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. This discussion continues in part 2 (LGBT Community and Technology).
Interview recorded on May 17, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham. Part 1 of 2.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: Communicating with smartphones is part of everyday life for most Americans. And for the LGBT community, technology has helped forge a sense of community. But obstacles and challenges remain for this population. Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Comcast Newsmakers.” I’m Robert Traynham. Joining me is Christopher Wood. He’s the co-founder and executive director of LGBT Tech. Christopher, it’s always good to see you. Welcome to the program.
Wood: Thank you for having me.
Traynham: Let’s talk about some of the challenges. As I mentioned a few moments ago, we all use a smartphone to communicate with our friends and loved ones, with work, and so forth. But as I understand it, in the LGBT community, there are some unique challenges. Explain.
Wood: So, our community uses technology for a variety of reasons, and the way that it may be different for LGBT youth or LGBT individuals is connecting with friends, finding healthcare information, even down to identifying and coming out — finding themselves to come out. It is different for us in building that community for ourselves. And it’s not just tied to smartphones. It can be anywhere that there’s access to the Internet. Being able to connect with individuals who they can relate to on social networks or find information around healthcare is very important for them.
Traynham: And I would assume that if, in fact, you’re in a rural community or perhaps an isolated community — “isolated” meaning maybe you’re in an urban area, but there’s no one that you feel like you can talk to — your phone or perhaps technology can almost transport you to another world, virtually.
Wood: Absolutely, absolutely. And that, for individuals who may have found a center or may go to a local library, that connection point may be their only lifeline in that community to somebody that they can identify with, especially as we’re having kids come out younger or kids who are realizing within themselves that they do not identify with the male or female body that they are currently — feel that they’re in.
Traynham: Sure. 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.