People talking about “tone” or “politeness” are often complaining about you maintaining your own boundaries.
If you built your life or career on punching down (good explanation here), don’t be surprised when the groups you’ve been punching start punching back.
Scalzi’s Law (#I’ve lost track): The failure state of clever is asshole.
Correlary: The Above Law is sometimes retroactive.
Therefore: Apologize when someone calls you out for your past bullshit instead of being a defensive asshole.
Simple example of the above: When I first rolled out my respect policy, I had an author e-mail me. They’d said some pretty juvenile and sexist things – publicly – half a decade prior. They’d apologized since, but offered to withdraw from a publication because of their past behavior.
…and I told them to not worry about it. Because that was clearly not where they were now. Their actions – and words – in the years since then demonstrated otherwise. The fact that they offered a good apology demonstrated otherwise.
Hell, I’ve said some really, really stupid things online. (You can probably still find them if you search hard enough.) And they’re things I’ve apologized for.
But if someone points to them and expresses concern about my future behavior based on my past actions?
Then that burden of proof is on me.
And that’s exactly the way it should be.