By Alexandra Knapp, Intern, Engagement Team
When InReach, a US-based, trans-led tech nonprofit increasing resource access for the diverse LGBTQ+ community was selected as the winner of the World Justice Challenge Data for Justice Prize last year, the organization had just announced a rebranding to position its free technology as a resource for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers as well as the broader LGBTQ+ community. Since then, the need for InReach has only increased in the United States.
In the past year, the United States has seen an unprecedented rise in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, particularly against the trans community. In 2023, over 550 anti-trans bills have been introduced in 49 states, and a record 79 laws have passed. These bills ban gender-affirming healthcare, restrict students’ rights at school, and attempt to erase trans people from public life.
The free InReach app is the world’s first tech platform matching LGBTQ+ people facing persecution or discrimination with safe, independently verified resources. The app functions as a digital one-stop-shop for the diverse LGBTQ+ community, including those navigating the immigration process, the trans and gender nonconforming community, LGBTQ+ youth and their caregivers, as well as legal advocates looking to support their clients, and as a resource social workers can share with their clients and other service providers. Since its launch in 2016, the platform has had over 400,000 user sessions, and currently lists over 1,900 independently verified organizations and over 8,500 independently verified services across North America. These organizations and services include LGBTQ+ affirming medical providers, legal services, and mental health counseling.
In 2022, InReach saw a four-fold increase in user sessions that coincided with the beginning of the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the U.S. In addition to LGBTQ+ individuals who flee their countries to seek asylum in North America, there is now an increase in trans and other LGBTQ+ individuals and families who are moving from one U.S. state to another due to discriminatory legislation. The app can be accessed by users around the world, and helps members of the LGBTQ+ community navigate migration regardless of whether an individual hails from overseas or within the U.S. In the last year, InReach has reacted rapidly to the evolving legislative landscape in the U.S. For example, when Roe v. Wade was overturned, InReach created a new category in their app to point users to affirming abortion care options. As co-founder and Executive Director Jamie Sgarro said during a recent webinar hosted by the World Justice Project, “people need safe resources now more than ever.”
The webinar was part of the The World Justice Challenge – A Year of Impact series, which features the five winning projects from the 2022 Challenge and highlights how each organization’s work has evolved over the past year and what they are currently doing to advance the rule of law.
During the webinar, Sgarro and his colleagues discussed the importance of a community of practice in social impact work. He described participating in the Challenge and meeting other finalists at the World Justice Forum as motivating because it gave groups working to advance justice the space to connect. Sgarro shared that the different organizations were able to create bonds and help one another, including InReach having the chance to meet other LGBTQ+ activists from around the world. This has continued through InReach’s participation in the World Justice Challenge alumni network, which connects the more than 115 organizations from around the world who have participated in the Challenge since 2019.
“If one of us succeeds, it’s really a win for all of us,” Sgarro said. “All of the organizations are really intertwined and so for me, [a community of practice] has been extremely valuable.”
Since last summer, InReach’s impact has only grown. The organization recently launched the digital #TransMascFutures Campaign, which showcases positive stories from the diverse trans masculine community while increasing access to safe and verified resources through the free InReach app. To continue providing relevant resources to the LGBTQ+ community, the InReach team hopes to add location-specific alerts about potentially harmful legislation as well as increase rapid response capabilities. InReach is also looking to promote their services in key battleground and sanctuary cities and states across the U.S. Ultimately InReach’s vision is to ensure every LGBTQ+ person has on-demand access to the safe, verified resources they need to thrive.
InReach is personal for Sgarro, who came out as a lesbian woman at the age of 21 and later as a transgender man at 26. During his transition, Jamie found himself relying on the InReach App to access safe and affirming resources for legal aid and medical and mental health care.
“To have [a] one stop digital shop that was confidential and there with me throughout the process as I needed it was really lifesaving,” Sgarro said. “That affirmed what this could be for other trans people and LGBTQ+ people in general, and so that’s why I do this work.”
Watch the webinar below.
For more information about InReach visit their website.