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BCS Pride group calls for end to transphobia in tech

The BCS has called for an end to transphobic abuse and harassment in the technology industry

BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, has marked International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) on 31 March with a call to end transphobic hatred, harassment and abuse in the technology industry, and make the community safe and welcoming for all LGBTQIA+ people, regardless of their gender identity and expression.

In the past five years, the UK has become an increasingly hostile environment for trans people, with a growing number of right-wing activists – as well as academics, celebrities, journalists and politicians – spreading fear, hatred and misinformation, and targeting trans people for abuse and harassment, particularly in the online sphere.

The BCS Pride Specialist Group said it had hoped to profile the work of its many trans, non-binary, questioning and gender non-conforming members today, but had chosen not to because of this climate of open hostility and harassment. It said that under the circumstances, singling out its members would likely expose them to online abuse.

Pride at BCS Specialist Group chair, Kavita Kapoor, a longstanding technologist who worked on projects including the London 2012 Olympics and the BBC micro:bit, said: “LGBTQIA+ people often grow up, are educated, and work with a sense of being outsiders.

“The community has been invisible in technology leadership. Our stories are not told and often changed. Thankfully, we’ve seen a considerable change in visibility and positive representation in the media and industry of trans, non-binary, gender-queer and LGB people over the past decade.

“However, this increased visibility has a dark side; our trans and non-binary colleagues are targets of hate and harassment. The 2021 House of Commons Library Hate Crime Statistics report showed that over the past decade, the UK witnessed a +789% increase in reported hate crimes against trans people.

“This is more shocking when we see from the same report that 88% of trans people don’t report the most serious type of incident to the police. We also see trans people targeted online in unique and insidious ways, often at scale.  

“Our questions at BCS Pride are: what does this mean for the technology community? How do we ensure the technology we build is not used for harassment? How do we ensure that the startups we create and our companies are truly inclusive spaces to work?” said Kapoor.

“Visibility is fundamental to all our identities, security and ability to thrive in society. We want the hate and harassment to stop.”

The BCS Pride Group is inviting BCS members to talk about their trans and non-binary role models in IT, digital and tech, so that it can build their experiences into its future work to make the LGBTQIA+ community more visible in the digital world.

It also called on LGBTQIA+ people across its membership to get involved with the organisation – which was only founded last year – to help build a bank of community role models and case studies of LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the industry.

What is TDOV?

International Transgender Day of Visibility, or TDOV, was founded in 2009 in the US by activist Rachel Crandall, who had become frustrated at the lack of recognition of trans people’s lives within the LGBTQIA+ community.

In particular, Crandall wanted TDOV to refocus conversations around trans people away from prevailing narratives that centre hatred and violence, instead enabling people to focus on celebrating trans people and empowering them to live authentically, while at the same time recognising and working to overcome the challenges that prevent many from doing so.

In the past 10 years, TDOV has spread around the world and is now marked annually. Last year, Joe Biden became the first US president to formally commemorate the occasion, issuing a White House proclamation that praised trans and non-binary people in the US and around the world for “generations of struggle, activism and courage”.

For allies, it has lined up a selection of resources from the likes of Stonewall, Amnesty International and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to help learn about the issues affecting trans people, create a more inclusive workspace, learn about ways to be a better ally, and challenge transphobic attitudes and comments.

The Pride Specialist Group was founded last year with the objective of making the IT community safe and welcoming for LGBTQIA+ people.

It has a number of objectives, including increasing the visibility of LGBTQIA+ BCS members; working with wider BCS membership to emphasis the importance of diversity; raising awareness of BCS’ work in the LGBTQIA+ community; helping LGBTQIA+ people access IT mentoring and training services; amplifying other diversity-focused groups in the digital world; supporting BCS to make decisions that support and include of LGBTQIA+ people; and being a voice for inclusive practices within technology, particularly in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) that bring with them ethical concerns.

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