While the Supreme Court tackles a landmark case on LGBT rights, gay young folks still have to tough it out in the real world, which is sometimes loving, sometimes cruel. AnonyMouse is a service that allows gay youth to get advice and life coaching from older, wiser mentors — all while letting young people keep their true identities a secret.
The service is officially launching today with help from Change.org, the social impact platform.
In recent days, we might look around our Facebook news feeds and see signs of solidarity for the gay community. But AnonyMouse co-founder Aaron Moy (pictured) says there’s still a big need for LGBT youth and closeted folks to be able to talk anonymously with a friendly, understanding mentor.
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“I think we all have the luxury of living in a major metropolitan place like San Francisco,” Moy told VentureBeat via email today.
“In some of the user research I’ve done, I feel like a majority of our users will be coming from the Midwest and South. The openness and progressive thinking in some of those cities is surprisingly outdated.”
And even in an LGBT mecca like the Bay Area, not everyone feels comfortable going public about certain issues.
“Even in liberal cities like SF, people still prefer to hide behind the cloak of anonymity,” said Moy. “In fact, I believe this is becoming more and more prevalent with teens. I research millennials for my day job and know that the their digital and real lives are becoming increasingly blurred.”
Sometimes, he said, you’re not necessarily going through a heavy personal crisis and you don’t have tons of direct questions; sometimes, you just need to talk.
“There might not be as many use cases now as there were a decade ago, but there are still many vulnerable youth that need our help,” he said. “Just look at the rising statistics of the Trevor Project.”
AnonyMouse pairs mentees with fully vetted mentors, who come from a wide range of backgrounds, from athletes to military to transgendered and beyond.
Mentees’ identities are protected; no personal information is collected, either directly or indirectly, and no information about mentees is shared with outside parties. Conversations can happen via SMS or IM.
The LGBT groups Moy & Co. are reaching out to are a great start, but the team also sees potential for the platform’s use with other groups.
“I think an anonymity-based platform could effect a plethora of demographics,” said Moy, “from recovering drug addicts and alcoholics to battered women — pretty much any group of people who are too afraid or ashamed to speak to their friends and family and want to speak to others who have gone through a similar experience. An anonymous online app could serve as a stepping stone before you gather the courage to physically attend a meeting.”
VB’s research team is studying mobile user acquisition: Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.