Why Your Support Matters

By funding Hypatia, you are enabling us to build the next iteration of Hypatia into 2018 with the following improvements:
  • Part time mentorship coordinator to manage and track the status of our students
  • Funding for the Emergency Cash Relief Program
  • Part time administrative support staff
I found out about Hypatia through a friend of mine when I was in a severe time of need and personal crisis. Without the assistance of their emergency cash fund, I hwould have likely would have lost electrical services to my home and been out of food. Additionally, the program was able to help with the costs associated with filing for my name change.
So, for that, I am so thankful that the program exists for those who need it. Speaking from experience, it’s an amazing thing to have that kind of help when the world seems darkest.
 — Bridget, 2017

In the beginning…

Hypatia Software Organization (HSO) was founded in 2015 by a group of homeless and disabled trans developers creating the Hypatia Engine (https://engine.hypatia.software).  Since not everyone in the group of developers had the skills required to work on the project, the group quickly adopted an informal peer-mentorship model.  Simply put, the community pooled their efforts to teach each others the required skills necessary for developing the Hypatia Engine.  At the time, the goal was simply just to build the Hypatia Engine, to create their portfolios, and enable them to obtain gainful employment in the tech industry. After a few months of hard work the group founder, who had been homeless until this point, secured employment and this greatly improved her life circumstances. At the beginning of the next year, HSO was re-conceived as a resource to help others better their situations and bring hope to trans people who experience systemic disenfranchisement, poverty, and homelessness. We seek to provide opportunities for experiences of transmisogyny, the intersection of misogyny and transphobia, to flourish, in software and beyond.

Today!

HSO has come a long way since its founding. Most significantly, Hypatia obtained 501(c)(3) charity status in February 2017. Obtaining non-profit status has allowed Hypatia to reach an ever-growing number of trans individuals in need of aid, and will allow us to grow to meet future demand.
This year we have been working hard on improving the efficacy of our programs, internal organization, and reducing our operational overhead to optimize our ability to help our members the most we can with the means provided by our generous donors and contributors. This includes providing our members with part-time paid internships with HSO to help grow and maintain the organization.
HSO is currently volunteer run with help from paid interns. In 2017 Hypatia has accomplished the following milestones:
    
  • Added 47 new full members, bringing the entire membership to over 205 full members as of of this blog post
  • 24 of the new members were enrolled in our Mentorship Program
  • On-boarded 31 new peer mentors
  • Processed 52 Emergency Cash Relief (ECR) applications to help stabilize our membership’s access to food, transportation, medication, and other basic needs

Mentorship Program

Our Mentorship Program aims to provide disenfranchised experiencers of transmisogyny with the tools to help them overcome the obstacles of their situation and the systematic discrimination that has denied them such opportunities. We believe that by equipping our members with the skills they need in order to get hired in the tech industry, our members will flourish economically as there is a high demand for tech workers. Our mentors utilize our syllabus along with their professional knowledge and experience in order to teach in-demand skills such as full-stack web development and systems administration. Another important aspect of our mentorship program is that our mentors double as role models for our members. Our members can see themselves in their mentors and be encouraged that they themselves can achieve success.
Working with my mentor has given me some confidence that I can actually do more technical things. Tackling python has been an issue for me since I am the type of person who needs support to get through tougher problems in general, and learning python makes you hit a lot of walls if you don’t know your way around. My mentor has shown me things while pointing out that I have my own ability too. I am now less scared of larger, complex projects that I can now figure out.
 — Janice, 2017
Throughout the mentorship program, our members work on projects that demonstrate their skills to their future employers. Additionally, we help our members with their resumes and also help them prepare for interviews. By providing our members with this fully fledged package of help we optimize their ability to handle job interviews with confidence and success.

Technology Resources Program

HSO’s Laptop Program aims to provide disenfranchised participants of our Mentorship Program and other eligible members with the tools needed to utilize the knowledge and skills we provide through our Mentorship Program.
The Laptop Program is mission critical part of our endeavors to help our disenfranchised experiencers of transmisogyny secure the foundations required for them to overcome their situation and succeed, without the equipment to put their knowledge into use a lot of opportunities would be gate-kept, as not all jobs come with physical location or company devices. While portable devices have increased in computing power, these devices can not do what a full laptop can for creation. Note: relevance? The laptops costs less or similar to phones
Thanks to the Laptop Program we can help open up doors for our members, and pair them with paid internships such as Outreachy (http://outreachy.org/), Google Summer of Code (https://developers.google.com/open-source/gsoc/), and other opportunities.

Emergency Cash Relief Program

Through our Emergency Cash Relief Program we help ensure the basics needed for the survival and stability, such as food, medicine, and shelter, required to focus on studying and job hunting. This is a mission critical component that ensures the retention and efficacy of other programs such as the Mentorship Program by diminishing or removing factors such as homelessness, starvation, and depression from daily life, thus providing both our members and HSO with the optimal foundation for helping experiencers of transmisogyny succeed. Without this program many participants of the Mentorship Program would have to drop out, being unable to stay the course due to avoidable issues relating to depression, starvation, and homelessness.
I recently lost my job and while looking for employment i ran out of funds. I live in an apartment and was unable to cover my entire rent. Hypatia helped with what i needed and if it hadnt been for [Hypatia’s] promptness i might have been without a place to live during the holiday season. Im very thankful that there is an organization like this to help people like me.
 — Shelly, 2017

The Complications of Coming Out

It’s October 30th 2014 and I’m at a client’s site working on repairing a computer for them. Fresh Air is on in the background and Terry Gross is interviewing Jill Soloway about their show Transparent. Transparent is a show I’ve heard about from primarily trans people who criticize the fact that the show, like many others, casts a cis man as a trans woman. I have not watched an episode to this day and on the TV, Terry and Jill start discussing gender. Jill identifies as non-binary. I had never heard that term used before but it hits me like a ton of bricks. The clients I’m working for are nearby so I try to keep my cool but really all I want to do is find some privacy so I can research more about what non-binary means. I finish my work as quickly as possible, rush to my car and sit there on my phone for a good hour pouring through Google search results for non-binary, then I move on to terms like demigirl, genderfluid, and genderqueer.

That night I tell my partner I’m genderfluid. She’s surprised I’m just learning about non-binary people now. We had a conversation about her potentially being non-binary a few months ago where she used expressions like feeling masculine, and terms I hadn’t yet learned the context of. It was a conversation I didn’t realize I wasn’t understanding. She thinks I’m trying to copy her in some way. Later when I tell her I want to go by the name Harley Quinn, she retorted that, “It makes me think you just want to be a comic book character.” Our relationship didn’t last much longer.

I keep my name to myself for a year after that despite coming out to many close friends. It takes me a long time to process how deep those words of hers cut me. I know I don’t want to be a comic book character but that criticism eats away at me. Harley Quinn is a character I love, she is a powerful woman with no fear, who has gone through a lot of abuse at the hands of a man who’s supposed to care about her. It’s a story that resonates with me because I want to be a powerful woman, I want to have no fear, and I too have suffered abuse at the hands of a man who was supposed to care about me.

Eventually I find a safe space of supportive people online who play video games together. I join under my dead name but am fully open about my gender and sexuality. I think I want to use she/her & they/them pronouns, but the first time I hear someone refer to me by “she” I know that’s all I want to hear. Soon I work up the courage to tell them the name I want to go by. Everyone instantly accepts it, and many people tell me how much they love it. This finally gives me the confidence to tell other people in my life.

It’s Spring 2010 and I’m almost through my first year of college. I’m talking to one my best friends, she’s telling me that she’s not a man; and soon she’s going to come out publicly. She’s big into jokes. I’m a kid who has high functioning autism (I didn’t know that yet) which often makes me terrible at reading people; and although I am accepting of LGBT+ people, I’m extremely under-educated on most of it, especially trans issues. I tell her that I’ll accept her no matter what, but I’m not sure if this is a joke because, “you’re always telling jokes.” She soon drops out of school and comes out halfway through our two-year course. I don’t understand why she doesn’t finish with school before coming out, or just continue with school while transitioning. Later in life I will learn just how naive my line of thinking was. Mutual “friends” say things to me like “I don’t care what he is. I’ll accept him, but I’m not gonna use a different name or call him ‘her’.” I don’t really understand because that’s not what acceptance is. She’s made her wishes clear, why won’t they respect them?

Her and I grow apart after she drops out. She’s working third shift and I’m working second shift while going to school. I’m also dealing with having just left the hardcore christian, conservative, abusive home I grew up in, as well as being on the autism spectrum without realizing it. We still see each other from time to time, and we end up staying in touch over the internet on and off for a few years after school. I realize sometime later that she was attracted to me, but due to internalized transphobia I didn’t notice.

One rather lonely night relatively early on into realizing I was non-binary, I decide to tell her that I want to transition too. We hadn’t talked in months yet I send her a text saying, “I’ve realized I’m trans, I need hormones, and I have no clue how to get them.” Hindsight makes me realize this is an incredible amount of shit to dump on someone, especially someone who was still learning how to be comfortable in her own transition. She’s sends a short text back saying, “Please don’t talk to me about this”, along with a link to the website she was getting her hormones from before she could find medical help.

Over the next couple of years it slowly dawns on me how little I was actually there for her as she was going through one of the hardest parts of her life. She came out to me early, I was clearly someone she trusted, and I was to caught up in my own shit to be there for her in the time she most needed someone. Then I thought I had the right to dump my own problems on her with no warning. How I handled our relationship shall remain my biggest regret in life, and even saying that feels selfish of me.

There are some strange conversations that happens when you come out to cis people as a trans woman. The first question you almost always get is some rendition of, “So you’re gay?”. They never actually mean, “Are you gay?” What they mean is “Are you attracted to men?”. In my case, yes I’m really gay but no I’m not attracted to men. Society is so warped by homophobia and transphobia that most people don’t even fully understand the concepts, even after you try to lay them out.

Sometimes you will come out to someone expecting it to be a hard conversation but they instantly accept you. It can kind of blow you away. You’re thinking maybe I underestimated this person. More often than not, later down the road you find out that there are exceptions to their acceptance. They will think or say things like, “Yea I’ll accept your gender, but I’m never gonna be comfortable with not using your ‘real’ name, it’s just who you are to me.” People put no thought into how much this can hurt someone as they are essentially rejecting the very core of who you are and they clearly put no time into actually learning about what it means to be trans.

As I write this, I’m about to reach the third year anniversary of the day I heard that episode of Fresh Air and realized I was genderfluid. I’ve since started using multiple names with those I’m closest to as I feel it better represents the many facets of my gender. I have yet to gain access to hormones or put much work into my voice, despite wanting to, due to extreme anxiety, lack of transportation, and money.

If there are trans people in your life, be there for them, offer to help them in any way you can, and stick to that commitment. Don’t push them into talking about things they don’t want to, or rely on them to educate you. Be proactive, educate yourself, arrange to spend time with them. Don’t give up if they sometimes say no to spending time together, or if they have to cancel plans you’ve already set. You can make a huge difference in how easy it is for someone to become comfortable with themselves.

About the Author: Hana Quinn is the current faceless voice behind our Patreon. She joined Hypatia to learn how to code, and is hard at work on her first text adventure game.