Ina Fried

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Hacking Code and Gender to Build Apps for an Underserved Community

When Natalie Patrice heard about TransH4ck in June, she knew she wanted to be a part of the effort — a first-of-its-kind weekend gathering to create websites and apps for those who don’t fit into traditional gender norms.

TransH4ck founder Kortney Ryan Ziegler

TransH4ck founder Kortney Ryan Ziegler

The point was hammered home two weeks later when a transgender friend, Chris Griffey, committed suicide.

“I wanted to do something concrete,” Patrice said. “It felt like there was nothing I could do. Then there was this opportunity.”

Patrice, who is queer-identified and came from Austin, Texas, was one of about four dozen people — both transgender and traditionally gendered — who spent last weekend in Oakland, Calif., creating a variety of projects for the transgender community. Participants came from Seattle, New York and Illinois, among other places, as well as from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Fueled by munchies and a desire to help the trans community, a half-dozen different teams worked throughout the weekend — some working past midnight on Saturday to create at least a working prototype of their projects.

The largest of the teams — made up of about 10 people — spent the weekend creating, which aims to be the start of a nationwide crowdsourced database of trans-friendly resources, from bars and restaurants to employment opportunities and health care. Users can add their own listings and rate providers from one to five stars, based on their accessibility, trans-friendliness and overall quality.

The group behind

The group behind

The database is designed to be available via the Web and on mobile devices. Even those with a basic phone will be able to get information by texting in their ZIP code.

“We wanted to make sure it was available to the widest range of audiences,” said Ria, an Oakland-based member of the TransResource team.

The group, which won the hackathon and its $500 cash prize, hopes to get additional crowdsourced funding to provide permanent server space, as well as to expand awareness of the project and to produce iOS and Android apps.

“We’re just really excited to see where this goes,” said Ellen McGrody, a tech retail worker and indie game developer. “It’s something I wish I would have had when I started my transition. It would have been much easier for me.”

Other projects included an interactive state-by-state map offering a data visualization of transgender legal protections, a micro-survey site to help people find other transgender people in their area, and Trans Health Access, a wiki site of where to get paid health coverage for gender transition.

“Nobody should have to pay for their own gender transition,” said Andi McClure, a hackathon participant who created “Gender transition is medically necessary for the people who seek it.”

Another project, called Clothes R4ck, still in the planning stages, is designed to allow people to donate clothing to those making gender transitions.

“One of the biggest problems is employment, and in order to get a job, you need to look good,” said Clothes R4ck project member Terrilynn Cantlon.

In particular, the Clothes R4ck team imagines those going from male to female can donate the clothes they no longer need, and eventually getting a new wardrobe from someone making the opposite transition. People who want to support the trans community could also donate clothing or gift cards to purchase new clothes.

TransH4ck was several months in the planning, and is the vision of Kortney Ryan Ziegler, who hopes to make it a yearly event.

At the end of the hackathon, the groups presented their projects at a community event at the New Parkway Theater in downtown Oakland. A panel of judges from the trans community evaluated the projects — diving into everything from the technical merits of the project to how broadly accessible they were, as well as prospects for moving from hackathon project to lasting resource.

Ziegler praised all the participants for what they managed to create in just a few sleep-deprived days and nights.

“The world is waiting to see them, as well,” Ziegler said.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald