When the discriminatory legislation known as North Carolina’s HB2 (“the bathroom bill”) came into national spotlight earlier this year, we were interested in learning more about it and its impact on the trans and gender-queer community, especially from people whose lives would be directly affected. Naturally, we clicked on #HB2 on Twitter, expecting to browse through personal perspectives shared online; to our disappointment, we only saw coverage by national media outlets and personal narratives were few and far between. This is due to Twitter’s algorithm prioritizing crowd traffic over individual voices and the same phenomenon is seen across the modern media landscape. This made us interested in creating a impact sharing platform designed to feature individual LGBT voices.

The more we brainstormed the idea, the more we realized the potential value these shared stories could have as a vehicle for political advocacy—so we began to investigate how we might introduce advocacy features into the app. As we aimed to improve on what’s available today, we examined the shortcomings of advocacy organizations and platforms like the Human Rights Campaign and the White House’s We The People. We saw that we could create a more agile, strategic and purposed tool for LGBT personal advocacy.

What it does

Speakout provides consumer-facing apps that empower citizens to share their personal stories and see the personal stories of others who are impacted by LGBT legislation. Through the app, it amplifies their voices and also encourages them to contact their elected representatives.

The server also provides API access that could provide valuable insight for NGOs interested in the perspectives of everyday LGBT people whose perspectives provide valuable research.

How we built it

Eddie designed the wireframes, built the iPhone application using Swift, and built the server and API using Firebase as the backend. Leonard developed the Android app. We stayed in regular contact so we could collaborate on the broader mission and make sure our respective projects aligned.

Challenges we ran into

We ran into many technical challenges (implementing authentication, connecting to the backend, parsing data).

We also ran into challenges deciding how to our users could present themselves on the app. For political advocacy, it is often most effective to have official names and official addresses on petitions. But for many in our community, official names may not be how we see ourselves, and sharing their addresses may impact their safety. For this reason, we have made it open-ended what people can choose to share.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We’re proud of completing two apps, creating a server, implementing live data from the Sunlight Foundation and Google’s Civic API -- and in less than 9 weeks!

What we learned

Leonard learned a lot about Android development, including implementing fragments, implementing images and interacting with servers.

What's next for Speakout

We would love to work directly with an LGBT rights organizations (domestic or international) interested in gaining the perspective of LGBT people on a specific issue, then use Speakout to empower that community to be heard.

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