Why is it “despicable” to charge $2.99 for a transgender-friendly phone app?

iphoneTHE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — The gist: A trans man created a phone app (TranSquat) to help trans people find trans-friendly bathrooms. He’s asking $2.99 for the app. “Despicable” some have said.  Resistance to paying for this app has come up before so I thought it’s time to put it on the table for hashing out.

This is the exact comment: “It’s pretty despicable that the authors have charged for this app.” 

This was posted on a (sort-of) social media site (Reddit) following my posting of a link to an article I wrote for “Just Out” published last week: http://www.justout.com/columns/voices/in-transit/in-transit-where-to-pee/

I do not know the trans man who developed the app, but I do know he’s hoping to use some of the proceeds to help fund his SRS. I also know indie content providers (artists, writers, musicians & filmmakers) and software/app developers aren’t exactly rolling in dough. In fact, the majority are most likely not even covering costs. Yet, there’s resistance to paying for contents and an expectation of getting things free.

Ironically, a number of people in various venues have asked about an Android version of this app — not yet available. “Despicable” isn’t much of a motive to get an Android version developed, is it not?

I’m wondering if the Despicable crowd is actually a very small minority. I do know a number of people have bought the app — some are pleased, others, not so much — their city apparently lacking in trans friendly locations in the database. But when I first wrote about the app earlier this year, https://lexiecannes.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/where-to-pee-new-app-for-transgender-people
there was also similar resistance-to-paying-for-the-app comments posted in social media sites where the topic was being discussed.

Other comments (condensed from a line of discussion): “On one hand I agree that they shouldn’t be charging for it it says in the article that he’s trying to save for GRS (SRS) surgery.”

” . . . Of course he’s just using API from another site so there’s nothing stopping someone else making another version and releasing it free.”

“[the cost] 2.99 I think. I guess if you have an iphone, you have money, but still… Something just sits wrong with me.”

“. . . but paying three bucks for that app seems a little… Out there:/”

“Yeah, I agree.  . . .”

What say you? While everyone has a right to an opinion, I’m wondering if this is small minority or part of a general trend of avoidance in paying for contents/apps, even if developed by trans people for trans people?

Read the entire Reddit thread here: Where to Pee? : transgender.



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Categories: Transgender, Transsexual, Trans

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39 replies

  1. $2.99 its a steal, people need to get over it. He is being productive and enterprising. We should all take a leaf from his book.

  2. Since when has anything been free – it’s a commercial product. Given the amount of work needed to put this database together I think it’s good value. Despicable?? Hardly…. I’m underwhelmed

  3. why not pay $2.99? it may end up free from some other source, but people should be happy to help someone else be happy. I don’t need it, but keep me posted. I will gladly contribute when it becomes available.

  4. Hardly despicable. Why can’t someone be paid something for coming up with an idea? I applaud his ambition and resolve. And for those who don’t like it – don’t buy it.

  5. I put the time in to create and update this app. $3 is cheaper than Starbucks. I have no problem with this. I do think an Android version should be made as their devices outnumber Apple’s, but I don’t need this. My documents are in order.

  6. wait, it’s a one time three dollar fee? seems reasonable, and a useful app. know of folk that pay that much or more for gaming apps

  7. It takes work to make an app. It’s going to his surgery. If I had the smart phone to use such an app I would buy it witout hesitation.

    He’s smart to harge for it and people need to get out of the “free” mindset.

  8. Scumbag trans: No problem giving Apple $500 for their cell phone, complains about $3 app to help fund someone’s transition.

    • I hear where you are coming from, but “scumbag” is a bit harsh, and I thought I’d drop a friendly reminder that not everyone pays $500 for their phone; plenty of people receive them as gifts or obtain old ones secondhand for far less.

      I would have had the same sentiment as you not long ago, but then my partner’s mother got herself a new iPhone and just gave the old one to her, so now she has this posh phone, while still struggling to pay for school books and food. It was a real eye-opener for me. 🙂

  9. Why would anyone care what he uses the (potential) profit for? If he decides to save up for a unicorn, that’s his choice. If he wants to spend it all on hookers and beer, his choice. SRS, his choice. He spent time, you spend money. Otherwise walk away and pay for other – perhaps less useful – apps. Geez.

    • I agree with BetterNut. Seriously people, LOTS of apps are for sale. If you want a free app that does the same thing, make it. If you’re conccerned that someone who needs it can’t afford it, set up a fund.. Otherwise, pay the man for his work and leave him alone. I know how much time and effort putting together information databases can take, and I understand what it’s like to get bashed for providing a free service. I also know if I still needed this app I would find the 3.99 to pay for it. And I’m on disability. But heck I’d paint something, sell it for $10 bucks, and put part of the money towards it. So many better things to worry about than trans people who are trying to earn a buck. Whatever they spend that money on.

  10. As a former queer/trans community entrepreneur, this is the mindset that makes creating culture, products and services especially for this community’s members so frustrating and frankly, heartbreaking. I ran a cabaret for the community for 12 years, and there was no end to commentary from folks who thought my (reasonable) charges were from the devil. There was always a contingent who had continual complaints about paying $10 to get in my club for a full evening’s entertainment, but who, without blinking, would fork over $12+ for a 90 minute movie.

    (I want to also say that the greater majority of my customers paid to come into the club and were completely delightful; I miss them a lot.)

    I came out as a dyke in 1982 and I can tell you what’s behind this mindset: Many dykes and politically radical/feminist/activist trans folks (of which I am definitely one, incidentally) think that these goods and services produced in this community should be FREE. (I could tell you my theories about why I think that is, but I’m only going to write so much in this comment box.)

    The funny thing that my therapist pointed out to me about this dynamic is how sexist and transphobic it is. Can you imagine a straight cisman, or for that matter, most gay cismen, even considering the notion of doing all of their work for free? Such a man would laugh you right out of his place of business, or would do what happened to me when I was a young female, and ask for sex in exchange for those goods and services.

    For that matter, the only people who can afford to give away all of their work for free are the wealthy. So these people think that dykes and trans folks should give away their work for free and the only ones that can do this in the community are those with trust funds and who are altruistic.

    I could right an even longer dissertation on this topic, but I’ll save you all the verbiage. Suffice to say:


  11. What kind of fool expects someone to work for free? If you dont want to pay then dont buy the app. It is his property, his work, he is entited to charge whatever he wants and to spend the proceeds however he wishes. There are fools in every community and the ones complaining about this are ours.

  12. “created a phone app (TranSquat) to help trans people find trans-friendly bathrooms;” if there’s something despicable here, isn’t it the fact that trans-friendly bathrooms are so few and far between that someone decided to write an app to help locate them? if you really wanna stick it to this greedy capitalist, maybe we should try and get legislation passed that would mandate having a 3rd bathroom for trans, thus rendering his app obsolete

  13. I cannot believe anyone would consider it despicable to charge $2.99 for this app! Even if this person wasn’t using proceeds for surgery, there are costs associated with developing software, not to mention the author’s time spent in creating it. Come on people, aren’t there more important things to complain about? Be glad that such an app exists.

  14. A lesbian friend sent me info on this app a few months ago thinking it was great! I was offended. I am a woman, I do not need an app to tell me where I am welcome. I find the app itself to be offensive. Imagine an app for her called LezSquat, or in the 50’s if there were smartphones and someone made an app called (N-word)Squat?

    • Seriously, get a life. If you are a woman why are you even commenting on this and why would it offend you? If you and I have similar history then you should well know that every single on of us can understand the insecurity and concern that many face in using public facilities.

    • Anyone who would compare this app to the experiences of lesbian and Black people totally misses the point of exactly what this does for the transgender population, and frankly the whole point of being transgender. Which kind of makes me think you’re a troll and not really trans at all, especially since you’ve chosen a screen name of Lana, which is the same first name as Lana Wachowski’s, likely the world’s best know transwoman.

      Get a life indeed.

      • Dear Karlyn and Amber,

        Interesting to me that neither of you are able to listen to a view to which you don’t agree without insulting (get a life) and name calling (troll).

        I am indeed a post-op MtF woman. I have a life and I get along well. I am a real person and Lana is my real name, I don’t pick “screen names.” Whether you agree with me or not, it is my sincere view of this. Transition was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I was able to do it by sticking to one very important principle, and that is that dignity is non-negotiable.

        Separate-but-equal was not acceptable for blacks during the civil rights movement and it’s not right for us now. As a trans woman, I use the women’s room. If there is a restroom that you don’t belong in, don’t go there. Acquiescing to the bullies of society by accepting that we need a special app to let us know where it’s ok to “squat,” in my view is not dignified.

        You may disagree, and that is your right. I respect that. I am always interested in other people’s views because I don’t pretend to know everything and I don’t question the legitimacy of those who disagree with me.

        Thank you,

        • I am sorry I insulted you, Lana. I do maintain everything I said about this issue in my earlier post.



        • Lana,

          Some points of view deserve respect. Yours does not. If you find the app undignified then dont purchase it. So you are a post-op MTF transsexual. So am I, quite some time. You are nothing special and I am not so stupid as to be taken in by your subtle elitism. My real name is amber – my full name is amber anne powell. I use the ladies room always which makes sense as I am legally a female. Others are not as fortunate as I, nor are they as prescious as you. This app presumably is aimed at helping those who have real concern for their safety.

          My transition was also difficult but hardly as immense as you suggest as it was a great comfort to simply be myself.

          • I know some trans people who are much more comfortable using gender neutral bathrooms. I am not one of them, but I respect the rights of people to use a bathroom they feel comfortable going into to pee and poo. I could care less what other people think when I walk into a ladies’ room. I have had all my legal stuff changed and am legally female. Heck, I was already using the ladies’ room way before that and never had any issues of blending in or being clocked. I know that I’m lucky. Many people don’t feel comfortable in either bathroom and would rather a gender neutral one. One of my friends from college used to go to the nurse’s office and use the bathroom there, but now the college has designated two bathrooms as gender neutral, so he has someplace to go where he feels comfortable.

            While I think this app is designed to give out information that is usable to some, it it pointless for others and that is quite fine. I do believe, however, that this information should be free of charge, but that’s my socialist views getting in the way. Capitalism makes me sick, but in this world, I give him credit for making this what it is and trying to make a few bucks on it. As someone trying to survive in this economy, I give him props for doing this.

            • The problem, Julia, is that even those of us with Socialist ideals live and try to survive in a Capitalist reality. Thus unless you, or your parents or your grandparents are very lucky Capitalists, you can’t afford to give away (all of) your work. Again, ironically, such a perspective is, ironically, elitist.

    • [Ad hominem comment deleted by moderator.]

  15. With all the costs we incur as trans folk, 2.99 is very, very small change. If I had a smart phone I would totally buy this app.

  16. I don’t think it’s wrong at all for him to charge for this app. Creating an app is a lot of work, I imagine. And, like some others said, it really doesn’t matter what he’s spending the money on – he could be spending it on his rent! It’s his money and he worked for it. I wonder how many of the people who are complaining work for free. Probably not many, if any. It would be great to be independently wealthy and do what you love without charging for it, but most people don’t have that luxury.

  17. Thanks for all your comments! 🙂

  18. How is it despicable to charge for your talents & skills?.. People have gotten used to giving away all of their privacy rights in exchange for free mobile apps made my big companies. “Trans” aside, here you have a software designer / entrepreneur trying to make a living and too many are condemning it. If you don’t work for free then don’t expect others to.

    • Amen. I hope this developer pulls the app. As a software designer, I can tell you this app would cost thousands of dollars to create on the open market. With a user base of less than 500 that hardly begins to make up for the hard work and effort put into this project. And if you think advertising pays the bills you are dead wrong. That amounts to pennies per month. For all you cheap sake haters, I don’t work for free why would anyone think anyone else should? Give this guy a break.

  19. How is it despicable to charge for your talents & skills?.. People have gotten used to giving away all of their privacy rights in exchange for free mobile apps made my big companies – just to post comments on this to your Facebook page requires you to give WordPress access to your page, friends, and all your data.

    “Trans” aside, here you have a software designer / entrepreneur trying to make a living and too many are condemning it. If you don’t work for free then don’t expect others to.

  20. It’s pretty silly. Sure, there are plenty of free apps out there, and people have gotten into the mindframe that they should all be free. But very often, you get what you pay for with apps (though there are exceptions; for example, there’s a (3rd party) BC Transit app for the iPhone, that is nothing but a static copy of the BC Transit website (which could just as easily be accessed via mobile web, or saved for offline access), which costs a few dollars–plainly a rip-off). Many good apps cost considerably more than $3, and many “free” apps cost more than that, by the time you’ve purchased all the add-ons necessary to make them functional. One of the best apps out there, Fluke Networks Wi-Fi Analyzer (Android), costs over $100.

    So $3 is really nothing. But I suspect that the cost is not really what people are objecting to.

  21. I don’t think it’s despicable. That’s a little strong.

  22. Not despicable, but a little cheeky. If it were clubs and bars then maybe,but toilets are something we all need.

    • So is food and a place to live. Do you expect that to be free too? Give me a break. If you don’t want to pay for the app don’t buy it.

  23. From safe2pee:

    Can I use your data for x, y, or z?

    yes, please! safe2pee.org is copyleft, which means that it’s a community resource for everyone. Technically our license is Creative Commons By-NonCommercial. The software behind this site uses in part various open source projects and will be released under that license when it’s deemed stable/bug free.

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