Fandom is a diverse place, both in terms of our community and in the breadth of content that our wikis chronicle. Whether the topic at hand takes place in a real world setting or in a fictional construct, it is important to document and describe individuals and events sensitively and appropriately.
This is particularly true when it comes to cultural topics that are being discussed by and evolving in society at large. Gender identity is a prime example of this. As society has become more inclusive and understanding of individuals who are non-binary and transgender, representation of these individuals and discussion about gender identity has likewise increased across pop culture.
Introduction & Purpose
As non-binary and transgender representation increased across intellectual properties, some of Fandom's top communities began to ask for advice from Fandom Staff on how to handle written descriptions and social discussions of characters who are non-binary or transgender. These communities recognized the importance of finding proper, inclusive language in their descriptions. But as society grows in its understanding, sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what the proper and right things to write are, especially in an era where terminologies can quickly become outmoded or stigmatized.
For that reason, in the Spring of 2021, Fandom put together a fifteen-member panel to discuss how we can best guide our communities on the topic of gender identity. This panel was staffed by a diverse set of individuals - including members of the non-binary and transgender communities. This panel also included outside experts with lived experience in this particular topic.
The following document represents Fandom's best practices and guidance for dealing with gender identity in Fandom communities. This document is meant to serve as an educational guide for our members and provide clear answers to commonly asked questions. While this document is extensive, it can not cover every use case or question our communities may have. You are always free to reach out to Fandom Staff to request further help.
Additionally, please note that this document will be subject to further revisions. This topic in particular is getting better refined and respectfully discussed with every passing day, and it is likely that these discussions may result in updating our best practices from time to time. This document may also have future revisions added with extra examples or FAQs not anticipated at the original publication of this document.
First, it is important to start with a clear definition of gender. Our panel chose to use the United Kingdom government's definition, where gender is:
- a social construction relating to behaviours and attributes based on labels of masculinity and femininity; gender identity is a personal, internal perception of oneself and so the gender category someone identifies with may not match the sex they were assigned at birth; where an individual may see themselves as a man, a woman, as having no gender, or as having a non-binary gender.
Discussions or definitions of gender sometimes also involve reference to a person's 'sex', which is commonly understood to designate biological differences. These biological differences can be observed in anatomy, hormones, cells, or chromosomes and may, or may not, align with each other, or with the person's gender. Outside of medical concerns, it is rare that there is a need to discuss someone's sex when the discussion should instead be about gender.
Other terms we will use throughout this guide are:
- Cisgender - an adjective describing a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth.
- Transgender - an adjective describing a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.
- Non-binary - denoting or relating to a gender identity that is not exclusive to 'male' or 'female' and may not be defined in terms of this traditional binary opposition at all.
- Intersex - Intersex is an umbrella term for people with differences in sex traits or reproductive anatomy that occur at points between the extremes of the sex spectrum - these extremes are traditionally denoted as 'male' and 'female' sex. People who fall close to either extreme are perisex (non-intersex). There are many possible differences in intersex genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or chromosomes, compared to the ways that perisex bodies develop.
- Transition - transitioning is the time period during which a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. While not all transgender people transition, a great many do at some point in their lives. Gender transition looks different for every person. Steps in a gender transition may include changing your clothing, appearance, body, name, or the pronoun people use to refer to you ('she'/'her', 'he'/'him' and 'they'/'them').
- Deadname - the name that a transgender person was given at birth and no longer uses upon transitioning. It should be noted that not every transitioning individual changes their name.
- Misgendering - referring to someone using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify. Misgendering is often used as a form of aggression against a transgender individual.
Note that it is wise to stick to using the terminology above and not use additional terms, as those terminologies may be offensive or outdated.
General Style Guide
Below are some general, simple guidelines we'd recommend taking into account when creating content on our communities:
- Do not use any outdated binary labels (ex. 'FTM'/'MTF', 'female-to-male'/'male-to-female') unless that character specifically uses that label themself. Instead use labels that affirm their gender, e.g. 'trans woman' or 'trans man' or 'non-binary person'.
- Avoid using the phrase 'identifies as' or similarly worded phrases - simply use the word 'is'.
- Do not use the term 'preferred pronouns' as this implies that they are somehow not real or that they are optional to use. Simply use 'pronouns'.
- Use 'whose gender identity does not match the gender they/she/he were/was assigned at birth' (commonly abbreviated as AGAB) instead of 'born as the wrong sex / born in the wrong body'.
- Use 'assigned female/male at birth' (common short form 'AFAB' or 'AMAB') instead of 'biological woman/man' or 'biologically female/male'.
- Do not use transgender as a noun. It is an adjective. For example, 'a transgender person/woman/man', 'transgender people/women/men'.
Being transgender, non-binary or any other form of gender identity is not an 'issue' and should not be referred to as such.
- Likewise being transgender, non-binary or any other form of gender identity is not a mental or behavioural disorder.
- Deadnaming is disallowed on our network unless there is a specific, justifiable reason for inclusion in relation to a fictional character. Being transgender by itself does not count as such a reason. (We will address this topic in more depth in the next section.)
As stated earlier in this document, a deadname is a name a transgender person was given at birth and no longer uses. For an individual, changing their name - if they so choose - is a very important and sensitive step when it comes to sharing themself with those around them.
Unfortunately, deadnaming is a common form of aggression and discrimination that transgender people face.
In the spring of 2021, Fandom made the decision to explicitly prohibit deadnaming of real-life individuals on our website. If an actor, artist, director, or any other real-life individual states that they should be referred to by a different name, it is important to change references on your wiki to reflect this. A previous deadname is allowed to redirect (using the MediaWiki #REDIRECT syntax) to the proper name, but no other use of that name should appear on the site.
This issue is more complex when it involves a fictional character. When referenced in canon, transitioning and the deadname can often become important plot points and part of a character's arc. Additionally, if a character transitions in a later season of a TV show, it may become confusing to newer viewers to see a completely different name attached to a character that they know only by the deadname.
To that end, we would recommend:
- If the character is introduced post-transition, only ever refer to that character by the name they are introduced as and use the appropriate pronouns.
- If a character transitions at a point of time in the middle of canon:
- Move the character's article page to the appropriate title.
- At the top of the character's page, you may designate the character's deadname as part of the introduction. We would recommend using the terminology "(previously referred to as X)".
- Avoid using the deadname for the rest of the article and continue to use the proper pronouns regardless of whether describing the character before or after transition.
- If the character, pre-transition, is mentioned by name on an episode/book/level page, use their proper name with a singular reference to their previous name to help add clarity. For example - "X (referred to in this episode under the name 'Y')". For the entirety of that article, use the actual name and again use the proper pronouns.
When an individual - a fictional character or real-life person - states the pronouns they should be identified by, it is expected that all references to the individual on a wiki should match.
If the individual does not clearly state their pronouns, the following should be assumed:
- An individual who declares himself to be a transgender man should ultilize he/him. This is regardless of where he is in his transition.
- An individual who declares herself to be a transgender female should utilize she/her. This is regardless of where she is in her transition.
- Individuals who declare themselves to be gender non-binary should utilize they/them.
In fictional worlds, hints or allusions are sometimes used before a character is revealed to be transgender or non-binary. However, without a definitive statement of identification from the character, it is proper to defer to how the character is generally portrayed by others in the setting. For instance, if others refer to the character by using 'he/him' pronouns, until the character declares something that would contradict that, he should continue to be referred to as such.
If a character has never had a clear pronoun used to refer to them, and never stated their pronouns themselves, the default pronouns used should be "they" and "them" - this is natural English language for a person you don't know the gender of. E.g. "They first appeared in episode three of the second season."
Some IPs or individuals may use different pronouns rather than the traditional English 'he'/'she'/'they'. Proponents of utilizing these different pronouns, often called 'neopronouns', cite these as being more inclusive. While we would recommend our content creators be generally aware of the most common neopronouns - a good resource can be found here -  - we would also recommend utilizing the cisnormative pronoun set unless the IP/individual in question clearly uses a set of neopronouns.
Lastly, always remember when in doubt, pronouns are not needed. Pronouns are helpful shortcuts that exist in language but they are not compulsory. It is possible to write about individuals by solely relying on using their names.
- LGBTQIA+ Resources - A guidelines & resource page for the broader LGBTQIA+ community