This week in woke Wikipedia

Dalit activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan and Whose Knowledge co-founder Anasuya Sengupta present on a panel at Wikimania, August 11, 2017. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Last December, Bloomberg Businessweek asked the question, “Is Wikipedia Woke”? The article noted that the online encyclopedia is dominated by white male voices. They also pointed to several initiatives, including the Black Lunch Table, Women in Red, and Whose Knowledge, that aim to improve representation of marginalized communities on Wikipedia.

As a queer black trans person, I am a member of several of the groups that are underrepresented on Wikipedia. I’ve made it my mission to improve coverage in these areas, even stating explicitly on my user page that “Transgender/nonbinary people and black people are my priorities”. This statement has led some editors to assert, without evidence, that I am unduly biased or willing to ignore Wikipedia’s rules about notability and reliable sourcing in order to further my agenda. The idea that the cisgender people and white people who dominate the encyclopedia have unacknowledged biases of their own usually doesn’t occur to them.

I’ve spoken about trans issues on Wikipedia on several occasions, most recently as an invited speaker at the Wikimedia Foundation in June. But in my post today I want to highlight recent Wikipedia articles I’ve worked on that are biographies of women, both trans and cis. I’ve contributed these new articles to Women in Red, a highly active WikiProject, with monthly virtual edit-a-thons focusing on various themes. This month’s themes are Hispanic and Latina Women, Women in the Olympics and Paralympics, and Women from New Zealand, but they also have an ongoing 1 day 1 woman initiative, which encourages editors to write articles about women in any areas of interest.

Here are the new biographies of notable women that I started this week:

Raquel Willis

Raquel Willis speaks at the San Francisco Trans March, June 23, 2017. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Raquel Willis is a trans writer and activist. She is a national organizer for the Transgender Law Center, an organization I started volunteering with recently. I saw Raquel speak at this year’s San Francisco Trans March, which is where I took the photo that I added to her article. I wrote the article after the Transgender Law Center posted on Facebook that Raquel was included in this year’s Root 100 List of Most Influential African Americans.

Shay Neary

Shay Neary is a fashion model, and the first openly trans plus-size model to be featured in a major campaign. I learned about Shay in an article about anti-fat and anti-trans bias that was published this week. Sadly but predictably, being a fat trans woman has exposed Shay to a lot of hate speech. Her contributions to the fashion world should be celebrated, not mocked.

Annie Segarra

Annie Segarra, also known as Annie Elainey, is a queer disabled Latina YouTuber and artist who advocates for LGBT and disability rights. I’d watched one of Annie’s videos awhile back, on “How to Spot a Fake Disability”. I decided to write an article on her this week when I saw that she was scheduled to be featured in the NBC Latino 20. In researching Annie’s article I also learned interesting facts about her condition, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and about one of her sources of empowerment, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

I encourage others to help make Wikipedia more “woke” by improving representation of marginalized groups. You don’t have to commit to writing an entire article; especially if you’re a new editor, it’s best to start out small, by improving existing articles. Fixing typos, updating links, reversing vandalism, everything helps. Let’s all work together to make the world’s biggest encyclopedia truly representative of the diverse world we live in.