Making trans histories public with Wikipedia

  • April 26, 2024

By Lucy Moore, Archeologist, Curator and Wikimedian

Between 15th and 17th March 1974 a ground-breaking transgender rights conference was held in Leeds. Entitled ‘Transvestism and Transsexualism in Modern Society’, it was the first conference organised by trans people to address their needs. To mark the 50th anniversary of the conference, Leeds City Museum hosted a day of recognition and celebration organised and curated by Leeds-based artist and activist GossipGrrrl. 

As part of the programme, volunteer Lucy Moore led a short workshop introducing people to Wikipedia editing. With only an hour’s slot in a packed programme, which included performances of music by Leeds-born composer Angela Morley to celebrate her centenary.

In preparation for the event, Lucy started an article on English Wikipedia for the conference, which featured in the Did You Know … section on 16 March, and was swiftly translated into Spanish by User: MiguelAlanCS. Muchos gracias!!!

The group had a short introduction to what Wikipedia is, basic guidelines, and a short demo on how to add content. It was then straight over to the group, with the goal of getting a few people to make one edit! Our good intentions were scuppered by an IP bloc, but many avoided it, and were able to start making changes. This included adding references to the conference to a range of pages, including: 

One attendee, who’d previously done some noble work de-orphaning articles, started a new page for the American organisation Full Personality Expression, a precursor of the Beaumont Society.

While we edited, one attendee mentioned how when she was transitioning, Wikipedia was one of the first places she went for medical information, but that there were many gaps. This was especially true for health and social care. These include no mention on the page for dementia about the challenges that trans people can face when diagnosed and as the disease progresses. Neither are trans women mentioned in pages for prostate or prostate cancer (which can cause issues for trans women as well as cisgender men) nor for cervical screening (trans women may receive invitations for screenings). Nor is there information available, apart from on Reddit, about how hormones prescribed for trans people interact with medication for epilepsy. 

The group also talked about the need for lived experience to be better represented on Wikipedia. One way we discussed how this might be addressed is through media uploads to Wikimedia Commons of images and/or oral histories in audio or film. 

We were really fortunate to get financial support from Wikimedia UK, which paid for transport costs for some participants, as well as some gorgeous stickers! Leeds City Museum provided tea and coffee for us too. Feedback included: 

“I think it’s really important to preserve our history, especially since Wikipedia is such a widely used resource.”

“It was lovely to meet and chat with other like-minded people!”

One month on…

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The article begun for Full Personality Expression was featured in the ‘Did you know ..?’ section on the front page of English Wikipedia

Did You Know section

Inspired by how images can illustrate lived experience, Lucy also met up with new editor Katie to show her how to upload pictures of LGBT events she’s attended to Wikimedia Commons. Here they are, still smiling, after two hours of editing!

Lucy and Katie

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