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SXSW 2017: Tech Takes a Stand For Transgender Rights, Planned Parenthood

Yes, there's still plenty of barbecue, breakfast tacos and Lone Star beer at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas.

But the annual gathering of techies, musicians, filmmakers and fans is putting a special focus this year on inclusivity at a time when the country seems more divided than ever.

Image: Founder and CEO of Tinder Sean Rad with other panelists at Swiping Right on Inclusivity with Tinder & GLAAD at SXSW 2017 at the Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2017 in Austin, Texas.
Director of Programs, Transgender Media at GLAAD Nick Adams, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, Founder and CEO of Tinder Sean Rad and artist and producer Zackary Drucker speak at Swiping Right on Inclusivity with Tinder & GLAAD at SXSW 2017 at the Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2017 in Austin, Texas. Vivien Killilea / Getty Images

"Corporate leaders need to recognize they are, in a way, political leaders," Tinder CEO Sean Rad said while speaking on a panel about how Tinder made changes to embrace the transgender community.

Last year, Tinder approached GLAAD and worked with leaders there to help roll out options, allowing Tinder users to identify as any gender, not just male or female.

Rad said he was "horrified" to see transgender users being reported and decided his team needed to find an option that would embrace them and also help end the harassment they were receiving.

Related: And Now a New Way to Be Judged on Tinder: Your Spotify Playlist

In addition to the expanded gender identity option, Rad said Tinder's team also learned a lot while working with GLAAD.

"No algorithm is going to solve for humans," he said. "We needed our team to empathize and understand how to deal with these things."

Since Tinder made the changes, Rad said there have been 250,000 matches with people using the expanded gender identity options.

Gavin Grimm: 'I'll Stay Fighting' For Transgender Rights 2:52

SXSW is being held as Texas lawmakers weigh SB6, the so-called bathroom bill that would force transgender people to use the bathroom facility matching their birth certificate.

At the Austin Convention Center, a sign in every bathroom pledged the event would continue to be "inclusive, diverse and forward-thinking," adding that the conference organizers "oppose discriminatory legislation."

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, who was also on the panel with Rad, said the bill "isn't just a threat to the Texan economy, it's also a serious threat to the safety of transgender youth and adults, who already face high levels of bullying, discrimination, and even violence."

"When North Carolina and Indiana passed anti-LGBTQ laws, the economic backlash was swift and devastating, and we've already seen that SB6 would cause similar repercussions in Texas," she said.

Tumblr's David Karp launched a new movement on Friday called #TechStandsWithPP, alongside Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards. They're asking for people to use the hashtag to share how the health services organization has helped them or people they know.

In a joint statement, the duo said the tech community has "power to influence public debate, mobilize communities, and — most importantly — offer creative solutions to help people receive better care, no matter where they live or who they are."

"Finally, the tech industry owes its success to the brilliant people it employs and the communities it serves — and we cannot take their health for granted," Richards and Karp added.

On Sunday, Tumblr's SXSW party, usually one of the most talked about festivities each year, will also take a slightly different turn, with plans for it to become a Planned Parenthood rally.