Trans*H4CK was born as a necessary response to a much-discussed phenomena: the tech industry is overwhelmingly composed of white, cisgender men.
Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler, a black transgender man, was struggling to land a job post-graduation, and felt that his gender identity was often the reason he didn’t obtain employment. When Ziegler stumbled into the tech industry, he was disappointed, again: “I was like ‘Oh, tech really sucks. It’s all white, nerdy people.’” Despite that disappointment, he was intrigued by the idea of hackathons.
Ziegler launched Trans*H4CK, after receiving funding through a GoFundMe campaign, in September 2013 with a mission to “shift the ways trans*, gender non conforming, agender, and non binary people live by creating technology that economically empowers, improves access to social services, promotes gender safety and community stability, while bringing visibility to trans* tech innovators and entrepreneurs.” Since it’s founding, Trans*H4CK has “hosted three other in-person hackathons, which have resulted in over 30 projects geared towards the transgender and gender non-conforming community.”
As Trans*H4CK grows, helped in large part by a generous grant, they have more virtual and in-person hackathon events planned. Additionally, they plan to begin to gather data to help better understand the current lived experiences of transgender and non-binary people who work in the tech industry.
Currently, based on Ziegler’s perceptions, there doesn’t seem to be “a lot of love for us [trans people] in the world. In the technical space, I critique the diversity in tech conversation as only talking about white women. The past year we’ve seen diversity in tech start to mean black people now, and latino or hispanic. And then people are like ‘Ok, we’re beyond gender now,’ but, no, we’re not beyond gender because we don’t really talk about trans people.”
Organizations and events like Trans*H4CK propose creating spaces, carving out niches for LGBTQ people in industries and areas that are traditionally dominated by white, cisgender men. They provide an important service in both educating the communities that LGBTQ already exist and deserve to be recognized for their talents, as well as ensuring that, in the future, more LGBTQ will be able to enter a field, without facing discrimination.
Gwen is a writer who has an education degree, a social work background, an extensive knowledge of vegetables, and a devotion to queer revolutionary politics. She lives deep in the woods of Maine with two dogs, a magnificent partner, and an ever-growing collection of plants.