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Wikipedia on Chelsea Manning
September 4, 2013 9:24 AM   Subscribe

This is the story of how the fifth largest website in the world came to actively embrace transphobia and hate speech.

Philip Sandifer (previously) writes about Wikipedia's debate surrounding changing Chelsea Manning's page title after she publically came out as trans.
posted by Lemurrhea (388 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
The first time I saw this on Wikipedia's "In the News" I knew it was gonna become a thing. -_-
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 9:33 AM on September 4, 2013


Wow. Philip Sandifer (the blog linked to) certainly did a comprehensive job covering this issue. However, for me, this issue comes down to facts. As far as I understand it, 'Bradley Manning' is in fact still her legal name. Until her name is changed, I think purportedly factual sites like Wikipedia should reference a person's legal name.

And I think that Mr. Sandifer is being a little overly sensitive to the issue. To say that somebody who says that a person whose legal name is Bradley Manning should be called Bradley Manning is hardly transphobic, they're just trying to get the facts straight.
posted by Phreesh at 9:35 AM on September 4, 2013 [25 favorites]


Conflating titling of the web pages with hate speech is a pretty difficult reach, but Sandifer tries really, really, really hard to put "transphobia" out there as much as a possible.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:35 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Exactly what the situation calls for: hyperbole.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:35 AM on September 4, 2013 [23 favorites]


They don't have a problem listing baseball player Scooter Gennett by Scooter instead of Ryan.
posted by drezdn at 9:40 AM on September 4, 2013 [66 favorites]


Before I read the title, I figured this would be about Reddit.
posted by box at 9:41 AM on September 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think purportedly factual sites like Wikipedia should reference a person's legal name.

posted by Phreesh
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:41 AM on September 4, 2013 [22 favorites]


As far as I understand it, 'Bradley Manning' is in fact still her legal name.

Theodor Giesel never legally changed his name to "Dr. Seuss."
Stefani Germanotta never legally changed her name to "Lady Gaga."

Your argument is invalid.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:41 AM on September 4, 2013 [119 favorites]


Phreesh: “As far as I understand it, 'Bradley Manning' is in fact still her legal name. Until her name is changed, I think purportedly factual sites like Wikipedia should reference a person's legal name.”

Legal status is not the deepest or truest marker of social or political or personal status. "Jeffrey" is my legal name; nobody calls me "Jeffrey." I have gay friends who are married, though not legally; no one pedantically insists on saying to them, "you know, you two aren't really married" – and their bio blurbs on books and in newspaper articles correctly name them as married, because they have had weddings and regard themselves as married.

And, as drezdn correctly points out, Wikipedia emphatically does not have a standing policy of only allowing articles named with the legal names of subjects. Until they do, this is an insult, because it's only been applied to this single person.
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 AM on September 4, 2013 [35 favorites]


The article as it stands starts off "Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987)..." and uses female pronouns to refer to Manning throughout. Is Sandifer basing his charge of transphobia purely on the fact that the article is titled "Bradley Manning", with a redirect from "Chelsea Manning"? That seems rather strong. I admit it's inconsistent – if they're leading with Chelsea Elizabeth, that ought to be the article title. But I guess "Wikipedia Inconsistent!" wouldn't have given him the opportunity to write that very long article.
posted by ubiquity at 9:42 AM on September 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


I refuse to refer to her as Chelsea Manning, not out of transphobia, but because it reminds me of that horrible "Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea" lady from the TV.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:43 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wikipedia: pleasing some of the people, some of the time.
posted by furtive at 9:44 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


They don't have a problem listing baseball player Scooter Gennett by Scooter instead of Ryan.

Manning was not known as Chelsea throughout most of hir public life. And given that most discussion of hir is in the past tense (what ve did/didn't do, hir trial), when ve was known as a man named Bradley, one could argue that referring to hir as such, in the absence of discussion of hir current/future situation, is reasonable.
posted by acb at 9:44 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Should Chelsea Manning be imprisoned for the crimes of Bradley Manning?
posted by Renoroc at 9:45 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


If Manning went by "Brad," no one on Wikipedia would have a problem with it. If Manning went by "B," no one on Wikipedia would have a problem with it. If Manning went by "Artie" or "Scooter" or "Megatron," no one on Wikipedia would have a problem with it.

But Manning goes by "Chelsea," and suddenly it's all "Legal name! LEEEGAL NAAAME!"

Fuck those people. Fuck them right in their stupid collective earhole.
posted by Etrigan at 9:46 AM on September 4, 2013 [109 favorites]


I think that this is complicated by the volume of surrounding legal documents that do and will continue to refer to Bradley Manning. (This comes up in the case of Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) see fortnote 3). There is a difference between purposely mis-gendering or misidentifying someone, on one hand, and referring to them by the name by which they were known for at the time of the historically and legally significant events that they are known for.

Legal case names are not retroactively amended when parties change names.
posted by mercredi at 9:46 AM on September 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


I don't understand why anyone objects to the page being Chelsea Manning. Like OK its not her legal name Who Gives A Shit? Oh yeah it's a matter of semantics on Wikipedia, the answer is Everyone, At Length.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Conflating titling of the web pages with hate speech is a pretty difficult reach, but Sandifer tries really, really, really hard to put "transphobia" out there as much as a possible.

Refusing to identify trans people by their publicly stated name and gender is a transphobic act -- it's one of the defining transphobic acts, the act of rejecting a trans person's identity.

By the way, conflating the word "transphobia" with "hate speech" is a pretty difficult reach, but it's the first thing you did. Let's discuss the argument that was made, not the one you find easy to dismiss.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2013 [28 favorites]


(wait, is "ve" the correct pronoun now? what happened to "zie"? help)
posted by elizardbits at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


The title thing is stupid and as multiple people have pointed out, stage names or nicknames are often used as page titles. The article does bring up an interesting point about it being taboo to even mention the birth name of a someone who is trans though, because Wikipedia does tend to cover former names and whatnot of public figures.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


(wait, is "ve" the correct pronoun now? what happened to "zie"? help)

I know this is a derail, but Singular They for life.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:48 AM on September 4, 2013 [97 favorites]


If Manning went by "Brad," no one on Wikipedia would have a problem with it. If Manning went by "B," no one on Wikipedia would have a problem with it. If Manning went by "Artie" or "Scooter" or "Megatron," no one on Wikipedia would have a problem with it.

But Manning goes by "Chelsea," and suddenly it's all "Legal name! LEEEGAL NAAAME!"


Yeah, if anything, Manning's case is one where WP should be MORE ready to switch to the new name, not less. Snoop Lion is still at "Snoop Dogg" for a reason, but that reason's not applicable here.

*sigh* People.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 9:49 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, making a fuss and condemning those who call Manning by hir old name, when a significant proportion of the country regards hir to be a traitor, could be a spectacular own goal for LGBT advocacy, reinforcing a Russian-style nexus between nationalism and homophobia.
posted by acb at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


But this explanation highlights the way in which institutionalized power of cisgender editors was allowed to systematically override a previously established consensus on how to handle transgender topics.
Dumb question--how does the author know these editors are cis-gender? Because, frankly, I could see super wiki nerd transgender editors arguing on some little rule for keeping it Bradley Manning, because, frankly, that's how they roll at that place.

I think Ms. Manning committed a crime and it is proper that she was sentenced to prison. But if she changes her name and/or sex, we should honor that change. It has nothing to do with her crimes or conviction or sentence. Its not like we say criminals cannot change their genders because of their crimes.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Should Chelsea Manning be imprisoned for the crimes of Bradley Manning?

She's the same person as before, just now open about her gender. Whether she should be imprisoned under any name is a different question that I think we've discussed at length already...

What's the reason Snoop Lion's article is still under Snoop Dogg, though?
posted by zeptoweasel at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as I understand it, 'Bradley Manning' is in fact still her legal name.

It may be worth investigating the idea of "legal names" in the United States if you're going to make this case. Courts have consistently accepted the use of non-fraudulent assumed name can be used for legal purposes -- it is, in the eyes of the court, the legal name. I was born Matthew Sparber, but have been called by my nickname Max for the entirety of my adult life, use it on legal documents, use it in banking, and have never had an issue with it.

This "legal name" canard primarily seems to come up for trans people, but isn't reflecting of the way that US law treats names.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [24 favorites]


Snoop Lion is still at "Snoop Dogg" for a reason, but that reason's not applicable here.

What is the reason as you see it? The reason seems sort of like, "because that is the name pretty much everyone knows them under," which seems very applicable here.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


So the belief that one is not permitted to determine the nature of one's own identity is no longer permitted in polite company?
posted by valkyryn at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the article:

It will surprise nobody that a discussion consisting of three thousand comments by several hundred users made in pursuit of determining policy on how to refer to transgender people in the wake of a tremendously politically charged incident did not, by any standards, go well. Nevertheless, it is worth looking at the discussion


I doubt it. Objecting to the name change makes you a either a bigot or a rules-lawyering nit. Either way I don't think we need a ton of close-reading of comments by dudes named "ThinkEnemies".
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had only checked that page during the time when it was titled Chelsea Manning with a redirect from Bradley Manning, and I was proud of Wikipedia for taking that stance. Changing it back seems wrong-headed and pointless to me, even though I grok the argument that she is primarily notable for her actions as Bradley.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2013


Refusing to identify trans people by their publicly stated name and gender is a transphobic act

But that's not the case. The title of an article is simply a placeholder, a way to find the article. The article itself will expand on the name and give further details. The rules of Wikipedia are based on names that help people find the article, defined by most popular usage. Article titles are not an official name.
posted by stbalbach at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


> I think that this is complicated by the volume of surrounding legal documents that do and will continue to refer to Bradley Manning.

Wikipedia is not a legal document. Actions of the courts have nothing to do with how Chelsea Manning is to be addressed outside of those courts.
posted by ardgedee at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


The name Snoop Lion was too awesome for the nerds at Wikipedia.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


I know this is a derail, but Singular They for life.

Agreed. Words like "zie" and "ve" aren't English and make your text less readable. Singular "they" already serves this purpose and is intelligible to nearly all speakers of English.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


I really don't think that Chelsea/Bradley Manning is a good example of how a transgender person's article should be titled.

All military service, leaks, alleged crimes, and so forth were done under the name Bradley Manning. That's what makes this person fit the criteria for notability. "Chelsea Manning" will only ever be a prisoner.

I think Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam is perhaps a better guideline. The article is named "Cat Stevens" because that is what the person is most notably known by. His music career is why people know of him. The article does refer to him as "Yusuf Islam" in the header, but this name and identity change doesn't retroactively make his music "by Yusuf Islam."
posted by explosion at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2013 [64 favorites]


What's the reason Snoop Lion's article is still under Snoop Dogg, though?

Probably because it's not the first time he's changed his name, and apparently he isn't even done with the old one yet:
In an interview with Hip Hop Weekly on June 17, producer Symbolyc One (S1) announced that Snoop was working on his final album under his rap moniker Snoop Dogg; "I’ve been working with Snoop, he’s actually working on his last solo album as Snoop Dogg."
(There was a ridiculously huge kerfluffle over Jack White "changing his name" to Three Quid after an off-hand joke he made in an interview; I suspect the Wikipedia editors don't want that shit to boil up in this case.)
posted by Etrigan at 9:54 AM on September 4, 2013


In some countries there is no such thing as "legal name change", it simply being a matter of personal choice. This is true in the UK (all jurisdictions) where there is technically nothing to a change of name beyond assertion and use, although most do now use a deed poll. She could, quite pointedly, apply for her UK passport with her real name, and they would have to issue it as such.
posted by Thing at 9:54 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Before I read the title, I figured this would be about Reddit.

I just assumed Metafilter, or are we #4 now?
posted by philip-random at 9:55 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Objecting to the name change makes you a either a bigot or a rules-lawyering nit.

You do realize that on a daily basis, Wikipedia talk pages are inventing exciting new ground-breaking forms of rules-lawyering? Like, next level shit man.
posted by PMdixon at 9:55 AM on September 4, 2013 [24 favorites]


You know, if it were any other issue, I'm pretty sure Wikipedia would continue to refer to them by the name with which they entered the public consciousness. If that had been a nickname or a alias, they'd be using that (although they'd still list birth name and possibly preferred name somewhere on the page). So honestly, whether Wikipedia used Bradley or Chelsea probably depends more than anything else on what the news used, and since it was before they changed their name, that means Bradley.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:55 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


But that's not the case. The title of an article is simply a placeholder, a way to find the article.

I don't know how you can make that claim. It is the primary identifier on the page that represents a subject on one of the largest and most trafficked website in the world, and one of the first reference points for a good amount of web users. The name that is selected to represent the article is tremendously important.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:55 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know this is a derail, but Singular They for life.

“They” looks awkward.

Though I think there should be a personlike-entities-of-indeterminate-sex grammatical gender, also usable as a placeholder. Other than edge-cases like Pvt. Manning, there'd be a lot of other applications for it: referring to roles occupied by people of unknown/irrelevant gender (“what did the doctor say?”), people with ambiguous names (“Did Charlie pick up hir documents?”*), as well as housepets (do you really need to know a dog's sex?) or the inevitable machine intelligences (not necessarily strong AIs, but strong enough to feel awkward calling them an “it”).

* it's an ambiguous name in the UK. Substitute Tony/Toni, Lesley, Ashley, &c.
posted by acb at 9:55 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Theres not even an entry for 'Mr Yorkshire Bank Plc Are Fascist Bastards'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:56 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The rules of Wikipedia are based on names that help people find the article, defined by most popular usage. Article titles are not an official name.

That's bunk. If you plug in either name, you're going to get to the same content. It's just a matter of which one is a redirect to the other, which is a pretty substantial sanctioning of which name wikipedia thinks is correct.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:56 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


The title of an article is simply a placeholder, a way to find the article. The article itself will expand on the name and give further details. The rules of Wikipedia are based on names that help people find the article, defined by most popular usage. Article titles are not an official name.

Then why not use "Chelsea Manning" with a redirect from "Bradley Manning"? That's what makes it transphobic: when the subject of the article has actively asked to be referred to a certain way and people are actively telling the subject to fuck off, one has to look at the reasons.
posted by Etrigan at 9:56 AM on September 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Far as I can tell, she was only known for her actions as "Bradley" because we live in a transphobic society where she could not transition to "Chelsea" before/during those actions.

Surely this could be resolved with some kind of section that basically says "A lot of Chelsea Manning's legal documents refer to her as Bradley and this [has these implications]".

The thing is, trans people (because they/we are perpetually caught in a legal and documentation bind) break a lot of the ideas about legal proceduralism. Because transition is a time-consuming process even if you figure it out early and figure out to what degree you want to transition, never mind if you figure it out late and have legal/medical/financial complications, and because our legal system is terrible, there's a lot of time when trans people know ourselves by our chosen names and are legally known by our given names - it's not just a month or two or something. So basically, if you're going to be all proceduralist about it, you're talking about referring to us with names and genders that we feel are incorrect and painful and that may even endanger us should we not be out as trans....for a fucking long time. People try to describe this as an issue that can be resolved by law and abstract reasoning, but it's really a moral choice.
posted by Frowner at 9:59 AM on September 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


That's bunk. If you plug in either name, you're going to get to the same content. It's just a matter of which one is a redirect to the other, which is a pretty substantial sanctioning of which name wikipedia thinks is correct.

Suggest you read up on the rules because what I said is not "bunk". The philosophy of article naming is based on most common usage to help people find the article. It is true redirects help that process but Wikipedia articles are not stuck at http://en.wikipedia.org, people copy them to other places, print them out, etc.. places where redirects don't exist.
posted by stbalbach at 9:59 AM on September 4, 2013


Anybody know if Wikipedia lists other transgendered persons by their chosen rather than given names? Is this a pervasive problem? If so, I'm not sure how a charge of "transphobic" sticks. Seems more like run-of-the-mill editorial inconsistency. If on review Wikipedia as an institution decides that all transgendered people will be referenced by their given names and cross referenced by their chosen names, that to me would be problematic.
posted by echocollate at 10:00 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, if it were any other issue, I'm pretty sure Wikipedia would continue to refer to them by the name with which they entered the public consciousness.

And you'd be wrong.

John Mellencamp is not John Cougar
Jada Pinkett Smith is not Jada Pinkett
Victoria Beckham is not Posh Spice
Sean Combs is not Puff Daddy

Let me ask that, because this is a very sensitive issue, we actually research our claims before we make them. Otherwise, there is a tremendous risk of seemingly like we don't think the subject is important enough to have an informed opinion about.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2013 [24 favorites]


Anybody know if Wikipedia lists other transgendered persons by their chosen rather than given names?

Datapoint: If you search "chastity bono" it redirects to the article for Chaz Bono.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Anybody know if Wikipedia lists other transgendered persons by their chosen rather than given names?

"Lana Wachowski (born Laurence "Larry" Wachowski; June 21, 1965)"
posted by elizardbits at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


>>The title of an article is simply a placeholder, a way to find the article.

>I don't know how you can make that claim.


I understand you are not familiar with the rules of Wikipedia, most people are not.
posted by stbalbach at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2013


Anybody know if Wikipedia lists other transgendered persons by their chosen rather than given names?

FTA: "Chelsea Manning is not the first transgender person to have a Wikipedia article, nor the first to transition after becoming famous. The previous three were Chaz Bono, Lana Wachowski, and Laura Jane Grace."
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


By the by, the usual "do not read the comments" is not in effect on the blog post: they're all well-written and thoughtful, and address a lot of the topics that are being brought up here (hint hint).
posted by kagredon at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Call me Ishmael and move my entry right now.
posted by le_vert_galant at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eh, there's arguments either way. I suspect it will eventually settle on Chelsea.

Does trans-activism always have to be carried out at this pitch?
posted by Artw at 10:04 AM on September 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


The thing is, trans people (because they/we are perpetually caught in a legal and documentation bind) break a lot of the ideas about legal proceduralism. Because transition is a time-consuming process even if you figure it out early and figure out to what degree you want to transition, never mind if you figure it out late and have legal/medical/financial complications, and because our legal system is terrible, there's a lot of time when trans people know ourselves by our chosen names and are legally known by our given names - it's not just a month or two or something. So basically, if you're going to be all proceduralist about it, you're talking about referring to us with names and genders that we feel are incorrect and painful and that may even endanger us should we not be out as trans....for a fucking long time. People try to describe this as an issue that can be resolved by law and abstract reasoning, but it's really a moral choice.

In a legal proceeding, one has to change one's legal name to be referred to by that name in the proceeding. This is just the law and applies to anyone changing their name for any reason. And it is right to be that way. I've actually changed the name and sex of a client in mid-litigation. It is a simple, short motion, and only required a birth certificate with the new name on it.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:04 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bradley Manning is a person of note, and a historical figure at this point. The point of a Wikipedia entry is not to "respect" a person and their life decisions, but to inform the site's readers about a person of note.

If Chelsea Manning goes on to do further notable things (such as Muhammad Ali after he changed his name from Cassius Clay), the page should probably change and Bradley Manning redirect to Chelsea Manning. But, the fact of the matter is that Bradley Manning worked with Wikileaks, and was tried and convicted for it, not Chelsea Manning.

Pronouns are a trickier issue - but as Bradley Manning, at the time, presented himeself as male, to avoid confusion in the sources, the things he did then should be in the masculine, her current state and further fate described in the feminine from the point where she self-identified.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:05 AM on September 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


I understand you are not familiar with the rules of Wikipedia, most people are not.

I am pretty familiar with the way encyclopedias work, and I know that rule lawyering doesn't make the titling of an article somehow the beneficiary of special pleading.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:05 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wikipedia articles are not stuck at http://en.wikipedia.org, people copy them to other places, print them out, etc.. places where redirects don't exist.

I just redirected two older pubs on our site to their newer versions. Even if someone out there in the wild has a handwritten version of the old URL, when they type that into their browser...it's going to get redirected to the new version. Likewise if someone clicks the URL that's in an email that someone sent them last year - that URL is going to redirect to the new version.
posted by rtha at 10:05 AM on September 4, 2013


Suggest you read up on the rules because what I said is not "bunk".

Rule lawyering, specifically in the choice of which rules one wants to apply at any given time, certainly can be bunk. The article discusses the rule-picking issue, better to read it there than for me to repeat it.
posted by kiltedtaco at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: "Oh yeah it's a matter of semantics on Wikipedia"

It's an encyclopedia. Semantics matter.

Nicknames are different, because there's an obvious jump from "Nick" to "Nicholas," and because most nickname-using people have been using those nicknames for their entire life. At this point, a lot more people know of Chelsea Manning by her old name (see explosion's comment about notability above), so I could see the argument for leaving the old name in place.

Similarly, legally-valid "assumed names" tend to have been in use for a long, long time before their validity is ever called into question. In this instance, we're dealing with a famous person abruptly changing their name before they (presumably) will disappear from the public spotlight for a long, long time.

My gut feeling is that we should probably change the Wikipedia article after a month or two. This is completely arbitrary, but it could reduce confusion while knowledge of Chelsea Manning's gender identity slowly permeates the public consciousness.

This is an interesting issue from an editorial perspective, but accusations of transphobia and hate speech are way out of line.

Etrigan: "Then why not use "Chelsea Manning" with a redirect from "Bradley Manning"? That's what makes it transphobic: when the subject of the article has actively asked to be referred to a certain way and people are actively telling the subject to fuck off, one has to look at the reasons."

In the present tense, I agree that it's completely appropriate to call her Chelsea Manning. However, the Wikipedia article is almost exclusively referring to events that took place before she came out as transgendered. I don't agree with the notion that people should be allowed to revise their own histories.

Frowner: "Far as I can tell, she was only known for her actions as "Bradley" because we live in a transphobic society where she could not transition to "Chelsea" before/during those actions. "

Encyclopedias are responsible for accurately portraying facts; not correcting social ills.
posted by schmod at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


A derail. From the article:
"Second, it is notable that Adrian Lamo, the person who reported Manning’s leaks to the authorities, weighed in on the discussion in favor of moving the article to Chelsea. Lamo noted that Manning’s status as a transgender person has been reported on for years"
Although it weighs in favor of Chelsea Manning's status qua Chelsea, I'm surprised his view was worth reporting.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2013


The world has larger battles than this. Much bigger. And rather more important. Wikiwack is unworthy of analysis. As soon as I witnessed that the Long Synopsis was deleted from this masterpiece I lost faith. Also identity and gesture politics have set the cause of social justice back permanently, BTW. I'd better change my name and dress code before it's too late.
posted by The Salaryman at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's actually a whole article over at WP covering pretty much this issue:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelsea_Manning_gender_identity_media_coverage

It's linked right from the top of the Bradley Manning article, so it's hard for me to see how anyone can accuse WP of being insensitive or transphobic. I think it's more accurate to say that it is still being worked out.
posted by crazy_yeti at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Does trans-activism always have to be carried out at this pitch?

When you have a culture where the very idea of moderating one's tone is dismissed as "tone arguments" and replied to with all-caps misspelled mockery, the answer to that is "yes".
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:07 AM on September 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


FTA: "Chelsea Manning is not the first transgender person to have a Wikipedia article, nor the first to transition after becoming famous. The previous three were Chaz Bono, Lana Wachowski, and Laura Jane Grace."

Thanks. Busy at work and haven't had time to read it yet. The fact that other transgendered persons seem to be referenced by their chosen name kinda sandbags any charges of transphobia to me. I'm with Artw. This will probably just lead to a blanket editorial policy in favor of Chelsea.
posted by echocollate at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


condemning those who call Manning by hir old name, when a significant proportion of the country regards hir to be a traitor, could be a spectacular own goal for LGBT advocacy

Yeah, this. (Although I'd have gone with the singular they, but whatevs.) I'd be thinking very long and very hard about whether Chelsea Manning was really the hill I wanted to die on.

Kristin Beck (former Navy SEAL and transwoman) has speculated that the spotlight on Manning's gender will almost undoubtedly make life more difficult for transpeople in the military, which is unfortunate as there seemed to be some traction there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2013


Encyclopedias are responsible for accurately portraying facts; not correcting social ills.

That presumes that there is an absolute Vulcan world where there is such a thing as an absolute fact, and not this world, where facts are a product of processes, and those processes can be affected by social ills.

The world has larger battles than this. Much bigger. And rather more important.

There are other threads on MetaFilter today. Perhaps you might participate in one you think is worthwhile, instead of popping into this one to tell us it isn't.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


I expected to get lost in the convolutions of Wikipedia but instead I got lost in the paisley.
posted by srboisvert at 10:12 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have found a non-trans analog, though I don't agree with the title of this one either.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:12 AM on September 4, 2013


Artw: "Does trans-activism always have to be carried out at this pitch?"

Sigh. I agree.

I don't think that the pronoun battle is a good one for the transgender community to be fighting right now. Yes, it's important, and a matter of respect, but I think that there are bigger and less-controversial fish to fry.

Most Americans have precisely zero transgendered acquaintances. There's got to be a better way to expand mainstream respect and acceptance for transgendered people than instantly slapping accusations of transphobia on anybody who slips up on a pronoun.

The English language wasn't built to handle this situation at all, and people tend to have very firm opinions about how their language should work. We're not going to accomplish our goals if we turn every misunderstanding or disagreement into a fight.

We want to diffuse the fight; not escalate it.
posted by schmod at 10:13 AM on September 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


How you treat people's differences when you don't like them very much says more about you than how you treat the ones you already liked.
posted by Sequence at 10:13 AM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


The problem with calling this hate speech is that it dilutes the meaning of that term so that when someone REALLY HATES TRANSGENDER people it's harder to name what they're doing. It's like calling reporters who publish leaks terrorists - right or wrong, it's harder to talk clearly about real terrorists, like people who hijack planes and blow up civilians to send a political message.
posted by windowbr8r at 10:14 AM on September 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


Another data point: Jon Stewart's WP article uses his stage name rather than his legal/birth name (Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz).
posted by schmod at 10:14 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because, frankly, I could see super wiki nerd transgender editors arguing on some little rule for keeping it Bradley Manning, because, frankly, that's how they roll at that place.

True, but—as the article notes—the rule was to change the name.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:14 AM on September 4, 2013


In the present tense, I agree that it's completely appropriate to call her Chelsea Manning. However, the Wikipedia article is almost exclusively referring to events that took place before she came out as transgendered. I don't agree with the notion that people should be allowed to revise their own histories.

You had best start cracking on rewriting Wendy Carlos' page back to Walter, then. At least around the Switched on Bach bits. Just to make Wikipedia consistent with your worldview.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:15 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem with calling this hate speech is that it dilutes the meaning of that term so that when someone REALLY HATES TRANSGENDER people it's harder to name what they're doing.

Transphobic behavior can be done without any intentional malice at all. We don't have to reserve the correct words exclusively for the most extreme versions of them. The terms describes behavior, not ascribes motivations.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:16 AM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


You had best start cracking on rewriting Wendy Carlos' page back to Walter, then. At least around the Switched on Bach bits. Just to make Wikipedia consistent with your worldview.

Also Martine Rothblatt.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:17 AM on September 4, 2013


You know, if it were any other issue, I'm pretty sure Wikipedia would continue to refer to them by the name with which they entered the public consciousness.

And you'd be wrong.

John Mellencamp is not John Cougar
Jada Pinkett Smith is not Jada Pinkett
Victoria Beckham is not Posh Spice
Sean Combs is not Puff Daddy


Honestly the whole thing just seems stupid inconsistent. From what I can tell the policy seems to be the "most common current way" people refer to somebody. In that case I'd agree with the above three but I would think Sean Combs should actually go under Diddy.

I don't think that the pronoun battle is a good one for the transgender community to be fighting right now.
However, the Wikipedia article is almost exclusively referring to events that took place before she came out as transgendered. I don't agree with the notion that people should be allowed to revise their own histories.

As far as I can tell the article is fine with pronouns, it's the article name that's under contention.
posted by kmz at 10:18 AM on September 4, 2013


“They” looks awkward.

If it's good enough for Jane Austen and Walt Whitman, it's good enough for you.

Anyway, I was sad to see the amount of organisations that kept insisting on Bradley Manning. When I saw the letter read out on NBC (I think), the reader seamlessly shifted pronouns and names afterwards, and it was a very touching moment.
posted by bonaldi at 10:18 AM on September 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


and only required a birth certificate with the new name on it
and only required a birth certificate with the new name on it
and only required a birth certificate with the new name on it

We really do live on different planes of privilege, don't we
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:19 AM on September 4, 2013 [31 favorites]


Perhaps this is on the "inside baseball" side of trans-activism, in that it may be too dear of a subject for "us" and that a wider audience will most likely wade into this conversation feeling like "there go the trans crowd, being shrill again", but then again, I am a conflict-averse reductivist ignoramous most of the time, so consider anything I suggest with that in mind...

Just, you know, on the one hand let the trans communities try to work this out, yet on the other hand, maybe the trans activists should give some consideration to the audience.

sigh.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:19 AM on September 4, 2013


The world has larger battles than this. Much bigger. And rather more important. Wikiwack is unworthy of analysis. As soon as I witnessed that the Long Synopsis was deleted from this masterpiece I lost faith. Also identity and gesture politics have set the cause of social justice back permanently, BTW.

This comment is a parody right? Please?
posted by kmz at 10:20 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh and the idea that words change reality, especially the past, is alchemical. Plus Wikipedia is kind of like a toilet stall wall. People write nonsense, it stays a while. The toilet is not really responsible, nor is it representative of much of anything - tending to attract the most extreme one way or the other.
posted by The Salaryman at 10:20 AM on September 4, 2013


a birth certificate with the new name on it

So what do you do if you can't get this piece of documentation?
posted by KathrynT at 10:21 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just, you know, one the one hand let the trans communities try to work this out, yet on the other hand, maybe the trans activists should give some consideration to the audience.

I'm not trans. I guess my feeling is that, as somebody who supports trans people, I don't expect them to make me their priority, since I'm just here to support them, and not to dictate to them how to best express their experiences to make my life easier.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:22 AM on September 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


Reading the article it seems like while there was some non-transphobic ground to argue against using Chelsea in the end some of the actual arguments themselves were at worst transphobic and at best problematic.

While we can argue the point neutrally here after the fact it doesn't address the actual problem of how the decision was made to begin with.
posted by charred husk at 10:22 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh and the idea that words change reality, especially the past, is alchemical.

Words are the very thing that defines reality, past, present, and future. Words wield incredible power, for both good and bad. This should not be hard to understand.
posted by kmz at 10:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Transphobic behavior can be done without any intentional malice at all.

And "hate speech"?
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


a birth certificate with the new name on it

So what do you do if you can't get this piece of documentation?


You can't get your named changed in the case then. Them's the rules. Procedure is important and it does count.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:24 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


From what I can tell the policy seems to be the "most common current way" people refer to somebody. In that case I'd agree with the above three but I would think Sean Combs should actually go under Diddy.

Does anyone seriously call him that?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:25 AM on September 4, 2013


You can't get your named changed in the case then. Them's the rules.

So then it's not always "a simple, short motion," is it?
posted by KathrynT at 10:26 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does anyone seriously call him that?

The NYT does.
posted by kagredon at 10:26 AM on September 4, 2013


I don't think a legal name change is sufficient grounds to change the title of the page - see the above-linked Cat Stevens entry. He is more notable as Cat Stevens than Yusuf Islam, tho the entry does refer to him as Yusuf Islam from the point of his announced conversion forward.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:27 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Reading the article it seems like while there was some non-transphobic ground to argue against using Chelsea in the end some of the actual arguments themselves were at worst transphobic and at best problematic.

Here's the thing, though. It's like the stop and frisks in New York. If you take them on a case by case basis, every single one of them will have somebody saying "Oh, that made sense, of course you would stop and frisk that guy." They could all be rule-lawyered away. But when stop-and-frisks were collectively being applied to people of color and nobody else, it became obvious that the institution itself was racist. From a remove, the racism becomes unavoidable.

Refusing to call a trans person by their gender is a transphobic act. And in each case when it is done, it is possible to go in and say, well, that was special, it was just a bunch of dopes, it was rules, it's the way the site works, it's not transphobic at all in this instance!

And then you take a step back, and discover that trans people are consistently refused the name that reflects their gender, or even the fact of their gender, over and over and over again. And this this issue comes up most of all when dealing with trans people, and almost not at all when dealing with other people. And, from that remove, since it is an action that denies trans people the legitimacy of their gender, and it is done so consistently, and they are almost always the unique target of this behavior, it is transphobic, even if there were a million little explanations that made this case special, unlike every other case where its just transphobia.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:27 AM on September 4, 2013 [39 favorites]


I have found a non-trans analog, though I don't agree with the title of this one either.

And that's fine to disagree with the naming, but what some people here are saying is it ought to be possible to have that disagreement without throwing around words like "phobia" and "bigotry". If you posted a 2000 word article about how Wikipedia was a bunch of Islamophobic bigots because of the "Cat Stevens" article name, I think that too would be wrong.

It doesn't help the cause of tolerance to have no tolerance for other people's good-faith differences of opinion.
posted by crayz at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Okay, so we've revealed that there's some degree of inconsistency on Wikipedia around the use of legal vs. preferred names.

I suspect that - given that Manning is perhaps the most prominent open trans person ever - the norms of the site are going to quickly evolve to handle the need to accurately refer to peoples' genders, and it appears that that's exactly what's happening. There appear to be a number of fairly-stated logistical and usability concerns with renaming the article, but the body of the article itself refers to Manning as woman named Chelsea, which should give folks some indication as to the direction in which the Wikipedia community is headed.

Accuse me of concern trolling and "tone policing" all you want, but I really think wildly hyperbolic pieces like the ones linked in the OP are counterproductive. By all appearances Wikipedia is attempting to deal with the situation as best it can, a process that, given its open and democratic nature, might take some time. I don't see how calling the site (and by extension the community) a hub of "hate speech" and "transphobia" achieves any of the goals of trans people.
posted by downing street memo at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


And "hate speech"?

If you read through the arguments put forth on that clusterfuck of an open discussion, I think you'll find that's an apt description.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "Transphobic behavior can be done without any intentional malice at all."

I disagree. Transphobia might be subliminal, but it's got a very simple definition, and requires intent.

There is no way to be "accidentally transphobic." At worst, you might accidentally do something that could be interpreted as transphobic.

Ignorance is a shitty excuse for bad behavior, but I really do think that the vast majority of folks are simply unaware of the current "best practices" for talking about transgendered people. It's important to differentiate between these people, and the ones who actively hate transgendered individuals.

Maybe we can call them "transunfamiliar"?
posted by schmod at 10:29 AM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Consider PETA.

You do not want to be the PETA of LGBT activism.
posted by Artw at 10:29 AM on September 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


Changing it back seems wrong-headed and pointless to me, even though I grok the argument that she is primarily notable for her actions as Bradley.

The tragic part is, it isn't necessary, thanks to the magic of autodirect. The page should be at Chelsea Manning, with redirects from Bradley and common misspellings of her name.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:30 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think a legal name change is sufficient grounds to change the title of the page - see the above-linked Cat Stevens entry. He is more notable as Cat Stevens than Yusuf Islam, tho the entry does refer to him as Yusuf Islam from the point of his announced conversion forward.

No, the reason is Wikipedia is Islamophobic.

See how easy it is?
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:30 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


[A few comments removed, I swear to god we are not going to turn this into an argument about Israel and anti-semitism.]
posted by cortex at 10:30 AM on September 4, 2013 [23 favorites]


Chelsea Manning files formal pardon appeal to Obama over 35-year sentence: Army private has written to president and army secretary asking for a pardon or reduced sentence over WikiLeaks conviction
posted by homunculus at 10:31 AM on September 4, 2013


Artw:Consider PETA.

You do not want to be the PETA of LGBT activism.


That hurt. It's funny, pushed a button, but, can we agree to not use this line again?
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:31 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I disagree. Transphobia might be subliminal, but it's got a very simple definition, and requires intent.

We cannot know intent. We can only respond to action.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:32 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


You do not want to be the PETA of LGBT activism.

In what way is saying that a person's chosen name and identity should be respected the equivalent of using naked women's bodies to "sell" anti-animal cruelty, or spray-painting fur coats, or whatever other sexist attention-getting thing PETA has done lately?
posted by rtha at 10:33 AM on September 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


Wendy Carlos

(Redirected from Walter Carlos)
posted by bitslayer at 10:33 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article discusses the rule-picking issue

Real rules lawyering is when the argument is pure rhetoric, inconsistent and arguing for the sake of interfering with the process of reaching a conclusion ie. bad faith. I don't see bad faith here. I see Philip Sandifer claiming bad faith, but in a forum outside Wikipedia. On Wikipedia it's harder to claim bad faith before someone intervenes with counter-charges of personal attacks and the whole thing ends up in front of an admin. Philip Sandifer avoided that by taking it outside to attack.
posted by stbalbach at 10:33 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does trans-activism always have to be carried out at this pitch?

So let's imagine that the trans advocates were to remain silent on this issue for a year, so as not to be overly pushy about it. Does anyone have the slightest doubt that "Well, why didn't you complain about it then?!?" wouldn't be the immediate reply in September 2014?
posted by Etrigan at 10:36 AM on September 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


Does trans-activism always have to be carried out at this pitch?

Well, for trans*people and their allies, I guess the issue is that being under threat of death pretty much any time you get "made" tends to sharpen that fight or flight reflex.

For bystanders and not-allies, maybe just taking people at their word and trying to call them what they ask is not a huge obstacle? For heaven's sake, it's Wikipedia -- if Manning called a press conference tomorrow and said "hey, that was a big mistake," it's not like it would be a big deal to react to that, either. Chelsea is the correct name today, so Wikipedia should use it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:37 AM on September 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


6,800 words about a transgender Wikipedia war. If only Manning had been a star on Doctor Who, this would have hit 10,000.
posted by Ghost Mode at 10:38 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Transphobic behavior can be done without any intentional malice at all. We don't have to reserve the correct words exclusively for the most extreme versions of them. The terms describes behavior, not ascribes motivations.

While prejudice can be both active and passive, conscious and unconscious, I'd wager most people would classify them differently. For example, my mom's mild discomfort with my sister's black boyfriend, something she admits to and struggles with, is not 1:1 representative of Byron de la Beckwith's worldview, and to represent it as such is ridiculous. If you group all incidentally insensitive speech together with the most virulent forms of proactive hate/violence/oppression under the term "hate speech," you do your cause harm for the sake of the immediate righteous gratification of calling a spade of spade. Regardless what you may believe, it is possible to recognize nuance within and prioritize around different modes of prejudice without legitimizing one or the other.
posted by echocollate at 10:42 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie,
I don't want to call her Chelsea.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:43 AM on September 4, 2013


No, the reason is Wikipedia is Islamophobic.

See how easy it is?


Eh. There are probably some people who do actually feel that way - denying a minority a right to self-identify is a thing. Lots of people in the 60's kept referring to Muhammad Ali as Cassius Clay, often with a derisive sneer... just the way they insist on improperly gendering transfolk today. So there's cause for concern, and I can see the origin of their disagreement.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:44 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


And that's fine to disagree with the naming, but what some people here are saying is it ought to be possible to have that disagreement without throwing around words like "phobia" and "bigotry".

We can literally argue semantics in every single thread. We have a story about China above us, but the Chinese call their country Zhongguo, among other things. Below us we have an article on R&B, which, it could be argued, is a misnomer. Firstly, in England, R&B refers to rock and roll. Secondly, in the United States, R&B was really just a renaming convention, replacing the term "race records" to refer to music made by and for African-Americans, and therefore doesn't describe a genre at all -- Janelle Monae should be identified as a soul performer.

And there may be a place for arguing semantics. There could be a thread about the suffix -phobia, and whether or not its a good one. Or about the changes in language that are being forced by recognition of the trans experience. These would be good places to have those semantic discussion.

But in a thread like this, taking semantic issue with commonly accepted words, and making the discussion about that, is a derail, and I would ask that we not do it. You may not personally like the word transphobia, but, at the moment, it's the word, and this thread is not about the word, but about a specific event.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:44 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


The problem with Wikipedia in general is that there really isn't any consistent line in how it treats people with multiple aliases. Some have their birth name as the main page, some the alias under which they were best known (always a subjective argument), some the name they themselves use.

But for trans people there should be the simple rule that their self identity trumps other considerations, just because it's so important. (The same, in my opnion, also goes for Muhammed Ali or Yusuf Islam, both of whom took new names to celebrat their new identities.) Currently there is no Wikipedia policy about this, which is why this kerfuffle happened in the first place.

The site is currently handling Chelsea Manning about ninety percent right. The article emphasises her chosen identity, uses the correct pronouns throughout, but has gone a step back in keeping the title at Bradley Manning, when there is no real reason to do so.

To call this "actively embrace transphobia and hate speech", well, I can see why the original poster made that point, if only for the high visibility of Chelsea Manning and having the wrong name on top of her entry does dispell a lot of the good work in it.

And while Artw was sarky in asking whether " trans-activism always [has] to be carried out at this pitch", ehh, I can also see why the original poster put the boot in, even if it looks over the top to those not directly involved or hurt by Wikipedia's actions. It's hard enough to get attention to transphobic incidents and it's the squeeky wheel that gets the grease.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:45 AM on September 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Incidently, I have the funny feeling that keeping the article at "Bradley Manning" is Wikipedia giving in to political correctness, of the rightwing kind.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:46 AM on September 4, 2013


The reason why Chelsea Manning has a Wikipedia page is because of things that she did while she was known as Bradley Manning.

While I it certainly seems like Wikipedia has no consistent policy on this, it seems like a rule that favoured keeping the article named for the the more "notable" deeds would be an entirely reasonable one going forward. Yes, it is a subjective standard, so it won't be perfect, but it's not a rule steeped in transphobia or even cisprivilege that I can see.

As other posters have said, if Chelsea continues to remain in the public eye, then it might make sense to readdress the naming of the article at some point in the future. And I can totally see that being possible, as questions of how she should be imprisoned for her 35 years will surely come up over the duration. Right now though? Bradley Manning worked with Wikileaks. Bradley Manning was subjected to questionable interrogation techniques, and Bradley Manning was ultimately convicted of crimes. If Chelsea Manning pulls an Ariel Castro tomorrow (which will hopefully not happen), then Chelsea will just be a sad footnote at the end of Bradley Manning's story.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:47 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


And just to be clear, crayz, I was just using your comment as a jumping off point, not accusing you of engaging in that behavior.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:48 AM on September 4, 2013


MartinWisse:
But for trans people there should be the simple rule that their self identity trumps other considerations, just because it's so important.
That's actually discussed in the article and it is one of their rules.
The Wikipedia Manual of Style states that “any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman"), pronouns, and possessive adjectives that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life.”
posted by charred husk at 10:48 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't see bad faith here.

No? Kind of depends on your definition of bad faith, I think... Let's look at Bunny Ultramod's comment..
And you'd be wrong.

John Mellencamp is not John Cougar
Jada Pinkett Smith is not Jada Pinkett
Victoria Beckham is not Posh Spice
Sean Combs is not Puff Daddy
Cherry picking evidence in a plea to do research? No offence to Bunny Ultramod intended, I'm sure in truth it was just a slip up in a heated exchange.

So.. I'm content to agree that there is no bad faith, but there is certainly a lot of rules lawyering!

Oh, and just in case somebody isn't reading every single comment here. The best counter example that is readily apparent and has been discussed at length already is that of Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam. Lots of less significant counter examples have been discussed too, but I hesitate to link them--the whims of celebrity branding really shouldn't be confused with transitioning, which I assume is a much more considered, genuine, and permanent change. And here we are, finally, at the crux of the question: when should wikipedia take a name change seriously instead of as a branding exercise. I don't know..
posted by Chuckles at 10:49 AM on September 4, 2013


The reason why Chelsea Manning has a Wikipedia page is because of things that she did while she was known as Bradley Manning

Irrelevant. That's what redirects are for. Those searching for Bradley will end up at Chelsea, while denying Chelsea's chosen identity in this way, does hurt people.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:49 AM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Did people read the same article?

[The Wikipedia Manual of Style states] that “this includes referring to transgender individuals according to the name and pronoun they use to identify themselves.” The earlier policy that insisted on self-identification without specifically mentioning transgender people has existed since April 6, 2004.
[...]
My aims in presenting this are not simply an attempt at activism in order to get the page moved back to its correct title; in all honesty, I expect that this will happen within the next few months, and that additional outside pressure will not affect this in any positive ways. [...]My goal here is, rather, to document how one of the first drafts of history was written and to expose the mechanisms by which the first draft came out so horribly wrong.
[...]
Many of the comments made in the discussion were openly transphobic. One user decried the change, saying that Wikipedia is “not a site designed to protect people’s ‘feelings’.” Others accused Manning of being “clearly mentally unstable,” and “still male in every meaningful sense,” while others reached for the old and offensive canard of comparing transgender people to animals, saying “If I had a Wikipedia article and then I suddenly claimed to be a dog, or a cat, would they change it to reflect such a non-sense? Biologically he is a man and will die a man (check his chromosomes XY), and legally he is a man (he even asks to be called by his male name in official stuff). It is stupid to change the wikipedia article… this deserves, at most, a brief section. Wikipedia is about FACTS not gay-lobby propaganda.”
[...]
This is, in other words, not an individual failing, but a collective one. Wikipedia illustrates all too perfectly the way in which transphobic bigotry takes place. A broad base of people who are largely ignorant of trans issues respond make a lot of noise. Structures of authority make decisions ostensibly based on dispassionate application of established rules, but that are, in practice, little more than fig leafs disguising their unwillingness to go against the mob. Other structures of authority remain silent. And far too few people spend any serious time listening to the experiences of trans people. Those that do are shouted down or, in extreme cases, threatened by people afraid of having their privilege challenged.


But yeah, let's snark about PETA and make harrumphing noises about the pendulum swinging too far, and rules-lawyer this to death, because those are the battles we should be fighting.
posted by kagredon at 10:50 AM on September 4, 2013 [22 favorites]


I'm a little lost here. I followed the Wikipedia discussion for a while after she announced her gender identity, but eventually forgot about it until now. Is there anything wrong with the Manning article as currently titled, with her name first and "born as" name second as appears to be the case with other transgendered people, like Chaz Bono? Is Sandifer's linked article being discussed here about the Wikipedia page as it currently stands, or the editor arguments that led up to this point? Do people think that the article should not reference her old name anywhere?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:50 AM on September 4, 2013


As far as I understand it, 'Bradley Manning' is in fact still her legal name. Until her name is changed, I think purportedly factual sites like Wikipedia should reference a person's legal name.

Broad deference to the misguided rules of an institution rather than respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual is kind of how we got here, seems to me.
posted by mhoye at 10:50 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cherry picking evidence in a plea to do research? No offence to Bunny Ultramod intended, I'm sure in truth it was just a slip up in a heated exchange.

I was hardly cherry picking evidence. And if you go to the Cat Stevens discussion page -- the single notable outlier -- you'll see that the conventions of his naming are actually the subject of considerable debate, with people pointing out that naming the page "Cat Stevens" is inconsistent with site police.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I it certainly seems like Wikipedia has no consistent policy on this, it seems like a rule that favoured keeping the article named for the the more "notable" deeds would be an entirely reasonable one going forward. Yes, it is a subjective standard, so it won't be perfect, but it's not a rule steeped in transphobia or even cisprivilege that I can see.

This might make sense for a print resource (although, even then the "see," "see also," and "used for" pointers exist for indexing), but, for an electronic resource like Wikipedia, this doesn't make a lot of sense. You can have a very large number of redirecting pages so that the proper searches get to the right record. And that record, as far as I can see, should be "Chelsea Manning." If we have to live in the increasingly dreadful 21st Century, we might as well make use of the convenient parts....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:52 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is no way to be "accidentally transphobic." At worst, you might accidentally do something that could be interpreted as transphobic.

Like most -phobias and -isms these days, transphobia is about the effect of the action, not its intent. This is because most people who grew up in cultures with some degree of institutional bias (i.e. all of them) are socialized to act in ways that perpetuate that bias. Even people who feel no hatred or disrespect for the group in question. Actions that perpetuate institutional transphobia are transphobic actions even if the person doing them means no harm. I think the term "hate speech" does imply intent, though.

The fact that transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, etc., use the -phobia ending is unfortunate because so many people think that therefore because of the etymology the only -phobic actions are ones motivated by an irrational, debilitating fear of trans/gay/bi people. But the public at large seems to like the terms heteronormativity/cis-normativity even less, so here we are.
posted by zeptoweasel at 10:54 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


You fucked up Chelsea, until you learn to follow the rules, you get your old name. The one god gave you.

How the hell is she supposed to jump through the hoops of legally changing her name while she is in prison? Wikipedia is a jerk.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:54 AM on September 4, 2013


(As always, MartinWisse manages to both crystallize my views and express them perfectly.)

The best counter example that is readily apparent and has been discussed at length already is that of Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam.

But that pre-supposes that that's a good decision as well.

Is there anything wrong with the Manning article as currently titled, with her name first and "born as" name second as appears to be the case with other transgendered people, like Chaz Bono?

Chaz Bono's article is titled Chaz Bono, his preferred name. Chelsea Manning's article is titled "Bradley Manning", which is not her preferred name.
posted by kmz at 10:55 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW I just dug out my crusty old Wikipedia account to argue for changing this back - if you're likewise a lapsed Wikipedian I would suggest doing the same as a step to getting your prefered title.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


But that pre-supposes that that's a good decision as well.

It certainly does not. I put my position as clearly as I can: "I don't know." It is evidence though, and it was omitted in a plea for more research.
posted by Chuckles at 10:59 AM on September 4, 2013


You can have a very large number of redirecting pages so that the proper searches get to the right record

This is also an argument for having the page be titled Bradley. People searching for Chelsea will get to the right place. It's not as if she doesn't exist.

A lot of people are addressing this in terms of Chelsea Manning's right to determine her own identity. I don't disagree with that principle, but I thought that one of the tenets of Wikipedia is that individuals don't get to determine how they are portrayed. Sure, there are SEO experts and public relations firms and the whatnot who can try to manage various pages on Wikipedia, but when it comes down to it, editing ones own Wikipedia page is still frowned upon... isn't it?
posted by sparklemotion at 11:00 AM on September 4, 2013


Malik El-Shabazz redirects to Malcom X, as another good counterexample.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:01 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


And then you take a step back, and discover that trans people are consistently refused the name that reflects their gender, or even the fact of their gender, over and over and over again.

Are you still talking about Wikipedia? Many other examples of articles about transpeople on Wikipedia referenced in this thread show this to not be the case, if so.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:03 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


when it comes down to it, editing ones own Wikipedia page is still frowned upon... isn't it?

Yes, but unlikely to be a problem in this case.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:04 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought that one of the tenets of Wikipedia is that individuals don't get to determine how they are portrayed.

As noted by others, Wikipedia has long had a policy that trans individuals do get to determine their names and pronouns.

Other counterexamples: Every famous pseudonymous person who has already been cited in this thread.
posted by Etrigan at 11:05 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


FTA:

"a largely transparent and documentable account of how a specific and powerful institution came to take an explicitly transphobic position"

Did the institution of Wikipedia actually take an explicitly transphobic position? Or did a small subset of users opt for a temporary measure that had accessibility at large as a priority? It likely should be Chelsea Manning, and will be, but that is not a trivial change and arguably could lead to confusion among users, as it is a very recent public announcement and for years the person in the news has been known as Bradley. Putting off serious changes while they are the subject of heated debate (even if the debate will almost certainly turn out one way or another) doesn't strike me as blameworthy.

This seems to me like someone like being a witness to a hate crime in Seattle and then saying that the city of Seattle was documentably, overtly, and violently homophobic. There is a violently homophobic person who has committed this act, and in a way the fact that such a person could exist in Seattle makes the city complicit, but it's not the same thing.

I agree with those above that while some wikipedians may have crossed the line into hate speech, the fact that they contributed to a decision does not make that decision hate speech. I believe it dilutes the definition of hate speech to consider it in this way.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is also an argument for having the page be titled Bradley. People searching for Chelsea will get to the right place. It's not as if she doesn't exist.

Not really; it undercuts the argument that Manning's name should be "Bradley" because that will facilitate finding. That the page should be "Chelsea Manning" comes from a) decency and b) apparently, Wikipedia's own policies.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I understand you are not familiar with the rules of Wikipedia, most people are not.

I don't think this has anything to do with the rules of Wikipedia (and I've spent substantial time on that site, so I do know them). That's just useful camouflage. It's about using those rules in a way that supports a personal bias and then imposing that bias on not just the article but on the public reading the article who see "Bradley Manning" and know nothing of these "rules" (one of which is hilariously "ignore all rules" - obviously an institution that puts great stock in their rules, huh?)

You're right, most people don't know the rules of Wikipedia. That makes them irrelevant to everyone. Wikipedia, being one of the most viewed websites in the world, exercises huge influence on people (like most widely viewed media), whether they realize it or not. I am certain the phrase "Wikipedia says he's Bradley Manning," has come up more than once in recent weeks to justify transphobic/hate speech. Wikipedia thinks it exists in a world where people's main concerns include: getting to an article without being redirected, and ensuring that the most common name used by bigoted media and court documents is the name used to title the article. Either that or it collectively thinks it exists in a vacuum. Neither is true.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:08 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sue Gardner (Wikimedia's Executive Director, though writing in her role as an editor) on How Wikipedia got it Wrong on Chelsea Manning and Why.

A number of editors have made truly ignorant comments over the past week or so, comparing Chelsea Manning to someone who woke up one morning believing herself to be a dog, a cat, a Vulcan, Jesus Christ, a golden retriever, a genius, a black person, a Martian, a dolphin, Minnie Mouse, a broomstick or a banana. In saying those things, they revealed themselves to be people who’ve never thought seriously about trans issues — who have never read a single first-person account of growing up transgendered, or a scholarly study or medical text, or maybe even the Wikipedia article itself. That in itself is perfectly okay: different things are interesting to different people, and I for one know nothing about trigonometry or antisemitism in the 19th century or how a planet is determined to actually be a planet. But I don’t deny that there is stuff on those topics worth knowing, nor do I mock the knowledge of others, nor accuse them of bias and POV-pushing.

Wikipedians normally don’t either. Wikipedians won’t ordinarily defer to someone just because of their credentials, but we do normally attach extra credibility to people who’ve demonstrated they know more about a topic than we do. In this instance though, Wikipedians are considering sanctioning the two thoughtful and well-informed editors who originally made the change from Bradley to Chelsea. Which to me suggests systemic bias fuelled by groupthink.

posted by feckless at 11:09 AM on September 4, 2013 [23 favorites]


Refusing to identify trans people by their publicly stated name and gender is a transphobic act -- it's one of the defining transphobic acts, the act of rejecting a trans person's identity.

This is certainly the case in continued conversation and references to the person, but I think that the Wikipedia article would be abandoning its duty as an encyclopaedic reference if it removed all reference to Manning having been born Bradley Manning. For Wikipedia to use the most famous name as the title is not transphobic, particularly when they use the female pronoun throughout.

There was transphobia in the comments on that talk page, but to say that Wikipedia Officially Is Transphobic is a hyperbolic stretch.
posted by corb at 11:10 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


the Wikipedia article would be abandoning its duty as an encyclopaedic reference if it removed all reference to Manning having been born Bradley Manning.

Literally nobody is suggesting that they do this.
posted by KathrynT at 11:12 AM on September 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


This is certainly the case in continued conversation and references to the person, but I think that the Wikipedia article would be abandoning its duty as an encyclopaedic reference if it removed all reference to Manning having been born Bradley Manning.

Did anybody request this?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:12 AM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Corb,

I think the article linked by feckless is illuminating
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:13 AM on September 4, 2013


In fairness, Sandifer's article has as its first sentence: "There is something that you never, ever do to a transgender person: use their birth name."

That could be read as a request to erase all references to Bradley Manning in Chelsea's article. I don't actually read it that way--I read it as an emphatic statement about the core issue (the page title and primary way of referencing Chelsea) -- but I can see how other folks might read it that way.
posted by feckless at 11:16 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's been a while since I edited a WP article. Other than commenting on the Talk page, is there a way to express favor for the name change to administrator-level editors who decide how policy will be applied here?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 AM on September 4, 2013


I guess I am also uncomfortable with the argument that Chelsea should continue to be referred to as Bradly because that's what she's notable for. There has never been somebody in her position that has come out as trans before, and the fact that a vast majority of newspapers worldwide switched their reference from Bradley to Chelsea and from male to female in just a few short weeks represents a watershed moment in the acceptance and understanding of the trans experience. That's notable, and Chelsea made it notable by being Chelsea.

I mean, if we are going to define people by the name they used during the most notable thing they ever did, even if it's not their preference, not the name they chose for themselves, and regardless of what else they did afterward, than Iggy Pop's page should probably be credited as Iggy Stooge.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:17 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of people are addressing this in terms of Chelsea Manning's right to determine her own identity. I don't disagree with that principle, but I thought that one of the tenets of Wikipedia is that individuals don't get to determine how they are portrayed. Sure, there are SEO experts and public relations firms and the whatnot who can try to manage various pages on Wikipedia, but when it comes down to it, editing ones own Wikipedia page is still frowned upon... isn't it?

This is absurd. Chelsea Manning didn't sign on to Wikipedia in the middle of the night to personally redirect the "Bradley Manning" page. She released a public statement that was widely reported on in the media.
posted by kagredon at 11:18 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, if we are going to define people by the name they used during the most notable thing they ever did, even if it's not their preference, not the name they chose for themselves, and regardless of what else they did afterward, than Iggy Pop's page should probably be credited as Iggy Stooge.

And Ron Howard would have to be listed as Opie Taylor....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:20 AM on September 4, 2013


I can sympathize with thinking a word ending in "-phobia" refers to a fear rather than a pattern of action.

Hatred is not fear.

If you accept the use of "transphobia" to refer to the hatred of trans* people, you already use the word to mean something that isn't obvious from its construction.

Transphobia is used to describe a pattern of action, when by appearances it should describe a pattern of emotion. This is a common idiom: hemophiliac people probably aren't all that fond of their propensity for bleeding, but they do bleed a lot. People who are really into something other than alcohol may still be shopaholics or chocoholics or whatever, although this surely doesn't describe the same kind of addiction as alcoholism.

If you are confused, fuck, so am I. But I still use "transphobia" to mean what people say it means. The English language has done far worse.

If you understand the usage well enough to specify what's wrong with it, then you also understand how to use it. If you choose not to--actually, that's fine! You could try "cissexism," it has a bit of currency. But if you object to other people using the word, you can't very well pretend it's any more misleading than other words in common use--you're really arguing about branding, how best to present this issue to those not yet informed of it.

There are forums where that discussion is actually taking place, but you have to seek them out.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems ironic that those who are resisting changing the article title from "Bradley Manning" to "Chelsea Manning" on procedural grounds are automatically accused of exalting form over substance. Isn't that what Chelsea Manning is doing herself?
posted by anewnadir at 11:24 AM on September 4, 2013


what
posted by kagredon at 11:25 AM on September 4, 2013 [20 favorites]


Isn't that what Chelsea Manning is doing herself?

what the actual fuck?
posted by KathrynT at 11:25 AM on September 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


What substance do you refer to, anewnadir?
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:26 AM on September 4, 2013


Ought people to get additional respect given to their choice of name because they are trans? I ask because normally we do go along with a change of name, but for convicted criminals many people and news orgs make an exception. See for example Peter Sutcliffe, the serial woman-killer, who adopted the surname "Coonan" on conviction only to have it heartily disregarded by everyone - except the courts, who in accordance with British law used the name of his preference.

I don't find what Manning did all that awful, but there are plenty who think she committed extremely serious crimes. It must be pretty galling for them to be forced to choose between either paying her a respect they don't think she deserves or involving themselves in a heated gender politics debate.

Regarding non-standard pronoun use: for me, "ve" and its cousins refer to people with personality but with no gender.
posted by topynate at 11:26 AM on September 4, 2013


In fairness, Sandifer's article has as its first sentence: "There is something that you never, ever do to a transgender person: use their birth name."

That could be read as a request to erase all references to Bradley Manning in Chelsea's article. I don't actually read it that way--I read it as an emphatic statement about the core issue (the page title and primary way of referencing Chelsea) -- but I can see how other folks might read it that way.


Yeah, that's how I took it - that the suggestion would be to erase all mention of "Bradley Manning" from the page. I wasn't suggesting that mefites were suggesting this, but it seemed that the author of the article was.

I guess I am also uncomfortable with the argument that Chelsea should continue to be referred to as Bradly because that's what she's notable for.

I don't think Manning should continue to be referred to as Bradley, (except in official correspondence, otherwise the letters to that prison facility will seriously rot unread, trust me), but I think that there is a significant difference in how we refer to someone in the "from now on, talking about the person" and "In the historic record".

Actually, that's one thing that kind of makes me feel like there's some similarities. Thanks to Rustic Etruscan and Zombieflander's game post the other day, I've been looking up a lot of historical rulers on Wikipedia lately. (the game provides a link). And one interesting thing is how they are titled - it's rarely the last name they held, but usually the name they were made most famous by - this is especially and particularly true for women.

I think that Wikipedia's decisions on this are often fraught with difficulty, and it's important not to look at the worst of the comments there - I haven't been back, but when we first wandered over there after the announcement, they were pretty bad - as representative.

It does seem that this is becoming a political game in a way that it absolutely should not be, though. I'm reminded of the "Iraq" thing, where a lot of right-wing people tried to conspicuously pronounce it Eye-Rack, and a lot of left-wing people tried to conspicuously pronounce it Ir-Augh, in this sort of weirdly deliberate fight-starting fashion.
posted by corb at 11:26 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


(also, as an FYI, I haven't been using "Chelsea" personally, but that's because I'm ex-military, and so the mental form of address for someone in the military is always by their last name, first names are a rare and weird bird. If you're someone who usually uses first names, you should probably get used to putting Chelsea in your mouth.)
posted by corb at 11:28 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's been a while since I edited a WP article. Other than commenting on the Talk page, is there a way to express favor for the name change to administrator-level editors who decide how policy will be applied here?

Looks like there's an effort to assemble an unassailable body of evidence at the bottom of the talk page and the change will most likely result from that. There's also a section in talk discussing media debate of the change.

On the article itself most editing activity seems to revolve around futzing about with the infobox and whether "Bradley Manning" should appear there in some form.
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on September 4, 2013


It's been a while since I edited a WP article. Other than commenting on the Talk page, is there a way to express favor for the name change to administrator-level editors who decide how policy will be applied here?

That's not really how it works. There is no hierarchy of editors who have the final say about anything. There are discussions that anyone can participate in, after which there is supposed to be a "consensus" reached that resolves the debate or dispute. Basically the only way one side "wins" is if editors stop editing the article to change the disputed part.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:33 AM on September 4, 2013


Does trans-activism always have to be carried out at this pitch?
A lot of us have had difficult lives in which we've had to fight for every single tiny scrap of basic respect and dignity. And keep fighting to keep them, in whatever meager form we get. And most of the excuses for refusing to provide basic respect and dignity for trans people are just bullshit. Like, you're seeing lots of people refusing to call her Chelsea because she's pre-transition; or it's not her legal name; or whatever. A lot of those people are just grasping for anything that'll deflect from their discomfort with trans people being at the core of their objections. A lot of them would still refuse to refer to her respectfully, even if all of their conditions were met. It happens. All. The. Time. A refusal to refer to Chelsea Manning by her preferred name/pronouns is a personal slap to the face to every trans person. That's a good thing to remember in these threads.

Anyway, all I have to say here is: god fucking damn it. I thought people were learning.
posted by byanyothername at 11:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [34 favorites]


Theodor Giesel never legally changed his name to "Dr. Seuss."

And the entirety of the article about him refers to him by his legal name of Geisel. This appears to prove the exact opposite of the point you were trying to make.

John Mellencamp is not John Cougar
Jada Pinkett Smith is not Jada Pinkett
Victoria Beckham is not Posh Spice
Sean Combs is not Puff Daddy


In all four of these articles, the very first sentence starts with declaring what their legal name is. Unless you are suggesting the article should be "Bradley Manning, now known as..." which I assume you don't, I again don't understand what the argument here is.

Another data point: Jon Stewart's WP article uses his stage name rather than his legal/birth name (Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz).

Yet another Wiki article referenced but not read. Both Stewart and his wife legally changed their surnames to Stewart in 2001. As did Alice Cooper, who was also mentioned as an example upthread.

I don't even understand what anyone's trying to say here when they mention a pen or stage name as an example to defend using Chelsea instead of Bradley. She's not choosing a stage name for a performance or work of art; this analogy in itself seems really offensive and pointless save to Win at Internet™.

And so...

Your argument is invalid.

Really? Could I be told what argument has been invalided with that resounding oh-snap? Because I truly don't know. Irregardless of anyone's opinions about LBGT rights and transgender identity, is there an unbiased counter to what appears to be somewhat of a standard policy here? That articles on a subject start with their legal name, and if that name was legally changed, it says what name they were born as?

Edit on Preview: at the time I am writing this, the entry for Manning is titled "Bradley Manning" but "Chelsea Manning" redirects to it, the article begins with the same naming conventions I noted above, and Manning is referred to as a female throughout the article. Is this a recent change because this seems to be counter to what some are complaining about, and if not, then what at this particular instance is the outrage about? Is it truly just the title alone now?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:59 AM on September 4, 2013


It's the title alone now. Which will almost certainly change in 30 days, sooner if Wikipedia gets off its procedural ass.
posted by Artw at 12:01 PM on September 4, 2013


I haven't read all the comments here but I'm going to try to help everyone understand what's going on, what should have happened, some of what went wrong, and what will happen.

First, I am a very experienced and active editor on Wikipedia. I AM NOT AN ADMIN. I could be an admin if I wanted but I do not want to.

1) The overriding policy to consider is WP:COMMONNAME. Basically it says to use as a title for an article the name commonly used by reliable sources when discussing the subject. That's why we use Lady Gaga and not whatever her birth name is. The key is "reliable sources" which refer to organizations like the New York Times, the BBC, and ABC News (and many, many more). If, as the blogger stated, all these news organizations have switched to Chelsea then it's a done deal. "Chelsea Manning" should be the name of the article. Notice that COMMONNAME does not take into account what the people think since that sort of thing cannot be VERIFIED nor are we considered reliable sources.

2) Consensus. There are many concepts in use on Wikipedia that "outsiders" (also newer editors or experienced editors not experienced in a particular area) do not understand (remember the Woman Writers category blowup? Even Jimbo Wales demonstrated his ignorance about how the Category system works on Wikipedia). Consensus is one. Consensus is not a vote. It is not a majority. It is which side makes the best argument from within the policies and guidelines of Wikipedia. If you have 1,000 people in support of position X whose arguments are in the form "It should be X because I like it best" or "It should be X because that's how real fans do it" but only one person who argues for position Y in the form "According to policy A and guidelines B and C we should go with Y" then the Y position should win. It's about arguing from within Wikipedia. If both sides make equally valid arguments from within Wikipedia's policies and guidelines then things get sticky.

In this case COMMONNAME as demonstrated by RELIABLESOURCES is the primary criteria and its a fairly easy one to demonstrate (links to NY Times and so on).

3) The admin interpreted consensus incorrectly (at least based on what the blogger states) as consensus is not about agreement or the lack of but agreement (et al) as informed by the relevant policies and guidelines.

4) I have not read through the discussion on Wikipedia. As a rule I do not involve myself in these kinds of disputes (ones that are crazy popular/achieve media attention). I am in enough disputes in all sorts of obscure subjects that I don't need that headache as well.

5) The 30-day moratorium is understandable. If there is a content dispute among several editors and there is a lot of bad blood and no sides are clearly in the wrong then sometimes an admin will block the participants for a day or longer to get them to cool off. In this case, Wiki cannot block a thousand editors so instead the page is protected in order to give everyone a time-out. Completely understandable and in principle pretty standard behavior. It's unfortunate that the admin involved screwed up CONSENSUS in the first place but forcing a break is OK.

6) It's possible that people arguing for "Bradley" are making a valid point from within WP policies/guidelines using policies that I am not aware of or precedents I am ignorant of. It's possible. I find it unlikely and I'm not going to read through the discussion on WP just in case there is a good counter-argument somewhere.

7) In the end the article will change to Chelsea assuming that all/vast majority of the news outlets have switched.

PS Check out the article on Inter Milan for a trickier but similar ongoing argument over the best name for that article. Again, the closing admins went with the simple interpretation of COMMONNAME in a situation where the other side actually had an argument. Since this appears to be an easier one to asses I expect Chelsea to win out the day.

PPS Whenever anyone starts ascribing motivation to anyone, including themselves, I take like 1,000 very skeptical steps away. We cannot know why anyone does anything ever and basing arguments on that is profoundly unsound.

PPPS Wikipedia has very strict policies on civility, as in how editors are to treat each other. Far more strict, or better enforced, than what we have here on Metafilter.
posted by bfootdav at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2013 [23 favorites]


And now they are playing silly buggers over whether evidence should be on the talk page or on an inactive move discussion page. God that place is a fucking maze.
posted by Artw at 12:04 PM on September 4, 2013


Bfootdav appears to have it.
posted by Artw at 12:06 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


A refusal to refer to Chelsea Manning by her preferred name/pronouns is a personal slap to the face to every trans person. That's a good thing to remember in these threads.

I don't want to pretend I know what you're going through, but what you're describing and the way you and some others seem to be reacting seems from here to be similar to the "microaggression" principle - where one individual incident might not be such a big deal, but because it is not one individual incident but all the incidents or a overwhelming amount of incidents, they all combine into one huge aggression?

If so - and again, I might be wrong and do not want to speak for you - the problem might be the same thing that women face in sexism threads talking about microaggressions. The individual example does not seem to outside eyes to be very large - because, taken by itself, it isn't - and the groundswell of microaggressions go unseen because they are unseen to people not experiencing them.

Which is a long way of saying that I (may, at least) both understand the rage, and also why people are reacting badly to the rage and the way that the rage sometimes gets expressed.

Anyway, all I have to say here is: god fucking damn it. I thought people were learning.

The article on Manning uses female pronoun throughout and starts off by referring to Chelsea (or at least, it did when I saw it.) Many media outlets are using "Chelsea" and "she." Do you not think this is a demonstrable example of at least the start of the sea change you are looking for?
posted by corb at 12:10 PM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wikipedia is beginning to look like a nascent Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, LOL.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:14 PM on September 4, 2013


They are way more Encyclopedia Galactica.
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's about arguing from within Wikipedia. If both sides make equally valid arguments from within Wikipedia's policies and guidelines then things get sticky.
If Wikipedia is the HHGttG, the talk pages sound more like the Talmud.
posted by topynate at 12:15 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Microaggressions might be one way to look at it, yes. It can be a very "death by a thousand cuts" thing. But it's also just insulting to refuse to use a trans person's preferred name/pronouns, and that refusal extends to all trans people, some of which are MeFites who'd probably prefer not to have to deal with that here.

And things are getting better, overall, as more people get exposed to the reality of transgender people and our lives, but lots of people do respond to that like whiny babies and angry bigots and that does nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for building some kind of device that lets me punch people over the internet.
posted by byanyothername at 12:19 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I should also mention that it's very tempting at times on Wikipedia to adopt a Wisdom of Solomon approach and for admins/neutral editors to force compromise solutions just to get everyone to shut up. Unfortunately cutting the baby in half isn't always the best solution.
posted by bfootdav at 12:25 PM on September 4, 2013


No offence to bfootdav (thanks for the overview) but whenever I see something written in full on wikipedish ("in this case COMMONNAME as demonstrated by RELIABLESOURCES") is sound like a cult
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:27 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's very, very tiring to anyone not heavily invested in being a big deal on Wikipedia for its own sake, which is a problem in iteslf.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on September 4, 2013


Welp.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:33 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I just wanted to make it clear that I was using the Wikipedia definitions and not common ones. There's often a large difference. On the other hand the construction [[WP:COMMONNAME]] is how it would be written on Wikipedia so, guilty as charged?
posted by bfootdav at 12:34 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just the way it is with WP, really.
posted by Artw at 12:36 PM on September 4, 2013


bfootdav: Have you read the article linked by feckless?

The article makes some compelling points regarding systemic bias against transgender issues among the wiki editors, and I'm curious about your thoughts on her take of the issue.

http://suegardner.org/2013/09/04/how-wikipedia-got-it-wrong-on-chelsea-manning-and-why/
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:38 PM on September 4, 2013


I think reverting the article was obviously stupid and wrong.

I do believe even that it was caused by prejudice against trans individuals (note to the word coiners - the etymology of transphobia implies a fear of trans people) - though most likely unconscious.

But more than anything, I believe this typifies why progressives/the left/etc. are in such a bad shape. We really need to get a sense of perspective!

Consider: it's a certainty that that page will read Chelsea Manning in five years. Indeed, I think it's very likely it will be changed within a couple of months. Ms. Manning isn't going to be in any position to read the page for a lot longer than that - so why get bent out of shape? How is the world helped by freaking out over the name of a web page?

The basic argument by the doubters is, "This just happened, we need a timeout period to see if it sticks." I don't agree with the argument - but delaying the name change of the page is simply not a big deal.

Yeah, it's "symbolic" - but this is what I'm talking about - the left spends far too much time and energy on "symbolic" battles, and worse, they manage to alienate a lot of people in the process.

A good example of "well-directed effort" is the "It gets better" campaign. If that campaign saved even one young LGBTQ person from suicide (which seems really likely to me), this is a result infinitely more important than "the name of a web page".

Pushing for gay marriage, or anti-discrimination laws, all of those are very practical things that will make people's lives measurably better.

But this is a tempest in a tea cup...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:42 PM on September 4, 2013


Who's "freaking out"?
posted by kagredon at 12:43 PM on September 4, 2013


English Wikipedia's policy on naming articles is to use the name most commonly used in English language sources. To quote from the actual policy, in case there's anyone reading this thread who actually cares:
Wikipedia prefers the name that is most commonly used (as determined by its prevalence in reliable English-language sources) as such names will be the most recognizable .... Wikipedia does not necessarily use the subject's "official" name as an article title; it prefers to use the name that is most frequently used to refer to the subject in English-language reliable sources ... If the name of a person, group, object, or other article topic changes, then more weight should be given to the name used in reliable sources published after the name change than in those before the change.
This policy is not something specific to Manning, to trans* people, or even specific to people; it covers any person, group, thing or entity that is known by more than one name and has an article on Wikipedia. Wikipedia's article-naming policy is not based on what someone's legal name is, if the article is about a person.

There was an article in the August 21 issue of Wikipedia's online internal newsletter, The Signpost, about the pronoun change in the Chelsea Manning article, and the media's initial reaction to it. (The pronoun change also followed established policy, though there was some push-back about it.)
posted by nangar at 12:45 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who's "freaking out"?

Whoever wrote: "This is the story of how the fifth largest website in the world came to actively embrace transphobia and hate speech."
posted by Chuckles at 12:45 PM on September 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


I understand you are not familiar with the rules of Wikipedia, most people are not.

And yet the rules are obtuse, and seem to exist primarily to allow really tiresome rules lawyering by people who seem to exist to fight those wars. The entire thing always feels to be like a playground for the kind of people who want to fight those battles and an encyclopedia second.

A great example is that i've watched friends local bands battle over who is "relevant" enough to have an article and who isn't. Sometimes people from opposing camps would go comment on the other pages in favor or against deletions.

Artw nails it,

It's very, very tiring to anyone not heavily invested in being a big deal on Wikipedia for its own sake, which is a problem in iteslf.

This is not the 1st, or even the 10th stupid as fuck wikipedia rules lawyering "BUT TEH PRINCIPAL OF TEH THING" battle i've seen. It always reflects on the big-time wikipedia editors who always enter these battles as being the absolute worst type of freaking neckbeard comic book nerd. And they'll never realize that.

The obvious solution here is to make bradley manning redirect to chelsea manning automatically and walk away. They should probably lock the pages for a while too.
posted by emptythought at 12:46 PM on September 4, 2013


Yeah, it's "symbolic" - but this is what I'm talking about - the left spends far too much time and energy on "symbolic" battles, and worse, they manage to alienate a lot of people in the process.

But really, who is fighting an actual battle here? Posting some articles on the internet and discussing an issue on Metafilter doesn't qualify as a battle. Perhaps there is some major activism around this that I don't know about though.

It's not wrong, or drawing away from other more important issues to discuss this one. I think we can handle two (or 50) things at once.

Systemic bias in the media often spills over into the opinions of actual real people. It does matter, even if individuals think that it doesn't. Is it the biggest thing going surrounding trans-issues? No. But it does matter.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:48 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plus, you know, you can call it "symbolic", but I very much doubt Chelsea Manning would think that her right to be taken seriously when she says who she is is symbolic.

"Well, but she's just one person!" Yes. Who happens to be, at the moment, one of the highest-profile, most recognizable trans* people in the world. Do you really think that it doesn't have wide-ranging repercussions to make her gender identity a matter of debate and nitpickery? Do you really think that isn't a mirror for how we treat trans* people as a whole? Do you really think that's "a tempest in a teacup"?
posted by kagredon at 12:48 PM on September 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Who's "freaking out"?

Whoever wrote: "This is the story of how the fifth largest website in the world came to actively embrace transphobia and hate speech."


Funny, I would've said "all the people who are refusing to read the article or consider its arguments because it said 'hate speech'"
posted by kagredon at 12:49 PM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


> Do you really think that's "a tempest in a teacup"?

Yes, absolutely.

Ms. Manning announced her gender change, and so far it seems to be systematically taking hold. It hasn't even been two weeks yet but it seems like a majority of English language newspapers refer to her exclusively by her chosen gender. Freaking out because it's going a little slower than you might like is silly.

And yes, this battle IS purely symbolic - I can't imagine a more purely symbolic thing than "the name on a Wikipedia page." Yes, that lack of change might affect people emotionally - but isn't that exactly what symbolic means?

This is a tempest in a tea cup. Things will end up exactly the same whether you rage and freak out or do nothing - in a short time, everything will be as you like.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:56 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is something that you never, ever do to a transgender person: use their birth name. The reason here is simple - to call a transgender person by their birth name is to deny them the basic right to their identity.

More importantly, Chelsea won't know about this insult since she is locked in prison (without, I assume, internet access), for doing what I consider a huge public good. How about taking some time to sign the pardon petition after having your say here.
posted by 445supermag at 12:56 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, that lack of change might affect people emotionally - but isn't that exactly what symbolic means?

No.
posted by kagredon at 12:57 PM on September 4, 2013


Funny, I would've said "all the people who are refusing to read the article or consider its arguments because it said 'hate speech'"

Which brings us back to the downsides of automatically going up to 11 in all cases. After a while people just start saying "oh fuck, THOSE guys."
posted by Artw at 12:58 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Artw: "Which brings us back to the downsides of automatically going up to 11 in all cases. After a while people just start saying "oh fuck, THOSE guys.""

People say that about us anyway.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:59 PM on September 4, 2013 [35 favorites]


Your concern is duly noted, Artw.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:00 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


If there is such a thing as incidental racism, then I fail to see why incidental transphobia isn't just as important.
posted by _paegan_ at 1:01 PM on September 4, 2013


> > Yes, that lack of change might affect people emotionally - but isn't that exactly what symbolic means?

> No.

This isn't much of an argument you're presenting.

It seems to me that you define "symbolic" so that it has no meaning whatsoever. Can you give an example of an actual symbolic issue, then?

I mean, this affects no one's livelihood. People aren't being gassed or shot. People aren't coming down with malaria or rendered unable to drive to work. Such things are concrete issues.

Symbolic issues include flying the Confederate flag, burning the US flag - and Chelsea Manning's name on Wikipedia.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:02 PM on September 4, 2013


If you take it personally when a blog post says "transphobia" about an incident on Wikipedia, to the point where you refuse to listen to anything it says, maybe the blog post isn't the problem.
posted by kagredon at 1:03 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Affecting people emotionally" isn't what symbolic means. "Unimportant" isn't what symbolic means. I'm not your fucking dictionary.
posted by kagredon at 1:03 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The point is not the fucking name, it's the bullshit arguments that went on in the discussions that got the title to that point. It's not a tempest in a teacup, and your attempts to minimize are bothersome at best.

But thanks for telling us "how it is" from your POV, anyway.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:04 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


"a largely transparent and documentable account of how a specific and powerful institution came to take an explicitly transphobic position"

Wikipedia is not a monolithic institution. Danish Wikipedia continues to refer to Chelsea as Chelsea.
posted by kariebookish at 1:12 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the real issue is that the Wikipedia rules are not as good as dealing with transfolk as they could be. Since name changes are often especially relevant to transfolk, this leads to bad results when you come across an edge case, such as Manning's entry. I believe that the headline should be "Chelsea Manning", but I also recognize why applying the current rules would lean towards "Bradley", even though that's a bad result.

So, yeah, change the rules.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:14 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


kagredon: I assure you, I looked at a fucking dictionary before I wrote my comment.

If the name of a Wikipedia page is not a symbolic issue, then can you give me an example of an actual "symbolic" issue in your terms?


> The point is not the fucking name, it's the bullshit arguments that went on in the discussions that got the title to that point.

Yes, "someone is wrong on the internet". This happens every day.

> But thanks for telling us "how it is" from your POV, anyway.

If you aren't interested in other people's points of view, why are you here?

Consider also how angry several of you are getting with someone who shares all your basic beliefs about gender rights and simply considers this one issue not particularly important. Doesn't that ring any sort of warning bell with you?

Again, I'm saying this because I feel that "our team" dramatically underperforms because we get freaked out on minutia and then completely fail to hit our larger goals. I want progressive ideals to triumph, I want us to direct our limited forces to concrete things.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:15 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Annika Cicada: Her identity.
posted by anewnadir at 1:15 PM on September 4, 2013


Wikipedia is not a monolithic institution. Danish Wikipedia continues to refer to Chelsea as Chelsea.

And, apparently, Danish Wikipedia accounts for .2% of the global total of page views for Wikipedia, English accounts for 44%. (Provided I'm reading the link correctly). So in other words, good for Danish Wikipedia, but not really relevant to the discussion at hand.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:17 PM on September 4, 2013


I want us to direct our limited forces to concrete things.

You're telling people that this is symbolic and not concrete, and people are going yeah, no - not "symbolic" in my life, for the following reasons. Their reasons aren't *your* reasons, so this is therefore a thing you can declare to be a tempest in a teapot for everyone, and quit wasting time because there are MORE IMPORTANT THINGS, PEOPLE, as if A) People are unaware of this and B) People can't walk and chew gum at the same time. You are coming off as incredibly dismissive.
posted by rtha at 1:18 PM on September 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Your dictionary says that "affecting people emotionally" is what "symbolic" means? Buy a new one, dude.
posted by kagredon at 1:24 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's sad to me that I had to get 100 or so comments down to find someone who actually had some clue about the English Wikipedia's naming conventions. By the way, if you think they should be different, you can actually propose that.
posted by koavf at 1:25 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


not really relevant to the discussion at hand

Why not? Each language subset of Wikipedia decides how to write, edit, organise and (re-)direct articles. Wikipedia isn't a monolithic entity - I think it's important to recognise this in a discussion which is all about dealing with nuances. It's problematic to go for sweeping "Wikipedia says.." statements when there is no such thing as THE Wikipedia.
posted by kariebookish at 1:26 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, yeah, change the rules.

Heh. Someone just told me if I really want the name changed before 30 days then really I should back their bid to modify COMMONNAME and otherwise I'm just slacking.

(FWIW I think COMMONNAME supports the title being Chelsea Manning and the only thing preventing that happening now rather than later is a procedural snafu and some dumb clinging to procedure by Admins. OH GOD I AM TALKING LIKE THEM.)
posted by Artw at 1:27 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


> You're telling people that this is symbolic and not concrete,

How, exactly, is changing the name of a Wikipedia page concrete? How will it concretely affect the world? The only way it will affect the world is symbolically.

I haven't seen any argument as to why it's not symbolic at all. Please tell me - if this is not "symbolic" then what issue is?

> quit wasting time because there are MORE IMPORTANT THINGS, PEOPLE,

No, I'm arguing that nothing is going to be accomplished at all. I'm arguing that the name change has gone very well so far. I'm arguing that a majority of English language media sources are already using the name, so that in months if not weeks the Wikipedia will change anyway. I'm arguing indeed that by getting so bent out of shape it is likely that the name change is being marginally delayed.

Let me ask. Of the people who are slagging me - have you sent money to Manning's defense? Did you demonstrate for her? Did you contact your representatives? Because I did all of those things repeatedly.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:28 PM on September 4, 2013


> Your dictionary says that "affecting people emotionally" is what "symbolic" means? Buy a new one, dude.

My dictionary said nothing of the sort.

Tell me, since you seem so eager to debate this - if this is not a "symbolic" issue, then what is?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:30 PM on September 4, 2013


Ah, yes, transfolk merely need to wait.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:32 PM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


> Ah, yes, transfolk merely need to wait.

As I mentioned above, fighting for actual rights for LGBTQ people is a fight worth taking part in - a fight that is NOT symbolic.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:34 PM on September 4, 2013


(I will catch up on the rest of the thread presently, but I had to point this out)

For everyone saying "Yeah but Cat Stevens not Yusuf Islam, therefore Bradley Manning is the way to go!". Why isn't Cat Stevens' Wikipedia page under the name Steven Demetre Georgiou, his birth name?
posted by Len at 1:35 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of the people who are slagging me - have you sent money to Manning's defense? Did you demonstrate for her? Did you contact your representatives? Because I did all of those things repeatedly.

Do I lose the Purity Test if I *don't* donate but still object to Wikipedia handling this the way it is? Is there a corner I should go sit in?

I object to misnaming and misgendering people because those things are shitty, shitty things to do, and yes, people who are trans* (and their friends, loved ones, etc.) get to feel pissed off even if the misnaming and misgendering is not targeted at them specifically. There was at least one person in the last Manning thread who was all "Oh I'm misgendering Manning but I don't mean any disrespect to any trans people here!" Which...what?

As I mentioned above, fighting for actual rights for LGBTQ people is a fight worth taking part in - a fight that is NOT symbolic.


Just please stop telling people who are not you what they should find "symbolic" and what they should find "concrete." Nobody is making you waste time on this here symbolic argument. You could be out doing something concrete.
posted by rtha at 1:36 PM on September 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


Names are things, too, and they matter. I bet you wouldn't like it if you woke up one day to find your name legally changed to Admiral Hitlercock Poopypants. Lord knows I didn't.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:37 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think the right choice is to title the article Chelsea Manning. I don't think it's reasonable to require a 'legal name change' - those are unavailable or difficult to obtain in some jurisdictions and assumes a level of privilege often unavailable to trans folks. I'm in favor of giving preferential handling around names and pronouns to trans folks given the systemic difficulties they face (and, in my opinion, the bravery involved in coming out as trans).

The article indicates that it's a wikipedia tenant to "Assume Good Faith", I suggest extending that to the subject of the article as well. I doubt it's coincidental Chelsea announced her status immediately after sentencing. Would she have been able come out before or during the trail? If the court would've allowed it, would it have had a significant negative impact to her case? I see Ironmouth's statement that it "is a simple, short motion" - if that's the case, why did she wait to make this announcement?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:38 PM on September 4, 2013


You seem to be using symbolic to be equivalent to unimportant. Symbolic things are, for many reasons, often exceedingly important. Partly this is because we are social creatures. Partly this is because the symbolic can and does heavily influence the functional. We are creatures of language and language is very important.

In this case, if we (including the media, Wikipedia, etc.) move quickly to recognizing Chelsea Manning as female (a symbolic move) it may help her, and others, achieve those actual rights you speak of. Doesn't mean that's the only thing worth fighting for, but it is important.
posted by feckless at 1:38 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


My dictionary said nothing of the sort.

Yeah, but you did.

I'd say that it's "symbolic"--in your sense, of being trivial and only relevant in appearance (I agree with feckless that "symbolic", in its actual meaning, is not equivalent to trivial, because symbols matter)--to posture what a good supporter of Chelsea Manning and LGBT rights you are and why that means people shouldn't argue with you, when you are not demonstrating that based on your participation in this thread.
posted by kagredon at 1:40 PM on September 4, 2013


Let me ask. Of the people who are slagging me - have you sent money to Manning's defense? Did you demonstrate for her? Did you contact your representatives? Because I did all of those things repeatedly

It's actually not impossible to disapprove of Chelsea Manning's actions, even to find her a traitor, and still support identifying her by the appropriate name and pronouns. The two aren't directly connected at all. The fact that you were involved in a different issue involving the same person isn't really a factor here at all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:40 PM on September 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


@Len"Why isn't Cat Stevens' Wikipedia page under the name Steven Demetre Georgiou, his birth name?"

Because of this naming convention about using most common names. Which, in the case of the individual who presently uses the name "Chelsea Manning" but was born and is legally named "Bradley Manning", would be "Bradley Manning". Fast-forward X weeks from now and maybe "Chelsea" will be the more common name to use to refer to this individual.
posted by koavf at 1:44 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Just please stop telling people who are not you what they should find "symbolic" and what they should find "concrete."

Words have actual meanings, you know.

I keep asking this question - if this is not a "symbolic issue", can you name one that is?

> You seem to be using symbolic to be equivalent to unimportant.

Not at all - some symbolic issues are important - though "purely symbolic" is definitely a factor in considering some issue to be less important.

If Wikipedia had a "no trans-names policy", then overhauling this policy would be an important, if symbolic, issue. Wikipedia delaying the name change of one individual is a symbolic issue of limited importance.

My best guess is that this will resolve itself in a couple of weeks whether you do anything or not. In a perfect world, I'd imagine that this would be opportunity for reflection about appropriate allocation of limited resources...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:46 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


> It's actually not impossible to disapprove of Chelsea Manning's actions, even to find her a traitor, and still support identifying her by the appropriate name and pronouns.

I wasn't at all addressing such individuals at all. I was addressing "the left", "progressives", and fellow travelers - something which I've made clear from the very first paragraph.

> The fact that you were involved in a different issue involving the same person isn't really a factor here at all.

Well, I'd say my family has consistently supported Bradley, then Chelsea Manning for years now, and have a great and proven interest in his personal wellbeing. I don't consider him a "symbol" of anything, but an actual human being who did a great thing and has suffered terribly as a consequence.

I understand that concretely considering Manning a traitor but supporting her name change for symbolic reasons is consistent, but it's not something I can actually respect.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:52 PM on September 4, 2013


lupus_yonderboy: "Words have actual meanings, you know."

No, they're just symbolic.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:56 PM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


> lupus_yonderboy: "Words have actual meanings, you know."

> No, they're just symbolic.

So you're saying that things that are symbolic don't have meaning? That symbols are meaningless?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:59 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, the rise of conservative politics in late twentieth century America is littered with people and groups being intentionally and maliciously mislabeled. Is it a 'symbolic issue' when the right calls inheritance taxes 'death taxes' instead? Or when they mis-label pro-choice groups as 'pro-abortion'? It's easy to think of many other examples without working too hard - right down to Obamacare.
posted by newdaddy at 2:00 PM on September 4, 2013


feckless: "In this case, if we (including the media, Wikipedia, etc.) move quickly to recognizing Chelsea Manning as female (a symbolic move) it may help her, and others, achieve those actual rights you speak of."

An encyclopedia should strive to remain an objective and unbiased source. Wikipedia is not, and should not be a pulpit, no matter how good the intentions are.

In this case, I think you can make other arguments in favor of changing the article title, but we really shouldn't fall back on "It's the right thing to do." That could be a very slippery slope.
posted by schmod at 2:02 PM on September 4, 2013


Rageful, rules-lawyering nerdbros have a problem with transgender issues? Who'd a thunk it?
posted by jonp72 at 2:03 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


newdaddy: "It's easy to think of many other examples without working too hard - right down to Obamacare."

I was actually just thinking of that. Obamacare certainly started as a pejorative, but is now widely used by most Americans (and the media) to refer to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

At what point does COMMONNAME dictate that we should re-title the PPACA article to 'Obamacare?'
posted by schmod at 2:04 PM on September 4, 2013


lupus_yonderboy: "So you're saying that things that are symbolic don't have meaning? That symbols are meaningless?"

Fish candle Microsoft, air bed air bed air bed. Elephantine pork chops Palpatine Chicago suplex. So piano?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:05 PM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Rageful, rules-lawyering nerdbros have a problem with transgender issues? Who'd a thunk it?

Aw, that's a little unfair. If there's anything this thread has proven, it's that a lot of people have a problem with transgender issues.
posted by kagredon at 2:07 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Is it a 'symbolic issue' when the right calls inheritance taxes 'death taxes' instead? Or when they mis-label pro-choice groups as 'pro-abortion'?

Yes, and yes. Yes, those are purely symbolic issues, symbolic issues of some importance.

I keep asking - if these are not symbolic issues, can you point me to one that is?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:10 PM on September 4, 2013


[Just a reminder, we don't do the "let's argue about trans* folks' pronouns in-thread" stuff here. Call people what they have stated they want to be called. Go to MetaTalk if you have a larger problem with that. Period. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:13 PM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Meh. This is going nowhere. I'm going to check out and come back in a week or so when hopefully it'll be fixed and you'll have moved on to stage 2: complaining it wasn't fixed exactly right.
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


People say that about us anyway.
One thing I want to clarify is that I'm not upset. In discussions on trans issues, I prefer to slow down and think about my wording carefully, and to reach out to people and try to explain some of the things I've learned in my own life. I greatly prefer for people to walk away from my posts feeling positive, and having seen something valuable in my words. Because I try to be a positive person who has a positive influence on the world around me and honestly I like the vast majority of people on this site. You're all my Clever Internet Friends, and I don't want to fight.

But I have made pretty flippant posts here (and I see I'm not the only one). I think the reason is because a lot of the points being made are the kinds of things people use in other spaces to silence trans people, and it gets tiresome. In the Wikipedia discussions (which reached a totally wrong conclusion that's getting rectified piecemeal), there was a lot of flat out transphobia: ignorance over what it means for a person to be transgender, including dismissal and mockery of transgender people in general. It's actually a pretty upsetting read; yeah, there are people fighting the Good Fight in there, but when you're personally affected, some of the nasty things people will say can really sting. I had to delete a Reddit account (a space that is, in general, quite a fair bit better about trans issues than MetaFilter) because I was getting persistently harassed by a small group of people and it was just making me feel terrible.

So that's where the article linked up at the top there is coming from. Here in this discussion thread, things aren't quite that bad, but lots of people are still falling back on refusals to refer to Chelsea Manning as a woman (which has icky implications for all trans people) and on "tone policing." I don't really like to use theory-heavy jargon, but the pleas for trans people and allies to be less shrill, and the suggestion that this is all freaking out over nothing rub me the wrong way. They come across as dismissals of people's feelings and lived experiences, which happen all the time in discussions about trans people.

So that's where those of us who are coming into the thread and just scowling and flipping the bird are coming from. Personally, I'm in a good mood! I've had a wonderful day and my flippant tone here is more or less coming through because I don't really think full calm and civil engagement is 100% possible right now. But I'm pretty anti-authoritarian; I'm not going to shush when told to shush, either.
posted by byanyothername at 2:14 PM on September 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


I just want to say to my fellow trans* MeFites, I'm sorry if you too have just waded through all the comments above dismissing concerns about misgendering and misnaming as a tempest in a teacup and a distraction from real issues. I'm sorry you too had to read all the assertions that Wikipedia is acting as it should, due to objective standards rather than bias, that absolutely ignore the overt transphobia in so many of the comments make by Wikipedia editors in this process, and its own policy that trans* people be referred to by their identified name and pronoun. I'm sorry that you've heard as well the calls for us to just be patient, the framing of us as hyperbolic and hysterical and whiny. I'm sorry you've seen people assert that people must be referred to by their birth name until a legal name change is finalized. That all we need to do to be treated as we wish is to present a birth certificate with our desired name and gender on it (something that takes years to get under the best circumstances, and is legally impossible in some states). That we should stop calling things "transphobic," when we can't know if they're motivated by fear and hatred, or just rightminded respect for the rules. That we need to be more tolerant of others' behavior, when ignorance is commonplace. That we should stop taking things so personally.

This has been a very depressing thread for me to read, and I am sure I am not the only one. I just want to send every MeFite who is trans* or has trans* loved ones a hug.
posted by DrMew at 2:16 PM on September 4, 2013 [37 favorites]


From my own painfully cisnormative perspective, there are two things that complicate this kind of discussion (and it is a kind of discussion).

First, the underlying goal is to increase empathy. That's an awesome goal. To do that on a societal level you need to change the way people think.

But changing the way people think on a societal level is really goddam hard. So you have to group together, with other like-minded people, and all push at the same time.

This makes it an essentially tribal endeavour. While this is effective (collective action > individual action) and comforting (it's awesome being in a group of like minded people) it can lead to shrillness, and hair-splitting and schisming and and casting-out and all that stuff. People from outside the tribe can look at this and question whether the goal was ever that important - which is completely unfair, but there you go. You don't change the way a society thinks and still get to be fair to everyone.

Second, while the way the change is headed is towards more empathy, (which is a fantastic direction, more empathy is what the world needs) acting as a tribe kind of intrinsically denies empathy. There is your side, and the other side. And your side is right and the other side is wrong.

So the feeling that people who want more empathy in society (because that's a great goal) but aren't in the tribe get is that the only way they can be in on achieving this great goal is to be In The Tribe. Which isn't always that attractive, because it's a tribe, as above. So they get testy, and the tribe registers that as OTHER and eventually starts saying things that come across as (paraphrased) screaming HAVE SOME MORE EMPATHY YOU FUCKING MONSTER into people's spittle-flecked faces.

Which kind of makes sense to me now given the context I've just laid out, but puzzled me for many, many months.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:20 PM on September 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


koafv: Because of this naming convention about using most common names. Which, in the case of the individual who presently uses the name "Chelsea Manning" but was born and is legally named "Bradley Manning"

She doesn't "presently use the name 'Chelsea Manning'". She is Chelsea Manning. And according to other wikipedia guidelines, people should be referred to by the gender pronoun they identify with, no matter what their birth name was, and no matter what they were involved in whilst they were living under that birth name.

I'm kind of done here, but Jesus, this thread is depressing.
posted by Len at 2:21 PM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


DIGI-HUGS RECEIVED AND RECIPROCATED ❤
posted by byanyothername at 2:21 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean, this affects no one's livelihood. People aren't being gassed or shot. People aren't coming down with malaria or rendered unable to drive to work. Such things are concrete issues.

I'm willing to bet Chelsea herself, and others like her, consider the way they are allowed to or not allowed to define themselves is an issue of paramount importance. The stance that "nobody's getting gassed" is astonishingly insensitive if not malicious. Give it a moment's thought.
posted by newdaddy at 2:27 PM on September 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's problematic to go for sweeping "Wikipedia says.." statements when there is no such thing as THE Wikipedia.

I'll concede that point for certain. I'm not really trying to argue just pointing out that Danish Wikipedia isn't all that heavily trafficked, relatively speaking. I still think its good that they're on board with the direction it seems much of the media is taking in this. That is positive. I still think its a good idea to point out that English Wikipedia has had some problems with this one.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:38 PM on September 4, 2013


i am going to choke to death on "well i understand this is important to you but you people are just being so MEAN and it's PUSHING PEOPLE AWAY" arguments someday. they're just going to get stuck in my throat and i'm going to choke to death on them

arguments about chelsea manning and arguments about "abstract" ideal versions of "what if" and deliberate misgendering and shit all propagate over into my real life and i usually like this site and respect a lot of people on it and then there's a thread about trans issues and it's like "oh right, there are people who think i'm some kind of lying liar OR, at best, that i don't really understand myself and am mistaken about my own identity HERE just like there are in real life and every other place i've ever been except for Something Awful 'cause i've at least seen people get probated for deliberate misgendering over there" and i keep considering blacklisting metafilter for a few days whenever someone makes a thread about trans issues just so i won't have to hate my life as much. i don't mean to make this All About Me but well i guess my own life is in fact about me so i'm not sure what else to do with that. this thread is depressing as hell, all trans issues threads are depressing as hell
posted by titus n. owl at 2:41 PM on September 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Great cats and kittens. Look: almost every day my trans* woman spouse is harassed, laughed at, physically threatened, or spat upon by someone, and during this onslaught, is called not only a "tranny," but "he."

When someone tries to discredit me as I advocate for myself and other trans* people, one of the things they often do is "innocently" ask others what my "real" or "birth" name is, or use the wrong gender pronoun.

These are obvious examples of overt and intentional transphobia. But when challenged on them, the offenders often state that they are just following the rules of law or nature, or were simply ignorant of our preferences.

These experiences definitely frame how I and people like me perceive instances like this in which a person is misnamed and/or misgendered. If you're not facing this daily reality, I'm sure it's easier to believe that in whatever case is at hand, the people involved really are just following the rules, or have no bad intentions. That's your privilege. But please, don't tell me that you are calm and rational, while I am nitpicking and overemotional. And please don't tell me that misnaming and/or mispronouning are not "concrete" issues, or are distractions from serious business.
posted by DrMew at 2:42 PM on September 4, 2013 [25 favorites]


If Wikipedia had a "no trans-names policy", then overhauling this policy would be an important, if symbolic, issue. Wikipedia delaying the name change of one individual is a symbolic issue of limited importance.

I disagree entirely. I think that if they're refusing to change this one, then they have a tacit policy as such.

The bi-i mean people against name changes for this reason are simply choosing a big, and public battleground for their fight on a high profile page for a high profile person of whom any news is fairly big news.

If they win this battle, they can go fight a bunch of low profile battles that they're likely to not get much engagement on to go change all the other pages that bug them with names like this.

And really, buzz off if you're going to call this a slippery slope argument. I've seen assholes choose high profile points/pages/locations/etc to make their stand in a multitude of situations on the internet for years.

Saying this is one isolated case is missing the point. They're trying to make a big public stand and possibly strike a big blow for if not set a precedent here. A lot of people aren't just battling on principal, they see exactly what's going on.

good god, do i hate the internet srs bzns types fighting on the "no" side of this though.
posted by emptythought at 2:46 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Reading the article, and this thread, crushed my soul.

I had to go for a walk. Then it became a long walk. Then it turned into resting against a tree, shortly followed by laying catatonic on the ground, all the while trying to process and defang the myriad of transphobic things I read, here on The Blue, where I didn't expect them.

> This has been a very depressing thread for me to read, and I am sure I am not the only one. I just want to send every MeFite who is trans* or has trans* loved ones a hug.
> posted by DrMew at 2:16 PM on September 4

I finally cried upon reading this post. Thank you, DrMew.
posted by probu at 2:55 PM on September 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


My inbox -- here, on email, and on tumblr -- is always open for any trans person who wants to vent. Also we have a secret clubhouse where you can come and post if you message us for where it is and how to access and stuff!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:58 PM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


> The stance that "nobody's getting gassed" is astonishingly insensitive if not malicious.

What a bevy of insult I have had thrown at me in this thread!

To repeat yet again (which means this is my last post):

The name change has gone very well. A majority of English-language media already refer to Manning as Chelsea and it hasn't even been two weeks. Overall, the Bradley->Chelsea name change was a big win for the LGBTQ side. She said, "Hey, I changed my sex," and the majority of outlets immediately said, "OK," and changed their naming too. I was happy and surprised!

Yes, the Wikipedia page got reverted but the underlying Wikipedia policy is very clear and it seems certain that the name change will eventually go off, and more likely in days than in months. Yes, there are mean people on the Internet and some of them have Wikipedia accounts. You all knew this before you got here.

We scored a big win here, and yet people are freaking out because it'll take a couple of weeks to finish the job. And they're angry, and they're screaming. And some of them are screaming at me right here. If you were trying to show that you didn't overreact to minor things, well, this thread seems to prove the opposite.

My political viewpoint on LGBTQ issues is probably almost identical to the people on this thread who are angriest. Tell me - if you are so angry with someone who shares all your beliefs and simply disagrees on tactics, how exactly do you react with someone who has beliefs that are actually different from yours?

Thanks, and have a good day.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:01 PM on September 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is maybe not polite and is a thing that is kind of...not done here, but whatever.

lupus_yonderboy, I have usually thought of you here as someone I mentally high-five, but oh boy not this time. It would be pretty great if you could acknowledge that what you have argued is purely symbolic has been demonstrated to not be symbolic in the least


And on preview (thanks little javascript doohickey): Dude, what the hell. Several people said very honestly how painful it was for them to read this thread, including stuff you wrote, and you accuse them of "freaking out" and overreacting. What is the matter with you?

My political viewpoint on LGBTQ issues is probably almost identical to the people on this thread who are angriest.

It doesn't fucking matter if all you're going to do is tell people that they're upset about trivial things instead of being mad about the REAL things they should be mad about.
posted by rtha at 3:05 PM on September 4, 2013 [22 favorites]


And some of them are screaming at me right here.

Because you've phrased it so far as "Dude, chill out, it's just a name, plus, there are more important things in the world like people dying":

"And yes, this battle IS purely symbolic - I can't imagine a more purely symbolic thing than "the name on a Wikipedia page.""

"I mean, this affects no one's livelihood. People aren't being gassed or shot. People aren't coming down with malaria or rendered unable to drive to work. Such things are concrete issues."


Instead, if you had said, "Yes, I think this was a big win, and while I can understand the frustration, it looks like Wikipedia is going to change super soon, so I think arises out of WP going through processes rather than deliberate transphobia", it would have gone over very differently.
posted by suedehead at 3:06 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


> For everyone saying "Yeah but Cat Stevens not Yusuf Islam, therefore Bradley Manning is the
> way to go!". Why isn't Cat Stevens' Wikipedia page under the name Steven Demetre Georgiou,
> his birth name?

Personal identity is a great deal more about who other people think you are than about who you yourself think you are. If there's anything in the universe that's socially constructed it's personal identity. When you get cast away alone on a desert island or become the Last Man In The World and there's nobody else there to recognise you as You, my love or call you by your name you're pretty much going to be nobody.

Georgiou has managed to transition pretty well to Cat Stevens but the further transition to Yusuf Islam has largely eluded him so far.
posted by jfuller at 3:06 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


[We are available to talk to people via the Contact Form or in MeTa about why we have the policy we have on gendering/naming when talking here about transfolk. Otherwise we've been clear about how things are going to go here. Sorry we weren't more actively moderating on it earlier. This is also not a MeTa thread and don't make it one.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:13 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, this affects no one's livelihood. People aren't being gassed or shot. People aren't coming down with malaria or rendered unable to drive to work. Such things are concrete issues.

Yea and there's starving children in Africa so shut up about the trivial problems with food deserts and people choosing between eating and freezing in america.

Where have i heard this fallacious bullshit before? i don't know, like, all over the place my entire life.

"shit is worse somewhere else" and "there's more serious problems shut up" are not actual arguments for anything outside of a child complaining that they only got vanilla ice cream after they went to the movies and have absolutely no place in a discussion about anything relevant to this thread.
posted by emptythought at 3:17 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whenever anyone starts ascribing motivation to anyone, including themselves, I take like 1,000 very skeptical steps away. We cannot know why anyone does anything ever and basing arguments on that is profoundly unsound.

Quoted for truth.

This is not the 1st, or even the 10th stupid as fuck wikipedia rules lawyering "BUT TEH PRINCIPAL OF TEH THING" battle i've seen. It always reflects on the big-time wikipedia editors who always enter these battles as being the absolute worst type of freaking neckbeard comic book nerd.

When you are compiling an encyclopedia, "the principle of the thing" is actually really important. What you dismiss as "rules-lawyering" is how big enterprises actually happen. Meanwhile, building your strawmen out of misspelled all-caps shouts is really obnoxious.

And those "neckbeard comic book nerds" are the people who are building one of the more impressive knowledge repositories of our time. A little respect is in order, even if you are angry at them in this instance.

lots of people are still falling back on refusals to refer to Chelsea Manning as a woman (which has icky implications for all trans people) and on "tone policing." I don't really like to use theory-heavy jargon, but the pleas for trans people and allies to be less shrill, and the suggestion that this is all freaking out over nothing rub me the wrong way. They come across as dismissals of people's feelings and lived experiences, which happen all the time in discussions about trans people.

I don't see *anyone* here refusing to refer to Chelsa Manning as a woman. But as for tone policing: If a discussion cannot be had at a reasonable tone, than the discussion cannot happen. Everyone will yell, and no one will learn. It's not a dismissal of your feelings to say that if can't post up to the standards of discourse that you'd want to see, you should wait before posting.

Wanting a mature tone is not a derail, it's a fundamental basis for any discussion that could follow.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:18 PM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "I don't see *anyone* here refusing to refer to Chelsa Manning as a woman. But as for tone policing: If a discussion cannot be had at a reasonable tone, than the discussion cannot happen. Everyone will yell, and no one will learn. It's not a dismissal of your feelings to say that if can't post up to the standards of discourse that you'd want to see, you should wait before posting. "

That's great! What suggestions do you have for when that doesn't work?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:22 PM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


People are "freaking out" because other people are being sneering, sometimes hateful assholes, not specifically here, but in real life of which Wikipedia and MetaFilter are a part. And I actually wouldn't call it freaking out. I think the trans* people in this thread have been remarkably open and reasonably calm in expressing their thoughts and, yes, their emotions, many of which are angry. But expressing anger isn't freaking out. It's expressing an entirely justified anger which is always threatening to the status quo. I think it would be beneficial to you to examine why that anger makes you so personally defensive.

I don't know, man, I think I'd be real careful about how willing you are to throw that "we" around when you're picking a fight with everyone whose side you claim to be on. The trans* opinion on this issue, at least in this thread, is nearly if not totally unanimous. If you are disagreeing with them, that's fine, but that isn't you standing in solidarity with trans* people. It's basically the opposite of that. It just reads like a privileged person telling the people with skin in the game what the real issues are and that they're wasting their energy if they're not doing things your clearly superior way. That's your right to say, of course, but yeah, I'd think about that "we" for a while.

I'm kind of an idiot when it comes to trans* issues. I sort of get gender dysphoria, but I'd be lying if I said I understood it or really grasped what it feels like. I frequently don't know where to start or how to think about a lot of these things, which is my problem and no one else's. So this time I'm going to start here: holy shit, y'all, this isn't hard. This shouldn't be hard. Why is this so hard? Is it always this hard? I bet it fucking is. I bet every little thing is always this hard, at least. That is bullshit. I am very sorry about that, not least for any way in which I've made it harder.
posted by Errant at 3:24 PM on September 4, 2013 [26 favorites]


Fish candle Microsoft, air bed air bed air bed. Elephantine pork chops Palpatine Chicago suplex. So piano?

On the other hand, this may well be the single best thing ever written on Metafilter, even. It made me laugh out loud.
posted by newdaddy at 3:33 PM on September 4, 2013


Wanting a mature tone is not a derail, it's a fundamental basis for any discussion that could follow.

I agree completely, which is one reason why I've talked about wanting people to stop trivializing and dismissing the concerns expressed by trans* folk in this thread.
posted by rtha at 3:43 PM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


At what point does COMMONNAME dictate that we should re-title the PPACA article to 'Obamacare?'

When it asks to be called that, I suppose.
posted by Etrigan at 3:51 PM on September 4, 2013


Wanting a mature tone is not a derail, it's a fundamental basis for any discussion that could follow.

Then may I suggest you start with your own tone, which is, at best, paternalistic at the moment, rather than mature.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:55 PM on September 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Chelsea Manning gets put back in the closet by Wikipedia.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:58 PM on September 4, 2013


From reading Sandifer's blog post (and not having read all the wiki comments), does anybody else get the feeling that some of the other Wiki editors just got pissed off at the (perceived) presumption of changing the title of a prominent current article without discussing it first?

It's been a while since I edited a WP article. Other than commenting on the Talk page, is there a way to express favor for the name change to administrator-level editors who decide how policy will be applied here?

Is there not supposed to be that whole policy against canvassing and bringing edit discussions off-site? ... If Sandifer was trying to stay within the bounds of that policy... well, that didn't work. I imagine there'll be some de-sysoping going down soon.

From Sandifer's article: There is something that you never, ever do to a transgender person: use their birth name [...] It is hate speech, plain and simple, as straightforwardly as using the worst racial or sexual slur you can think of.

Deep breaths. Perhaps 30 days of them.
posted by amorphatist at 4:04 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


From reading Sandifer's blog post (and not having read all the wiki comments), does anybody else get the feeling that some of the other Wiki editors just got pissed off at the (perceived) presumption of changing the title of a prominent current article without discussing it first?

Well, if so, those editors reacted inappropriately, per Wikipedia's own policy.
posted by kagredon at 4:09 PM on September 4, 2013


Well, if so, those editors reacted inappropriately, per Wikipedia's own policy.

Oh, I'm not disagreeing (and I agree that the title will probably shortly be changed to Chelsea), but from Sandifer's blog, it seems that he feels that he and other admins are in danger of being de-sysoped, and seems resigned to that, so I'm guessing there must be some other breach of wiki etiquette going on that is not covered in his blog post?
posted by amorphatist at 4:14 PM on September 4, 2013


so uh I feel more comfortable saying this now that there's clearly nothing new to say in this thread, but I am totally in love with the background wallpaper of the blog post in the OP. I am mesmerized by that wallpaper. I would live in that wallpaper.
posted by threeants at 5:16 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Reading this article puts me in minds of the ship-to-ship discussions between Minds in Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, the main difference being that while the ego, pretentiousness, and arrogance are all there, the superhuman intelligence is missing.
posted by Scientist at 5:52 PM on September 4, 2013


ThatFuzzyBastard: I don't see *anyone* here refusing to refer to Chelsa Manning as a woman.

lupus_yonderboy: Well, I'd say my family has consistently supported Bradley, then Chelsea Manning for years now, and have a great and proven interest in his personal wellbeing. I don't consider him a "symbol" of anything, but an actual human being who did a great thing and has suffered terribly as a consequence.
posted by Dysk at 6:08 PM on September 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


It may be 'just a name' or whatever to you, dear reader, and simply a matter of 'common sense' to use the pronouns you've decided are logical for past events, rather than those a person prefers, but let me assure you, to anyone whose choice of pronoun is contentious, this is not at all the case. Names matter, signifiers matter. Yes it's symbolic - in much the same way anything involving words is symbolic, as words are useful only in reference to something - but what it symbolises is important and very real.
posted by Dysk at 6:13 PM on September 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


on a very shallow and dumb and trivial note about how I am stupid, Bradley is sort of similar in form/sound to "Peyton" and "Eli" and it seemed like no matter how much I read about Wikileaks and U.S. v. Manning, part of my brain would always go "the football player?" whenever I saw the phrase "Bradley Manning", so I am kind of selfishly glad that won't happen anymore.
posted by kagredon at 6:44 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Names matter, signifiers matter. Yes it's symbolic - in much the same way anything involving words is symbolic, as words are useful only in reference to something - but what it symbolises is important and very real.

This is doubly true because it's fairly obvious that in any of these sorts of conversations, the "real" and the symbolic are so inextricably linked that trying to distinguish between them is a sure sign that you're missing the larger point. The world is made a worse place for trans* people because people and institutions refuse to recognize their identity; the symbolic choice to call Chelsea Manning something else is part and parcel of the system of denying rights to trans* people. The distinction between symbolic and concrete issues is mostly imaginary.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:45 PM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Actually, and fortunately--thank you, moderators--there were posts made that were mocking of the concept that others must respect the gender identities of trans* people, or refusing to refer to Chelsea Manning as a woman, but they were flagged and removed. I'm glad MetaFilter has a policy against blatantly bigoted comments as damaging to our community and its conversations, and as jessamyn noted above,

[Just a reminder, we don't do the "let's argue about trans* folks' pronouns in-thread" stuff here. Call people what they have stated they want to be called. Go to MetaTalk if you have a larger problem with that. Period. Thank you.]

I've found this thread dispiriting, but it could indeed have looked uglier.
posted by DrMew at 6:45 PM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


The linked article is really not about "They should change the title now!" The author explicitly says that he's sure they'll change the title in a month or two. What he focuses on, instead, is how putting people's identities and rights up to a popular vote tends to have bad outcomes, and how deriding people with lived experience as "biased" or "too close to the issue" to be objective leads to transphobic outcomes.

A 250+ comment thread of people continuing to vote on Manning's identity and rights seems like a tone-deaf response.
posted by jaguar at 6:55 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


A 250+ comment thread of people continuing to vote on Manning's identity and rights seems like a tone-deaf response.

Well, it would be if that was what was happening here.
posted by amorphatist at 6:59 PM on September 4, 2013


Yes it's symbolic - in much the same way anything involving words is symbolic, as words are useful only in reference to something - but what it symbolises is important and very real.

Can you understand that some here have followed this case since the beginning, and have been aware for years that Manning had gender identity issues, had told Lamo in his chats that he felt female, that he tried dressing as a woman, that he said he worried more about being seen as male than a lifetime in prison? That to those people, this doesn't actually seem like some huge change to who we already saw Manning as, and we might accidentally refer to her with male pronouns and her previous name occasionally, because we formed a mental image of a him in our heads that has been there for years and is hard to just snap fingers and change?

I see lupus_yonderboy referring to "Chelsea Manning" and "her" multiple times in this thread, and yet you quote what is maybe the one time he didn't as some sort of proof and accusation that he's "refusing" to refer to her by her chosen name and disrespecting all trans-people's identities.

I once, something like 4 years after she got married and changed her last name, referred to my sister using our family name. She quickly corrected me and I apologized. If she had accused me of refusing to respect her chosen identity and called me a marriage-phobic purveyor of hate-speech ... well I don't think that would have been a very fair or productive way to handle that situation.

This circular firing squad happens in every god damn trans thread, and frankly the reason seems to be that some in the trans community have fucking itchy trigger fingers and zero awareness of the damage they do to the cause of tolerance and mutual respect with the lack of it they show to so many others.
posted by crayz at 7:41 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


we might accidentally refer to her with male pronouns and her previous name occasionally, because we formed a mental image of a him in our heads that has been there for years and is hard to just snap fingers and change?

Nevertheless, this is text rather than speech, we have an edit window, and as mods are happy to correct this sort of thing (or delete-and-redo) if you do make an actual mistake. Or a follow-up comment acknowledging it would do just fine. If you don't avail yourself of any of those options, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that you are either making a deliberate choice or being rather careless in a delicate situation.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:45 PM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Heh. Dysk responded directly to a question that ThatFuzzyBastard asked, and crayz just jumped all over her for having a "fucking itchy trigger finger". Microcosm of the thread right there.

But trans* people are the ones who should be less angry and defensive?
posted by kagredon at 7:48 PM on September 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


frankly the reason seems to be that some in the trans community have fucking itchy trigger fingers and zero awareness of the damage they do to the cause of tolerance and mutual respect with the lack of it they show to so many others.

That's not quite the feeling that I am getting.
posted by jessamyn at 7:51 PM on September 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


If words have meanings, then the word "refusing" has a meaning. I don't see anyone in this thread refusing to describe Chelsea Manning with her chosen name and identity.
posted by crayz at 7:51 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, yes, if we take ThatFuzzyBastard's statement as asking for an instance of refusing, where refusing is incredibly strictly defined, instead of the very understandable reading that he was saying he didn't see any instances of misgendering and Dysk stepped up to show what people were reacting to, then yes, we can be just like Wikipedia and rules-lawyer our way into being jerks to trans people. Yes. Let's do that.
posted by kagredon at 7:54 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Folks, please. You all know where MetaTalk is and where the Contact Form is. They are the appropriate places to deal with moderation and meta-MeFi issues. Not here.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 PM on September 4, 2013


Truly, this is the problem with society. All of these trans people barging in and damaging the cause of tolerance that kind, benevolent cis people are attempting to forward for us!

Also, yeah, using your married sister's old last name is absolutely hate speech. That was an excellent comparison. I'll make sure to use that next time someone uses the wrong name and pronoun for me, when I'm trying to express how much it hurts. Thanks!
posted by Corinth at 8:36 PM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


See, the problem with sarcasm in this context is that you've said two things and I have absolutely no idea what you mean by either of them.
posted by Errant at 9:18 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the problem is more I didn't include a link to the crayz post that prevented me from keeping my ire contained and there were more responses than I had counted on in the interim. I'm not used to MetaFiltering from this time zone.
posted by Corinth at 9:34 PM on September 4, 2013


As someone who participated in one of Wikipedia's self-described "lamest edit wars", over how to present someone's name (specifically, whether it should use capitalization or not), all I can say is that Wikipedia's bureacracy is a terrible, inconsistent mess on stuff like this, and I don't need any further explanation -- much of this conversation is attributing to malice what can be sufficiently explained by utter incompetence.
posted by ubernostrum at 9:59 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Errant, if you did make the link to crayz' post and honestly don't understand, I can't speak for Corinth, but I can certainly explain from my own life experience.

I transitioned from female to male in midlife. (I'm intersex by birth, by the way, but that doesn't make transitioning any easier or swifter, hence the many years that passed before I was able successfully to transition.) Before my transition, while living as a woman, I was married for some years to a man. I did not change my name, but a number of people referred to me as "Mrs. Hisname" at various times. As this was not my name (or my professional title) I found that presumptuous and rather irritating of them--but that experience can't hold a candle to what it's like when now, after my legal transition, someone misgenders or misnames me. Sometimes people do that out of overt transphobia, like a few people who have addressed me as "Mrs." Mew instead of Dr. Mew to make it clear to those around us that they refuse to acknowledge my identified gender. Other times, it happens due to institutional cissexism. For example, my medical insurer refuses to recognize my gender transition, so when I'm sitting in a clinic waiting room, I'll often be called to the registration window by a receptionist with my medical record in front of them by a loud call of "Miss!" As I have a beard, the result is that every head in the waiting room turns to stare. Whether intentionally transphobic or not, being misgendered or misnamed feels not only undermining of my sense of self, but dangerous, as there are a lot of gender policing bigots out there.

So: when someone equates calling a trans* person by the wrong name or pronoun with calling a married woman by her maiden name, it strikes me as quite a poor comparison.

As for the idea that trans* people finding the fact that Wikipedia lists Chelsea Manning under "Bradley Manning" upsetting is a problem, while the actual listing of Manning under her old name is not a problem . . . all I can say is that I agree that this is a cissexist and victim-blaming framing of the issue. Marginalized people get called oversensitive and angry, and are told to calm down and be patient and trust in the benevolence of the majority all the time; it's hardly specific to trans* people. But a lot of trans* folks in this thread have said how depressing this exchange has been for us, only to be told we're overreacting, and that has left a very bad taste in my mouth.
posted by DrMew at 10:25 PM on September 4, 2013 [18 favorites]


To be more useful, I think that the link to Sue Gardner's post bears repeating, mainly the part that has already been copied here by feckless but also this closing bit:

So. Here’s the question. Given that Wikipedia makes decisions by consensus, how can majority-culture (male, young, Western, heterosexual, cisgendered) editors best participate in discussions in ways that work towards good decision-making, rather than groupthink?

This is the source of frustration that a lot of cis people here and elsewhere aren't picking up on (or are picking up on but are misinterpreting as "trivial" etc.) - that trans issues are decided in a court of people who have never even thought about trans issues before, and that this is seen as normal and right and a process that must be patiently and quietly attended from the observers' gallery.

It's not just that Wikipedia has fucked up, it's that it's accepted as a "reasonable people disagree" situation. It's that an apparently relatively important Wikipedian can post

"PPPS Wikipedia has very strict policies on civility, as in how editors are to treat each other. Far more strict, or better enforced, than what we have here on Metafilter."

with a straight face, and expect other people to agree with that privileged assessment because of their authority and experience with Wikipedia. In fact, as a trans person, the on-Wikipedia discourse on this has been atrocious, and I do not see how many of the comments about us are civil, or treat us well. (This is particularly baffling to me, given that anyone bigoting on a Talk page is already on the site they could be using to debigot themselves. There are people on Wikipedia taking part in this shitfest while acting like the Wikipedia pages on transgender people are either wrong or don't exist or I'm-not-even-sure-what-their-thought-processes-are-I-give-up.) I'm not fully aware of the hierarchies of editors, but many of the editors with visibly more power (apparently being able to affect locked pages), far from "enforcing" "strict" policies, actually said vile, uninformed things about trans people themselves. MetaFilter ain't perfect but it's a hell of a lot better than A) voting on whether or not a trans person should be respected and B) while doing so having to wade through hundreds of insulting South Park references and slurs.

It's sitting here in this hospital in Bangkok next to my friend, as she recovers from her surgery a week ago, marveling at the people here and elsewhere who swagger in to drop their confident and reasoned assertions that they would of course now refer to her as her name and gender, but not to me as mine, as if we are so different and she is now magically one of the good uncomplicated ones, and how this is a thing they even think about, let alone care about so strongly.

It's seeing people here and elsewhere, who actually know their shit, speaking up, and getting told to sit down, to speak differently, to fight on another front. (As if there is another front - for trans people, the entire front is our identity.) It's the "but oh god words have meaning" crowd. It's people telling you your existence is too confusing to be accommodated. It's cis people telling you they're your allies, and then telling you why they think they're advancing your rights the right way, and that you get too emotional about this. It's cis people telling you that they're your allies, but that they're happy with how things are now, and you can't really expect things to be better yet, you have to take it slow, we just got gay marriage and isn't that enough for now? It's people talking about gender neutral pronouns in a topic about a binary-identified person. It's cis people arguing their own self-assured opinions about how they are going to identify you according to their own guts at different stages in your life. It's cis people saying how rules lawyering is allowed and to be expected because you're trans, don't you understand? It's cis people saying this is a special case every time (there are no unspecial cases when it comes to trans people).

It's all of this being utterly normal, and anyone pointing out that this state of normal is totally fucked up being told to moderate themselves.

Our frustration is not having an answer to Sue Gardner's closing question writ large.
posted by Corinth at 10:44 PM on September 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


To be clear, I very much understand the anger that crayz's comment might provoke. I found that comment pretty obnoxious myself. I just didn't know what Corinth was responding to or whether Corinth was actually being as sarcastic as it seemed as opposed to sincerely meaning some part of it. I get what was being said now, so thank you both for the elucidation and for your stories.
posted by Errant at 12:05 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


crayz: Can you understand that some here have followed this case since the beginning, and have been aware for years that Manning had gender identity issues, had told Lamo in his chats that he felt female, that he tried dressing as a woman, that he said he worried more about being seen as male than a lifetime in prison? That to those people, this doesn't actually seem like some huge change to who we already saw Manning as, and we might accidentally refer to her with male pronouns and her previous name occasionally, because we formed a mental image of a him in our heads that has been there for years and is hard to just snap fingers and change?

Don't do that. Whatever inconvenience having to change pronouns is, it's fucking small beer compared to being misgendered. I get that it's hard, sure. But that right there? That doesn't represent trying.
posted by Dysk at 12:16 AM on September 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


If you're struggling to understand the scale of the import of this 'triviality' by the way, read this a few times:

"[Chelsea Manning] said [she] worried more about being seen as male than a lifetime in prison"

(The fact that I had to edit that quote to strip some of the blatant misgendering that peppers the comment in question is depressing as fuck, frankly. "Call people what they have stated they want to be called.")
posted by Dysk at 12:51 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


This has been a very depressing thread for me to read, and I am sure I am not the only one.

I can see why. On the other hand, it has also had ArtW coming in somewhat skeptical about the importance of this, going on to fight to change the title back on Wikipedia, so it wasn't all bad.

It must be hard to see process if you're a trans person and have to deal with this shit too often while improvements can be measured in baby steps, but holy hell folks, only last week I found out a trans acquiantance/friend of mine was actually the current trans officer for the Conservative Party's LGBTory group[1]; also that there is such a thing as a trans officer for a LGBTory group. Which is amazing for a party that was defending Clause 28 (thou shalt not seduce children into the homosexual lifestyle) well past the millennium.

Change is happening, even if far too slow and while big, high visible fights like this must be incredibly awful if you're trans, in a roundabout way they're also signs of progress, as there is now the awareness and understanding by quite a few cis people as well as trans people that these things matter.

[1] Also the writer/artist for the UK's oldest webcomic, but that's not important right now.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:15 AM on September 5, 2013


MartinWisse: "It must be hard to see process if you're a trans person and have to deal with this shit too often while improvements can be measured in baby steps, but holy hell folks, only last week I found out a trans acquiantance/friend of mine was actually the current trans officer for the Conservative Party's LGBTory group[1]; also that there is such a thing as a trans officer for a LGBTory group. Which is amazing for a party that was defending Clause 28 (thou shalt not seduce children into the homosexual lifestyle) well past the millennium."

Since they came to (shared) power the Tories have been talking up their LGBT equality bona fides. I've been on the relevant mailing list for a couple of years. And while I can't ignore their attempts to shape up, I also can't ignore their doubling down on the poor and disabled, communities which, in addition to other demographics, include a disproportionate number of LGBT people.

Not to denigrate the efforts of anyone working for equality. With the Tories, a step forward or even no steps at all is a good thing.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:52 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don't do that. Whatever inconvenience having to change pronouns is, it's fucking small beer compared to being misgendered. I get that it's hard, sure. But that right there? That doesn't represent trying.

For what it's worth, in that sentence crayz seemed to be talking about a past time when Manning identified as male, rather than the current female. It is really important not to misgender, but that at least seems like one where it's kind of iffy - are you misgendering by referring to the past by the pronouns that were current then, or are you misgendering by referring to the past by the pronouns that are now but weren't then?

For example, on one of the Chelsea Manning page-edits, it had changed to "She came out as gay" in an early-life one. But she did not come out as gay, we don't even know if Manning is gay or if that was a part of gender confusion around a heterosexual lady-attracted-to-man orientation. So it would seem more accurate to say, "While Manning still identified as a man, he came out as gay" - it still acknowledges that the transition has taken place, but historically references the time when that was not the case in a respectful manner. (NB: I could totally be fucking this up. This should probably be appended to everything said in this entire thread.)

Just like there's no One Wikipedian Authority, there's also no One Trans Authority, so people are all (or mostly at least) tryng to figure things out as best they can.
posted by corb at 4:38 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Possible solution: Have both "Bradley" and "Chelsea" redirects, and title the main page as "That person who leaked all those diplomatic cables".
posted by ymgve at 5:38 AM on September 5, 2013


frankly the reason seems to be that some in the trans community have fucking itchy trigger fingers and zero awareness of the damage they do to the cause of tolerance and mutual respect with the lack of it they show to so many others.

I'd be careful of this kind of "damage they do to the cause" talk. I know it's not intended as threatening, but it can easily sound like it. It's entirely possible to think that the cause of equality, respect and protection from violence for all trans people is important, *and* that people defend those values with deliberate misrepresentation, bad-faith accusations, and threats of violence against "cisgender scum" are horrible assholes.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:58 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: For what it's worth, in that sentence crayz seemed to be talking about a past time when Manning identified as male, rather than the current female. It is really important not to misgender, but that at least seems like one where it's kind of iffy - are you misgendering by referring to the past by the pronouns that were current then, or are you misgendering by referring to the past by the pronouns that are now but weren't then?

You're misgendering by referring to the past by pronouns that were current then. Call people what they want (not wanted - what they want) to be called. It's not hard.
posted by Dysk at 8:12 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


"This has been a very depressing thread for me to read, and I am sure I am not the only one. I just want to send every MeFite who is trans* or has trans* loved ones a hug."

From me, also. A heartfelt hug.

I found this thread to be surprising and distressing. I'd thought that MeFi had come a long way in trans* awareness and sensitivity and this thread's a big bucket of cold water on that notion.

Also about RTFA: the linked blog entry discusses how Wikipedia has the prevailing usage (as evidenced by things like media mentions) guideline for names and that almost all of the US and UK media have now switched to "Chelsea". When I read the the linked blog entry, I paused for a moment to search Fox News. It uses "Chelsea". Fox News. The author mentions that the Daily Mail has switched, and it was notoriously resistant in the past. So anyone here who is arguing from the basis of that prevailing usage Wikipedia standard, you must not have RTFA.

It's hard to believe that anyone on the left, who's not a member of the affected class, but who's been paying attention to similar debates — such as about sexism, violence against women, and sexual harassment, or homophobia — would ever argue that this concern is of minor importance and that being very upset about it is counterproductive ... and to do so in direct contradiction to members of the affected class, present in the conversation, who is telling you that it is actually very important. I mean, WTF?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:17 AM on September 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


You're misgendering by referring to the past by pronouns that were current then. Call people what they want (not wanted - what they want) to be called. It's not hard.

Like how you might have gone to see Yusuf Islam in concert in '74? Or how a butterfly crawled around on its little legs and then built a cocoon and then the butterfly turned into a butterfly?

Up until two weeks ago Chelsea Manning went by "Bradley" and "him" and interacted with reality using that identity, and asked everyone to interact with "him" and that identity. It seems frankly Orwellian to demand people we now rewrite history.

There's a metaphysical/illusion-of-persistence-of-self level on which I don't believe our current selves have the right to erase our past selves. Those past selves existed and will always have existed. You can feel free to disagree, but don't just call it "misgendering", explain why. I thought corb's example of "she came out as gay" was quite instructive - "he came out as gay" is far more accurate, because "gay" is in reference to how Manning described himself to the world - presuming she now has the same sexual interests, she would not describe herself as gay.
posted by crayz at 9:34 AM on September 5, 2013


For what it's worth, in that sentence crayz seemed to be talking about a past time when Manning identified as male, rather than the current female.

Corb, I agree that there is no "One Trans Authority." But there is a trans* First Principle, as it were, and that is this: that a person's gender is determined by their identity, and that once they tell you how they identify, you ought respectfully to treat them as such.

In crayz's sentence, he says, "some here have followed this case since the beginning, and have been aware for years that Manning had gender identity issues, had told Lamo in his chats that he felt female, that he tried dressing as a woman, that he said he worried more about being seen as male than a lifetime in prison."

When someone is telling people that they experience themselves as female, and are more distressed by being treated by others as male than by the idea of a lifetime in prison, that person is a woman. Until Chelsea Manning came out to the press, many people were unaware that she was a woman--but she did not "identify as male" until the moment they heard of her female identity. And as crayz was one of those of us who knew for years that Chelsea Manning was trans*, he, actually, has had years to adjust to the idea of using female pronouns to refer to her. . .

Trans* people by definition have a past in which they were treated by others as belonging to another gender. But I strongly caution against imputing that an individual identified with that gender. I, for example, never identified with the female gender, though I lived as a woman for many years. I do know that trans* experiences vary, and some people have more fluid gender identities, and do in fact identify with one gender at one point in their lives, and another gender later on.

Still, when talking about a trans* person's past, the best thing to do is always to avoid undermining the individual's stated gender identity, outing them, or embarrassing them, by simply using the pronoun and name they use today. If you are at a party chatting with some people about facial hair, and point to Joan, and say, "Back when he was John, he used to have this luxuriant beard," the chances that she will feel hurt and exposed by this are high even if her gender identity is fluid, because it outs her and undercuts her gender presentation.
posted by DrMew at 9:38 AM on September 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


When someone is telling people that they experience themselves as female, and are more distressed by being treated by others as male than by the idea of a lifetime in prison, that person is a woman. Until Chelsea Manning came out to the press, many people were unaware that she was a woman--but she did not "identify as male" until the moment they heard of her female identity. And as crayz was one of those of us who knew for years that Chelsea Manning was trans*, he, actually, has had years to adjust to the idea of using female pronouns to refer to her.

Except no, Manning said for years he identified as a woman and this was common public knowledge, and yet he also went around using the name Brad and male pronouns. No one in any thread before two weeks ago was demanding we use female pronouns, because Manning had not requested that anyone do so.

Now she has said (as of August 22nd) that "I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun." That's all well and good. But demanding that we now rewrite all descriptions of the past, including past events that only even make sense in the context of Manning's public identity as male (otherwise why did her sexual preference for men cause her to describe herself as gay?) ... it's simply not obvious that this kind of word policing makes any sense.
posted by crayz at 9:52 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


and yet he also went around using the name Brad and male pronouns

The military does not allow you to be in the military and be trans. Manning had no choice about using "Brad" and male pronouns for a not-insignificant period of her life.
posted by rtha at 9:58 AM on September 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Manning said for years he identified as a woman

If she identifies as a woman, then it is appropriate to use female pronouns for her. Full stop. That the military forced her to do otherwise is a violation of her human rights, not an invitation for the rest of us to similarly violate her.
posted by KathrynT at 10:03 AM on September 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


crayz: "Up until two weeks ago Chelsea Manning went by "Bradley" and "him" and interacted with reality using that identity, and asked everyone to interact with "him" and that identity. It seems frankly Orwellian to demand people we now rewrite history."

How many times do we have to ask people to respect us?

Orwellian? Really?

ThatFuzzyBastard: "It's entirely possible to think that the cause of equality, respect and protection from violence for all trans people is important, *and* that people defend those values with deliberate misrepresentation, bad-faith accusations, and threats of violence against "cisgender scum" are horrible assholes."

It's equally possible to consider people with no skin in the game, who characterise expressions of frustration and anger at a violently oppressive system as asshole behaviour, assholes.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:03 AM on September 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


Hey, corb:

You know what sucks? People talking about you and yours like a patient etherized upon a table, deciding what's "accurate" about how to refer to you based on their cis gut feelings, and complaining about "taking things too far' or whatever. It's crazy gross to to say "we don't even know if manning is gay or if that was a part of gender confusion around a heterosexual lady-attracted-to-man orientation" as if it's any of your business when and how Chelsea came to realize her sexual and gender identities, in an attempt to expand rules-lawyering to ever more eyeroll-inducing places. Saying there's "no One Trans Authority," and then trying to hitch your own confused wagon to this confused straw wagon with more straw legitimacy is just loony tunes. There is One Trans Authority - the trans person in question. It is less okay for you to argue about this publicly than it is for trans people to discuss it among themselves. I know that sucks, and I'm sorry, but it's true.

Although, now that I'm talking to you, how about this other stuff:

In your second post in this thread, you couch your wishy-washy "historical record" cispinion with affected concern about mail delivery (unnecessarily, out of nowhere), which itself houses a "safe" use of Bradley. You then tell us that the bad Talk page comments aren't representative, when, in my experience both on the internet and off, they are pretty much exactly representative. You resort to the reasonable-people-disagree fallacy by saying decisions like this are "fraught with difficulty." You end with a worry that this is a "fight starting" "political game." This is not a "political game" if you're trans, or a decent person who cares about trans identities and wants to see them respected.

Your third post in the thread is a bizarre and completely unsolicited explanation of why you don't refer to Chelsea Manning as Chelsea Manning, but everyone else sure had better! I would have filtered it out as perplexing noise if it weren't coming from you in particular, but given what you've said about trans people in the past it certainly made me wonder. I can't tell if it's A) just a chance to mention your time in the military, B) a chance to pretend to be a strong supporter of trans identities by enforcing them among others, C) a way to really passive-aggressively state your own neutral-to-negative stance, D) a chance to make a really really tasteless pun, E) some combination of those, or F) something else entirely.

Your fourth post in this thread reduces misgendering to "microagressions." It's just aggression. I don't think you "understand the rage." You close with saying, but look, you have so much, the rest of the article is using the right pronouns, is this not enough?

So yeah. I wouldn't have done this except you explicitly asked for it with "(NB: I could totally be fucking this up. This should probably be appended to everything said in this entire thread.)" I am not the arbiter of whether or not you fucked up, but I don't think that all of your contributions were just fine. So that's my take.
posted by Corinth at 10:04 AM on September 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


[People are welcome to take discussion of why misgendering is important up with crayz over MeMail, it's getting far afield from the topic of this thread. Here, we call people by the genders they want to be called by. Nitpick these issues in MetaTalk or elsewhere on the internet]
posted by jessamyn at 10:07 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, based on what friends have said and things I've read and so on, it's not outrageously weird or unusual for a young (or maybe even not so young) trans* person to approach their identity at least initially as gay, whether out of hope ("please god don't let me be trans, let me be a normal homo!") or uncertainty or ignorance. Like, when I first stuck my nose out of the closet, I said I might be maybe perhaps bi. Maybe. Because the terror of actually being gay was a lot of terror. So for the five minutes of my life when I identified as bi, and for the other five minutes when I had a boyfriend - well, should some historian refer to the me-that-was as bi? No. Because I wasn't, despite what I said. I was, and am, a lesbian.

Some peoples' identities are more fluid. Mine isn't. Manning's doesn't seem to be.
posted by rtha at 10:09 AM on September 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


So maybe I skipped past it but I didn't see this explicitly stated, and maybe it will help those who, like I used to, have trouble with the retroactive pronoun change thing:

My impression is that by and large, for most trans* folk the experience of living and being treated as the wrong gender is/was really fucking traumatic and asserting that that trauma was ontologically correct in some sense is both insulting and threatening on lots of levels. I think. Not trying to speak for anyone or put anyone in some kind of victim role, just draw connections that maybe should be obvious but aren't always.

Also, yeah, rtha's comparison to closet time makes good sense too: If one referred to the thankfully brief time I was trying to date girls as "when you were straight," I would definitely be confused and probably kinda insulted.
posted by PMdixon at 10:26 AM on September 5, 2013 [19 favorites]


PMdixon: "My impression is that by and large, for most trans* folk the experience of living and being treated as the wrong gender is/was really fucking traumatic and asserting that that trauma was ontologically correct in some sense is both insulting and threatening on lots of levels."

I want to marry this.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:26 AM on September 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just because it's been brought up a few times:

Manning herself specified the exception regarding mail delivery.

I'm not sure if or why it matters, mind you.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:27 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


ArmyOfKittens, trans people marrying words is at the bottom of the slippery slope people are always yelling about. Stop hurting the movement and be happy with the progress we've already won, jeez!
posted by Corinth at 10:29 AM on September 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oh god oh god oh god I'm sorry, movement. I'm sorry. We had something once and it was beautiful but now I've gone and spoiled everything.

I'll just--

I'll just go.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:32 AM on September 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


you couch your wishy-washy "historical record" cispinion with affected concern about mail delivery (unnecessarily, out of nowhere), which itself houses a "safe" use of Bradley.

I'm sorry if this appeared out of nowhere - I could have sworn someone referred to her request for being addressed as "Bradley" for the purposes of mail as indicative of an overall trend, and I wanted to make it clear both why the naming on mail was okay and necessary, but not a part of an overall trend. Scrolling up, I can't seem to find that, so I might have been mistaking something I saw over Wikipedia way for something said in this thread, or there might have been something deleted. I'm not sure.

Your third post in the thread is a bizarre and completely unsolicited explanation of why you don't refer to Chelsea Manning as Chelsea Manning, but everyone else sure had better!

I apologize to anyone that statement might have offended - my intention was absolutely not to cause offense. After seeing people upset over other people using "Bradley Manning" it occurred to me that my habit of using last names might be misread as a deliberate attempt to avoid gendering her, and I wanted to make it clear that it was not that, lest anyone be upset or offended by it.

"It's entirely possible to think that the cause of equality, respect and protection from violence for all trans people is important, *and* that people defend those values with deliberate misrepresentation, bad-faith accusations, and threats of violence against "cisgender scum" are horrible assholes."

It's true, people who issue threats of violence against "cisgender scum" are horrible assholes. Did these comments exist here? Were they deleted from the thread? I could be mistaken, but I don't think I've seen any of those here.
posted by corb at 10:37 AM on September 5, 2013


ArmyOfKittens! Wait! We can all adopt and make word clouds together!
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:38 AM on September 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's always worth knowing, in these discussions of how far back in time from the moment of disclosure things like name and pronouns and gender identity should be acknowledged, that trans women were always women.

Let me put it this way: when I realised I was trans, and when I started HRT, and when I had SRS, I had the same identity that I had when I was 14 and attempting suicide for the first time. I am a woman now; I was a woman then. Nothing about that has ever changed, except that my self-knowledge caught up with the facts.

Trans women are women and have been all their lives in just the same way cis women have. It's just there was a fact about us that we didn't necessarily have the tools to realise, process, and understand for a while.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:47 AM on September 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


fwiw, although I generally count myself on the Ally side of things with trans* issues, I have had a time wrapping my head around the reasons why we should refer to past actions with the correct name, rather than the past name (aka why we would say "Chelsea Manning leaked docs").

I'm decent at doing so, because it's not that hard to remember, but it felt like an overcorrection for emphasis, rather than the formal logical engineering mindset choice which I prefer (which mindset is problematic at best, I know).

I think I get it now. So like I don't think I'll be doing anything different, but I might be able to explain it to the next person down the line. Thanks, everyone who chimed in on that aspect, it did make a difference to me.

not that your job is to explain things to me. Still, thanks.

Also sorry mods, I know this one was a rough'un.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:04 AM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Up until two weeks ago Chelsea Manning went by "Bradley" and "him" and interacted with reality using that identity, and asked everyone to interact with "him" and that identity. It seems frankly Orwellian to demand people we now rewrite history.

Nobody is asking for history to be rewritten, Christ alive. Nobody is denying that Chelsea Manning lived as a man for a while, or is asking you to. What they're saying is that when referring to the person that is Chelsea Manning, you call them Chelsea Manning, and when you talk about her, you use the appropriate pronouns. Using a person's name to refer to them at a time when they didn't have that name is not fucking controversial - else we'd be referring to most unborn children as 'he', 'she' or 'it' because hey, not named until birth, and often not gendered either. We have no problem saying, for example, "David Bowie did this, that or the other when he was five" despite the fact that said five-year-old would've called themselves David Robert Jones.
posted by Dysk at 11:12 AM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Honestly, anyone who is still insisting that Manning has to be called Bradley instead of Chelsea, either currently or when referring to the past, what problem are you trying to solve? We have an unambiguous request to refer to her in a specific way. It seems to me that refusing to honor that request must require some compelling pressure that demands cisnormativity be maintained. Now, I have my theory that most of them will boil down to "trans* issues make me feel icky" or "I hate Manning," but I may be overlooking something.

I get that there will always be the potential for confusion; that happens any time someone changes their name. In this case, that potential is neither increased by using Chelsea nor eased by using Bradley, so why deny a trans* woman her ability to define her identity? It's not like you're being asked to approve of Manning's actions, just to treat her like a human being with agency. Yikes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:28 AM on September 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Trans women are women and have been all their lives in just the same way cis women have. It's just there was a fact about us that we didn't necessarily have the tools to realise, process, and understand for a while.
And then there are those of us who knew from, say, five years on, who kept talking about it to peers and adults and who kept getting shut down by same. I've never actually shared this story with anyone, online or off, but once, when I was very young (I think I must have been six or seven), I made some comment to my best friend implying that some girls may have penises. His mother overheard, and saw fit to correct what she no doubt saw as me being a really idiotic child. That's something that left deep scars, and it still hurts me to recall. I remember the exact words used in the whole exchange.

One of the things Chelsea Manning's coming out has exposed is that many, many cis people do not understand that we don't "Become A Trans." That, while each individual varies, most trans people have always experienced themselves as the gender they identify with. It is their real gender; they haven't decided to "become" that gender, and using the incorrect pronouns to describe them even in a past tense is actively hurtful. There aren't, like, checkpoints here, after which is becomes okay to refer to a trans person as their preferred gender but never before. That's an absurd little scrap of ignorance and Step 1 here for anyone approaching this issue that way should be to just let it go and start listening to what trans people say about their own experiences, lives and histories. A lot of the arguments here and elsewhere on the net over this are rooted in a fundamentally wrong understanding of what it even means to be transgender.
posted by byanyothername at 11:57 AM on September 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


[Deleted a couple of comments, everyone please refresh. Thanks!]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:10 PM on September 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks restless_nomad! I really appreciate knowing when it's a good idea to refresh instead of just hitting show.

That, while each individual varies, most trans people have always experienced themselves as the gender they identify with. It is their real gender; they haven't decided to "become" that gender,

I understand this may be the case for the majority of transfolk, but don't some people not follow that sort of narrative path? (Particularly with people who are more genderfluid or who are not very strongly associated with one gender in the first place?) If so, doesn't this mean that the discussion of the past may not always be a hard and fast rule? I apologize to generalize from the specific to the broad, but I have one trans friend that, for example, frequently makes reference to "That was when I was a man" as a clear delineation between "The Before Times" and "The After Times". At the same time, many people here have requested that sort of framing not be used, so I would never want to use that kind of language with them.

I think honestly part of the problem around Manning's stuff is that she is not able to respond to us, except through her lawyer and that very infrequently. We only know scraps of what she would want relayed to us - we can honor those, but for the complex stuff, it's hard to know how she would want us to proceed. (ie if she really did previously identify as a gay man, or if it was just an attempt to be something other than trans, as rtha notes.)
posted by corb at 12:18 PM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


but don't some people not follow that sort of narrative path? (Particularly with people who are more genderfluid or who are not very strongly associated with one gender in the first place?) If so, doesn't this mean that the discussion of the past may not always be a hard and fast rule? I apologize to generalize from the specific to the broad, but I have one trans friend that, for example, frequently makes reference to "That was when I was a man" as a clear delineation between "The Before Times" and "The After Times". At the same time, many people here have requested that sort of framing not be used, so I would never want to use that kind of language with them.

Sure some don't. I don't, for one (long story, which I've told in bits and pieces in lots of other threads, and don't have time for now). I'll also occasionally use phrases like "when I was a bloke" as a convenient short-hand for "when I was living as a man", but that's with close friends that I trust, and I'd not be best pleased if any of them were to use the same phrasing. Much like a trans person might occasionally use the word 'tranny' but that doesn't mean it's cool for you to do so, you can't directly take your acceptable language cues from the subject of the language.
posted by Dysk at 12:28 PM on September 5, 2013


(ie if she really did previously identify as a gay man, or if it was just an attempt to be something other than trans, as rtha notes.)

I also don't think this matters - I identified as a gay man for a time, but I sure as heck don't want anyone referring to me at that time of my life as 'he' or by my old name.
posted by Dysk at 12:30 PM on September 5, 2013


Honestly, the debate on Metafilter makes me sad in a way the debate on Wikipedia does not. Every time we have a TG-related debate on MeFi, we get on one hand the same tiny handful of people trying to explain and educate a largely resistant group who don't actually care about this issue one way or the other, and are perfectly happy with the status quo because they're impacted by trans issues in their day to day lives not at all. How exhausting for the tiny handful.

Are the articles on other trans people titled with the names consistent with their gender identity? Yes they are. Are articles for actors and musicians titled not with birth names but with the names those actors and musicians known by? Yes they are. And so it should be for Chelsea Manning. There is plenty of precedent, doing so complies with Wikipedia's own guidelines, and there is no legitimate downside to doing so.

And frankly, everyone who espouses the viewpoint that those advocating for human rights for a tiny oppressed minority would do so much better if they were less shrill and less loud and less agressive and more QUIET can go jump off a bridge. Women, black people, gay people, and other minorities didn't get rights by politely asking for them. They got them by being a pain in the ass. A LOUD and uncomfortable pain in the ass.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:51 PM on September 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is a difference between purposely mis-gendering or misidentifying someone, on one hand, and referring to them by the name by which they were known for at the time of the historically and legally significant events that they are known for.

I think this is the crux of the issue. When she was in the news she was Bradley Manning. Anyone who didn't get the memo on the name change is going to continue to look for Bradley Manning and not Chelsea.

So I don't think Wikipedia is being bigoted in this regard. I think they're trying to dispel confusion among searches by titling the article what an uninformed searcher would expect. And then the article quickly informs of the change and uses female pronouns throughout.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 12:54 PM on September 5, 2013


I wish we could post in-line gifs.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyone who didn't get the memo on the name change is going to continue to look for Bradley Manning and not Chelsea.

They have redirects to handle this very issue. In fact, right now, Chelsea Manning redirects to Bradley Manning.
posted by KathrynT at 12:59 PM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


So I don't think Wikipedia is being bigoted in this regard. I think they're trying to dispel confusion among searches by titling the article what an uninformed searcher would expect.

They already do that via redirects. So just like you can find the Manning article by looking for "Bradley Maning," "Brad Manning" or even "Brad Maning" ("Did you mean: brad manning"), the title of the article does not mean that's the only way to find it.
posted by Etrigan at 1:01 PM on September 5, 2013


Tylerfulltilt, Go re-read the article. The issue is with the justifications made in the discussions regarding the name.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:02 PM on September 5, 2013



but don't some people not follow that sort of narrative path? (Particularly with people who are more genderfluid or who are not very strongly associated with one gender in the first place?) If so, doesn't this mean that the discussion of the past may not always be a hard and fast rule? I apologize to generalize from the specific to the broad, but I have one trans friend that, for example, frequently makes reference to "That was when I was a man" as a clear delineation between "The Before Times" and "The After Times". At the same time, many people here have requested that sort of framing not be used, so I would never want to use that kind of language with them.


Just as a point of information - I'd say that the trans and genderqueer people I know the best tend not to follow the "I knew I was [X] as soon as I understood the concept of gender". I assume there's a variety of reasons for this*.

The important thing is to pay as much attention as possible to the actual trans person in front of you and what that person requests. Absent that knowledge, it's just like any other manners situation - if you don't know how someone prefers to be treated, you treat them with the most formal courtesy available in your social circle until they let you know exactly what they'd personally prefer. You may not know how your friend's grandmother prefers to be addressed, so you start with "Ma'am" and "Mrs. Foster" until she tells you that she prefers to be called Sally-Jo or whatever.

*In my own case, not only did I encounter a couple of instances of "but that is absolutely unacceptable and impossible" when I was pretty young that shut me down for quite a while, but my other issues (being poor[er], fat, nerdy, smart and the child of brilliant-and-chronically-depressed parents and thus the victim of really effective and totalizing bullying) really came to the fore and left me no room to think about my body or sexuality except in terms of "people as ugly and worthless as me should try to forget that we even have bodies, not disgust others with the loathsome fact of our embodiment and the nauseating possibility of our sexuality". It is difficult to think of yourself as "trans", in short, when you're putting every ounce of your waking energy into trying to live as if you have no body or gender at all.
posted by Frowner at 1:04 PM on September 5, 2013 [20 favorites]


Frowner: "It is difficult to think of yourself as "trans", in short, when you're putting every ounce of your waking energy into trying to live as if you have no body or gender at all."

Holy FUCK.

Why didn't I get to read this sentence when I was like 12?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:11 PM on September 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yep.
posted by tigrrrlily at 1:33 PM on September 5, 2013


They have redirects to handle this very issue. In fact, right now, Chelsea Manning redirects to Bradley Manning.

This linking, in fact, is one of the things the Internet does best. It pretty much makes Wikipedia possible. Why it should suddenly be unimaginable to so many is... a mystery.

OK, I'm kidding. It's not really a mystery, just aggravatingly obtuse.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:07 PM on September 5, 2013


The military does not allow you to be in the military and be trans. Manning had no choice about using "Brad" and male pronouns for a not-insignificant period of her life.

Interestingly/depressingly, according to Manning, she joined the army because she was trans. Quoting Manning:

I thought a career in the military would get rid of it [her gender dysphoria]. It's not something I seek out for attention, and I’ve been trying very, very hard to get rid of it by placing myself in situations where it would be impossible.

One might note then that rather than Manning's gender transition being a sidenote to a whole nother major story, there actually would have been no Chelsea Manning leaks scandal in the first place if she hadn't been trans.
posted by threeants at 2:20 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just realized this redirect specifically can be viewed as a cognitive metaphor for what it feels like to be trans.

"Chelsea redirects to Bradley" vs. "Bradley redirects to Chelsea"

It's weirdly similar to what I experience in my head when I think about my own name.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


in other news I just found out today that Lambert from Alien was a trans woman
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:26 PM on September 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Lambert was born September 13th, 2098; initially born a man, she underwent Despin Convert sexual realignment at birth for undisclosed reasons."

85 years to go. (Goddammit.)
posted by Corinth at 7:01 PM on September 5, 2013


the phrase "born a man" always, without fail, makes me think of this. and I laugh. that image is the perfect way to defang those words for me.
posted by byanyothername at 7:23 PM on September 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Even though I was pretty sure I knew what the punchline would be I still laughed out loud and spit a little food on my keyboard. I really needed that - thanks!
posted by rtha at 7:33 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Philip Sandifer's and Sue Gardner's articles raise issues about how Wikipedia's consensus process works. Sue Gardner put it succinctly in the last paragraph of her post:
So. Here’s the question. Given that Wikipedia makes decisions by consensus, how can majority-culture (male, young, Western, heterosexual, cisgendered) editors best participate in discussions in ways that work towards good decision-making, rather than groupthink?
Sandifer's solution seems to be that important ethical decisions shouldn't be subject to consensus, but imposed by the Wikimedia Foundation acting as a benevolent dictatorship. This position is echoed by some of the commentators on Gardner's article: "My respect for Wikipedia immediately went to zero when my right and the right of every trans person to be known by their true name reflecting their true gender was subjected to a vote".

This seems like an easy position to take because, after all, it's a matter of right and wrong, right? We can't just vote on it or try to form a consensus. But there are problems if we try to think of alternatives. Can we really expect Jimbo Wales, or the Wikimedia Foundation, to reliably step in as perfect enlightened dictators, the way Sandifer suggests?

I think Gardner's on the right track by suggesting that Wikipedia's consensus process needs to give more weight to people have knowledge or expertise relevant to a particular decision even when they're in a minority, in this case, the minority of people who are knowledgeable about trans issues.

Ultimately, decisions in human institutions are made by human beings. We have to try to figure out how to make them better. There is no way around this. Divine intervention is not a option.
posted by nangar at 7:58 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


As we've seen endlessly, it's surprisingly difficult to get cis people to defer to trans people's knowledge of trans people.

It's a decent idea, though.

I looked at a wikipedia talk page once. NEVER AGAIN. I salute the people who can keep going back there to argue their case.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:01 PM on September 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


As we've seen endlessly, it's surprisingly difficult to get cis people to defer to trans people's knowledge of trans people.

Not always, I'd hope. I've actually got two questions about naming/gendering transfolk that I'd really like to know the answer to, but I'm a tad worried to ask on askme. I'm really mostly interested in the opinions of other actual transfolk (although transmitted knowledge originating from other transfolk is fine too).

I expect this thread (possibly some of its deleted contents) has been somewhat painful-- but please take heart. Metafilter is what trained me to use a person's current chosen pronoun and name. I'd like to think I would have done so anyhow, as I tend towards "construct your own identity as you see fit", but I'm not sure. This is where I saw stories of transpeople adversely affected by misgendering and misnaming. Heck, Metafilter is what really made me first think about even biological sex as being not a binary, much less socially constructed gender.
posted by nat at 9:28 AM on September 6, 2013


An update from the front lines: there is both good news and bad news.

The good news is that good work has been done in gathering sources that show that the common way for reliable sources to refer to Chelsea manning is in fact Chelsea Manning.

If the move request were made today I have no doubt the article would be moved to "Chelsea Manning".

The bad news is that every effort possible is being made by those responsible for the change back to "Bradley Manning" to delay that move request as long as possible. The current iteration of this is an attempt to link the timing of the request to fix the article to that of an Arbitrarion Committee, and those things take forever.

TBH though I still regard accusations of hate speech hyperbolic I am seeing more and more merit in the linked articles view of things: there is definatly an element offing Wikipedia editors that is almost gleefully unhelpful here.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not always, I'd hope. I've actually got two questions about naming/gendering transfolk that I'd really like to know the answer to, but I'm a tad worried to ask on askme. I'm really mostly interested in the opinions of other actual transfolk (although transmitted knowledge originating from other transfolk is fine too).

You have questions, but you're not asking them? We don't bite :P

(I've always found the use of 'transfolk' and 'transpeople' kinda weird, makes it seem like we're somehow distinct from 'folk' or 'people'. People who are trans are trans people - it's an adjective!)
posted by Dysk at 10:32 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: "TBH though I still regard accusations of hate speech hyperbolic I am seeing more and more merit in the linked articles view of things: there is definatly an element offing Wikipedia editors that is almost gleefully unhelpful here."

Thanks a lot for a) your efforts and b) reporting back.

Where would I go to see the most recent conversations about this, assuming I feel like subjecting myself to repeated head trauma? I tried skimming the talk page but at the first sight of WP:ALLCAPS I started getting nosebleeds.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:43 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"transman" and "transwoman" always makes me think of like 1970s futuristic novels where everything has a futuristic spacename and the transpeople are the genetically-altered once-human lifeforms designed for life on the generationship that's evacuating earth
posted by titus n. owl at 10:44 AM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dysk: "(I've always found the use of 'transfolk' and 'transpeople' kinda weird, makes it seem like we're somehow distinct from 'folk' or 'people'. People who are trans are trans people - it's an adjective!)"

I've always thought transfolk sounded like a music genre: traditional folk music played on pan pipes and theremin, perhaps.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:45 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


oh crap jinx, kinda
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:45 AM on September 6, 2013


Thanks for the (depressing) update, Artw.

It's good and honest of you to report that as you watch this process in action, you've come to agree with the Sandifer piece that there are Wikipedia editors who are doing everything they can to keep the article on Chelsea Manning titled "Bradly Manning" for as long as possible, despite Wikipedia's own policy that trans* people should be referred to by the name and pronoun with which they identify.

As for continuing to feel that "accusations of hate speech" are hyperbole . . . well, you agree that there are editors actively fighting to have Wikipedia misname Chelsea Manning. Ridiculous, transphobic comments "comparing Chelsea Manning to someone who woke up one morning believing herself to be a dog, a cat, a Vulcan, Jesus Christ, a golden retriever, a genius, a black person, a Martian, a dolphin, Minnie Mouse, a broomstick or a banana" are all over the Talk pages. I get that you're concerned about "diluting" an accusation of hate speech. I guess your reasoning is that if someone called Manning a "crazy tranny," it would be hate speech, but if they call her "Bradley Manning," it seems more polite or less vile?

I'd just suggest that you note how many trans* folks have said that when people wish to attack, discredit, and hurt us, calling us by our prior names is a favorite tactic. That counts as hate speech to me. Maybe Sandifer's article opening very loudly and emphatically with the point that misnaming is hate speech, which sounded like arm-flailing hyperbole to you at first read, was really there because people keep trying to make this point over and over, more and more loudly, to get other people to believe we really mean it.
posted by DrMew at 10:59 AM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Where would I go to see the most recent conversations about this, assuming I feel like subjecting myself to repeated head trauma? I tried skimming the talk page but at the first sight of WP:ALLCAPS I started getting nosebleeds.

There's about half a dozen pages related to this right now, I'm a little reluctant to link to them as it could be accused of being Meatpuppetry. They all hang off of the main Bradley Manning talk page.

Best thing to do if you want to get involved is add more sources here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Bradley_Manning/October_2013_move_request

Hopefully eventually the sheer weight if sources will embarrass them out of inaction.
posted by Artw at 11:05 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, I forgot there would be brigading rules or sockpuppetting or whatever. Will have a read around and see if I have anything to add. Thanks :)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:31 AM on September 6, 2013


Ha! I use "trans folk" sometimes, which I think is a leftover hippie-ish thing from my Women's Issues League days in college when we were always trying to use the most gender-neutral language possible for non-gender-specific groups of people and landed on words like "folks." It does sound kind of funny now that I really listen to it.
posted by rtha at 11:36 AM on September 6, 2013


I've always thought transfolk sounded like a music genre

It sounds like people who are really into Kraftwerk.
posted by elizardbits at 11:40 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like "trans* peeps." Sounds like cyber-marshmallow-birds.
posted by DrMew at 12:05 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


"transman" and "transwoman" always makes me think of like 1970s futuristic novels where everything has a futuristic spacename and the transpeople are the genetically-altered once-human lifeforms designed for life on the generationship that's evacuating earth

I know. It really is that awesome.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:17 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always found the use of 'transfolk' and 'transpeople' kinda weird, makes it seem like we're somehow distinct from 'folk' or 'people'.

For me, at least, I tend to use it because it applies to all folk who are trans, whether lady or gent, and sounds kind of homey, like the kind of thing you'd say out in the country somewhere genially gesturing towards the horizon and talking about the future. "People" just sounds kind of distant, like, those people over there, not those homey maybe-someday-friends over there.

yes, I know. Hippie.
posted by corb at 12:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Ha! I use "trans folk" sometimes..."

Me, too. And I will use "folk" in other contexts for the same reasons as you mention. Not that I was in a Women's Issues League in college. But because it's gender neutral.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:30 PM on September 6, 2013


my issue with transwhatever is that if you run it together into one word it looks weird and has implications. the distinguishing factor in my opinion is the space.

i mean i will identify as a "trans man" because i'm a man who is trans. i'm not a "transman" because when it's a single word distinct from man it looks and feels weird to me (in addition to the fact that i do not in fact wear a silver jumpsuit and live in pod 7633392C off the east engine bay). i also have blond hair and i am not a blondman
posted by titus n. owl at 12:33 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


i'm sorry i just said "and has implications" without expanding on them - i MEANT to but couldn't get my thoughts in order right away and then just straight forgot to go back

"trans people" is clearly "trans" as an adjective modifying the word "people" and while those grammatical functions are still unchanged if you take the space out and say "transpeople" it LOOKS different and FEELS like transpeople is a distinct special noun that is not the same as people (some of whom are trans)

i'm still not sure this explanation is particularly clear, and if anyone else would like to jump in that'd be amazing
posted by titus n. owl at 12:35 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read transman the same way I sometimes read Batman, with the emphasis on the first syllable, which makes it sound like a surname.

James Transman, meet Bruce Batman.

my parents are accountaaaaaaants
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


i'm still not sure this explanation is particularly clear,

Yeah, I'm not sure I really understand, other than the fact that you inexplicably do not want to wear a silver jumpsuit and live in an engine bay. That's just weird. The future is now!

I think maybe it's also a result of word mashups lately? Like ladybits, or awesomesauce, or a host of others. The space seems to make it less slangy and more formal, which means you want to switch to the formal rather than the wild, swinging, friendly slang.
posted by corb at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2013


other things you don't smush together that way: blackpeople

i have seen "girlpeople" when in very slangy contexts

but when i see "transpeople" and it's not in a very clearly slangy context it reads to me as much the same as if someone wrote "blackpeople" or "jewpeople"

is this a clearer explanation of the concept? i'm trying really hard and getting increasingly frustrated with myself, i thought i was better at words than this
posted by titus n. owl at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


(and to DOUBLE CLARIFY: i'm not trying to prescribe my point of view and usage onto others - i'm just trying really hard to explain WHAT my point of view is, and why i prefer myself personally to be referred to a certain way. i do not represent the entire trans* community and in no way should my comments ever be taken as some kind of attempt to do so.)
posted by titus n. owl at 1:04 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Probably a better comparison would be to "blacks" vs. "black people" - the former sounds weird and vaguely racist to my ears, and the logic as I understand it is that it reduces people to the single minority characteristic rather than acknowledging their personhood. Likewise "transgenders" as a noun is strongly deprecated.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I use "folk" because it's gender neutral too. The more gender neutral language I can propagate, the happier a human I am. Plus Kraftwerk.

re: why I'm not asking my trans-pronoun questions on askme: I know a bunch of stuff has been deleted in this thread, and I don't really care to have a vitriolic discussion on ask right now. I figure I'll wait till this post moves further down the list, and then ask my question in such a way that I'm most likely to get responses from trans people, rather than whoever it was that was making comments that had to be deleted.
posted by nat at 2:13 PM on September 6, 2013


I've been riffing in my mind on the idea that the term "trans" is good enough. Says just enough, leaves enough ambiguous, and why break it down even further?
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:19 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just thought you should know that because of the Batman reference AoK made I now have the theme song going through my head but with "transman" instead. So, um, thanks?
posted by rtha at 4:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm the best kind of person.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:01 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


But not the bestkindofperson.
posted by Corinth at 9:08 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Isn't that what Boba Fett--no, wait, that was the Bespinofperson.
posted by kagredon at 11:01 PM on September 6, 2013


Nor the best kind-of person.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:33 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Just to absolutely clarify: my previous comment was objecting to the use of 'transfolk'/'transpeople' without a space - have no issue with 'trans folk', 'trans people', or whatever other generic plural noun you want to stick 'trans ' in front of - with the damn space.)
posted by Dysk at 2:06 AM on September 7, 2013


Probably a better comparison would be to "blacks" vs. "black people" - the former sounds weird and vaguely racist to my ears, and the logic as I understand it is that it reduces people to the single minority characteristic rather than acknowledging their personhood.

Huh. "Black people" sounds weird to me, like when people say "Jewish people" because they think "Jews" sounds pejorative. Perhaps we're in the middle of another language shift.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:49 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust wrote: Honestly, anyone who is still insisting that Manning has to be called Bradley instead of Chelsea, either currently or when referring to the past, what problem are you trying to solve?

Gender-fluid and trans-gender people are inherently intimidating. Look at the role of cross-dressing in Shamanistic ritual, Hijras in Indian society, the priests of Magna Mater in Rome, and the Principal Dame in English pantomime. When people cross gender lines they become powerful beings who can twist our minds and bend them to their own use. If we succumb and use the wrong name then Manning will be cross-dressing inside our own heads and we will never be free.

Well, that's my theory about their motives, anyway. They must think that using "she" and "Chelsea" instead of "he" and "Bradley" has a real effect, which implies that they think language shapes the world and that it would be deeply wrong to let this change take place. It's magical thinking, all of it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:31 AM on September 9, 2013


Well, that's my theory about their motives, anyway. They must think that using "she" and "Chelsea" instead of "he" and "Bradley" has a real effect, which implies that they think language shapes the world and that it would be deeply wrong to let this change take place. It's magical thinking, all of it.

I personally don't like to past-gender people as the gender they are currently. I personally don't like things that look like "changing history" in any way. But I still suck it up and do it for people who request it or want it, because it would make them sad if I don't.

I don't think that means I believe in "magical thinking", but more that I believe in fixed points in time and that things should be accurate for the time that they were rather than revisionist.
posted by corb at 5:45 AM on September 9, 2013


corb, do you think it's "revisionist" that, for example, Virginia Woolf's article refers to her by her married name in the sections about her early life?
posted by kagredon at 5:57 AM on September 9, 2013


I don't think that means I believe in "magical thinking", but more that I believe in fixed points in time and that things should be accurate for the time that they were rather than revisionist.

In many cases, though, this means that you are claiming that your sense of a person in the past is more important than that person's sense of themselves in the past, which is... troublesome.

Obviously, no one is going to go back and change hundreds of documents in the past to "replace" "Bradley" with "Chelsea," but are you really arguing that, say, an article should switch Manning's gender according to some "start date?" I still don't see the problem that would solve -- yes, in some cases there might be some confusion while reading and comparing two articles, one from the past and one from the present, over the changing pronouns, but the alternative is to have that same confusion in every article. Added to the very firm statements by trans* people in this thread and elsewhere that misgendering is extremely hostile, how does this solve more problems than it causes?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:00 AM on September 9, 2013


Actually, I absolutely, no kidding, do. I think that her birth name should be included in the opening line, or at least something like Woolf, nee Stephen. And I actually kind of want to edit that article, because it would be so easy to not do that - use her first name when talking about her early years, etc.

Added to the very firm statements by trans* people in this thread and elsewhere that misgendering is extremely hostile, how does this solve more problems than it causes?

I'm not suggesting anyone should misgender. I think that for cases like that, it'd be really easy to use neutral pronouns, or clarifying language such as "Chelsea Manning, then presenting as male, identified at that time as gay"
posted by corb at 6:07 AM on September 9, 2013


Why? I don't think anyone is going to labor under the misapprehension that the "Virginia Woolf" that most people will find the page under, and that she used, by choice, throughout her adult professional life, is somehow a different person from the "Adeline Stephen" mentioned under the first section.

It's not dishonest to use a consistent style when talking about the subject of a biographical page, and "Virginia Woolf" is the clear choice for a consistent name. You see the same with David Bowie, as someone mentioned upthread. The page currently at "Robin Wright" was located at "Robin Wright Penn" until some time in the early 2000s, and she is referred to as "Robin Wright" or "Wright" throughout the text, even when addressing the period when she was using "Robin Wright Penn". It's even got it's own little subsection on a subpage of their manual of style.

I mean, if you generally just object at all to this practice, that's your prerogative of course, but given that it's Wikipedia's house style and not unheard of in biographical writing off-Wikipedia, it seems like an uphill battle?
posted by kagredon at 6:36 AM on September 9, 2013


And I actually kind of want to edit that article, because it would be so easy to not do that - use her first name when talking about her early years, etc.

This would be inconsistent with the way biographies are written. For example, Cher is referred to as Cher throughout her biography, even when she was a girl. Likewise with Rock Hudson. Likewise with Groucho Marx.

Wikipedia is inconsistent somewhat in the way they do this, at least with stage names (Cary Grant is referred to has Archibald Leach in his early years, but, then, Grant said in interviews that his never really felt like what his stage name represented and always felt like he was still Archie Leach. Brandon Teena is referred to as male throughout and by the surname Teena, which was his preference.

I have no problem with Wikipedia saying that Chelsea Manning was born Bradley Manning, but, beyond that, there seems to be concern about a confusion or a revision of history that simply doesn't exist.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:42 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I should specify: I totally realize this is my nitpick on what I personally prefer to see in biographic style. I was more responding to the idea above that everyone who was nitpicky had ulterior motives. I think some of us are just, you know, occasionally a little pedantic.
posted by corb at 6:52 AM on September 9, 2013


And I actually kind of want to edit that article, because it would be so easy to not do that - use her first name when talking about her early years, etc.

That gets into a (somewhat slightly, and I know inadvertent on your part) troubling area, since we wouldn't be doing that for the vast majority of men because they never face any societal pressure to change their names upon marriage. So you find yourself in a realm where you're calling women in their pre-marriage (or whatever other reason for a name change) days in a more familiar way than men (e.g., "Hillary met Clinton while at law school.").
posted by Etrigan at 6:53 AM on September 9, 2013


Gender-fluid and trans-gender people are inherently intimidating.

That seems to me pretty close to an insult. A lot of people might experience genderfluid and transgender people as intimidating, but there sure isn't anything inherent in that, any more than travellers are inherently untrustworthy or blonde women inherently stupid.
posted by Dysk at 8:20 AM on September 9, 2013


Gender-fluid and trans-gender people are inherently intimidating.

That seems to me pretty close to an insult.


Pretty sure Joe was intentionally overstating there, particularly since he said, "Well, that's my theory about their motives, anyway."
posted by Etrigan at 8:55 AM on September 9, 2013


Yeah, I also read that as a little deliberately over-the-top. And it also kind of rings true to me: people who cannot or will not or do not conform to the binary are intimidating (and even scary, challenging, and so on). Not that they refuse to conform in order to be intimidating, and not that any particular individual will automatically find them to be so, but my experience as a butch dyke is that an awful lot of people do seem to find my very existence (I don't even have to talk to them!) to be scary and challenging.

This is possibly not very coherent because I've now entered a state of slightly too much sugar and not quite enough caffeine.
posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


my experience as a butch dyke is that an awful lot of people do seem to find my very existence (I don't even have to talk to them!) to be scary and challenging.

It was the use of the word "inherently" that got my back up - it claims some sort of universal truth that speaking from an assumed perspective does not.
posted by Dysk at 9:05 AM on September 9, 2013


It was the use of the word "inherently" that got my back up - it claims some sort of universal truth that speaking from an assumed perspective does not.

The universal-truth-ness of it is similarly from that assumed perspective, though.
posted by Etrigan at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2013


This is a good reminder that it's often pretty problematic to bury the "this is me modeling a perspective, not declaring my own perspective" lede when talking about stuff like this. "Provocative couple of paragraphs blah blah blah blah, is a thing I'm not saying" can be awfully dicey in general and especially so when discussing something charged. Nobody's gonna get docked points for being clear up front about what they're trying to convey with a comment.
posted by cortex at 9:27 AM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dysk: I was very much overstating it for effect. I didn't mean to offend you, sorry.

What I was trying to say is that there is a repeated cultural pattern of people adopting cross-gender or gender-fluid norms for their effect on other people. This pattern is expressed in ritual and drama across so many societies, including our own, that it probably speaks to some fundamental part of our minds. I think that this might be the cause of the fear and anger directed people transitioning, and even at the idea of transition. It also explains why "drag queen" is used as an insult: it reduces the person to a persona, an act, one that has a circumscribed role and a defined context, and basically says "you are not real"; that is, "I don't have to be scared of you".

The best response, I think, to such fears is to point out that Manning isn't "adopting a role" or trying to alarm people by confounding gender stereotypes or treading a path between Jungian archetypes or whatever. Manning identifies as a woman and I should think wants nothing more than, in people's minds, to have always been a woman. There is no gender-play going in here, no cause for alarm. (This is not to say that alarm would necessarily be warranted under other circumstances, just that this fear seems to be based on an incorrect premise.)

Anyway, that's what I think lies at the root of the "problem people are trying to solve" that GenjiandProust referred to. They feel, unconsciously, that people who change their gender designation embody a threatening cultural archetype, and by denying the possibility of such a change they remove the conceptual space for this archetye to exist.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:46 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dysk: I was very much overstating it for effect. I didn't mean to offend you, sorry.

It's okay. For some reason, even in the context of your final paragraph, the word 'inherently' for some reason made my brain refuse to read the first paragraph as anything other than a supposedly factual statement on genderqueer/genderfluid people, rather than merely a statement from perspective. My bad.

The best response, I think, to such fears is to point out that Manning isn't "adopting a role" or trying to alarm people by confounding gender stereotypes or treading a path between Jungian archetypes or whatever. Manning identifies as a woman and I should think wants nothing more than, in people's minds, to have always been a woman. There is no gender-play going in here, no cause for alarm. (This is not to say that alarm would necessarily be warranted under other circumstances, just that this fear seems to be based on an incorrect premise.)

The problem, though, with distancing yourself from personas as you put it (such as drag queens) in an attempt to win acceptance or legitimacy is that it leaves a lot of people (drag queens, crossdressers, etcetera) rather out in the cold. Sadly, this is fairly commonplace in trans communities (or rather, some trans communities) though as a pretty unfeminine trans woman, I can totally understand the desire to make sure people know your identity isn't about pretty dresses and outrageous makeup or whatever. It's a tricky one.
posted by Dysk at 4:57 PM on September 9, 2013


Chelsea Manning and the Media, on the Geek Feminism Blog, mostly rehashes what's already been said here, but I really liked this bit, especially the reminder that professional medical and psychological associations (which have been notoriously a bit slow to be supportive of trans rights) have all said that gender identity is stable, no matter the genitalia:

What may have come as a surprise to her supporters, however, was the blatant disregard the majority of media publications had for her clearly expressed wishes. Today News, the publication that originally broke the news, led with a story repeatedly calling Chelsea “him” and “Bradley”. Few news organisations showed any respect to begin with, The Guardian being a notable exception and many have stuck to their guns, making statements about “legal names” and her not having started transition yet.

This is blatant cissexism (the belief that the gender identity of trans people is inferior to cis people’s unquestioned gender identity); there is not any one point at which a trans woman “becomes” a woman, beyond her declaration as such. It’s a confusing concept for the majority of people who like black and white boundaries, but one that the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health all agree with. Gender identity is an intrinsic part of most people’s psyches, though like many things about their bodies, people don’t notice it unless something is wrong. It’s as immutable as sexuality (which, as most accept, can be fluid but not something changeable by external influence).

Unfortunately for the trans community, this is nothing new; trans victims of crime (mainly trans women of colour) are often misgendered and misnamed in media reports, to the extent that GLAAD has a specific publication dedicated to respectful reporting on them. This usually goes ignored.

posted by jaguar at 6:53 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


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