In-place edit policy for transgender name changes

Status: [10-Feb-16] approved by W3M, [Aug-16] citation added to in-place modification policy


By policy, W3C restricts in-place modifications of Technical Reports to repairing broken markup, broken links, broken style sheets, and to indicate the availability of a newer version.  When modifications other than this limited set are needed W3C's policy is to republish the document at a new URI.  W3C's persistence policy dictates that the original document then remain available at its original URI.  When the document in question is a W3C Recommendation the natural interpretation of the W3C Process for revising a Recommendation requires Member Review of a Proposed Edited Recommendation even for trivial editorial corrections.

These policies combine to create a significant hardship for individuals who change their legal name for the purpose of establishing an identity as a different gender than that to which they were assigned at birth.  While recognition of legal rights of transgender persons varies by jurisdiction, laws covering discrimination and bias crime on the basis of gender identity do exist in many jurisdictions and continue to evolve.

Were W3C to enforce its in-place modification and persistence policies in the situation that a person is named -- e.g. as an author, editor, contributor, etc. -- using an identifier that no longer matches their gender identity W3C would increase the risk that this individual would be subject to undue attention and unlawful discrimination.  Any such discrimination (whether unlawful or not) would violate W3C's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and the damage would be difficult to repair.

Therefore, this policy amends the in-place modification policy for "end state" documents (Recommendations and Group Notes) to allow change in-place to an individual's name upon request to a W3C Ombudsperson.


Per Wikipedia, all US states allow "gender markers" to be changed on driver's licenses.  More than a dozen US states will amend an old birth certificate to correct a gender designation.  Wikipedia further notes a European Court decision stating that the failure to provide a mechanism to obtain a new birth certificate in a different gender was a violation of rights, specifically vacating a defense that a birth certificate is a historical document.  A Japanese court returned a verdict allowing a family registry record to be amended.  Citations for additional jurisdictions welcome.


An individual identified in a W3C Recommendation or Group Note may request a change of name for the purpose of matching gender identity by contacting any of the W3C Ombudspersons.   The requesting individual must identify (by URI) each of the W3C Technical Reports in which the change of name is requested.  The Ombudsperson will confirm with the requester that the situation conforms to this policy for transgender name changes and then instruct the W3C Webmaster to modify those technical reports listed in the request that fall within this policy.   Other than enumerating to the W3C Webmaster the Technical Reports to be changed and the specific change to be made, the Ombudsperson will keep the conversation with the individual fully confidential.  The W3C Webmaster shall not question the Ombudsperson as to the reason for the change; that is, the Webmaster shall not expect explicit reference to this policy by the Ombudsperson.

Some individuals may request to only shorten the presentation of their old given name to just an initial, especially if that initial matches their new legal name.

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some frequently asked questions about this policy are maintained in a separate document.

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