Wikipedia changes my gender more than I do

CNET News' Ina Fried reflects on the ever-changing nature of the online encyclopedia, which lately has had her shifting from "he" to "she."

Updated at 12 p.m. PDT with news that the entry is now up for deletion.

Wikipedia/CNET News

WASHINGTON, D.C.--In the real world, I changed my gender from male to female a few years back and haven't looked back. But on Wikipedia, my pronouns seem to be changing all the time.

In the last few weeks, there's been a debate as to whether "he" or "she" should be used on my page with different volunteer editors taking opposite positions on whether I am entitled to use female pronouns.

After several days of being "he" on Wikipedia, I was pleased Thursday to see that my pronouns had reverted back to the gender with which I identify.

Unlike in the journalism world, where the Associated Press Stylebook has a concrete answer on how to handle these sorts of things, there is no official "style" on gender matters or many other issues on Wikipedia. (Until a few years ago, one's anatomy or legal status dictated AP's assignment of pronouns. In recent years, though, the AP and other news organizations have adopted policies that transgender individuals should be referred to with the pronouns with which they themselves identify.)

In the unique world of Wikipedia, an article's contents can be changed repeatedly. That means that on matters that are in contention (and apparently my gender is one of those), things don't get settled but remain in flux. There's only one person who absolutely can't weigh in--the subject themselves.

While I find it somewhat confusing to have to log in each day to see what gender I am supposed to be, I have found the debate interesting.

And given that I am here in the nation's capital this week for the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association annual conference, I thought it a fitting subject for this page as well.

Update at 12 p.m. PDT: Well, now the entry has had pronouns removed alltogether--a reasonable compromise in my opinion. However, the post is now up for deletion. If it's being deleted because I am not important enough for Wikipedia, that's something I can deal with. But I'd hate to think it's a matter of having a complicated gender.

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About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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