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House Staffers Banned From Wikipedia Over Anti-Transgender Edits

"Orange is the New Black" actress Laverne Cox

"Orange is the New Black" actress Laverne Cox // Alexandra Wyman/Invision for Netflix/AP

A House staffer's edits to a number of Wikipedia entries on transgender people has caused an uproar in the LGBT community and, once again, resulted in Wikipedia banning a House IP address.

The staffer, who identifies as a "womyn" in comments on the site, edited the Wikipedia entry for transgender actress Laverne Cox of Orange Is the New Black earlier this month to describe her as "a real man pretending to be a woman." The staffer appears to work in the Rayburn House office building.

The staffer, via notes posted to Wikipedia, argues that she is being targeted in a "political witch hunt" by the "trans-lobby." "I don't see how disagreeing with the concept that transphobia is a negative thing is considered 'hate speech'. The whole concept of 'transphobia' is being promoted to trivialize the experiences of real women (or 'womyn-born-womyn' as some people call us)," the staffer wrote.

The staffer also complained of being labeled a "TERF," or "Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist," a term used to describe feminists who believe that trans women are not "real" women.

"These days, If I complain about a man using the womyn's restroom then I'm cosidered [sic] transphobic and get called a TERF. This has been happening a lot lately here in the halls of Congerss [sic]. If feeling uncomfortable about some creeper coming into the same bathroom as me is considered transphobic, then why is transphobia considered a bad thing?" the staffer wrote. "I wouldn't be surprised if the Admin who banned this IP is trans. If she is a real woman, then she should should be following real Feminists like Julie Bindel, not sellouts to the trans lobby like Anita Sarkeesian."

The same IP address has been linked to a number of other entries related to transgender individuals and issues have been edited with a similar mindset, leading Wikipedia editors to assume that they are coming from the same staffer. Those edits include an alteration of the Wikipedia entry for Camp Trans, an annual transgender protest outside of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival which excludes trans people. The user added a line indicating that the event "was intended for real women," which has since been removed by moderators.

In comments to Wikipedia editors, the user also accused the European Union of "using neocolonialist methods to impose transgenderism on the nation of Georgia" and criticized some members of Congress, the majority of whom are Democrats, for supporting the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide work protections for LGBT individuals.

The comments were posted anonymously via an IP address that covers a number of House offices and could not be narrowed to a single staffer or congressional office. So the site, as it has done in the past, banned the entire IP address from editing Wikipedia entries for a month.

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, called the edits "deeply troubling." HRC is now calling on House Speaker John Boehner to investigate which indivdual (or potentially individuals) made the anonymous edits. "At a time when more and more Americans are recognizing and upholding the rights and dignity of transgender Americans, it is an unwelcome reminder of how much work remains to be done," HRC vice president Jeff Krehely said in a release.

The edits were first noted by CongressEdits, a Twitter account that automatically posts Wikipedia entry edits that are tied to congressional IP addresses. The account has become a major resouce for journalists and advocacy groups since it launched earlier this year.

Ars Technica notes this is the second time in a month that House users have been banned from editing Wikipedia.

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// December 19
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