YTH provides a final update on their 2016-2017 ACIOP resource app, they2ze, and shares highlights and challenges associated with connecting transgender-spectrum youth, young adults, and providers with access to HIV and health-related referrals.
they2ze is a mobile application (app) created by YTH, designed by transgender spectrum youth (TSY) and their providers, and funded by the National Library of Medicine. they2ze was designed to assist TSY and their providers with access to inclusive and vetted HIV and health resources, best practices, and referrals. Launched in May of 2017, the app now has over 200 downloads, was featured at the national youth tech health conference YTH Live 2017, and has been a tailored resource for the TSY community in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Additional funding has been secured for the second phase of the app (they2ze2.0) with plans to expand resources and access statewide throughout California and featuring a new PrEP navigation and PrEP management adherence tool. With the excitement of they2ze2.0, YTH takes a look back on some of the highlights and challenges that were presented since the inception of the they2ze app.
CAB: The development of this app would not have been possible without the hard work of the they2ze community advisory board (CAB). CAB members provided insights for the need, design, feel, and content from the community in which the technology was built. It was an inspiring and exciting piece to the development of this app! “Young people are having pivotal conversations around gender…”, community member Aaron Steinfeld notes, “they2ze meets that need for young people to find and interact with resources meant for them as they advocate for themselves and navigate their lives”.
The app while providing a means for self autonomy and exploration also functions as a tailored space dedicated and vetted for TSY and has been able to take into account all of the different barriers TSY encounter when accessing a medical provider. “Countless times I’ve been to a space I was told could help me with something…” community member, Tapakorn Prasertsith comments, “I’d show up and the groups would be out of my price range, or not meant for youth, or required insurance, or something else unexpected. There’s a specificity in these places on [they2ze] and now that I’m intimately familiar with many of them, can attest to their tags”.
Graphic Design: The acceptance from the TYS community has been incredibly positive with relation to the look and feel of the app itself. The color scheme and characters of the app has been highly accepted by the TSY community, where users can identify with many of the digital characters presented on the homepage of the app. The visual design has also attracted TSY-serving providers within the community who have provided praise. “A lot of apps that are niche apps look like they are somebody’s dream child”, says Dr. Mosser of the Gender Confirmation Center of San Francisco, “they are very amateurish, but [not] this app. I was speaking with someone just recently about how blown away we both were that they must have a team of designers, user interface experts, and coders, that really know what they’re doing because it’s a really flawless execution for something that’s, a niche project; a really important project but something that’s really focused to a specific demographic.”
Reach: With over 200 current downloads, maintaining an active increase in user downloads has been one of the main challenges associated with they2ze. Because the app targets a very specialized and concentrated community, whose access to inclusive digital information may be limited, they2ze’s exposure has proven to be a bit more successful when done in-person. The they2ze team has attended numerous events, such as the SF Pride Transgender March, and has teamed up with local businesses to table and promote they2ze. Further, youth who identify somewhere within the transgender spectrum (from questioning all the way to transitioning) do not necessarily identify within the LGBTQ community. Keeping our marketing broad and specific has been a key to getting the word out, and a challenge in the same respect.
Coverage: Currently in the pilot phase, the they2ze app development and TSY/provider resources encompasses the geographical area of the San Francisco Bay Area region. App outreach and marketing has been focused on this region, however, the app has managed to make its way across the nation with downloads occurring outside of the SF Bay Area. YTH’s team has received out of state users and providers who have requested additional support in states like Florida, Utah, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and Arizona–to name a few. YTH is excited to see the acceptance and feasibility of the app as a desired need beyond the pilot area, and hope acquire the resources to expand the app even further than the next phase’s California expansion.
Provider Support: With the opportunity for more TSY-serving providers to have access to a digital resource and referral network useful for their practices and patients, providers have given exceptional support for the they2ze app. A few supportive comments about they2ze:
“As it stands right now, there is a hodgepodge of micro networks of trans folks and the people who care about them who are constantly asking for recommendations for the same services. Most of our orgs are budgetarily constrained and lack the staff needed to build strong community-wide networks of support. It would be revolutionary to be able to link all these providers together with all of these queer micro-networks of support in one portal [like they2ze]”
~ Nicole Vanderheiden, a Chief Administrator at TransForming Families in
Minneapolis, Minnesota and frequent ACLU guest columnist
“I can use they2ze to assist patients to find resources. Even LGBTQ providers can benefit from apps that help find LGBTQ resources.”
~ they2ze Provider user
Overall, YTH has been pleasantly surprised with the amount of excitement from users who are out of state and are hoping that they2ze can one day become a nationwide system of support.