Jacqueline Wing, 24, is a straight ally and the communications manager at The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization in the US focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The Trevor Project operates The Trevor Helpline (866-4-U-TREVOR), the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth.
At The Trevor Project, we encounter incredible stories every day from young people across the country. Some are difficult to hear: a 15-year-old who is forced to eat from plastic dinnerware during family meals since his mother views him as “unclean” merely because he is gay. Others are inspiring: a high school student courageously coming out to her classmates for the first time during a school workshop conducted by our representatives. Youth access The Trevor Project’s resources from small towns in the South where “gay” and “transgender” are words likened to profanity, and from large metropolises where diversity is often embraced and LGBTQ resources are plentiful. The stories are as varied as the geographic locations of the youth who tell them, but each one reinforces the necessity of our lifesaving programs at The Trevor Project and the distressing nature of the statistics that mandate them.
According to a 2006 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. More recent research conducted last year at San Francisco State University confirmed that LGBTQ youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to do so. These increased risk factors for self-harm are not a consequence of youth identifying as LGBTQ, but rather a result of how they are often perceived and treated by others at school, at home and in public.
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth. Each year, our free and confidential helpline fields tens of thousands of calls from youth in crisis, or those who simply need someone to listen and understand without judgment. The Trevor Project’s educational programs, including the Lifeguard Workshop and the Trevor Survival Kit, help facilitate discussions among educators, youth service providers and youth about sexuality, gender identity and the impacts of language and behavior. They also present suicide prevention tools that help young people become “lifeguards” for one another. In addition, TrevorSpace.org, The Trevor Project’s own social networking website for LGBTQ youth and their friends & allies, provides a safe space for young people to connect with each other and find community resources.
These programs and services are invaluable to so many young people who feel helpless, hopeless or that they have nowhere to turn and nobody who understands their feelings. Yet we also know that the key to ensuring that all youth feel accepted for who they are is to create and foster the safer, more inclusive environments they deserve. Everyone can play a part in this larger goal, even merely by being conscious of words and actions on a daily basis, and learning to validate all people by promoting diversity and love.
As young people, we are responsible for what our own generation stands for and the issues we prioritize. Thanks to the hard work of advocates and allies in generations before ours, we have been fortunate to slowly but surely see some changes realized that allow us to expect even more for the future. Therefore, we can and we must empower ourselves and each other to advocate for the full acceptance of all people, and to work toward ending marginalization of our peers based on sexual orientation and gender identity – or any other minority factor – once and for all. If we work together, whether LGBTQ or straight, we will someday live in a country where The Trevor Project is no longer necessary.