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The Trevor Project’s Founder and Interim CEO Reflects on 25 Years of Saving Lives

BY: Trevor News
Peggy Rajski with the words 25 Years in the background
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Here for one generation, here for the next

To our expansive, vibrant Trevor Project community:

As Founder of The Trevor Project with Randy Stone and Celeste Lecesne, I’m filled with insurmountable pride as our organization begins celebrating its 25th anniversary! Currently, I also serve as the organization’s Interim CEO. And as I think back on the last 25 years, my heart fills with immense gratitude for the many passionate individuals who’ve immeasurably contributed to The Trevor Project’s longstanding history of providing life-saving services 24/7 while growing our suicide prevention programs.

In 1998, LGBTQ identities were not widely represented or understood within the larger culture, and mainstream media representation of the LGBTQ community was largely sensational, offensive, or nonexistent. And LGBTQ youth suicide, as is true today, was a public health crisis. That’s why my friends and I gathered around my kitchen table 25 years ago to launch the first 24/7 crisis line for LGBTQ young people.

We were still riding high from winning an Oscar for “TREVOR,” a poignant short-film I directed about an innocent 13-year old boy whose world turns upside down when word spreads that he’s gay. When the success of “TREVOR” led to a national HBO broadcast of the film, a friend of mine mentioned how great it would be to include a helpline number to support viewers facing a crisis similar to our protagonist’s.

The suggestion stopped me in my tracks. I quickly discovered that there weren’t any 24/7 crisis lines that met the unique needs of LGBTQ young people, and the gravity of that weighed on me. With more research, I found a well-respected expert in the area of crisis intervention who was willing to help set things up and train counselors to meet the needs of our target audience. With that in place, I enlisted Randy (my fellow “TREVOR” producer) and Celeste (TREVOR’s screenwriter), and together, in three months’ time, we managed to raise funds and create the infrastructure needed to start taking calls the moment the film’s final credits finished rolling on March 25, 1998.

I remember that night vividly: I was at the crisis call center to watch the broadcast and saw the TrevorLifeline number flash on the screen. Phone lines started ringing — one call, then the next, and the next, and the next. The room’s atmosphere was electric, and I started to shake. It felt like the universe was underscoring for me just how important our work would become.

Over 1,500 calls came in that night from all across the United States, and we haven’t stopped taking calls since. Now, in 2023, I take even more pride in The Trevor Project’s relentless drive to protect LGBTQ young people. But that pride is also tempered with reality.

While the LGBTQ community has achieved wider representation over the years, that increased visibility has been met with a virulent backlash. The Trevor Project’s 25th anniversary comes during a time when LGBTQ young people across the country are faced with dangerous rhetoric and frequent legislative attacks, including a record number of bills targeting transgender and nonbinary youth. The Trevor Project has experienced attacks that have sought to prevent LGBTQ young people from reaching our crisis intervention services, and undermine our affirming suicide prevention programs.

For 25 years, The Trevor Project has not wavered in its dedication to LGBTQ young people. In the face of these attacks, and as LGBTQ youth suicide continues to be a national public health crisis, we vow to be here for the next generation too.

Thank you to every single person who has joined in — our volunteers, donors, partners, staff, and Board members — to support The Trevor Project since its inception. As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we also celebrate you, your contributions, and the massive impact you’ve had in saving LGBTQ young people’s lives. With your continued support, we will never stop fighting for LGBTQ young people. Here’s to another 25 years!

In community and service,

Peggy Rajski (she/her)
Founder/Interim CEO
The Trevor Project

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