did wrong, here’s what we learned, here’s how eve changed and learned. Is there anything we can do to help?

There’s often pushback from doctors on the grounds that admitting fault “opens us up to lawsuits” but the research is clear that one of the big advantages is that it decreases litigation. Turns out the world isn’t full of people trying to make a buck out of their trauma - people want to be heard, want to understand what happened and want to know it’s not going to happen to others in the future.

If you’re not willing to do the right thing because you might get sued, then you’re not willing to do the right thing.

Very well said. As pure speculation, perhaps Paizo is trying to work out some kind of settlement with the lady in question to avoid such a thing. I know that businesses move slowly and people are frustrated and I hope we see some concrete policy statements soon. I really hate seeing the people here hurting, especially our trans brothers and sisters who have enough crap being thrown at them all the time. I hope you feel safe here on the forums and with Paizo in the future.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Here's another bit of speculation. It's entirely possible that the people who are in charge of things now are not the same people who were in charge when it happened, or that they simply don't have any records from that time.

They may be working with Crystal and other employees involved at the time to figure out what exactly happened before any sort of accountability can take place.

Changing and committing to policies that would reduce the chances of something similar happening again is one thing. Admitting fault is a completely different beast all together.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Gloom wrote:

Here's another bit of speculation. It's entirely possible that the people who are in charge of things now are not the same people who were in charge when it happened, or that they simply don't have any records from that time.

They may be working with Crystal and other employees involved at the time to figure out what exactly happened before any sort of accountability can take place.

Changing and committing to policies that would reduce the chances of something similar happening again is one thing. Admitting fault is a completely different beast all together.

It's not different management, or at least not different upper management. Jeff Alvarez has gone from COO to President. Erik Mona is still publisher. Lisa and Vic are still CEO and CTO respectively. The executive team remains unchanged from the time Crystal was there.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Cori Marie wrote:
Gloom wrote:

Here's another bit of speculation. It's entirely possible that the people who are in charge of things now are not the same people who were in charge when it happened, or that they simply don't have any records from that time.

They may be working with Crystal and other employees involved at the time to figure out what exactly happened before any sort of accountability can take place.

Changing and committing to policies that would reduce the chances of something similar happening again is one thing. Admitting fault is a completely different beast all together.

It's not different management, or at least not different upper management. Jeff Alvarez has gone from COO to President. Erik Mona is still publisher. Lisa and Vic are still CEO and CTO respectively. The executive team remains unchanged from the time Crystal was there.

What about the middle management that would have actually dealt with what happened? Do you think that the executive team was consulted on a hotel room issue in this case?

Just throwing it out there as a possibility. There are reasons to wait for them to finish what they're doing and get back to us with more.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Gloom wrote:
Cori Marie wrote:
Gloom wrote:

Here's another bit of speculation. It's entirely possible that the people who are in charge of things now are not the same people who were in charge when it happened, or that they simply don't have any records from that time.

They may be working with Crystal and other employees involved at the time to figure out what exactly happened before any sort of accountability can take place.

Changing and committing to policies that would reduce the chances of something similar happening again is one thing. Admitting fault is a completely different beast all together.

It's not different management, or at least not different upper management. Jeff Alvarez has gone from COO to President. Erik Mona is still publisher. Lisa and Vic are still CEO and CTO respectively. The executive team remains unchanged from the time Crystal was there.

What about the middle management that would have actually dealt with what happened? Do you think that the executive team was consulted on a hotel room issue in this case?

Just throwing it out there as a possibility. There are reasons to wait for them to finish what they're doing and get back to us with more.

How much "middle management" do you think a company the size of Paizo has? They're a very small company, and there have been times where Lisa helped in the warehouse because they're so small. So yes, I fully believe the executive team would be involved in these decisions.

Paizo Employee Director of Community

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After much contemplation, I removed a personally abusive post and the chain that followed it. Yes, there is a strong group of advocates calling for revisions in Org Play. Yes, there are issues in Org Play that need resolution. Yes, they are currently being looked into. Bringing vague accusations against an entire group for the actions of a few is not appropriate.


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(Oh, I also with to thank Aaron Shanks coming into the thread to update as much as he could. I know you are in a very trying time and are doing your best to give us the very best heads up you can. Thanks again Aaron!)


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I appreciate the update and the knowledge that more will be coming each month but I wholeheartedly agree with others that I would like for this to be properly addressed and not just swept under the rug. I feel like what Aaron said was mostly just confirmation of what we already knew, which is fine and all, but its not enough to really get at the core of the issue (and others such as Keftiu and TwilightKnight have put it much more clearly and concisely than I am able to at the moment). I want to trust that paizo is not harming or being discriminatory to their trans employees, I want to believe them when they say they are diverse, but right now I'm not sure if I can. Please do better


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It sounds like the issues with PFS have been going on for a while though, how long is enough time for these issues to be addressed? Simply stating, again, that we are looking into these issues, is just another example of pious platitudes.

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