On Trans Day of Visibility 2017, I attended my first ever hackathon. Despite my father lecturing in software engineering all my life, I had studiously avoided getting near to any coding throughout my career, so though I had  heard of hackathons before, I had never really thought that there would be any place for me at such an event. However Capgemini were hosting our first ever hackathon, and this was one was special, as, in collaboration with We Are The City, Makers Academy, Gay Women’s Network and Trans*Code, we were hosting our first ever Trans*Hackathon. A few friends of mine asked what a Trans*Hackathon actually is? Good question…

So according to Wikipedia “a hackathon is a collaborative software and hardware development event. Alternative names are “Hack Day”, “Hackfest” and “codefest”. The aim of a hackathon is to create useful, creative or entertaining software products within the duration of this event. The participants usually come from different areas of the software or hardware industry and often work their projects in cross-functional teams. Hackathons often have a specific theme or are technology related” We had a theme ‘Trans’ but as a vehement non-coder, I didn’t really see what role I would play?

As chair of OUTfront, our LGBT network, I was really excited for our coding community that we would be bringing trans issues to the techies, so what would I be doing? I volunteered to support in whatever way I could and arrived at 8.30 to get my corporate t-shirt and see what should be done. The first attendees had started to arrive by the time I arrived, and then we were ready to start!

OUTfront’s senior sponsor, Daylon Lutzenberger, opened the event by introducing our excellent facility in the ASE, and as an out gay Senior VP within Capgemini, also gave a bit of personal context in terms of what being LGBT means at Capgemini.

The night before our hackathon, the Makers Academy held a ‘part-social, part-assessment’ to identify some ideas to thrash out in the hackathon which meant that the next stage was to review the ideas and see which of our attendees were interested in getting involved in which projects, these ideas were soon shared out and the hackathon truly began.

So the specific ideas themselves is really where the hackathon specific theme comes into its own. The ideas were so varied, and when discussed and raised, so obviously necessary:

1.       Online Voice Trainer (to train ones voice to sound more like the gender that you are);

2.       Map overlay to find public gender neutral toilets;

3.       Social Media removal of ‘Dead names’;

4.       Private UK based transitioning database that does not leave a footprint or is too explicit for review in Public;

5.       Database of Transitioning people of faith;

6.       Online policy auto-generator for Trans employees/members/guests of small companies.

It all fell into place. Of course these things are necessary, and in some cases, really simple (in other cases – like removal of dead names, less so!) but this is why these events are so important. Holding a hackathon with a specific theme, raises these issues, but also these opportunities to resolve them. Being able to identify someone who is ‘like you’ is so important to avoid feelings of isolation. So being able to look online and find trans people of faith, is virtually unique – but a really simple thing. At the close of the day, the attendees presented back on how far they had managed to get in the creation of their apps, some of which were full apps that worked, some of which were partially created websites, some of which were just plans on post-its, but all of which had made real progress. In the final wrap-up Daylon suggested a catch-up session in a few months time to see what further progress has been made and have the opportunity to meet up with new friends too! Having attended my first ever hackathon I can completely see how a non-technical person such as myself can play a useful part, and am really looking forward to attending the next one and other themed hackathons too. But thanks to Trans*Code for enabling me to attend my first ever one!