The LGBTQ population continues to struggle with stigmas and isolation. For this population, technology – including smartphones, high-speed networks and other current and emerging technology – can be a lifeline, especially for those in smaller towns and rural communities. Chris Wood, Executive Director of LGBT Tech joins Robert Traynham for a discussion about the unique issues impacting the LGBTQ community and how technology can help contribute to a sense of community. Click here for part 1 of LGBT Community and Technology.
Interview recorded on May 17, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham. Part 2 of 2.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: Christopher, I want to chat for a few moments about Power-On. I understand that this is a program that does a lot in the community. Specifically, what does it do, and what is it?
Wood: So, we take lightly-used technology from —
Traynham: Define “lightly-used.”
Wood: [ Laughs ]
Traynham: Is that a year-old, a 6-month-old, or what?
Wood: Any technology, at this point.
Traynham: Okay, okay.
Wood: And anywhere from Cisco servers, all the way to individual laptops, tablets, Cisco phones. We will take all that technology. We will recycle it. We will sell it to go ahead and get money and put it back into the program to buy new computers or refurbish computers that we receive for laptops, tablets, and be able to put those — cellphones — and we’ll be able to put those into LGBT centers around the country that are then there for youth or individuals within the center or that community to use, and we can — the individual centers can pass that technology all the way to a youth that has graduated a program, is in a stable housing area, help them get online. And so, it’s a full — all the way from recycling to giving the individual a piece of tech that they may not be otherwise able to afford.
Traynham: So, two-part question, Chris. Here’s a smartphone here — obviously just for example purposes. If I have a phone, I’ve got to upgrade it to another phone — obviously, this is my property — how do I donate this to PowerOn?
Wood: Just go to LGBTTech.org or PowerOn.lgbt, and you can go through the process of filling out the form. We will send you a box. You can put your technology in there. It will be shipped to us, and you get the tax donation.
Traynham: So, we know that technology is changing almost instantly. Can it just be a fax machine? Can it be a photocopier? Can it be anything, quite frankly, that I really have no use for?
Wood: If we can’t ship it physically, we will help you find a way to go ahead and recycle it. Obviously, a large copier would be very hard for us to ship, but we’ll help you try to find a way to recycle that, because every single piece of tech helps benefit the program in any way, shape, or form.
Traynham: And I want to chat a little bit more, in the few moments that we have left, about these nationwide centers that you mentioned. There’s five across the country?
Wood: So, we have two — Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. We are going to be launching Fort Lauderdale, one in Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia, and one in New York, and hopefully, another six in the next year.
Wood: And let’s say I live in Minnesota. Perhaps, maybe, I live in Washington state. How can I get the services that PowerOn provides?
Wood: As far as accepting the technology?
Traynham: Yes, please.
Wood: If you can go ahead and submit on that website, you can go ahead and submit a center for review so we can look to see if it would be possible to include them, and we are trying to spread the program across the country as quickly as possible.
Traynham: In the two minutes we have left, tell us more. Tell us why you are involved in this project. Tell us your story, if you don’t mind.
Wood: This is very — very passionate for me. I’ve worked with homeless LGBT youth since the beginning of the program. I came out with a military family. It was not the easiest coming out. I recognize that, even in today — in 2017 — we have youth — we have over 650 youth — 650,000 youth on the streets of America who identify as LGBT and who don’t have a family to turn to.
Traynham: And I assume a lot of that is probably not by choice.
Traynham: Meaning they don’t have a home.
Wood: Correct, a lot of it is not by choice, and they are trying to figure out a way to build a community and to be successful in life — to get a job, to go to school, to make something of themselves, that is — and that empowers them not only to help themselves but the people around them. And so I feel that this is deeply passionate for us. We have a lot of work to do, even in the age of 2017, and I think that technology is a way that we can help bridge that gap.