Reaching out to an Invisible LGBT+ community – those who are closeted, stealth, questioning, or in under-resourced areas – is inherently problematic. If the audience is invisible how exactly does one create services that understand, reach out, and make an effort to support them? In traditional business the “market profile” solves the problem of not understanding the audience a product is made for by doing often costly research. By earnestly listening to people one hopes to reach, one can create a profile of their likes, dislikes or commonalities, and then cater the product or service to them. It is a wonderfully powerful tool that still enriches our businesses today and is responsible for the ridiculous amounts of Ragu spaghetti sauce or pepsi flavors on your supermarket shelves today.
On the other hand however, this “market profile” has come to be expected in the world of non-profits which has made things rather difficult for the community LGBT+ nonprofits seek to support. Grant foundations expect that when they give a nonprofit money to do a project that organization has already done the research necessary to accurately predict how well the service or product will be received by what audiences and to what end.
The invisible community on the other hand, is identified by way of not having a public voice due to hurdles and anxieties so the invisible community legitimately cannot inform foundations of their presence, who they are, and what they need to the extent foundations require. This of course comes to the detriment of this same community. Trans* Youth Channel happens to be the only organization catering to such a community almost precisely because all other organizations find it a risky venture to spend precious donation funds on. Although many programs are at the invisible community’s fingertips and a world of online sites have inadvertently provided parts of what invisible people need, no one makes or provides services directly for them so information is scattered, difficult to get to, and often comes with a mountain of hurdles and anxieties.
This narrative defines for us a dilemma: While Trans* Youth Channel’s mission is to assist the invisible community, and we understand what pressures have created the community, we cannot help them unless we consider three questions:
- How can we safely learn more about the invisible community,
- How can we reach that community to provide our services in a way that best suits them,
- And can we do it in a way that convinces public organizations to invest in them?
The 3rd question is large so it will be the topic of our 4th manifesto blog, but in this blog we will focus on the first two questions. In order to achieve our mission of getting resources into the hands of invisible community members, while helping those members overcome their hurdles we first have to think creatively about how to safely contact them, then how best to accommodate them, and ultimately we must rely heavily on the grapevine of community members we already have to make up any short sights and learn about them.
Getting in contact:
If you are a 15 year old questioning invisible member of the community still living with your parents and without a job it is remarkably difficult to attain resources. Despite this however the invisible community has flocked to YouTube,
matthewsplace.com, and many other sites to attain the information they need to learn about their identities, come to terms with them, and then determine whether to come out. Getting involved in communities online is a dangerous proposition with the advent of the “real names” policy put forward by Facebook, and the ridiculous amount of hoops you have to jump through to protect your private information. Googling “how to come out to my parents” could elicit weeks of ad marketing that if on a family computer, could spell a bad “outing” experience for many youth.
Fortunately, Trans* Youth Channel is cleverly taking advantage of this system by using those ad spaces to warn those who “trip up” on Google, Facebook, and other platforms that they could be outed and in 5 easy steps teaching them how to avoid it. In doing so we are also establishing a 2 way mode of communication that is anonymous secure and safe for them to use, which provides them access to our weekly digest and support group programs.
Accommodating Invisible Community Members
As valuable as using google and other ads is for keeping the invisible community from being outed unexpectedly on Facebook, Trans* Youth Channel’s services would be equally useless if the invisible community felt insecure, or scared using our services or if we imparted a very real danger of outing them by way of leaking information. Many find making an account dangerous, lurking on one page for much too long to be risky, and posting on pages worrisome due to the chance that a friend could come across it. So if we are to keep the community safe Trans* Youth Channel must ensure that all of our programs and online interfaces are made to suit this audience and that means refraining from a few key analysis methods.
We at TYC are making a promise, right here and now:
We will not require any data on anyone – even for our own purposes – save for one email address (we recommend separate from your daily life) and an optional first name, unless it is provided directly to us for 1 time permissions, by survey, in the course of providing services, or if proactively offered to us by the legal owner of this information. We will rely as little as possible on any data or information provided to us by default from social media sites or other third parties, and we will not provide to other organizations any specific data on community members. Any data shared will be generic and with full confidentiality of those who provided it intact in accordance with university collection methods.
In this data driven world, businesses rely heavily on big data so such a promise is a big change, but for the invisible community, we feel it is a positive move in privacy that assists our community and the very intersectional net neutrality movement in maintaining a freedom of resources, community, and support that does not endanger them.
Relying heavily on the grapevine
Because we will be taking minimal information and all of that information can be entirely fictional in order to protect the security, safety and anonymity of the community, we are not going to be getting very much information on the invisible LGBT+ community unless we ask directly. It comes at a tremendous disadvantage and perhaps this is another reason organizations are so reluctant to help invisible members. Hopefully with the spreading of our word as a safe space, we can make up for that disadvantage through the grapevine; through people and word of mouth.
It is our take that the largest amount of contact anyone will have with the Invisible LGBT+ community will be interpersonal. It will be those individuals who are struggling to come out finding the courage and the opportunity to come out to one safe “out” LGBT+ individual in person or online. We’ve experienced this happen almost every day since TYC began and bloggers saw comments on our YouTube channels. There has always been a level of private mentorship that helped connect invisible members with ‘out’ LGBT+ individuals and we intend to better facilitate this very personal mode of assistance. By equipping those who are already connected to us and our partners with our programs and having them inform us on community needs, we can develop a stronger community of people who can speak with us anonymously through anonymous surveys and make up for what “big data” could immorally give us.
Even though there will be little grant funds and little assistance from big name organizations largely catering to an out community; even though little will be afforded to help us accomplish our mission of bridging the gap between the ‘out’ LGBT+ Brick-and-mortar nonprofits, we plan on having genuine safe, secure, anonymous and quality communication with the invisible community so that we can better understand them, meld our programs to their needs, and provide resources, community, and support sooner for them.
Next week we will discuss the third question put forward here and the other half of our mission statement: How do we convince public organizations to invest in the invisible community and in us?