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LGBT and Wikipedia

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Participants at a Wiki Loves Pride event to improve LGBT-related content on Wikipedia, in Serbia (2019)

There are various intersections of the LGBT community[a] and Wikipedia. LGBT people who edit the online encyclopedia often face cyberbullying and other types of harassment. Wikipedia content about LGBT individuals is often vandalized, but various Wikipedia user groups, WikiProjects, and the Wikimedia Foundation endorse campaigns to promote inclusion on Wikipedia. Availability of Wikipedia's LGBT content, in countries that otherwise suppress information about LGBT issues, has been praised.

LGBT coverage[edit]

In 2011, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) made it a strategic goal to recruit more women, people of color, and other underrepresented individuals as editors, including LGBT people.[1]

In 2019, Rachel Wexelbaum, an associate professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, United States, wrote, "For LGBTIQ+ people and those searching for LGBTIQ+ information, Wikipedia has proven invaluable in countries where LGBTIQ+ publications, media, or visibility may be criminalized or cut short due to AIDS NGOs leaving those countries."[2] It can also be valuable for those in communities where this information is socially marginalized;[3]: 91  a notable example is the experience of transgender author and activist Abby Stein, who discovered the idea of being transgender on the Hebrew Wikipedia.[4] Wikipedia is often consulted by LGBT youth seeking information on sexual health, as Wikipedia's coverage of health-related topics is backed by numerous medical journals.[3]: 91  Some Wikipedia editors, however, have reported struggles with encouraging LGBT health organizations to participate in contributing LGBT-specific health information to Wikipedia.[1]

In some cases, particular language editions of Wikipedia have slanted toward anti-LGBT content. The Croatian Wikipedia has been criticized for advancing anti-LGBT propaganda and for other reasons. In addition, the only active administrator of Amharic Wikipedia, at one point, enforced the Ethiopian government's anti-LGBT laws on the wiki.[5] According to Business Insider, an anonymous editor using an IP address coming from the United States House of Representatives, who claimed to be a Capitol Hill staffer, made a series of edits about the transgender community, including some that were critical of transgender individuals.[6]

Names and pronouns[edit]

The English Wikipedia's style guidelines on identity state editors should describe transgender and non-binary subjects using their preferred name and pronouns corresponding to their most recently stated gender identity. However, such articles are frequently targeted with vandalism, misgendering or deadnaming their subjects.[7] In August 2008, the article about Ina Fried, a transgender journalist for CNET, was caught in an edit war over which pronouns to use for her. She stated that Wikipedia did not have a stylebook on gender, unlike the Associated Press Stylebook, and said that while she found it "somewhat confusing" to see the gender changes on her page, she "found the debate interesting." She later added that it was a "reasonable compromise" to remove all pronouns in her biography entry.[8]

Photograph of a woman in black clothes wearing a necklace
Photograph of a woman in black clothes
Editors debated the titles and pronouns used in Wikipedia's entries for Chelsea Manning (left) and Caitlyn Jenner (right) after both transitioned.

After Chelsea Manning came out in August 2013, editors debated the title of the article about her. At the time, Slate praised actions by Wikipedia editors, saying that Manning's article was rewritten quickly and with "remarkably little controversy".[9] However, in October 2013, The Guardian noted that the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee had "banned a number of editors from working on articles related to transgender topics or individuals," noting that while some were banned for "making transphobic comments about Manning", others received the same punishment "for pointing out the bigotry". Two of the restricted editors had insisted on referring to Manning as a man, while another editor who alleged the existence of "a 'consensus' of virulently transphobic" Wikipedia editors was sanctioned for a "battleground approach" by the committee.[10]

Following Caitlyn Jenner's gender transition in 2015, Kat George of Bustle wrote, "We can start learning about the proper use of gender pronouns, with Caitlyn Jenner's Wikipedia article as a perfect example of the correct before and after language we should be employing."[11] The name and pronouns to use for Gloria Hemingway were a matter of discussion for over 15 years. In February 2022, after a week of debate, votes were evenly split between using Gloria and "she/her" pronouns, or continuing to use her birth name. An editor closed the discussion in favor of renaming; the decision was appealed but upheld by an administrator.[12]


Wikipedia editors experience harassment, and in one case, a transgender editor was publicly deadnamed. The WMF has expressed concern over situations where transgender editors could be repelled from Wikipedia due to online abuse.[7] BBC News said in 2020, "Many, particularly women and members of the LGBTQ community, have complained of abuse and harassment from other editors."[13] Editors can report harassment to administrators via email or notice boards, which can cause harassers to be barred from editing.[7]

Editors in anti-LGBT areas experience more virulent harassment. LGBT editors from countries where being LGBT is criminalized often use aliases and edit from various IP addresses so their work is not traced back to them.[1] In one instance, an editor was blocked by a Wikipedia administrator since their username suggested they may be gay. The administrator was eventually blocked for those actions when WMF's Trust and Safety Team got involved. Amir Sarabadani, an editor, stated that in 12 years of editing Persian Wikipedia, users were often hostile to articles related to homosexuality. He said that his work as an administrator there helped make abuse less tolerable and that homophobic content that was previously acceptable now resulted in blocks.[7]

In October 2022, a group of 40 French public figures, including director Céline Sciamma, writer Virginie Despentes, writer and graphic novel illustrator Jul Maroh, writer and philosopher Paul B. Preciado, and journalist and filmmaker Rokhaya Diallo, in conjunction with the National Transgender Association of France, signed an open letter, published in L'Obs magazine, to Wikipedia, denouncing "stigmatizing behaviors" against transgender, non-binary, and intersex people on Wikipedia including misgendering, deadnaming, the use of pre-transition pictures, and harassment of openly trans editors.[14][15]

Wikimedia movement[edit]

Photograph of a group of people, some of whom are carrying a banner with the text "LGBT+" and "Wikimedia"
Wikimedia LGBT+ representation at EuroPride in Stockholm, 2018

The Wikimedia movement has seen campaigns and hosted edit-a-thons[16] to improve coverage of LGBT topics.[17][18][3]: 91–92  Wikipedia Loves Libraries, one of these initiatives, saw the Tom of Finland Foundation become the first LGBT cultural heritage institution to participate, hosting "Queering Wikipedia" edit-a-thons.[1] Wiki Loves Pride is a campaign from June to October to create and improve LGBT-related content across Wikimedia projects.[19] Wiki Loves Pride has promoted coverage of notable LGBT people.[20] Art+Feminism has been described as "a campaign to improve the site's representation of women and nonbinary individuals".[7] WikiProject LGBT studies,[b] which works to create and enhance articles on LGBT topics, is present on 28 Wikipedias, as of 2023.[3]: 92  An LGBT portal for organization has been overseen since 2006.[1]

Wikimedia LGBT is a user group affiliate of WMF,[3]: 92  established in August 2012.[1] In 2022, WMF joined human rights and LGBT organizations in opposing the Kids Online Safety Act introduced in the United States Senate. The groups argued that "over-moderation" would "cut off members of marginalized younger groups who rely on online services to learn about sex education or access LGBTQ+ resources".[21][22] In 2023, organizers of Wikimania requested a unisex public toilet for the duration of the conference at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre. One was temporarily converted from an existing restroom usually designated for women, prompting "some hostile reactions" online, according to Today.[23][24]

British physicist and Wikipedia editor Jess Wade has worked to improve coverage of LGBT topics on the site. Every day in 2018, Wade wrote at least one Wikipedia article about a woman, person of color, or LGBT figure in science to expand the diversity of Wikipedia's coverage.[25]



  1. ^ There are multiple acronyms for the LGBT community (see LGBT § Variants for more details). Wikipedia's policy states that articles should use "LGBT", though quotes may use other acronyms.
  2. ^ WikiProjects are spaces where editors can list articles for creation, work to enhance the quality of existing articles, and review the status of articles under their jurisdiction.[3]: 92 


  1. ^ a b c d e f Wexelbaum, Rachel; Herzog, Katie; Rasberry, Lane (2015). "Queering Wikipedia". In Wexelbaum, Rachel (ed.). Queers online: LGBT digital practices in libraries, archives, and museums. Gender and sexuality in information studies. Sacramento, CA: Litwin Books. pp. 61–70. ISBN 978-1-936117-79-6.
  2. ^ Wexelbaum, Rachel (June 20, 2019). "Edit Loud, Edit Proud: LGBTIQ+ Wikimedians and Global Information Activism". Wikipedia @ 20. Archived from the original on November 15, 2022. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Miquel-Ribé, Marc; Kaltenbrunner, Andreas; Keefer, Jeffrey M. (December 21, 2021). "Bridging LGBT+ Content Gaps Across Wikipedia Language Editions". The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion. 5 (4): 90–131. doi:10.33137/ijidi.v5i4.37270. hdl:10230/52360. ISSN 2574-3430. JSTOR 48641981. S2CID 245573982. Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  4. ^ Aviles, Gwen (November 19, 2019). "From ultra-Orthodox rabbi to openly transgender: Abby Stein shares her story". NBC News. Archived from the original on December 19, 2019. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  5. ^ Song, Victoria (August 26, 2020). "A Teen Threw Scots Wiki Into Chaos and It Highlights a Massive Problem With Wikipedia". Gizmodo. G/O Media. Archived from the original on January 24, 2023. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  6. ^ Campbell, Colin. "Someone On Capitol Hill Seems Obsessed With Editing Wikipedia Articles On Transgender Topics". Business Insider. Retrieved October 15, 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e Jacobs, Julia (April 8, 2019). "Wikipedia Isn't Officially a Social Network. But the Harassment Can Get Ugly". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on January 12, 2023. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  8. ^ Fried, Ina (August 22, 2008). "Wikipedia changes my gender more than I do". CNET. Red Ventures. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  9. ^ Stern, Mark Joseph (August 22, 2013). "Wikipedia Beats Major News Organizations, Perfectly Reflects Chelsea Manning's New Gender". Slate. The Slate Group. OCLC 728292344. Archived from the original on January 5, 2022. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  10. ^ Hern, Alex (October 24, 2013). "Chelsea Manning name row: Wikipedia editors banned from trans pages". The Guardian. OCLC 60623878. Archived from the original on January 17, 2023. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  11. ^ George, Kat (June 1, 2015). "Bruce Jenner Wikipedia Page Now Uses The Name Caitlyn and Female Pronouns, and the Before and After Illustrates Language You Should Use". Bustle. Archived from the original on June 25, 2022. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  12. ^ Cohen, Noam (January 22, 2023). "The Culture Wars Look Different on Wikipedia". The Atlantic. Emerson Collective. OCLC 936540106. Archived from the original on January 26, 2023. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  13. ^ "Wikipedia sets new rule to combat "toxic behaviour"". BBC News. May 23, 2020. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  14. ^ Sierra, Laura Valentina Cortés; Constantino, Sophia; Hauger, Bertrand. "LGBTQ+ International: Chile's Non-Binary ID, Slovakia In Mourning, Mr Gay World — And The Week's Other Top News". Worldcrunch. Archived from the original on January 24, 2023. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  15. ^ "Nous dénonçons le traitement que réserve Wikipédia aux personnes trans, non binaires et intersexes" [We denounce Wikipedia's treatment of trans, non-binary and intersex people]. L'Obs. October 13, 2022. ISSN 0029-4713. Archived from the original on January 21, 2023. Retrieved September 5, 2023.
  16. ^ McMillen, Andrew (February 6, 2017). "One Woman's Brilliant 'Fuck You' to Wikipedia Trolls". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Archived from the original on July 11, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  17. ^ Milliken, Alice (July 7, 2014). "Wikipedia holds Pride 'edit-a-thons' to improve LGBT-related content". PinkNews. Archived from the original on January 20, 2023. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  18. ^ Wexelbaum, Rachel (May 1, 2019). "Coming Out of the Closet: Librarian Advocacy to Advance LGBTQ+ Wikipedia Engagement". In Mehra, Bharat (ed.). LGBTQ+ Librarianship in the 21st Century: Emerging Directions of Advocacy and Community Engagement in Diverse Information Environments. Emerald Group Publishing. pp. 115–142. doi:10.1108/S0065-283020190000045011. ISBN 978-1-78756-475-6. S2CID 150552977. Archived from the original on August 28, 2023. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  19. ^ Phadnis, Renuka (July 6, 2014). "Wikipedia edit-a-thons to add content on LGBTs". The Hindu. The Hindu Group. ISSN 0971-751X. OCLC 13119119. Archived from the original on May 7, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  20. ^ Lapowsky, Issie (March 2015). "Meet the Editors Fighting Racism and Sexism on Wikipedia". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Archived from the original on November 14, 2015. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  21. ^ Gold, Ashley (November 28, 2022). "Human rights, LGBTQ+ organizations oppose Kids Online Safety Act". Axios. Cox Enterprises. Archived from the original on January 1, 2023. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  22. ^ Feiner, Lauren (November 28, 2022). "Kids Online Safety Act may harm minors, civil society groups warn lawmakers". CNBC. Archived from the original on January 2, 2023. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  23. ^ Lam, Nicole (August 18, 2023). "Temporary designation of Suntec toilets as 'gender-neutral' sparks hostile online reaction; others see move as positive". Today. Archived from the original on August 19, 2023. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  24. ^ Lim, Kewei (August 18, 2023). "'So do I sit or stand?' Netizens divided by gender-neutral toilet at Suntec City". AsiaOne. Archived from the original on August 19, 2023. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  25. ^ Zane, Zachary (January 2, 2019). "This Scientist Is Updating Wikipedia with Women, POC, & LGBTQ+ History". Pride.com. Here Media. Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved August 28, 2023.

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