Today, the world observes Transgender Day of Remembrance, honoring the memory of those murdered in gender-related violence. It’s an important day, but also a reminder that as long as same-sex relations are a crime, as they still are in 72 countries, anti-transgender bigotry and violence can be expected to continue unchecked. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation, but transgender people are often persecuted under the same laws. If this makes you feel incredibly powerless, keep reading—because we’re not.
The role of transgender activists in these countries is all the more critical and perilous, as they must function with harsh sanctions against their very existence. By refusing to hide, they’re advocating for policy changes (e.g., rights to healthcare, employment) and attitudinal changes (e.g., raising awareness on gender nonconformity). But they need our help.
For starters, many of these organizations don’t have a web presence that would allow them to truly build a community where they can fundraise, share resources and connect with other LGBTQ+ individuals to let them know that they are not alone.
When we learned this at Out in Tech, we had to act. We gathered volunteers who work at companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, HP, LinkedIn, Netflix, PayPal and Snapchat to create the Out in Tech Digital Corps to build websites for groups all over the world on WordPress.com. In just over a year, we’ve built more than 40 websites for groups in 20 different countries. By leveraging our 15,000 members, we’ve amplified the digital voices of activists on five continents.
Who are they, you ask?
In Jamaica—described as one of the most homophobic nations on earth—Neish McLean built the country’s first nonprofit solely dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of the transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex communities. The organization’s new website allows them to share information about events and engage with their community, in a place where doing so is an uphill battle.
In Uganda—a notoriously homophobic country that almost passed a “Kill the Gays” bill —a transgender campaigner and sex worker called Beyoncé Karungi started Transgender Equality Uganda to provide health and legal support. In 2015, a few days before Transgender Day of Remembrance, Beyoncé was assaulted by a homophobic mob and sustained critical facial and bodily injuries. She was unable to report the incident to the authorities, but is able to share her experiences via blog posts now available on her website developed by Out in Tech.
When we work collectively to solve societal problems, we all win. Over 150 volunteer developers, designers and copywriters have donated 2,000-plus hours of their time to build the sites. We also couldn’t have done this without the generosity of Automattic, Bank of America and PayPal—companies sending a clear message to the tech community that we all deserve dignity and equality.
The Out in Tech Digital Corps won’t stop until every LGBTQ group has the tools it needs to thrive in any political environment (including here at home, should our current vice president ascend to the presidency of the United States).
In 2018, we’ll build even more websites and chip away at systemic issues like financial inclusion, data collection and cybersecurity. Our global network of experts will grow, and we’ll connect even more of our members to activists near and far.
In order to make this vision a reality, we launched a crowdfunding campaign. If we reach our goal of $50k by November 30th, HP will generously match our raise with an additional $50k. By giving, you’re cheering on brave activists like Neish, Beyoncé and so many others who refuse to stay quiet and do nothing. So, how can we?
Gary Goldman is Program Director of Out in Tech, a nonprofit that unites the LGBTQ+ tech community.