When Caitlyn Jenner announced her new female identity Monday, she received a flood of supportive tweets from a public that previously knew her as an Olympic decathlete named Bruce. But the Internet responded in one other noteworthy way: Almost immediately, editors at Wikipedia, that repository of all human knowledge, set about revising the article on Jenner to reflect her transition and her new name.
Wikipedia lets users view recent revisions to an article, and the notes that the crowd-sourced encyclopedia’s editors left for each other were thoughtful and precise. What’s the right caption for a photo taken before Jenner came out as transgender? Is it proper to use “she” in describing the years in which Jenner was competing in men’s track and field? “No more ‘his’ since she is female,’” one editor wrote.
Some editors were more dogmatic than others. One even changed “he” to “she” in a direct quotation before another editor changed it back. But a respectful, nuanced account of a potentially delicate subject had taken shape as of Monday afternoon. The anonymous volunteers highlighted both the urgency of updating an information source that everybody uses, and the growing public recognition of a transgender woman’s right to define herself in her own terms.