Skip to Content

Information on gender identity on Wikipedia (TAS/525/2023, issued on 22 January 2024)

The Ombudsman for Equality was asked for advice in a situation in which the name used by a private individual before the affirmation of their gender had been published without their consent in a Wikipedia article on them. Since Wikipedia articles are listed at the top of search engine results, people looking for this person's contact details, for example, also immediately learn that the person belongs to a gender minority.

The 2015 amendment to the Act on Equality between Women and Men (Equality Act) specifically sought to recognise the diversity of gender and prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. At the time, the rationale for the Government proposal (HE 19/2014) stated that belonging to a gender minority falls within the private sphere and an individual's non-conventional gender identity or gender expression is not always revealed at the workplace, at school or when dealing with the authorities. The privacy of gender minorities shall be respected, and promoting equality does not mean determining the gender identities or gender expressions of individuals. 

In their prior decision practice, the Ombudsman for Equality has pointed out that using a transgender person's old name (”deadname”) reveals that they belong to a gender minority and can expose them to discrimination based on gender identity. Therefore, the use of a transgender person's old name cannot be compared to using the old name of someone who has changed their last name for other reasons, such as marriage or divorce. The Ombudsman for Equality considers it essential that people are referred to by the names they wish to use.

The Ombudsman for Equality also points out that people belonging to gender minorities and pursuing an academic career, for example, also face special challenges since they have probably published scientific articles under their old name. For gender minorities, the continued use of the old name in connection with prior publications is conducive to exacerbating the trauma related to the old name and the fear of their gender identity being revealed and can expose them to discrimination based on gender identity. Therefore, researchers belonging to gender minorities can opt to exclude the literature linked to their old name from their publication lists, which understandably damages their careers and is an unreasonable consequence of the inflexible practices of the scientific community. 

The scientific community and publishers of scientific literature are increasingly recognising the higher privacy needs of, for example, trans people. The continued use of the old name simply because the researcher has published texts under that name in the past cannot be justified with the need to convey information, since other means of identifying publications (such as ORCID-ID) are used in the scientific community.

The Ombudsman does not have the power to demand the erasure or modification of published information and thus cannot take action against Wikipedia articles. The nature of Wikipedia as an open encyclopaedia is noteworthy in this regard. Any Wikipedia user can write articles on the platform and update the texts already published there. In Wikipedia publications, it is especially important to remember that belonging to a gender minority falls under the protection of privacy, and publishing an individual's old name can reveal this information. The Ombudsman stresses that people belonging to gender minorities are especially vulnerable to discrimination and its effects, so it is essential to safeguard their privacy.