steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

They don't want to go to Chelsea

Unlike some academics, I've always had a lot of time for Wikipedia. It can be a great place to begin research, I tell my students, though it's a bad place to finish. I've chipped in a few pounds whenever Jimmy Wales's face has appeared at the top of a page asking me for cash.

It's disappointing, then, to find that, having been one of the first organizations to respect Chelsea Manning's statement regarding her gender and name - a move that has since been followed, with varying degrees of completeness and good grace, by much of the world's media - Wiki has now reverted to calling her "Bradley", at least for the next 30 days.

Behind this reversion lies an intense and sometimes acrimonious debate amongst Wikipedia editors and admins. I don't pretend to understand the rather Byzantine process by which disputes are resolved within Wiki, but the conversation is an object lesson in how cissexism works today, amongst people who no doubt think of themselves as tolerant and open minded. The dismissal of the well-documented evidence of the harm done to trans people, both psychological and in terms of physical threat, by misgendering, as well as the underlying assumptions that for trans people (as opposed to, say, Lady Gaga, John Wayne and the Duchess of Cambridge) self-determination is in the gift of the cis majority, here wearing the baggy cloak called "consensus", and that Wiki editors with no experience in the subject are better placed to pronounce on trans issues than trans people - well, it's all rather depressing. Next time sunny Jim comes calling, my donation will be going elsewhere - probably to Trans Media Watch.
Tags: current affairs, gender, language
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