#WorkItWednesday featuring Jack Harrison-Quintana, Director of Grindr for Equality
#WorkItWednesday is Grindr's feature on employees and programs at the heart of the work we do to connect the LGBTQIA+ community with each other and the world around them. In this edition, we chat with Jack Harrison-Quintana about Grindr for Equality, and the impactful work being done to support the global queer community.
Meet Jack Harrison-Quintana, Director of Grindr for Equality!
Jack has been with Grindr for 7 years as an instrumental team member in driving the LGBTQIA+ advocacy work that Grindr is doing through Grindr for Equality. Prior to joining Grindr, Jack worked with various advocacy groups on advancing LGBTQIA+ rights including the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), and the Global Trans Research and Advocacy Project (GTRAP). Jack is excited to share how Grindr supports advancing the global queer community through direct action in making the world a safer and more just place for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Check out Jack’s Grindr story below, and take a look at our careers page to learn more about our open job opportunities.
Have you always worked in LGBTQIA+ advocacy? What drew you to the space?
I grew up in a small town in Tennessee and there were two events in my high school years that led me to the career that I have today. The first was an instance of discrimination: I went to an all-boys Christian school where we attended chapel every week and each senior was invited to give a chapel talk on any topic of their choosing as part of the speaker line-up. As the only ‘out’ kid at the school, I decided I wanted to give my chapel talk about the homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia that pervaded our school culture. Unsurprisingly, the school did not like this idea and forbade me from doing it, but I was able to identify a key gay alumnus living in New York who was a major donor to the school and recruited his support. In the end, he threatened to cut off his funding and I was able to give my presentation. I hope there were people in the audience that day who thought twice about their assumptions of LGBTQIA+ people, but I would hesitate to call it highly impactful for the community. Still, it was highly impactful for me – it connected me to a larger world of LGBTQ institutions like The Advocate who invited me to write a column for their magazine about the experience This experience familiarized me with the mechanics of activism – thinking about the decision makers’ interests, recruiting allies, and ultimately enacting my own story as a tool of persuasion.
The second experience was much more positive. When I was fifteen, I won the opportunity to spend significant time in Kagoshima, Japan. That 2003 exchange changed everything for me. It wasn’t easy, adjusting to a life away from my parents and a new culture, but those challenges began the process of forming me into a person who wasn’t just able to handle being in unfamiliar territory but actually craved it.
Since then, I’ve worked in service of connecting the sometimes disparate parts of our global LGBTQIA+ movement, including visiting seventy countries around the world. I feel very privileged that I’ve been able to make a career out of this important work.
Tell us why you joined Grindr. What do you love most about our mission and our culture?
What makes Grindr different from other LGBTQIA+ jobs I’ve had is our reach within the community. I’ve spent years working for non-profits that do an incredible job of providing services and building movements but have challenges getting those out to the community. In Grindr, I saw the opportunity to use our global presence to promote and amplify the work of queer organizations, particularly in parts of the world where the need is most dire, like countries where it’s illegal for us to be ourselves or even places where it carries the death penalty.
From my lens, I also very much see Grindr as a social justice platform, regardless of the specific health or human rights work that I’m able to do. Our core mission to connect members of the queer community for friendship, love, and sex can make such an enormous difference in the lives of people who might otherwise be totally isolated. That was something I found very inspiring and still do.
It is also true that we bring the best parts of queer culture into our corporate culture - celebrating LGBTQIA+ joy and connection. This makes it a very fun place to work.
What is Grindr for Equality? How did the idea for the program come about and how has it changed over time?
Grindr for Equality was founded in 2012 to leverage the app’s unique resources and promote safety, health, and human rights around the world. That means this year we’re celebrating a decade of activism, fighting for Grindr users and the entire LGBTQIA+ community.
When Grindr was founded, it was not yet clear that it would become the global phenomenon that it is today. As the platform started to go viral, our founder could see it had enormous potential beyond the core mission. Grindr for Equality was founded three years later, and the banner of the program has been raised to represent a wide range of activities from justice-oriented hackathons, workshops, public information campaigns, and advocacy to change the laws that prevent equity for the LGBTQIA+ community.
What are some of the big programs that G4E has created and facilitated? What partnerships have been fostered and how has G4E supported other local organizations and initiatives to advance the community?
Grindr for Equality’s mission includes four goals – 1.) To educate Grindr users on LGBTQIA+ issues and initiatives impacting the community, 2.) To activate Grindr users to take part in solutions for LGBTQIA+ issues, 3.) To fund the global LGBTQIA+ movement, and 4.) To bring social justice into the app itself.
Each area has projects that have been highly impactful. For instance, in India, we have spent the past several years funding and distributing a project conceived by two organizations – Varta Trust and SAATHII. Their idea was to create an All India LGBTQ Help Finder Tool, a database of queer-friendly sexual health clinics, mental health services, legal aid support, and COVID-related services so that individuals would have a clear place to go when they need to access resources. I’m very proud to say today that the database contains listings for twenty-one states out of the country’s total of twenty-eight and we are able to push those resources out to our users.
The other project that I’m the proudest of is the HIV/STI testing reminder tool we built into Grindr with the help of our colleagues at Building Healthy Online Communities. Grindr users come from all walks of life and live all over the world, but the need to stay current with HIV/STI testing is a common denominator for almost all of us. We realized that once we had created a profile field through which a user could list their “last tested date” as a way to signal to their peers how seriously they take their sexual health, it wasn’t difficult to build an opt-in reminder system on top of that.
How does G4E see its role and the broader company's role in advocacy and activism for the queer community?
Because Grindr has created a space that so many queer people visit every single day, we’ve become a part of the connective tissue that brings the community together and that same phenomenon is mirrored in our social justice work. Our strongest tool in supporting the activism being done all over the world is the app itself. By donating free advertisements, these projects and initiatives can reach millions of daily active users.
For example, in the US this year, we experienced the highest number of anti-LGBTQ bills at the state level that we’ve ever seen in a single legislative session. Grindr for Equality lept into action along with our US partners like the ACLU to connect Grindr users in these states to the portals through which they could make their voices heard in opposition to these attacks.
The other thing we prioritize in our work is the importance of cultural sensitivity and humility. Living in the US, it’s one thing for me to have a strong opinion about how the work should proceed in terms of anti-LGBTQ attacks in my own country, but it’s quite another when I’m working abroad. We try to always remember that we will never be able to achieve the same level of comprehension of a situation our Latin American partners, for example, might be facing in their own context. Luckily, the nature of the app as a connector means it’s easy for us to get out of the way and simply spread the news of local activists who have the best grasp of their own work and community’s needs.
What is something coming up in the future for Grindr for Equality that you’re particularly excited about?
I’m excited about one of our rising tools in our fight against the HIV epidemic – the at-home HIV test kit. For the past several years, we’ve been working with a global network of health activists who are trying to figure out the best and cheapest ways to make at-home testing accessible to those who don’t have other testing options. In the US, this has resulted in Take Me Home, a project housed within Building Healthy Online Communities. One of the keys to this project’s success has been that many people who were unable or unwilling to test any other way still use Grindr and when they’re offered a free and discreet way to meet this need, they often go for it, which is something we ultimately hope can be mirrored for users in many other countries across the world.
Working for Grindr is not only a chance to work for a company that supports the global LGBTQIA+ community in connecting but one that makes a direct impact on advancing queer rights and visibility. If you are interested in working for an organization where passion meets purpose, you should apply to open roles today!