Updated: Oct 6, 2020
As a young gay teenager, LGBT Technology Partnership co-founder Christopher Wood learned firsthand just how quickly the safety and security of a home can disappear. At the age of 17, with only his cellphone and a hastily gathered overnight bag, Chris’s life instantly went from the warm safe enclave of a home while hiding the secret of being gay to being outed and being kicked out of his parent’s home. In an instant, Chris found himself out in the cold, on the streets and with no place to go. During this time of greatest uncertainty, where basic fundamental living needs like food, safety and security were called into question, Chris learned just how crucial being able to connect with friends was in that time of need with the only link he had, his cellphone. It is for this reason, among others, that Chris decided to launch the LGBT Technology Partnership. With the disappearance of pay phones, Chris’s cellphone, and the connection it provided to his friends, would become the only link between a safe place to lay his head and a night out in the cold. Unfortunately for many teens, even today, Chris’s story is still an all too common occurrence and continues to play out across America. However, for many LGBT youth the outcomes are entirely different and much more bleak than even what Chris experienced. Statistics suggest that the LGBT population comprises about 4% of the overall American population, however, an astounding 40% of homeless youth in this country are LGBT according to a recent study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (“GLSEN”). What’s also alarming is that GLSEN’s work also shines a spotlight on the unique challenges faced by LGBT youth in rural communities across America. The report finds that most LGBT teens in rural communities lack access to even basic resources in schools about LGBT issues. Moreover, it found that these rural youth had less support of educators, family members and often found themselves verbally and physically bullied. Like Chris, for LGBT youth across America and especially in rural communities, access to inexpensive communication technologies such as connected smartphones and devices and ubiquitous access to broadband could mean the difference between having a warm place to sleep and a connection to a supportive community and becoming homeless or worse. Chris co-founded the LGBT Technology Partnership with one primary goal, to work towards providing greater access to technologies that will support LGBT Youth and LGBT communities across America so no teenager need resort to a life on the streets to survive.