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Trans Code: free software as model & critique of diversity by transgender hackers

Brian Callahan, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Lillian Lemmer, Hypatia Software Organization

Gender and racial diversity initiatives have been an important social force in the free software movement in the last several years. These social justice campaigns have been successful: see for example PyCon. However, those further marginalized, such as transgender hackers, may not feel properly included in these initiatives. They have turned to free software as a model for their own liberation as well as a way to critique the culture of the status quo and mainstream diversity initiatives.

This talk, co-given by a trans hacker and an anthropologist, highlights how free software offers powerful models and critiques of the lack of gender diversity in the free software movement by retelling several ethnographic stories of a free software project led by and comprised of trans women.

By presenting these ethnographic stories we wish to springboard with the audience a conversation of the value of challenges from below to diversity initiatives in free software and the tech industry at large.


4 years, 3 months ago

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CC BY 3.0


This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.