The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 by the creators of the film “Trevor“: James Lecense, Peggy Rajeskim and Randy Stone. The Academy Award-winning film is about a young boy dealing with being bullied while undergoing self-discovery about his sexual identity. The three creators soon found out that there was little (if any) support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth facing the same types of crisis as Trevor. In response to this, the filmmakers founded The Trevor Project., now a leader in providing crises intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT youth.
TREVORSPACE is the largest online network of LGTBQ youth with over 45,000 members in 138 countries. The community continues to grow with over 1,000 new people joining every month. AskTrevor is a non-emergency Q&A platform which receives about 200 letters per month. Trevor also offers online counseling and the suicide prevention hotline, Trevor Lifeline, which has received 200,000 calls since its’ inception. Lifeline handles on average 100 calls a day, 2,900 calls a month, 35,000 calls per year. Trevorchat is a live chat geared towards depressed or suicidal youth and it serves 6000 youths a year. If you feel depressed or suicidal (or know a friend or family member who is) please do not hesitate to call the Lifeline at 866-488-7386. Trevor Project’s Senior Education Manager Nathan Belyeu took time recently to talk to VenusPlusX.
Why do you think there is so little political discourse on LGBTQ youth?
Belyeu: This is a really interesting question. Current research has shown that LGBTQ people are starting to come out younger than they once did. Organizations such as The Trevor Project are working hard along with our partners to increase awareness and understanding regarding the LGBTQ youth community and make sure that our youth’s voices are heard by our elected representatives.
Why is suicide among LGBTQ youth increasing?
Belyeu: Suicide is a very complex issue. Only 60% of all youth in the U.S. who need mental health care actually get it. When we talk specifically about LGBTQ youth, they often face additional stressors which place them at increased risk for suicide including issues related to coming out, bias, and victimization on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and a lack of supportive communities.
When you add the influence of stressors like prejudice, fear, and hate to things that affect all youth, such as lack of access to appropriate mental health care and resources, LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk for suicide attempts. This is why The Trevor Project offers crisis intervention services that are accessible 24/7 (The Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386); instant messaging with a counselor through TrevorChat; a social networking community for LGBTQ youth (TrevorSpace.org); education programs that teach both students and adults how to help recognize warning signs and help a person get the help they need (Trevor Lifeguard and CARE workshops); and, so much more.
How are the public schools systems dealing with LGBTQ youth Are they even equipped to handle the subject?
Belyeu: Many schools across the country are providing support to LGBTQ youth through staff education and training, education for students regarding LGBTQ issues, and by creating supportive spaces and groups for LGBTQ students and their allies. A large percentage of our schools across the country, however, still have a lot of work to do to create spaces that are supportive and safe for all students to learn and reach their educational goals. The Trevor Project provides a variety of resources for school administrators and staff including direct education for staff and students, the Trevor Lifeguard and CARE workshops, as well as resources which can be requested from our website http://ww.thetrevorproject.org/
Have popular shows such as Glee and United States of Tara been effective in bringing LGBTQ issues into the mainstream?
Belyeu: We know from research that having positive role models and positive media representations of LGBTQ people and allies helps create a broader awareness and understanding of LGBTQ people and the community as a whole.
There are so many youths that end up homeless once they come out to their parents. What programs are there for these youths?
Belyeu: Homelessness is most certainly a problem for many LGBTQ young people. Many cities across the country are starting to understand the special needs of LGBTQ youth and are responding by providing resources for shelters that are inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ young people. Organizations like Trevor: Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) and the Family Acceptance Project are working hard to assist families in the process of being accepting and supportive of their LGBTQ youth, hopefully decreasing the amount of LGBTQ young people who end up homeless nationwide.
What types of support groups would you like to see established in local communities?
Belyeu: The Trevor Project is working hard to provide resources for LGBTQ young people nationwide through our services, but it is very important that resources and support services exist locally, where youth can access them and can feel accepted at home. One form that this often takes is GSAs (Gay Straight Alliances) in schools and universities. In locations where schools are not providing this type of support network, many LGBTQ and allied adults are successfully starting youth support groups to provide safe and affirmative places.
How can our readers support the Trevor Project?
Belyeu: There are a variety of ways, including volunteer opportunities that you can participate in to help LGBTQ youth nationwide and in your local community; events that you can attend to support our mission and goals; as well as various ways to support our work financially. To learn more about how to be engaged visit our website: www.TheTrevorProject.org .
Do you think that campaigns such as “It Gets Better” are effective?
Belyeu: When paired with other resources such as those provided by The Trevor Project and other organizations, programs and campaigns like these can certainly be part of a holistic approach to increase awareness and visibility regarding LGBTQ youth and the unique issues they face. It Gets Better is also an excellent way to showcase the unique strength and resiliency within the LGBTQ community.
What type of future do you hope for in regards to LGBTQ youth? Do you think it is reachable within today’s generation?
Belyeu: I really love The Trevor Project’s Vision Statement, “A future where the possibilities, opportunities, and dreams are the same for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Every day the staff and volunteers at The Trevor Project are working hard to make sure that vision becomes a reality by saving lives, building community, and changing society and culture so that all youth have a bright future.