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Help and Hope for LGBT Teens

For 16-year-old Ashley, the holidays are the hardest. It’s then when the relatives are around and the festivities at their merriest, that she feels most vulnerable. “Everyone is there, but I might as well be alone,” she says. “None of them get where I’m coming from. They have no idea.”

Ashley is gay, and she doubts that her relatives would be understanding or accepting if she told them. “It’s impossible,” she says. “It’s not even worth it.”

According to experts, it’s feelings like these that can lead LGBT and questioning teens into depression, self-injury, or even suicide. Statistics show that LGBTQ teens are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. It’s not that LGBTQ teens care less about their lives. It’s that many feel hopeless and isolated in a world that is often full of homophobia and heterosexism. “Sometimes it’s just like, ‘Why bother?'” says Ashley. “What’s the point?”

An Answer

Pose that question to the volunteers at the Trevor Project, and the answer is simple: Life is worth living.

The Trevor Project, launched in 1998 with the creation of a suicide-prevention hotline for LGBTQ teens, is today one of the best places for teens to turn for help when the going gets rough. “We listen,” says Andy Scheer, the Trevor Project’s program and special events manager. “It’s the key to our job. We stay on the line until you have hope. And we help you develop a plan of action.”

The hotline is staffed by a rotating team of more than 150 trained volunteer counselors, as well as a few hired employees who work the late-night hours. There’s also a full-time psychologist on hand to help out when necessary. Teens who call the hotline are guaranteed confidentiality.

The Trevor Project owes its existence to Trevor, an award-winning film about a gay teenager who attempts suicide when his friends and peers reject him because of his sexuality. First released in 1994, the film was later aired on HBO in 1998. The movie’s creators started the Trevor Helpline (1-866-4U-TREVOR) the same night as the HBO screening. Since then, it has remained the only national, toll-free, suicide-prevention hotline provided specifically to LGBTQ youth. Today the Trevor Project consists of the hotline, an informative and interactive Web site, and the Trevor Educational Package. The educational package, which includes a video copy of the film, has been used by high schools nationwide to bring the subject of LGBTQ teens and suicide into the classroom.

A Promising Future

LGBTQ teens like Ashley may feel like there’s nowhere to turn for support. They’re more likely than straight teens to be picked on and bullied and to feel cast out by classmates and family. Not surprisingly, a high percentage of teen runaways are LGBTQ. Sometimes they’re kicked out of their homes by disapproving parents. For some, suicide may seem like the best way out.

To combat the isolation experienced by LGBTQ teens, one of the Trevor Project’s main goals is to raise awareness — not only awareness of their hotline, but awareness in schools, families, and communities of what many LGBTQ teens go through. “What really matters is that gay youth feel welcome in their community,” says Scheer.

Toward that end, the Trevor Project and its hotline will continue doing what they do best. “It’s all about open arms and open phone lines,” says Scheer. “We want all youth to know that we’re out there for you if you need it.”

Additional resources:
The Gay-Straight Alliance Network
The Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

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