Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Gender identity

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

This is a collection of information on Wikipedia's gender identity guidelines, including a table of community discussions and certain best practices for further discussion.

Current guideline

Refer to any person whose gender might be questioned with the name and gendered words (e.g. pronouns, man/woman/person, waiter/waitress/server) that reflect the person's most recent expressed self-identification as reported in the most recent reliable sources, even if it does not match what is most common in sources. This holds for any phase of the person's life, unless they have indicated a preference otherwise.

If a living

a privacy interest
separate from (and often greater than) the person's current name. For example:

  • From Laverne Cox: Laverne Cox (born May 29, 1972) ...
  • From Rachel Levine: Rachel Leland Levine (/ləˈvn/; born October 28, 1957) ...
  • Avoid: Jane Smith (formerly John Hammer, born May 1, 1980) ...

In the case of a living transgender or non-binary person, their birth name or former name (professional name, stage name, or pseudonym) should be included in the lead sentence of their main biographical article only if they were notable under that name. Introduce the prior name with either "born" or "formerly". For example:

  • From Chelsea Manning, notable under birth name: Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987) ...
  • From Elliot Page, notable under former professional name: Elliot Page (formerly Ellen Page; born February 21, 1987) ...

For deceased transgender or non-binary persons, their birth name or former name (professional name, stage name, or pseudonym) should be included in their main biographical article only if the name is documented in multiple

reliable sources
containing non-trivial coverage of the person.

Outside the main biographical article, generally do not discuss in detail changes of a person's name or gender presentation unless pertinent. Where a person's gender

without overemphasis
. Avoid confusing constructions (Jane Doe fathered a child) by rewriting (e.g., Jane Doe became a parent). In articles on works or other activity by a living trans or non-binary person before transition, use their current name as the primary name (in prose, tables, lists, infoboxes, etc.), unless they prefer their former name be used for past events. If they were notable under the name by which they were credited for the work or other activity, provide it in a parenthetical or footnote on first reference; add more parentheticals or footnotes only if needed to avoid confusion.

Paraphrase, elide, or use square brackets to replace portions of quotations to avoid

, except in rare cases where exact wording cannot be avoided, as where there is a pun on the notable former name, etc.

  • Critic X said "Juno needs a fine [actor] to play its pregnant teenage star, and [Elliot] Page has shown [himself] to be the perfect [man] for the job." involves many bracketed changes, so is better paraphrased: Critic X argued that portraying the pregnant teenage lead in the film Juno required a fine acting talent, and said that Page had proved perfect for the job.

In source citations, do not remove names of authors, or references to former names in titles of works. If the author is notable, the current name may be given, for example as "X (writing as Y)". Do not replace or supplement a person's former name with a current name if the two names have not been publicly connected and connecting them would out the person.

Neopronouns and the singular they

If a person exclusively goes by

neopronouns such as ze/hir, then the singular they should generally be used instead of neopronouns when referring to that individual, though their requested pronouns should usually be mentioned in their biography (such as in prose or in a footnote).[a]
Singular they pronouns are appropriate to use in reference to a person who goes by them.

Best practices

  1. When choosing how to refer to a transgender subject, consider the use–mention distinction. Before using a transgender person's former or legal name, consider only mentioning it instead. And before mentioning it, consider not including it at all. For example, the article Switched-On Bach mentions but doesn't use Wendy Carlos's former name: "Switched-On Bach is the first studio album by the American composer Wendy Carlos, released under her birth name Walter Carlos".
  2. Before including a transgender subject's former name inline, consider including it as a footnote instead. In the article about The Matrix the writers/directors are credited as the Wachowskis with a footnote adding that they were originally credited as The Wachowski Brothers.
  3. If a transgender subject's former or legal name is not well known or widely reported, don't include it, even if it appears in a few reliable sources.
  4. Avoid using an out-of-date,
    pre-transition appearance is especially well-known and notable. The article about The Wachowskis, for example, is better without any pre-coming-out photos since the way they looked is not well known as they shied away from public appearances. Conversely, the Caitlyn Jenner
    article does contain photos from before her transition because she was a well known Olympic athlete, so her appearance at the time is relevant to the article, though none are in the lead section.
  5. If consensus cannot be reached over which pronouns to use for a subject, rewriting to avoid pronouns altogether may be considered. However, this can make the article very awkward or confusing to read and therefore should only be done as a last resort.
  6. Some editors favor the use of the singular they in cases where gender identity is in question and no pronoun preference has been declared by the biographical subject. Other editors do not. They/them pronouns are always acceptable in article space for subjects who have stated that they prefer them.


Discussion timeline

A central table of community discussions on gender identity from throughout Wikipedia. For anyone interested in discussing or changing our gender identity guidelines, it's helpful to become familiar with prior discussions on the topic. The Sitewide forum column indicates when a discussion was done via a sitewide-consensus forum. Either the forum's acronym is entered, or it is left blank when it is a local consensus.

Date Sitewide forum Section Page Conclusion/Notes
Jun 2004 Trans people and pronouns Manual of Style/Biography The use of pronouns on the article Patrick Califia was discussed, but not concluded. The main propositions were to use only masculine pronouns or feminine pronouns when referring to time before Patrick's transition and masculine after. Discussion was primarily about clarity for the reader e.g.: alignment with Patrick's presentation and the (then) recency of his transition. Patrick's identity was also discussed in terms of how it might make Patrick feel (who was contacted but didn't seem to reply) and respect for his current identity.
Jan 2006 Identity Manual of Style First instance of gender identity guidance, which was added without any discussion. Original wording: Where known, use terminology that subjects use for themselves (
self identification). This can mean calling an individual the term they use, or calling a group the term most widely used by that group. This includes referring to transgender
individuals according to the name and pronoun they use to identify themselves.
Apr 2007 Transgender pronoun / identity Manual of Style A discussion of the early IDENTITY guidance, with reference to Brandon Teena and Wendy Carlos.
Aug 2007 Pronouns Chevalier d'Éon An early discussion of pronoun use for an historical subject whose social gender changed throughout their life. Superseded by the 2014/09 RfC.
Sep 2007 Transgender pronoun issue Manual of Style An early and prolonged discussion of gender identity and pronoun retroactivity. Almost immediately superseded by the changes to MOS:IDENTITY, below (2007/10)
Oct 2007 New language added to MOS:IDENTITY Manual of Style More specific and expansive guidance for pronouns and names of trans people: A transgender person's latest preference of name and pronoun should be adopted when referring to any phase of that person's life, unless this usage is overridden by that person's own expressed preference as to how this should be managed. This guidance was reduced in scope of application in the 2015/10 RfC, below, and restored to unrestricted application in the 2021/02 RfC.
Aug 2008 Gender Manual of Style An editor requests a style guide for gender identity and pronouns.
Feb 2009 Gender of gender-ambiguous persons Manual of Style A brief discussion of sex versus gender identity.
Jun 2009 Gender pronouns Manual of Style Discussion of the application of MOS:IDENTITY in the case of Chaz Bono.
Jun 2010 Manning's sexuality/gender identity Chelsea Manning Question of possible trans identity prior to Manning's public transition.
Sep 2010 It is relevant that Manning is transgender Chelsea Manning Question of possible trans identity prior to Manning's public transition.
Apr 2011 Pronouns Sonia Burgess Application of IDENTITY to a BLP subject who uses both masculine and feminine pronouns in different contexts.
Aug 2011 Renée Richards, and Gender Identity Manual of Style An editor seeks guidance about preferred pronouns and retroactivity.
Dec 2011 Singular They use because the subject prefers to use gender neutral pronouns Manual of Style An early and inconclusive discussion of self-declared they/them pronouns.
May 2012 Fundamental problems with MOS:IDENTITY Village pump Proposal to subordinate MOS:IDENTITY to WP:COMMONNAME; long and inconclusive discussion.
Jun 2012 New template for trans women Village pump Proposed templates for Trans women and Trans men BLPs.
Aug 2012 Proposal to modify MOS:IDENTITY Village pump Proposal to replace gender self-identification in BLPs with the most common treatment of the subject's gender in reliable sources.
Apr 2013 Changed names in the case of transsexualism Manual of Style/Biography An early and unanswered attempt to raise the question of former names of trans and nonbinary people.
Aug 2013 RM Chelsea Manning move request 1 Chelsea Manning This first RM found no consensus to move the article; this was resolved in the next RM, below (2013/10).
Oct 2013 RM Chelsea Manning move request 2 Chelsea Manning Chelsea Manning's page was moved from her former to her current name about a month and a half after she came out. The debate over the move received some outside media coverage. (See: the media section at the top of Talk:Chelsea Manning.)
Sep 2014 RfC Should the historic figure of the Chevalier d'Éon be referred to as a man or a woman? Chevalier d'Éon The close found no consensus for an exception to MOS:IDENTITY, so the historical figure's female gender identity at the time of death was upheld in the article.
Oct 2014 Birth Name Laverne Cox

This discussion raised questions concerning the sources for Cox's former name and citogenesis issues; the matter was revisited in 2017/04.

Jun 2015 VP Problem analogous to the above discussion Village pump An attempt to clarify the Caitlyn Jenner issues by analogy.
Jun 2015 VP MOS:IDENTITY clarification Village pump It was decided that in the 1976 Summer Olympics article, Caitlyn Jenner should be referred to as male rather than female. This was a partial rejection of the Manual of Style's gender identity guidelines, which, at the time, were unequivocal: Wikipedia favors self-designation [of gender identity], even when usage by reliable sources indicates otherwise. Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman") that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life, unless the subject has indicated a preference otherwise.
Jun 2015 Birth name in parenthetical Caitlyn Jenner Raised the question of whether to include the former name in the lead sentence; this question was brought to the RfC immediately below.
Jul 2015 VP Clarifying/updating WP:BIRTHNAME with respect to MOS:IDENTITY Village pump It was decided that that Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Biography § Names should be updated to say that a trans or non-binary person's former name should only be mentioned in the lead if they were notable under that name.
Aug 2015 Pronoun pref Manual of style An inconclusive discussion about gender fluidity and self-identification.
Sep 2015 RM Requested move 15 September 2015 Sonia Burgess Requested move at a time when the subject was still alive and was using both former and chosen names. Closed with no consensus.
Sep 2015 MOS:IDENTITY clarification close Manual of Style Discussion of the close to the RfC listed in 2015/06 above.
Sep 2015 Outing and Wikipedia Manual of Style/Biography Inconclusive discussion of non-notable deadnames.
Sep 2015 RfC Cisgender is mainstream and germane, Should all of the uses of cisgender be included in this article? Caitlyn Jenner Consensus that the term "cisgender" not be used without sourcing.
Sep 2015 MOS:IDENTITY clarification close Caitlyn Jenner Discussion of the close to the RfC listed in 2015/06 above.
Oct 2015 Preparing two proposals that would change transgender policy Manual of Style/Biography Discussion of proposed MOS:IDENTITY changes.
Oct 2015 References to academic publications with transgender authors Manual of Style Discussion of IDENTITY issues and author names.
Oct 2015 Parallel discussion on transgender authors in citations Village pump Discussion of IDENTITY issues and author names.
Oct 2015 VP Clarifying MOS:IDENTITY in articles in which transgender individuals are mentioned in passing Village pump A few months after Caitlyn Jenner came out, the scope of the MoS's gender identity guidance was essentially narrowed to main biographical articles. For those, editors were still advised to use the person's latest expressed gender self-identification for any phase of that person's life. But for articles where a trans person was just mentioned in passing, the MoS now offered little guidance except that editors should use context to determine how to refer to them. This was later overturned in the 2021/02 RfC, below.
Jan 2016 "The Wachowskis" vs "The Wachowski Brothers" The Matrix Discussion of how to credit The Wachowskis for their previous works, leading to the RfC below (2016/05).
Mar 2016 Gender changes and deadnaming Manual of Style Inconclusive discussion of the state of MOS:DEADNAME following the 2015/10 RfC.
May 2016 RfC RfC: How should the directors of this film be presented in the lead? The Matrix The RfC close found policy-based consensus for "The Wachowskis".
Aug 2016 RfC RfC: Allow inclusion of former names in lead section of biographies covering transgender and non-binary people Manual of Style/Biography Proposal to reverse the provisions concerning non-notable former names of Trans people established in the 2015/07 RfC. The non-administrator close found no consensus for any particular changes.
Nov 2016 Retroactive use of transgender pronouns in indirect quotations? Manual of Style Proposed solution was to paraphrase without using gendered terms.
Dec 2016 RfC RFC: Gender Albert Cashier RfC found insufficient RS evidence to support the strict application of MOS:GENDERID in the case of this 19th-century individual.
Apr 2017 No birth name Laverne Cox This discussion found no reliable sources for Cox's former name.
May 2017 Naming transgender people in other articles than their main biographical article Manual of Style A brief discussion of chosen names and former names in articles other than the primary BLP; this state of policy was set aside in 2021/02.
May 2017 RfC RfC regarding MOS:GENDERID for genderqueer people Requests for comment A resoundingly rejected proposal that would have mandated pronounless writing rather than the singular they in article text concerning genderqueer and nonbinary people.
Mar 2018 Applications of the transgender/non-binary birth name guidelines Manual of Style/Biography An editor asks questions that are not firmly addressed until the 2020/08 RfC.
Mar 2018 RfC
Photo, RfC on article image
Daniel Mallory Ortberg It was decided that it was better not to have a photo for writer
Daniel Mallory Ortberg
than to have an old photo from before he was out.
Jun 2018 VP Guidelines regarding birth names of trans individuals Village pump An editor questioned the treatment of birth names of trans people; diffuse and inconclusive discussion ensued.
Jul 2018 The conflict between deadnaming and ABOUTSELF, versus VERIFIABILITY and previous RfCs WT:BLP Discussed the sourcing requirements required to trigger MOS:DEADNAME provisions.
Jul 2018 RfC Request for Comment about pronoun usage Albert Cashier Albert Cashier was a Union soldier who was assigned female at birth and lived as a man for over 50 years. In 2016 it was decided that the article could refer to Cashier with female pronouns. But in 2018 it was decided that the article should be rewritten to avoid pronouns entirely.
Aug 2018 VP WP:GENDERID advice requested Village pump Question about pronounless prose vs. singular they.
Sep 2018 RfC More recent pictures The Wachowskis It was unanimously decided that, for the The Wachowskis article, it was better to not have a lead image than to have an old photo where one of the two sisters was not out.
Jan 2019 Gender information Village pump An editor inquired about the presentation of gender information in tables, etc. The discussion was inconclusive.
Jan 2019 RfC Request for Comment - Crediting the Wachowskis The Matrix (franchise) It was decided that Lana and Lilly Wachowski should be credited as The Wachowskis in the leads and infoboxes of articles about films they made before they came out as women, with footnotes detailing how they were originally credited.
February 2019 Pronouns Rose McGowan This discussion found enough evidence that Rose McGowan continues to use gendered pronouns to meet the requirements of MOS:GENDERID.
Feb 2019 The Signpost: Humour: Pesky Pronouns Wikipedia Signpost
Feb 2019 MfD The Signpost: Humor deletion discussion Miscellany for deletion
Mar 2019 MOS:GENDERID and death, MOS:GENDERID Suggested change Manual of Style Discussion of the Sonia Burgess case; the requested move was resolved below.
Mar 2019 RM Recent move, Requested move 12 March 2019 Sonia Burgess It was decided that the article on human rights lawyer Sonia Burgess should use her female name as the title, regardless of the fact that she was still presenting as male at work when she died.
May 2019 RM
Requested move 1 May 2019: Genderqueer → Non-binary
Non-binary gender The fourth contentious RM discussion about whether to move the Genderqueer page. A narrow consensus was reached to move the page to Non-binary gender.
May 2019
second alleged perpetrator (minor)
STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting Discussion over how to refer to a suspect in a 2019 school shooting who is reported to be transgender. A consensus formed to use his chosen name, but to also mention his legal name.
Jun 2019 RfC RFC about Tilda Swinton List of people with non-binary gender identities Tilda Swinton made comments about her gender that some people interpreted as her coming out as non-binary, but it was decided the situation was not clear-cut enough to put her name on a list of people with non-binary identities.
Jul 2019 Extended-confirmed-protected edit request on 18 July 2019 Stephanie Hirst The subject of an article requests, on the talk page, that her former name be removed from the article.
Nov 2019 Including dead names Manual of Style/Biography A preliminary discussion on deadname guidance, featuring highly polarized arguments for including and for excluding them.
Aug 2020 RfC RFC to broaden MOS:DEADNAME Manual of Style/Biography This discussion extended the exclusion of non-notable former names of trans people, established in 2015/07, to the rest of article space (rather than applying to the lead sentence only). Language to implement this change in the MOS proved elusive.
Oct 2020 RfC RFC to broaden MOS:DEADNAME#Further refinement of wording Manual of Style/Biography This implementation discussion proved more divisive and less decisive than the RFC it was intended to implement.
Nov 2020 RfC RFC to broaden MOS:DEADNAME#Three-part policy proposal Manual of Style/Biography Another bootless implementation discussion concerning the same RfC. The key issue here was whether the pre-RfC language merely permitted the inclusion of notable headbands in the lead sentence, or whether this placement was required by the guideline.
Nov 2020 RfC RFC on inclusion of Nicole Maines' former name Nicole Maines This discussion determined that, although Nicole Maines' former name has been discussed in reliable sources, it should not be included in the article per recent changes extending MOS:DEADNAME to "article space".
Jan 2021 RfC Birth name again#New poll after death Sophie (musician) This revival of an RfC initially launched before Sophie's death asked about the inclusion of her deadname, either in the lead or elsewhere in the article. The interesting close found consensus against its inclusion in the lede but no consensus about its inclusion elsewhere; in the first half of 2021 the stable version of the article excluded the deadname.
Feb 2021 RfC RFC on how MOS:DEADNAME should handle attribution for previously released works Manual of Style/Biography This RfC, with wide participation, decisively overturned the 2015/06 and 2015/10 decisions about articles where transgender people are mentioned in passing. In almost all cases, the new guideline requires the person's chosen name to be presented in the body text, with the former name mentioned parenthetically or in a footnote.
Feb 2021 RfC RFC: Use of deadname in quotes Manual of Style/Biography This RfC ratified new guidance limiting the inclusion of deadnames in quotations and recommending paraphrase as the most widely-appropriate solution.
Mar 2021 RfC RfC on prior names Elliot Page RfC concluded that only Page's notable former name, but not his birth name, should be included.
Mar 2021 Transgender and nonbinary Elliot Page Discussion of the scope of transgender and nonbinary categories.
Jun 2021 RfC Request for comment on infobox image, if any Elliot Page RfC determined that it was better to have no infobox image at all, given the limitations of the images available post-transition.
Jun 2021 RfC Request for comment: Pronouns James Barry (surgeon) Closely argued, civil discussion about pronoun usage and GENDERID. While the proposal sought to divorce the pronoun question from whether Barry was trans or not, inevitably much of the discussion centered on this point. Policy arguments were judged "equally compelling" and no consensus was found; the article continues to avoid pronouns.
Jul 2021 Notability prior to transition Rachel Levine A surprisingly civil, source-based discussion to determine whether this BLP subject met Notability standards prior to her transition. It seems not.
Aug 2021 RfC RfC on non-notable pre-transition names of deceased trans people Manual of Style/Biography No consensus to offer MOS guidance on the non-notable deadnames of deceased trans people, which therefore must be discussed in a case by case basis.
Feb 2022 Pronouns that aren't Paperboy Prince neopronoun issue, resolved in favor of they/them pronouns.
Feb 2022 RM Requested move 4 February 2022 Gloria Hemingway Whether to move the article to the name indicated as preferred by the article's subject and change the article's pronoun usage, despite the subject being deceased and most sources, including those published after her death, using her deadname. The consensus was to move the article.
Oct 2022 RfC Neopronouns RfC (moved) Manual of Style/Biography Large discussion about how to address the use of neopronouns in BLPs where the subject has a stated preference for them. The vast majority of editors decided in favour of using the singular they while allowing for a brief mention of the subject's preferred neopronouns.
Jan 2023 GENDERID names Manual of Style/Biography
Jan 2023 it/its as a personal pronoun Manual of Style/Gender identity
Mar 2023 Requested move 15 March 2023 Suzy Izzard Not moved because of uncertainty about how to interpret her public statements or apply existing policy
May 2023 VP RFC: MOS:GENDERID and the deadnames of deceased trans and nonbinary persons Village pump
June 2023 VP RfC: Proposed addition to MOS:GENDERID - when to include deadnames Village pump
August 2023 RfC RfC on the inclusion of Isla Bryson's former name Isla Bryson case Whether to include the former name of Isla Bryson's, a living transgender woman who did not meet notability standards prior to transitioning. Consensus to include in body but not to include in lede.
August 2023 VP Revision deletion and oversight for deadnames Village pump Consensus that revision deletion and the use of oversight for deadnames is a matter of judgment and depends on the case. Additional consensus that when a deadname appears in reliable sources, the question of whether to publish it on Wikipedia is one for editorial judgment and should be based on the specific facts of the case.

Other style guides

The following are style guides and reference materials for writing about trans people created by other organizations. They provide useful guidance, explanations, and demonstrate best-practices. However they have not been thoroughly vetted by the Wikipedia community and their advice may not fully reflect community consensus.


See also