Libreboot left the GNU project on 15 September 2016

UPDATE: GNU and FSF decide that libreboot is still a GNU project, against the wishes of the Libreboot project.

The FSF revealed itself to be hostile towards trans people, so libreboot voluntarily decided to leave the GNU project, because the lead developer of libreboot is transgender herself. For those in the community who are unaware, a transgender person is someone whose internal gender identity (in their brain) does not match their anatomical sex or gender assigned at birth. Many who are like this seek to transition to their preferred gender. Read more about it on Wikipedia

We will not directly name the person who was fired, because we don't want the individual to be harassed. If you do somehow figure it out (the FSF's staff is very small) then please be silent. We realize that this is potentially risky to the individual involved. Nonetheless, we feel it our moral duty to expose wrongdoing, wherever it is observed, even if it's at one of the world's most respected organisations such as the FSF.

What happened

A transgender employee at the FSF was being harassed by a transphobic colleague for being trans. The trans person, not the bully, was then fired when they stood up for themselves, because it was seen as trouble making while the bully remained silent. The harassers were kept, and the bullied person was fired. Is this justice?

We don't think so, so Libreboot is no longer a GNU project. We do not accept bullying of any group of people, and this includes trans people.

It didn't seem to even matter to them that the individual in question had worked hard for the FSF and been an extremely knowledgeable and reliable person for the organisation - and a huge supporter - for many years.

FSF damage control

We caused quite some controversy over this in a short amount of time. This was unintentional, and it exposed quite a lot of vitriolic hatred within the community. For instance: http://phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Libreboot-Not-GNU
http://phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=FSF-RMS-Statements-Libreboot
https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/5353cg/rms_comments_on_libreboot_leaving_gnu_her_gender/

It's clear, from these many transphobic comments made by the public, that we still don't live in an ideal world and that there is still a long way to go.

What did the FSF do?

We expected them to do nothing. We did not expect them to lie.

The FSF issued this public statement. They don't even mention the issues raised at all, and they attempt as best they can to avoid the issue raised entirely. The issue being transphobia and prejucide within the FSF's staff. They even go on to lie that they did not discriminate against the individual who was fired. They don't even mention the libreboot project or Leah Rowe (the person who made the complaint) by name. It's as though they expected this to not be widely publicized, and now they are trying to do damage control. We expected more from the FSF, and we are severely disappointed by this further injustice on their part.

The individual in question had donated countless hours to keep the FSF running, with years of expertise and absolute passion for the work. For the individual to then be treated this way, just for being trans and standing up to bullying at work, is totally unacceptable.

Community reaction, and our response

We in the libreboot project are shocked and dismayed by some of the community's overall transphobic and sexist responses to this whole ordeal. While many have been supportive, others have been hostile. In the first few days since the incident, reading several message boards, mailing lists and IRC channels, it's obvious that the topic has quickly shifted towards being about Leah Rowe, instead of the actual issues at hand. There are calls by some to even replace Leah Rowe as leader of the libreboot project, or to fork the libreboot project. Her sanity was questioned by the community, while others patronisingly say that she is going through a difficult time and is acting emotionally. Others have said flatout that she should not have raised these issues, or that she should have done it in a more professional manner. Tone policing. Respectability politics at its worst.

Of course, it's true that women in society are taken far less seriously, so when a trans woman stands up for the rights of another trans person when that person is abused, she is considered crazy by some, and belittled by others. It's much harder for women - especially trans women - to be taken seriously in a community and industry that is still dominated by middle class white cisgendered men. The community's negative reaction to this news reflects a attitude of prejudice that is the reason a trans person was fired from the FSF in the first place.

The libreboot project will stand firm, regardless of what peoples reactions may be. We're not going anywhere, and the project is always expanding.

Most of all, we're disgusted with the FSF's damage control response, where apparently all they want to do is protect their reputation, without actually answering any of the calls against them, hoping that this issue will go away. It will not.

Response to Damien Zammit

Damien Zammit (damo22), one of libreboot's contributors, quit the project, with this to say. Damien's complaint was that only Leah had access to the website git repository for libreboot. Firstly, git is decentralized (and Leah happily accepts merges patches that people send), and secondly, yes, this is true. So what? Most software projects have leaders, and Leah certainly isn't going anywhere. She will be running this project for a long time, working with other developers on getting more hardware supported in libreboot. The only time she'll ever stop doing that is when it no longer becomes possible to do so.

The article complains that there was no consensus among developers in the libreboot project, but this isn't actually true. Or, rather, it is true in a different way. In reality, most people in the project are neutral about the issue, or were actually supportive of the decisions taken. Leah simply decided to take the morally correct action, in exposing corruption at the FSF.

The rest of the article is just wrong. We're disappointed that Damien took the decision to leave the project in such a disrespectful manner, and we hope that Damien returns. Nonetheless, it is also true that Damien will likely to continue porting new boards anyway, and it's likely that Leah (or someone else) in the project will have to integrate those patches downstream into libreboot (Damien never actually did libreboot work directly, it was always upstream development, which is fine). Damien ported several new boards to coreboot, with libreboot in mind. Nothing changes, because we will still continue to incorporate future work from Damien into libreboot.

Consequences

If this were FSF Europe, where anti-discrimination laws are much stronger (FSFE is in Germany), they'd likely have a lawsuit on their hands. That may still be possible, but it's probably not necessary in this case.

The following people should either resign and/or be fired from the FSF, to be replaced by other people:

Until all three of these people are expelled from the organisation and - more importantly - the organisation improves so that this is no longer a problem in the future, then we recommend the following actions by the public:

Libreboot will never support the FSF or GNU again, unless they can redeem themselves. If they do, then we will consider whether or not to re-join GNU. We regret ever having been a part of the organisation, and Leah Rowe will no longer be donating to it; she requests that her FSF membership be revoked.

She would also like the $6120 USD that she donated to the FSF since 2015 to be refunded to her by the FSF. She will then use this money to promote free software, and for better purposes. The FSF never deserved even a penny from her.

FSF, GNU and RMS: Libreboot is no longer a GNU project. Please honour this immediately, and formally declare that libreboot is no longer a GNU project. Leah is *NOT* stepping down as Libreboot's maintainer, she is simply taking Libreboot away from GNU. Libreboot will still be developed as always, under the same standards of freedom as before, just *without GNU*. She has not forked libreboot.

Back to home page

This source code for this page is available from a git repository.