Author Archives: Ellen Dash

Poverty Encourages Eating Disorders

Content Notice: this article discusses poverty and eating disorders.

It’s easy to find ways poverty negatively affects someone. As one of many examples, it affects education, which limits job opportunities, which often leaves financial stability as nothing but a dream. The root of many of these problems is people believing that those who have been dealt the shittiest hand when they were born, somehow already deserved it.

But there are also more subtle things it can cause, such as a predisposition to eating disorders.

Growing up poor is, to be frank, complete and utter shit. I could go on for hours about all of the various ways it’s shit, but let’s talk about food. Poverty affects your food choices. Poverty affects your eating habits. Through these two things, it can affect how your body processes food, and how your brain interprets hunger.

Food Quality

Your meals will tend to consist of the most cost-effective food you can get — or, if you have the money to spare, the second most cost-effective. Now we’re gettin’ fancy. But here’s the thing: You are often literally getting the food that was not deemed high-quality enough to go with the “normal” food. You are getting the rejects and the junk food, because that’s what’s in your budget. Next time you’re in a grocery store, look around: what is the cheapest food? What is the most expensive food? If you compare these, you’ll often find that the cheapest food is typically of lower quality or considered “junk food,” and the most expensive food is generally higher quality or “healthy snacks.”

Processing Hunger

Food becomes harder to come by, so you tend to eat whatever you can get your hands on. You disregard whether or not you’re hungry at that very moment because fuck you, I am not going to be hungry tonight. A refusal to be hungry can lead to problems processing whether or not you are hungry.

As The Washington Post reported:

Those who grew up in higher socioeconomic households exhibited normal consumption behavior—eating when they were hungry, saying no thank you to the snacks when they were full. Those who grew up in lower socioeconomic households, meanwhile, ate no matter how hungry they were.

Not Eating

Sometimes, you wind up simply not eating. You skip meals in an effort to afford other necessities such as transportation and housing. Or maybe you can afford none of that, and you’re just completely and utterly fucked. (Hi, been there. Many times.)

When you skip meals, you tend to eat larger meals afterwards. Doing this repeatedly can sometimes result in a vicious cycle, where the duration between meals and the amount you eat at each meal both grow considerably, to the point that it’s unhealthy.

Conclusion

Being poor can directly influence the quality of food you have access to, how you understand hunger, and in some cases, whether or not you eat at all. In this way, living in poverty makes developing an eating disorder considerably more likely.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2016

Content Notice: This article discusses suicide and the 2016 US presidential election.

Once again, Transgender Day of Remembrance has passed, and I am faced with the fact that at least one of my friends has committed suicide every year since I first became involved with the transgender community nearly four years ago.

We never really get the chance to properly mourn our losses, because they just keep coming one after another with no hesitation between them.

As is the case every year, there were periods over the past year where I became uncomfortably close to being part of that group.

This year is worse than normal.

People are literally killing themselves to avoid the repercussions of what the President-elect is promising, and the negative things he has already accomplished. And, as every time the trans community has been in danger, the only ones who consistently stand by us are other marginalized groups.

The country is going to be led by someone who has consistently actively encouraged violence against marginalized groups, with the Vice President-elect being just as bad. They’re fucking talking about putting people in internment camps. The VP-elect advocates for conversion therapy.

I’m drawn back to this quote from my article about Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015:

When the only ones who reliably stay beside us are others who are similarly targeted, it is unsurprising that our progress moves slowly and is paid for with the lives and safety of those who are most vulnerable. Often, this is trans women of color.

Likewise, when the only ones who reliably stay beside us are others who are similarly targeted, it is also unsurprising that progress can regress so quickly.

I am very afraid right now, and so are a lot of other people. Please do your best to take care of and stand by each other.

Mental Health Triggers

Content Notice: The following article discusses PTSD/cPTSD, eating disorders, depression, and OCD.

Mental health triggers are things which, when encountered, can affect a person’s ability to function by triggering a mental illness. The term is most often used for PTSD and cPTSD (trauma triggers), but it can apply to other illnesses — including eating disorders, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. The effects are most often mental and/or emotional, but can also manifest physically.

Everyone’s triggers are different. For me, things that remind me of past abuse can trigger flashbacks or panic responses (cPTSD), and sleeping too much can cause a depressive episode. For other people, it could be sudden loud noises and sleeping too little. It varies from person to person.

How the same person responds to the same trigger can also vary depending on the circumstances. E.g., my cPTSD-related panic responses tend to manifest differently at night (shaking, hyperventilating) than during the day (dissociation).

Trigger Warnings and Content Notices

Trigger Warnings, as well as the more general Content Notices, serve two purposes: first, to allow someone to choose whether they want to engage with potentially-triggering content, and second, to allow someone to prepare themselves before engaging with it.

Some people respond to requests to do this by saying it’s “coddling” — but I’d argue it’s the exact opposite. First, choosing to not engage with potentially-triggering content is an entirely valid decision, and anyone who says otherwise can go fuck themselves. Second, trigger warnings and content notices allow people to engage with content they would otherwise avoid, because the heads-up allows them to properly prepare for it.

“Triggered” Jokes

A recent trend is for people to joke about being “triggered” when they in fact are not. I will put it bluntly: by making jokes about being triggered, you are making it harder for people who have triggers to be taken seriously. You are actively hindering their ability to participate in society. This is not fucking okay.

Conclusion

Mental health triggers are complicated things. They vary from person to person, as do people’s responses to them. The same person can respond to them differently depending on context. While they often manifest emotionally or mentally, they can also manifest physically. They exist for more than just PTSD.

Trigger Warnings and Content Notices allow people who have mental health triggers to more safely engage with content they otherwise may have to avoid entirely, and avoiding content because of what it contains is always a valid choice.

Mocking people’s mental health is not okay.

Clothes

The behaviors exhibited by groups with large influence, such as companies that spend a lot on advertising, can influence the public’s perception of certain groups to perpetuate marginalization.

Case in point: How clothing companies treat and present women above a certain size.

When looking at clothes, it quickly becomes clear that they are largely designed by people who feel that women with larger bodies should be ashamed and hide. The fact that excessively-baggy, box-shaped shirts are basically all that’s available in plus sizes? That’s what this is. We aren’t supposed to feel proud of how our bodies look, because they’re not one of the Approved Shapes And Sizes.

Sometimes I’ll feel this immense shame and anxiety about how my body looks, and every time I examine it I come to the same conclusion: these feelings are not an attribute of my body, they’re an attribute of how society treats it. As much as I hate to admit it, the way I feel about my body can be strongly influenced by how the world around me perceives it.

Only being able to find clothes that hide the shape of my body, instead of accentuating it, very clearly presents a message I do not agree with: that people with bodies like mine are inherently unattractive, and our bodies should be hidden in shame.

It’s devastating how easy it is to start believing this, how easy it is to hide yourself because of this, how easy it is to perpetuate this. I try my best to not only avoid perpetuating it, but actively fight it. And, frankly, it’s really fucking hard.

These ideas are forced on you from birth. It becomes ingrained, and it takes so much to fight this toxic idea that bodies like mine are inherently bad, and sometimes I forget and I believe the message the clothes on the rack are screaming so clearly.

I’m here to remind you that they’re wrong. My body is lovable. Your body is lovable. There are no exceptions.

To Those Unable to be With Their Family

I avoid my family because they are at best begrudgingly accepting of who I am, and always abusive and manipulative. I haven’t spent any holidays with them since 2013, by choice, because I don’t feel safe doing so.

Still, though, I find myself desiring the familiar; I find not being around large groups of people during holidays, as I was for the vast majority of my life, unsettling and lonely. I miss the company of the handful of people I trusted there. I occasionally miss my abuser during these periods, and that scares the fuck out of me. I especially miss playing with the younger kids during the holidays.

To those who are unable to be with their family during the holidays because they are unaccepting of who you are, they are abusive and you had to leave to be safe, or any other reason:

You deserve companionship. You deserve to be surrounded by people that care about you, every time of year. You deserve to spend the holidays with those who are dearest to you. You are worthy. You are loved. You are important. Please don’t ever forget that.

There are people who care about you. There are people who want to be with you. You may be separated from them by distances you can’t close right now — cities, states, countries, continents, oceans — but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

It’s rough as hell, sometimes, but please take care of yourselves. You deserve that, too.

The Dead and Missing in the Trans Community

Content Notice: This article discusses murders and suicides of nonbinary, transgender, and gender nonconforming people.

Today, November 20th 2015, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s one of those days I wish didn’t need, you know, its own day.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance memorializes those who have been murdered as a result of hatred or prejudice against transgender and gender nonconforming people. According to the Trans Murder Monitoring TDoR 2015 Update, there have been 271 trans people murdered this year. That’s an average of approximately one trans person every twenty-eight hours.

That information alone should be horrifying to anyone who reads it, but I also wish to talk about something I have mentioned on Twitter many times: nonbinary and transgender people who have died by suicide or gone missing.

The rate of death and people seeming to all but disappear among us is, frankly, horrifying. planettransgender.com collected a list of 27 trans people who died by suicide this year, and I know of ten not on that list. There are also those who simply disappear — either they die and nobody hears of it, or they intentionally hide themselves in an attempt to regain safety. I was unable to find any proper statistics on this sort of thing, but this year alone, 22 nonbinary and trans people I regularly interacted with have disappeared for at least the past two months. Many I only knew online either simply stopped using their public accounts or removed them entirely. One I knew in-person did the same, and has not been seen anywhere in months. A few told me they were planning to disappear, but explicitly refused to tell anybody where they were going or how to contact them.

And I cannot blame any of them. At all.

In a world where our very existence is vilified, and who we are is treated as justification to hate and abuse us, I can’t blame them. In a world where the day before Trans Day of Remembrance, reports came out of a trans woman found dead in a men’s prison, and that kind of thing has happened before, I can’t blame them. I only find myself able to blame those who vilify us, those who use who we are as justification to abuse us, and those who stay quiet while watching this happen.

When the only ones who reliably stay beside us are others who are similarly targeted, it is unsurprising that our progress moves slowly and is paid for with the lives and safety of those who are most vulnerable. Often, this is trans women of color.

Spend today quietly and attentively listening to the nonbinary, transgender, and gender nonconforming people around you. If you can, attend a vigil for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. And, on this incredibly sad day, let’s remember not only those who had their lives taken from them, but also all of the people who are missing. There are so, so many people who should still be with us, but are now gone. Every one of them, and every one of us still around, is loved and important.
There is a list of vigils for the Transgender Day of Remembrance available on tdor.info. Note that some of them occur the weekend after the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

On Open Companies, Consent, and Safety (among other things)

This article originally appeared in Model View Culture.

An audio version of this article will be made available on SoundCloud shortly. You can follow Inatri on SoundCloud to be notified when the audio version of this article and others are made available.

There are two goals of Open Companies, as I understand them. The first is to create companies that are actually considered trustworthy, instead of barely above the legal minimum for trustworthiness. That is to say, companies that go out of their way to make sure that they are doing right by everybody who interacts with them – owners, employees, customers and/or users, society at large, etc. The second is to create an environment where people can more easily become involved with the company.

While I like the ideals and goals of Open Companies, I find that the approach tends to position openness as an end in and of itself, instead of as a means to reach higher goals and values. While well intentioned, this approach to “openness” creates a shallow show with minimal tangible improvement, while also strongly reinforcing the problematic under-representation of marginalized groups.

I have discussed Open Companies before, including in Model View Culture’s previous interview with me about my work as a User Advocate for Gittip. The main purpose of this role was to bridge what appeared to be a communication gap between users and the primary development team. I ensured user feedback got to the appropriate places it needed to go in order for it to be acted upon, by breaking discussions down into actionable items. I also provided a means for users to provide feedback in a way that was entirely anonymous to the rest of the Gittip team.

The general idea of Open Companies, as proposed by Chad Whitacre (the founder of Gittip) and elaborated on later, both in person and by the Open Company Initiative, is fascinating to me. I call out Gittip quite often throughout this article, as a side effect of it being the only Open Company which I have been closely involved with. I am doing this in an attempt to both help Gittip improve in these areas, as well as help other companies avoid these issues to start with.

Recentering: Outcomes over mechanisms

The vast majority of the issues Gittip has experienced when interacting with other people, groups, and companies seem to arise not necessarily from a difference in ideals and values, but from a difference in perceived prioritization of these ideals and values. By treating openness and transparency as an end in and of itself, instead of a means to an end, it gives the impression that openness and transparency are prioritized over consent, safety, and comfort — regardless of whether or not this is actually the case. In our attempts to create trustworthy companies, we have unintentionally made the situation worse: like traditional companies, our ignorance tramples those that wish to help us, but now we have turned it into a sideshow for all the world to see.

As we move forward, we need to treat openness and transparency as tools, not the end result. Let’s recenter on the problems we’re trying to solve—instead of the tools being used to reach it—and build out from there. Let’s stop pretending we can use one simple solution for a multitude of challenging problems.

Let’s give safety and consent the absolute highest priority, with openness and transparency prioritized explicitly below those. This means digging deep, properly articulating in detail what problems you are trying to solve with openness and transparency, and handling them individually or in smaller groups.

This will likely prove to be difficult, and needs to become an ongoing process, instead of a one-time occurrence.

The problems that need to be solved will also vary from company to company. However, the end result of this effort will be a more trustworthy company than the current approach can accomplish — and, at the highest level, this is exactly what we’re aiming for.

Transparency: Behold, the cinderblock

It is very easy to get from the ideal of Open Companies to the implementation that Gittip has taken: dump every bit of data you have about the company into a public medium. However, what you wind up with is a company that produces so much unorganized, uninteresting and irrelevant data that you can’t find meaningful information.

You try to find out what has been worked on over the past week, but it’s buried in the midst of an hour and a half of recorded, “open” videos. Even though it can be properly explained in a single-page summary, it’s left only in a time-consuming format. I know of absolutely nobody who has put forth the effort to translate Gittip’s recorded calls into a more usable format on more than one occasion.

“Transparency” by this definition is meant to help people see, in detail, inside of the company… even if it’s wholly uninteresting to the vast majority of people.

The thing is, this approach is not transparency, it’s a fucking charade.

A far more approachable alternative is to find out what information is wanted, and by whom, and break it down in such a way that they can get the _information they need_ without digging through wholly irrelevant noise. Organize it in such a way that it can be accessed, searched, and cited, easily. As an example, I’ll approach the issue of chatrooms, since it is one I have a lot of experience with. The most successful approach I have seen is having a public chatroom with a few people who have access to the logs, and having them go through and create minutes of meetings and important conversations. The minutes are then made publicly available.

This can be done regardless of any company decisions about the publicity of internal discussions, and thus is applicable both to companies like Gittip, as well as companies that are more reserved about publicly logging all discussions.

Openness: Your unlocked door weighs more than I do

My understanding of the term “openness,” as used for Open Companies, is that anybody who wishes to participate should be able to with minimal friction. The inner operations of the company being transparent and easily understood assists with this. The idea is that if everything that can be public is made public, then the onboarding process is just formalities and handling the legal side of things. However, the approach that is chosen is often what I feel can accurately be described as “radical transparency” — the very problem I pointed out in the previous section.

This approach is highly problematic for marginalized groups. One of the things I keep seeing pushed is publicizing people’s salaries. In our world, where marginalized people get harassed over the amount of money they make, it is sometimes not safe for a person to have things such a their salary made public. Some people (including myself, previously) have suggested simply making it opt-out. However, if you make it opt-out, it doesn’t solve the problem: the people who have opted out can very easily be inferred by omission.

Instead of trying to make a one-size-fits-all solution, we need to step back and solve each openness-related problem on its own accord.

Publishing all of the data you can doesn’t really solve any problems. For salaries in particular, I’d argue that, really, nobody cares what other people’s salaries are unless the ratios of compensation to cost of living are unfair. If two people are considered roughly equally valuable to the company, they should be able to afford roughly the same things. This isn’t about exact dollar amounts, it’s about the ratio of cost of living to compensation, and it is really fucking hard to get right.

So how do we solve this? One idea is to discard the self-selected salary approach that has become popular at some startups, and instead set clear terms for specifying how much somebody is compensated. This would likely be based on experience, how long they’ve worked at the company, and the cost of living in the location they are in, among many other factors.

The key is to make this process well documented, as objective as possible, and everything about it publicly documented.

If an employee feels they are not being fairly compensated, they can check for themselves that they are being compensated as much as the process specifies they should be. If they are not, they have what they need to speak out about it. If they are being compensated as the process specifies, but feel it is unfair, they have what they need to present a case for process being adjusted.

The key is to look at the specific structures and ramifications of a problem, and coming up with the solution that makes the most sense, rather than simply defaulting to an arbitrary notion of openness that may create structural problems of its own.

Safety: Implicit is insufficient

One of the things that has come up multiple times with Gittip is personal safety: the ability of someone to participate in the company’s activities without feeling they are making themselves vulnerable or putting themselves directly in danger. A prominent example, mentioned in a GitHub issue for Gittip back in December 2013, is that some people get harassed simply for asking for support for their work — including being accused of “begging” and people trying to police their spending. There are also many who have voiced weariness over joining publicly-recorded conversations, for reasons related to harassment (harassers having the ability to see what they say without anyone knowing of their presence) and privacy in general. The only way to handle this sort of problem properly is by explicitly placing consent and safety over openness and transparency.

I previously proposed that all companies should be explicit safe spaces. The problem is that there are varying definitions of safe spaces, and some people claim you can’t have somewhere be a safe space for everyone. I feel a space can be made safe for every person, but not for every idea.

Simply claiming that a company is a safe space is not enough. You must state who it is intended to be safe for and a non-exhaustive list of which ideas are explicitly allowed and explicitly disallowed. These lists always exist at least unofficially.

It’s time to Fucking. Own. Them.

Chugga chugga *spaceship noises*

At the end of the day, Open Companies don’t sound like a terrible idea. In fact, the end goals they’re trying to achieve largely overlap with my own: creating companies that are run in a way that makes them as trustworthy as possible, and making it as easy as possible for people to become involved. The problem is that the approach of publicly releasing all of the data you can is a non-solution: it is an approach that makes it _appear_ that you’re taking action, but in the end it winds up creating an echo chamber for the existing problems in the world.

To me, the reason it turns into this echo chamber strongly mirrors what Andi McClure has previously said about college admissions processes: when you start with a system which is blind to race, class, gender, and disability (among other things), and throw it into a society which is very much not blind to them, what you get is (at best) a repeater of the previous and ongoing discriminatory acts that society as a whole perpetuates.

I got excited and jumped on the Open Company train. It seemed like such a magnificent idea! The problem is that it is not a train, but some glorious creation from a time where power dynamics and discrimination are almost wholly irrelevant.

Your train is a spaceship from the future, and nobody knows how to drive it. When laying out how a company is to be run, you absolutely have to take into account the realities of the world you live in. The reality of our world, right now, is that the simplest approaches to openness and transparency wind up simply creating yet another place where marginalized groups lose their voices.

These problems are hard, possibly even impossible, to solve entirely. However, we can do better. We can do far better. This is me calling on ALL companies not just Open Companies — to step up. It’s time to stop sweeping these problems under the rug or trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution, and tackle each of them individually.

We can’t get to the future we want by pretending we’re already there.

The State of ATUnit

An audio version of this article will be made available on SoundCloud shortly. You can follow Inatri on SoundCloud to be notified when the audio version of this article and others are made available.

Editors Note: Marie Markwell is currently a member of ATUnit’s technical committee, and was previously a software developer and User Advocate for Gratipay. Throughout this article, “we” refers to ATUnit.

ATUnit is a project with the goal of creating a funding platform by and for marginalized groups and activists. It was started as a response to the Gittip Crisis, which made many users feel unsafe using Gratipay (formerly Gittip). There has also, more recently, been problems with other funding platforms. However, I will leave discussion of those to other people, as I do not know enough of the details to feel comfortable discussing them at length.

Gratipay showed us many useful things: where some companies are too opaque, new approaches to welcoming contributions, and — unfortunately — what happens if you approach openness and transparency incorrectly, or are consistently misleading about how the company is organized. The conversations following the Gittip Crisis, initial conversations surrounding ATUnit, and the goals of ATUnit all come together to show us what a funding platform can become if safety and consent are prioritized: a service built by and for marginalized people which people feel safe relying on, and anyone who relies on it can have a say in how it is run.

There were many discussions around governance and general approaches to running a funding platform, and most of them seemed to come to agreement on certain things. A common theme was to make safety, consent, and comfort of both employees and users the absolute top priority, while explicitly soliciting and acting on their input. Another was to take the Open Company ideals of openness and transparency, and repurpose them as tools to achieve the aforementioned goals.

There have been ongoing problems with ATUnit since its inception, including trustworthiness, technical limitations, and a general lack of progress that came forth from those. My intent with this article is to bring them to everybody’s attention, so we can resolve them and make ATUnit become a reality.

Trust

One of the very first things ATUnit decided was that we wanted to handle governance first, to avoid many of the problems Gratipay encountered. We were discussing a corporate structure where control ultimately landed with stakeholders — regardless of any kind of committee, members would be able to say “no, I don’t think this is what we should do.”

Unfortunately, this never happened. While we did organize committees, we never decided on the overall structure, let alone actually put it into practice.

After a while, this lack of governance reared its head in: we somehow wound up with one person being “in charge,” who later simply handed over control to somebody else. This, really, should have been impossible. The most worrying aspect to me is not the people involved, nor the problems that lead to it — it is the fact that I don’t even know what amount of control was handed over. Somehow, a group that was intended to be more trustworthy and community-ran than what it is meant to replace had an unknown level of control given from one person to another.

This is, to put it simply, the single most important problem ATUnit must address. Nothing can be resolved until we know how we want to run the project, and start to actually do so.

Stagnation

The most painfully obvious ongoing problem with ATUnit is stagnation — after the initial month or two, activity dropped off dramatically. At one point, multiple months went by where I can find no evidence of activity. However, the details behind what caused this stagnation are even more problematic than the stagnation itself.

We decided to set up governance before code — and I must emphasize I still believe this was absolutely the correct call — but the research on governance all but stagnated months ago. This resulted in developers getting anxious. People eventually yielded, and a smaller group began to work on code.

Technical Decisions

When people started pushing forward on development, the Technical Committee (which I am a member of) had already decided on a technology stack for the main website: Haskell, using the Snap framework. Followed by seemingly-endless cries of things along the lines of “THAT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA AND YOU ARE GOING TO REGRET THIS VERY SOON.” We should have probably listened to them.

It seemed to make sense: we had some Haskell developers on-hand at the time, but they were gone for various reasons by the time development was underway. We were left with some people who kind of knew Haskell and some people who had never even looked at it.

The end result? Instead of working with solid technologies that developers understood, what we have is a Hello World application. On top of that, as of January 12th 2015, the codebase has not been updated since September 2014.

The Technical Committee needs to take a step back and look at the technology stack again. ATUnit needs to be built using technologies that we can actually get developers for now and in the future. Haskell has clearly proven not the correct choice here, even if it would make sense later on. This is a decision I was a part of, and it was wrong.

Organizational Tools

Setting aside the poor decisions regarding the technology stack for the main website, there are still other problems. There was, initially, a lot of movement between hosting. A self-hosted Trac instance that has, along with all of the information it contained (including meeting minutes!), disappeared. GitHub. Assembla. GitLab. We have never properly consolidated those and removed the old ones. Worse yet, even the issues open on GitLab — where ATUnit seems to be staying for the foreseeable future — are a bit of a mess. That can likely be solved at least partially by taking a similar approach to what Gratipay has done: a separate website (and corresponding repository) for things that are not related to the core website (e.g., PR, discussing company operations, etc), but it will require coordinated effort to do so.

As for the lost meeting minutes, we recorded those using an IRC bot. The bot responded to various commands, allowing us to build minutes during the ongoing discussion. It also, unfortunately, had a tendency to disappear very frequently. As of January 12th 2015, it has been missing for four months. I also cannot find any traces of any meeting minutes, and nobody seems to have any clue as to where they are. Even before the Trac server went down, the majority of the meeting minutes seemed to be missing. To my knowledge, the minutes from the first few days were ever actually finished.

Moving Forward

We are disorganized. Our tools are, at best, functional but poorly wielded. At worst, they were always broken, and now seem to have disappeared. This is fucking broken.

We cannot make consistent progress until governance is sorted. We also cannot afford to have it organically build up around the technologies we use — we need to take an iterative approach, with the ability to improve or outright replace tools that are not working.

I do not care if we wind up using the solutions I mention in this article, but we need to fucking own these problems and fix them if ATUnit has any chance of succeeding. As it stands now, I fear it won’t.

Genesis

An audio version of this article is available on SoundCloud.

Inatri is a publication centered on the problems marginalized groups face when interacting with companies. This is about the technological problems and constraints faced when those who don’t fit society’s definition of “common enough to worry about” try to use websites, interact with customer support representatives, or even get a fucking job.

This is about customer support switching to using “sir” to address me, after they look up my account information.

This is about systems that ask for your gender but really just want to know what pronouns they should use.

This is about the online and paper forms that actually want to ask about your gender, but present “male” and “female” as if they were the only two options.

This is about informing the world about these kinds problems and how we can handle them.

These obstacles often permeate all levels within a company—websites, support-call scripts, customer–employee interactions, and employee–employee interactions.

Sometimes it isn’t just individual interactions that are broken — it’s that your entire governance model is problematic.

Working with Authors, Handling Copyright, and Paying Contributors

A very small group of people are doing a lot of the initial writing and editing without payment. This is very explicitly not going to be the case moving forward, and I will be paying people for writing and editing articles as soon as it’s possible—no exceptions. And when I have the funds to do so, I will retroactively pay those who I couldn’t pay initially. Once I can pay people for their contributions and I’ve sorted out all the legal details, I’ll be looking to bring on more authors and editors.

People will be paid for their work. They’ll retain the copyrights to their work, and they’ll solely be giving us permission to publish it.

Articles will be written by those affected by the subjects at hand. Information on contributing—including any ongoing themes, as well as information on payment rates—will be on the contributing page.

Planning Ahead

Articles will be published every Monday and Friday afternoon (Eastern Time). We currently have articles planned through the end of February. If you would like to write an article once funding is resolved, please visit our page about contributing. Audio versions of each article will be made available alongside their text versions.

Currently planned articles will open with discussing the state of funding platforms, including an update on ATUnit (an open-source funding platform with diversity as its organizing principle) and my thoughts on how I would like to see the project move forward. Posts following that will continue our discussion of how openness and transparency can be thought of as tools rather than end goals (an issue that was first raised on Model View Culture). We’ll also delve into some of the problems that transgender and non-binary people commonly face when they use online services.

You can support Inatri on Patreon.