By: Lauren Walleser/ TRT Assistant Editor—
BOSTON, Mass.—Equaldex—a collaborative website that serves as a database for LGBT rights—uses crowdsourcing to create a visual database and timeline for LGBT movements, organizations and news in countries around the world. According to its founder, Dan Leveille, the site aims to feature every law related to LGBT rights in order to provide a comprehensive, global view of the movement across the globe.
“Equaldex really opens people’s eyes to the world around them. So many people are too focused on their own country and don’t realize how hard LGBT people in other countries have it,” said Leveille.
After developing an interest in LGBT rights while in college in 2009, Leveille said he began to question which countries or states had legalized same-sex marriage or were passing other laws related to LGBT life.
“I noticed that there was a huge opportunity to build a site that listed and visualized every LGBT related law around the world,” Leveille said. “Information is powerful, and I think that if presented well, it can really drive home an argument.” [pullquote]“I noticed that there was a huge opportunity to build a site that listed and visualized every LGBT related law around the world,” Leveille said. “Information is powerful, and I think that if presented well, it can really drive home an argument.”[/pullquote]
According to Leveille, what makes Equaldex unique is that it brings together information that can be found scattered across various websites and compiles it into a single, comprehensive format. Using maps, timelines, charts and infographics, the site gives users a visual of where each state and country falls. Various maps and graphics display information on laws regarding sexual activity, marriage, adoption, military, discrimination, housing discrimination, employment discrimination, age of consent, donating blood, changing gender, and conversion therapy. There is also an option to view each item globally or just in the United States.
“I’ve always intended Equaldex to be a one-stop-shop for data related to LGBT rights. My hope is that when people ask themselves questions like ‘Is gay marriage legal in X country?’ or ‘How many U.S. states have legalized same-sex adoption?’ their first thought is to come to Equaldex,” said Leveille. “The site is also a great resource for LGBT people who are looking to travel to other countries. As an LGBT individual, it might be important to know the laws of a country you’re visiting.”
While Leveille said he first planned to upload all the data himself, he eventually realized it was too big of an undertaking, as laws are constantly changing. As some laws also appear to be unclear or unknown, Equaldex offers the opportunity for users to discuss and research laws together. Viet Vu, a contributor to Equaldex, started out as an alpha tester for the site and now volunteers as a moderator. [pullquote]According to Leveille, what makes Equaldex unique is that it brings together information that can be found scattered across various websites and compiles it into a single, comprehensive format. Using maps, timelines, charts and infographics, the site gives users a visual of where each state and country falls.[/pullquote]
“Having come out as bi two years ago, I was always fascinated with creating the kind of environment that allows people to come to terms with their sexuality,” said Vu. “Legal framework plays a huge role in creating that environment, and I wanted to learn more about how sexual orientations and gender identities are addressed legally around the world.”
Vu shared that as an economics student, he recently became interested in a field known as “Queer Economics,” or the economics of LGBT.
“Historically, this field was understudied because of the lack of data available for researchers to use. One cool thing about Equaldex is that it is attempting to not only create a visually appealing way to access information but also create a centralized place where organized information can be accessed and used in serious research projects,” Vu said. “For example, by using the data curated from the site, I was able to run an analysis on the effect of legalizing homosexuality on a country’s GDP.”
As for accuracy, the information on the site becomes more accurate as more users contribute, Leveille and Vu agreed. The system was designed to be transparent, so that as users spot errors and verify information (using an “accurate vote” count), the data becomes more accurate over time. Users are also required to include sources for their entries.
“I think one thing that Equaldex has done well is its representation of change over time,” said Vu. “A lot of the times, websites that have this kind of information only have the law’s current status and not how the law has changed over the course of history. Equaldex consolidates the most important aspects of legal changes—date, legal status, sources and interpretations—into one neat page. This is especially important when you can track how changes have taken place and how fast this change has been.”
Vu said the biggest benefit in using the site has been how much he has learned as a contributor, in addition to meeting new people working on the project. [pullquote]The system was designed to be transparent, so that as users spot errors and verify information (using an “accurate vote” count), the data becomes more accurate over time. Users are also required to include sources for their entries.[/pullquote]
“I would have never known that Mozambique had an anti-discrimination legislation in place for sexual orientations!” he said. “In addition, I’ve been able to run some really simple analysis on how legal status of homosexuality affects economic variables such as welfare and GDP, the results of which are very interesting to look at.”
Equaldex also offers LGBT public opinion data from third party sources, which Leveille says provides insight into how citizens in each country feel about the issues, and began listing organizations and allowing news to be shared on the site in May in order to give greater context for the laws.
“I think what makes Equaldex special is that users not only feel a part of a community, [but] they feel like they’re contributing something to the greater LGBT movement,” said Leveille.
For more information, visit www.equaldex.com.