UT Libraries ‘queer’ the record, edit LGBTQ+ Wikipedia pages during edit-a-thon

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Courtney Thomas, a sophomore humanities and Theatre and Dance double major, works at the “Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon” event in the PCL on March 10, 2020. The event was hosted by the UT Libraries staff and had a focus on correcting LGBTQIA+ Wikipedia pages.

Photo Credit: Dawson McCall | Daily Texan Staff

UT Libraries hosted a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on Tuesday, inviting students to edit LGBTQ+-related Wikipedia pages. 

UT Libraries usually hosts an edit-a-thon once a semester, with different past themes including women in STEM and indigenous languages. Participants at the events add missing information to existing Wikipedia pages and fix information that is presented in problematic ways, said Gina Bastone, UT humanities librarian for English literature and women’s and gender studies.  

For the “Queering the Record” edit-a-thon, students worked to fix misidentification and inaccurate language used in queer and trans people’s pages, Bastone said. 

“One of our primary goals is to get more students involved in editing Wikipedia, especially women-identified students, queer students, trans students,” Bastone said. “In terms of talking about queer folks and trans folks online, there’s a lot of work to do.”

According to Bastone, 90% of Wikipedia editors identify as cisgender men, and only 1% identify as transgender. “Queering the Record” aims to involve Wikipedia’s underrepresented editors, Bastone said.  

Elle Covington, liaison librarian for social work, kinesiology and educational psychology, became involved with UT Libraries’ Wikipedia edit-a-thons as a graduate student. She said the edit-a-thons give students the opportunity to learn about quality sources as well as how to remedy the spread of misinformation.

"Students have the practice and the access to all of these resources (in order) to really help,” Covington said. “(The library’s edit-a-thon) is a great opportunity for students to learn and get practice and also to spread that around in a way that’s more open to people who don’t have access to the resources we have access to here at UT.”

Bastone said the information on Wikipedia is not necessarily wrong, but there is missing information. 

“Some of the information is also presented in problematic ways, especially around trans and non-binary identity,” Bastone said. “There is a lot of language that isn’t quite accurate to how people describe themselves.” 

Economics sophomore Richard Mendoza said Wikipedia edit-a-thons can help stop the spread of harmful rhetoric and provide correct information to many students who frequently use the website.

“Whenever you have false information about a certain group of people, you can alienate them, and that is the doorway to justifying violence,” Mendoza said. “A lot of students use Wikipedia, so if students were to attend this they would be contributing to something that a lot of students, not just at UT, use.”

UT Libraries will hold an art and feminism edit-a-thon Thursday.