Community

An email conversation

Brandon Flanery

Written by Brandon Flanery

Written by Adam Evers

August 8, 2020

An email conversation

Hi hi, you fantastic rays of sunshine!

For those of you who have been following us, we are currently in the middle of a crowdsale where we are offering months of spectrum at a discounted price to help fund the final bit of development for believr. It’s been an amazing process and we are so close to our goal. 

In an effort to get more people informed about the crowdsale and also learn why someone might not participate, we shot out an email to everyone in our email registry. That’s when we received an email from our friend named Jen who brought up some concerns that were very challenging and enlightening for us as a company. We wanted to share that dialogue in an effort to be true and vulnerable with our community.

Jen:

As a queer biracial person, I have larger concerns. 

Your staff appears to be largely white and cisgender, and your website’s language centers orientation (“who you love”) without focusing on gender identity. Your values post indicates that you will seek to establish an advisory board and hire a diverse staff. I appreciate those measures and your and Brandon’s acknowledgment of your privilege on a recent podcast episode. But it’s troubling that two cis gay white men apparently neither recognized that from the beginning nor actively sought out Black, NBPOC, trans or NB as staff or consultants. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that! But the perspectives and lived experiences of trans and non-binary folks and BIPOC should be a priority for an app that intends to serve marginalized people, and I don’t get the sense that that is built into believr’s DNA.

Can you tell me why BIPOC like myself should trust believr? How will you be accountable for doing antiracist work? What gender identities and gender expressions will you include for users to self-select? What will your security measures and policies be for blocking and reporting? Will you post your values more prominently on your site and in the app rather than in a blog post?

I say all this because I do believe you are doing the reading, want to listen, and want to do right by BIPOC. I think you have a real chance to get this right and to create the inclusive space that you seek. I look forward to seeing how believr evolves.

Regards,

Jen

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Upon receiving this email, Adam called me (Brandon), and we talked through this email, making sure we were being honest and owning where we could do better. Here’s our response:

Hi Jen,

First and foremost - THANK YOU! Thank you for engaging and beginning the journey in trusting me / us. I can’t tell you how much I value that. You bring up some great points in your email and I’ll address them one by one. I apologize for the length! If you have feedback on any of this, I’d love to hear it.

In regards to the first part of your email, here’s some info that I’d love to share: 

  • You’re 100% correct we don’t talk about gender identity on the website. It’s something we will more explicitly address in the next version of the site, and it will be more visible. A little background here, we made a massive change from being an app focused on dating to an app focused on community, with a dating component. We quickly realized that believr was meant to be more than a dating app, and we wanted to provide a connection of all kinds and belonging for all people. But, we built out the website during our formative months. That’s why you see the focus on “who you love” on the website. Right now, the priority for funding is going directly to the app vs redoing the website. But redoing the website is next on the list.
  • When we started the app and to this day, we’re influenced heavily by BIPOC people. While we have not formalized our advisory board just yet, they have been around since believr started, and we chat with them regularly. It’s been something engrained into our DNA as a company and not just something that we did because of the recent events. 
  • During our initial user research, we always included BIPOC and trans/non-binary voices in order to get feedback that would be beneficial for all races and gender identities. It’s critical for the app to work for everyone. 
  • Staffing/consultants — we have had several marginalized people on our staff — we don’t necessarily call that out on the site for privacy reasons, but they are there.  I’m curious if you have any ideas or recommendations on how to display this to the community while also protecting our employees’ privacy and private lives. Any ideas?

Below, you’ll see your questions followed by corresponding answers:

Can you tell me why BIPOC like myself should trust believr?

  • You shouldn’t fully. I don’t think we’re there just yet, and I don’t think we will ever be perfect. But we’re trying really hard to provide a safe space for BIPOC people. I would ask you to trust our actions. Keep watching us. Hold us accountable. If something comes up and you have concerns or if something just seems off, please email me. We want to continue to be better. 

How will you be accountable for doing antiracist work?

  1. Our community. I’m incredibly thankful for our community. We’ve intentionally made it easy for people to reach out to us. If you see us messing up — email me. This is my direct email. 
  2. Our advisory board — they will have the power and authority to address issues they see. 
  3. Our anti-racist report — We want to publish an anti-racist report card on a regular basis. If you’re willing, I’d love to know more about what you’d be interested in seeing on this report. The forerunner of this official report is this blog post. We’d love any feedback you’re willing to share. 

What gender identities and gender expressions will you include for users to self-select?

See the attached screenshots from the app. We wanted to keep it as open and flexible as possible while also managing the tension of being able to create connections (our idea of matches). 

What will your security measures and policies be for blocking and reporting?

  1. We do multiple verifications that the person who signed up is an actual human. Phone, email, and ID verification for spectrum users.
  2. Every user can block or report another user for any reason, and then we review the reports. We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding hate speech and racism. If a user is violating our community guidelines, they will be removed from the platform. It’s not enough for them to simply be blocked.
  3. Everyone that signs up for the app is required to read and agree to community guidelines, which you can review here.

Will you post your values more prominently on your site and in the app rather than in a blog post?

Yes! Once we get the app out and get the website redesign, we will definitely include our values on the website. It’s actually already in our mockup for version two.

Thank you so much for your email! I really appreciate it. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to continue this dialogue. I really enjoyed it.

P.S. I think this type of information is good for the community to see. I’m wondering if you’d be okay with us posting this as a blog post. We can remove your name — not a problem. BUT if you’re not comfortable with that. No worries.

Thanks for your time!

Best,

-Adam

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