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A transgender employee at the FSF was being bullied by another transphobic employee. When the transgender employee filed a complaint, they were fired because the complaint was seen as troublemaking.

It didn’t seem to even matter to them that the individual in question was a hard worker at - and a huge supporter of - the organisation for many years.

There are transgender libreboot developers who denounce this discrimination as disgusting. As such, libreboot left GNU (funded by the FSF) in protest.

The FSF lied in response to allegations

The FSF issued this public statement, denying all allegations and wishing their former employee well. This is to be expected to save face – regardless of the truth.

Statement from another former FSF employee

This is not the trans person that was fired, but left the FSF shortly before the event occured. There were closely involved with other staff members at the FSF and witnessed what was going on

This is based on private IRC conversations with them, during the incident.

The individual, who also left the FSF, said it’s unsettling that this was permitted to go on, having been aware of the disputes between the fired trans person and Stephen Mahood, the transphobic bully. They agreed with Leah that Stephen is transphobic, and had been aware of Stephen bullying the fired trans person after discovering (somehow) that they were trans. Types of abuses included humiliating the trans person during work hours, consorting with other employees to try and find their old name, misgendering them, saying bad things about them to management, etc, until they were fired. He said: In most organisations, there are ways to mediate disputes. At the FSF, there is no middle management, no HR and the board of directors more or less only communicates with the executive director. Individual staff members are never consulted about anything. There is little or no oversight of employee morale by the board of directors; instead, employees are left on their own to manage everything. The fight between Stephen and the trans person who was fired had been going on for a long time, before John Sullivan finally looked into it, months too late. This sort of mismanagement is unacceptable at an organisation like the FSF. In most organisations, there are ways to handle situations like this and prevent them from happening. Stephen is toxic to the FSF and extremely negative. Why doesn’t the FSF keep a closer eye on its own internal affairs, especially relations between staff members? Why does the FSF not have a department for managing disputes?

The trans person who was fired had also found an old HR record from the FSF, regarding another transgender person who was not hired at the FSF, because according to the FSF, they looked weird in their job interview. This must have been someone who was early in their transition and therefore didn’t pass well in their desired gender role. Transphobic and sexist discrimination at the FSF is rampant, and has existed long before Stephen Mahood, John Sullivan and Ruben Rodriguez joined the organisations; in other words, those three people are merely as bad as those who came before them, in this regard. The FSF has long had issues internally with equality issues, regardless of safe space policies that they have at their conferences.

The FSF needs better policies for its staff, to prevent situations like this in the future, and that needs to be something that is discussed by the board of directors. It is completely unacceptable that situations like this are permitted to occur, even more so that policies in place to protect transgender people are not enforced within the organisation.

Refusal to let go

In the worst act of insult and contempt possible, the GNU project wrongly made the claim that Leah Rowe herself had now forked GNU Libreboot, and that libreboot was still a GNU project. They wrongly claimed that Leah had merely stepped down as GNU Libreboot maintainer.

This is false. Leah is still Libreboot’s maintainer, and still does most of the work, including on managing the project and handling releases. The GNU project decided to insult her by claiming otherwise, that somehow the GNU project had a moral right to keep libreboot under its umbrella.

The discussion happened on the gnu-prog-discuss mailing list, which is not open to the public (authentication is required to view the archives online). We therefore make the discussion available for people to see.

Leah Rowe sent this message to the GNU Prog mailing list, asking for the mailing lists to be deactivated because libreboot was setting up its own mailing lists instead. It also generally asks GNU to formally drop libreboot from its umbrella:

Please delete my "lr" account on the GNU Savannah website. I do not want
this account anymore.

Please keep the mailing list archives for libreboot@gnu.org and
libreboot-dev@gnu.org - but disable people from registering on the
mailing list, and disable any new posts from being sent to the mailing
list. I want the archives of the mailing lists kept for historical
purposes, because there's a lot of technical discussion and history in
there, and I want this preserved for the time being.

I'm currently working on setting up my own server, as and when I can, to
self-host a mailing list directly on libreboot.org infrastructure, which
is under my own control and expense.

Once I have this fully setup, what I would like is for a 301 redirect on
the HTTP HTML archive pages to redirect to the new one that I create,
once it's online, and, further, for an email forwarder on libreboot& and
libreboot-dev& to redirect to the new mailing list. However, I have not
yet set up the new lists so such a redirect at the moment would not make
much sense. I'll contact the FSF and GNU project at a later date once
I'm ready for this redirect to exist.

Further, if possible, can someone send me a dump of all data and
configuration for the libreboot& and libreboot-dev& lists? This will
make it easier for me to simply import everything into the new list,
including subscriptions and so on (otherwise, I have a list of all
currently registered members on the list, saved locally).

Please note that I do not resent the GNU project, just certain people at
the FSF. Those people have huge influence there and since the FSF funds
GNU.... https://libreboot.org/gnu/ explains why libreboot has left GNU.
The requests above are part of libreboot's departure from GNU.

I also ask that libreboot be removed from gnu.org/software/, and for the
libreboot page on the FSF free software directory to no longer say that
libreboot is a GNU project.

I further request that the GNU project does not fork libreboot, nor
accept any forks of libreboot into GNU, as this would be an even bigger
insult on top of the existing one where the FSF lied publicly in
response to libreboot.org/gnu

Several GNU maintainers then replied on the list, claiming that libreboot was still a GNU project and that Leah had merely stepped down as maintainer and that they would appoint a new maintainer for GNU Libreboot. They further insulted the libreboot project by stating that RMS has the ultimate say, and that Leah had forked her own project. This is false.

They even asked Leah to stay on as Libreboot maintainer, and they asked Leah to keep Libreboot inside the GNU project!

Here are some of GNU’s responses, starting with Thien-Thi Nguyen ttn@gnu.org

Under this pov, injustice is destined.  The Libreboot project,
once placed under the aegis of GNU, cannot be removed.

You are free to step down as its maintainer, however.  I think
that would be an injustice against you, mostly.  I understand
it's difficult to hold on to the root and let go of the rancor
(from personal experience), and sometimes it's all or nothing.

If you stay, perhaps you could find a co-maintainer.  If you
were to choose me (for example), you would find a lot more to
complain about on those mailing lists -- no need to upscope to
GNU and gnu-prog-discuss.  It could be fun, perhaps.  

BTW, i like the domain name -- reminds me of glug.org of yore.

Alfred M. Szmidt ams@gnu.org said this:

That is not for you to decide, but for the Saint IGNUcius to decide.
You are free to step down as maintainer for GNU Libreboot, but we are
free to appoint a new maintainer for GNU Libreboot to take over the

Gavin Smith gavinsmith0123@gmail.com

AFAIK libreboot is itself a fork of another project called coreboot.
In my opinion, it would be perfectly valid for the GNU project to
continue to sponsor a project that did what libreboot did and was
based on the source code of libreboot and/or coreboot.

I see no reason (moral, legal or otherwise) why the libreboot name
could not continue to be used. It's not a trademark, and using that
name wouldn't misrepresent who the people who created it were. (To
take a contrary example, if someone forked "GNU Emacs", they shouldn't
call it "GNU Emacs Plus" because that would imply it originated from
GNU. If libreboot were called LeahRoweBoot, a similar argument might

John Darrington john@darrington.wattle.id.au said this:

I think you hve misunderstood the relationship between GNU and its sub-projects.

If you wish to step down as the maintainer of libreboot you should send a mail
to maintainers@gnu.org and ask to be de-listed.

If that is what you decide to do,  typically GNU would look for a new maintainer
to take your place.

If you do decide to step down, AND you continue to work on the project outside
of GNU.  Then YOU will have forked libreboot - not GNU.

I'm not sure about deleting accounts on savannah, you would need to contact
the savannah hackers about this.

Personally I hope you will decide to stay as libreboot's maintainer.  You have done
a good job.

I have also had greivances against people in GNU/FSF but if I walked away
whenever that happens, I would be a very lonely person.

This next one says “her” referring to Leah – it is unclear if this questions authority or gender. Simon Sobisch simonsobisch@web.de writes:

I'm perfectly fine with Leah forking "her" original project after
stepping down as a GNU maintainer. Time will show if the fork is more
active as the GNU project.
Whoever takes the burden as a new maintainer: best wishes to you and
also best wishes to Lea.

I still hope to be able to get a libre laptop for coding GnuCOBOL
someday (I know of the options existing it is just a cash issue) and am
fine which whatever libre bios/firmware will be used for producing it then.

@Leah: Thank you for the work you've already done to make this goal more

David Kastrup dak@gnu.org writes:

If you were actually speaking for the project, it would be completely
irrelevant.  It would only have an actual effect on active developers
preferring to work with GNU rather than you, given the choice.

I don't know the project well enough to evaluate your claims about it.
But if your claims are correct, nothing the FSF or GNU project may
choose to do will affect your work and version in any manner.

So what's with all that rage?

nysan bernd.paysan@gmx.de writes:

Am Samstag, 24. September 2016, 13:09:36 CEST schrieb David Kastrup:
> So?  I have no moral problems applying the laws of gravity in spite of
> Newton not likely sharing my political persuasions.  Of course you are
> free to release future versions of your code base, assuming that you can
> assert the agreement of all other contributors, under licensing terms
> incompatible with the GNU project.

Unlikely, as libreboot is a fork of coreboot, and Leah does not have ownership 
of that. Coreboot is GPL, and despite they don't mind binary blobs (which are 
distributed in a separate tarball) and claim their project is "Open Source" 
(where RMS would suggest to rather not use this term), it's already compatible 
with the GNU project with the exception of the binary blobs.  And the mission 
of libreboot is to remove (done) and replace (work in progress) these binary 
blobs.  Coreboot also takes back from libreboot.


After 4 months, RMS finally honoured our decision and formally announced that libreboot is no longer a GNU project


Libreboot has left the GNU project, and will probably never re-join. We will consider whether to re-open communications with the FSF, if and when the organisation resolves this blatant corruption. She will no longer be donating to the FSF; Leah had donated $6120 USD to the organisation since 2015, before making this announcement.

Lessons Learned

You lose control over your project

Libreboot witnessed this when it left GNU. The GNU project resisted it. Had libreboot stayed and integrated with GNU even more, then it would have been very difficult to leave. Thankfully, the GNU project did not yet have much influence over libreboot, and most of the infrastructure for it was still on libreboot.org, outside of the control of the GNU project. The only GNU infrastructure used were mailing lists, which are easy to replace.

GNU can appoint new maintainers for any program that is part of it, even against your will. If you disagree with GNU practises and want to do things different, there’s the possibility that you can simply be removed and replaced as maintainer of your project, even if you are the founder and main developer.

RMS will take credit for your work, on behalf of the GNU project, and will try to assert authority by asking for features which you may not want to implement. RMS will further attempt to dictate how and when releases should occur.

If the GNU project or FSF does something which you disagree with, and you want to withdraw your project, they will try to claim that the project is theirs, and that you are now forking your own project. There are no formal procedures for a project to leave GNU, if a project chooses this path. By joining GNU, you are relinquishing *all* control over your project. - The only reason Libreboot successfully left GNU was because we got out before it was too late.

The GNU project is undemocratic. Individual projects have very little say over it, and the FSF is very much the same. All you are doing by putting your program in GNU, is to help the organisation grow.

GNU Non-free Documentation License

The GNU Free Documentation License is the main license recommended for documentation by the GNU project. This license is non-free, because it allows for so-called invariant sections to be added to your documentation which cannot be modified or deleted without express permission from the copyright holder of that invariant section.

The GNU project mandates that all projects joining it must use this license. The Libreboot project recommends avoiding this license at all costs, and has since switched back to Creative Commons for all documentation.

The FSF and GNU project is a cult

There is a huge cult of personality around Richard Stallman, which you may or may not want your project to be associated with.

Many FSF followers are fanatical, to the point of extremism. Your project will become associated with all of this, even if you personally do not agree with Richard Stallman.

Leah Rowe is not a hero

This is a personal statement from Leah Rowe. Leaving GNU was the correct decision. The Free Software Foundation really did fire a trans person for discriminatory reasons, and they really are guilty here. They do not deserve libreboot to be a member of their community, and the FSF deserves every bit of negative publicity and public shaming that they received. However, there is something that I need to publicly confess to the community, because my own conscience is not clean at all in any of this.

I accidentally made several mistakes which ended up outing the trans person that was fired. This person was stealth, which meant that they did not want to be outed. I have potentially cost them opportunities for a new job, in the process of exposing what the FSF did.

For this, I’m deeply sorry. I screwed up, big time, and I don’t deserve to be praised as much as I was, even if I otherwise did the right thing in exposing the Free Software Foundation for their corruption of social justice.

I lost 2 friends, when I made this announcement. And I deserved to lose them. One of them was the person who was fired, and the other was friends with both me and that person. These people were the 2 people who I first came out as transgender to, before anyone else, and they helped me a lot during my early transition, when I was unstable. The trans person who was fired, I had already lost as a friend, and was deeply upset at the time. I had started to say nasty things to this person, over a disagreement, which was also my fault. I thought that exposing the FSF for their discriminatory practises would redeem me and possibly make that person be my friend again. Basically, I was trying to be supportive, but I ended up making things potentially much worse for that person in the process. I’m not a hero at all. I apologise to all of those in the community who congratulated for my “courage” after the announcement, because the truth is that I’m a coward. I was hiding behind a wall of false heroism. I’m actually a terrible person, and I did something terrible.

To my 2 friends (who I will not name), I apologise. You are both wonderful people, and I really hope you both thrive in life. You both deserve to be happy, and I wish you both well. I still regard both of you as friends, and still think fondly of both of you, even if I don’t deserve either of you as friends.

This is my only regret.

Copyright 2015-2017 Leah Rowe info@minifree.org
Copyright 2017 Alyssa Rosenzweig alyssa@rosenzweig.io

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