This mum and son set up a vital app to help keep LGBTQ+ people safe in public

A mother and son who launched an app to guide LGBTQ+ people to safe places say they hope the platform will become somewhere where members of the LGBTQ+ community can find “all their safety needs”.

Luciana and Nicholas Cousin launched their app ‘Back Off. Back Up.’ (BOBU) in 2021 after some of their friends were attacked.

The app, which covers Brighton, London and, most recently, Kendal in Cumbria, provides a platform showing the nearest safe space, such as a bar or restaurant, where members of LGBTQ+ community can seek refuge and help.

“It became apparent there was nowhere to go once you’ve been attacked,” Luciana tells PinkNews. 

After being attacked in one venue, their friends were too scared to ask other places for help, not knowing how they would be treated, she adds. 

“We thought: what if we had a sticker that would announce [where] LGBTQ+ people could get help?” 

The app’s launch came against a backdrop of rising reports of of anti-LGBTQ+ violence – hate crimes against trans people has risen by 186 per cent in the past five years, and by 112 per cent on the basis of sexual orientation, a study last year showed.

A place to trust

BOBU focuses on physical and emotional safety through a training programme in which all signed-up venues participate. The app includes a sexual health feature that lists all the places people can be tested anonymously and allows users to rank how safe they felt at the participating venues.

The mother-son duo want BOBU to become “a place where queer people can trust that they’re going to get all their safety needs met”, according to Nicholas, who says he has also been threatened with violence. 

“It started as a simple initiative with a sticker on the window and by asking venues to offer help, such as by offering to charge someone’s phone. But as we [spoke] to people, [we saw] the need for diversity and inclusivity training. 

“Members of the trans community have also been asking if we can list venues for haircuts or wellness.” 

The feedback they’ve received means the app is always expanding, improving, and looking for new businesses to sign up, with their most recent plan being to include care homes.

Luciana says: “The plan is to have the app in every major city in Europe so that LGBTQ+ people be safe wherever they go.” 

The pair also run a community-interest company called Across Rainbows, which lists workshops, events and meet-ups for the LGBTQ+ community in the Brighton area.

Venues looking to sign-up to BOBU can do so backoffbackup.com/venues.

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