PowerOn: Providing Technology to Underserved LGBTQ Youth

As a queer Division I runner in college who often felt alone in his sports community, Trevor Youth Advisory Council member Tom Woermer found that the ally community embraced his identity. In an effort to help other LGBTQ youth feel less isolated, he started the PowerOn initiative with The Trevor Project, Straight But Not Narrow, and human-I-T to help underserved LGBTQ youth gain access to computers, tablets, and phones. Now research nonprofit LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute has joined the the PowerOn initiative to further help LGBTQ youth establish invaluable connections and support networks.

For some LGBTQ young people, the internet is the sole place to find peers, engage in civic activities, and search for medical and health information. According to GLSEN’s “Out Online” study, 52% of LGBTQ youth who are not out to peers in person have used the internet to connect with other LGBTQ people. 50% of LGBTQ youth have at least one close online friend, and 77% take part in an online community that supports a cause or issue. It is for this reason that The Trevor Project joined PowerOn after building TrevorSpace.org, a safe, confidential, online network of over 200,000 LGBTQ youth and their straight ally friends.  “At The Trevor Project, we know that connecting to a community can reduce the risk for suicide attempts and other high-risk behaviors. That’s why we are so excited for this collaboration,” says Abbe Land, Executive Director and CEO of The Trevor Project.

Initially, Tom began raising awareness of PowerOn by reaching out to rural LGBTQ centers where he knew LGBTQ youth would feel safe and comfortable, eventually expanding his efforts to homeless shelters.  After providing 40 computers and tablets to 40 homeless LGBTQ youth at the True Colors Fund and several other centers, PowerOn began to provide 100 phones and service plans to LGBTQ youth around the D.C. area.

Most recently, The Fosters actor Gavin Mackintosh announced that he’ll be donating unused and old electronics to LGBTQ youth through a PowerOn PSA, and we are grateful for the visibility. As Tom says, “PowerOn is eliminating barriers that once prevented LGBTQ youth from finding themselves through community connections.”

If you would like to support PowerOn, you can donate old laptops, tablets, and smartphones at human-i-t.org/ally. human-I-T will collect and refurbish all computers free of charge. Thank you for helping us give LGBTQ youth instant access to open-source technology and LGBTQ online resources, like The Trevor Project’s TrevorChat and TrevorText, TrevorSpace.org, and Trevor Support Center. We look forward to seeing you #PowerOn on Twitter!

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Straight But Not Narrow

Founded in 2011, Straight But Not Narrow has quickly become a leading ally organization.  With the help of celebrities and other young influencers, SBNN is a 501c3 non-profit charity primarily focused on straight youth and young adults, and strives to positively influence the perception of, and behavior toward their LGBTQ peers. For more information, visit www.wearesbnn.com and follow on Twitter at @WeAreSBNN.

LGBT Technology Partnership & Institute

The LGBT Technology Institute is a tax-exempt non-profit organization conducting cutting edge research at the intersection of LGBT communities and technology and creates resources, tools, and programs to support LGBT communities. The LGBT Technology Institute strives to serve LGBT communities through education, programs, partnerships and research, and is committed to expanding research to better LGBT communities all around the world. For more information, visit www.lgbttechpartnership.org and follow at @LGBTTech.

human-I-T

human-I-T is a tech-based non-profit in Los Angeles, California that breathes new life into old devices. A socially responsible company, human-I-T is leading the charge to close the digital divide by turning E-waste into opportunities and educational tools. By partnering with local governments and organizations, human-I-T creates programs that ensure no one is left behind digitally. For more information about how to help bridge the digital divide, visit smarthuman.org. Follow @right2tech.


Trevor Helps Introduce the D.C. Youth Suicide Prevention & School Climate Survey Act

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2012, nearly 15% of the District of Columbia’s students ages 11-17 had contemplated suicide at some point, with statistics more than doubling for the LGBTQ population, ages 11-13.

In an effort to reduce these alarming numbers, D.C. Council Member David Grosso worked with The Trevor Project, The D.C. Center, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and others on the Youth Suicide Prevention & School Climate Survey Act, which was introduced in the fall of 2015.  Requiring suicide prevention training of all school personnel in D.C., this is the first bill in the nation to specifically require education about LGBTQ youth as a group with a higher risk of suicide. The Youth Suicide Prevention & School Climate Survey Act will require that information about the LGBTQ population be provided to all school employees, with an update in curriculum every five years to ensure the latest research is being incorporated.

With training, teachers and administrators can better identify youth who may be at-risk for suicidal ideation and refer those students to mental health professionals.  In an effort to improve student performance and attendance in the classroom, school personnel will be also be able to identify factors in the school environment that may contribute to youth stressors, such as the lack of safe spaces and gender neutral bathrooms, interpersonal relationships, social interactions, and organizational processes.

Through early intervention, the D.C. Youth Suicide Prevention & Climate Survey Act is a long-term investment in young people’s futures. Co-sponsored by twelve out of thirteen council members, the bill has overwhelming support and will soon go to the full council for final votes. Ultimately, by enacting this bill, we believe it will become the model legislative statute for other states to adopt, which will help stop suicide and specifically protect LGBTQ youth.

Council Member Grosso says, “It has been an honor to work with the Trevor Project and other advocate organizations on drafting and passing the Youth Suicide Prevention and School Climate Survey Act of 2015. Throughout the legislative process, The Trevor Project was a strong partner and consistent advocate for the best mental health services and policies to put our students in the best position to learn and succeed. I thank them for their partnership and look forward to working with them on future projects.”

To join us in inspiring change across the U.S., learn about how to take action on our Advocacy Page. Thank you for helping save young lives by joining us in our advocacy efforts.


Corporate Spotlight: Baxter International

Over the last few years, we have experienced a surge in the need for our digital program, TrevorChat.  With the mission to expand access to healthcare for the disadvantaged and underserved in the United States and around the world, healthcare company Baxter International’s foundation generously provided The Trevor Project with a grant that made it possible for us to significantly increase the number of Trevor-trained volunteer counselors supporting LGBTQ youth in crisis.

We appointed two full-time TrevorChat shift supervisors, which allowed us to provide supervision and training to many more volunteer counselors, while also maintaining seven days a week of TrevorChat sessions. Together with Baxter, we can continue to innovate the ways in which we offer lifesaving and life-affirming support, and we are so grateful.


Trevor’s Affirming #SelfLoveSelfie Campaign: #HeartYourself

Valentine’s Day can be a difficult time for LGBTQ youth who feel unsupported by their family, friends, and communities. During the month of February, we also recognize two serious movements that affect how young people treat others and themselves: Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 21-27).

Both movements demonstrate that it can sometimes be hard for young people to find self-love, practice healthy love, and care for themselves.  But struggling with any issue, whether it is depression, disordered eating, or an unhealthy relationship, does not mean a person is broken. Instead, this is an opportunity to pause and recognize when a person needs help.

That is why The Trevor Project is here to offer validating acceptance and support, 24/7. For the young people who don’t feel they can confide in anyone, we are here to listen through calls, chats, and texts. Our safe, supportive online community TrevorSpace.org also provides a place for young people to connect and share their experiences over issues they care about.

To show our support, we launched a series of photos for a #heartyourself #selfloveselfie campaign, encouraging #LGBTQ youth to share how they practice self-care and affirm their identities. All are welcome to take part, any time. We are here to support you.


Black History Month

February is Black History Month and The Trevor Project is highlighting a few historical, queer people of color.  This list is by no means exhaustive, but should pique your interest in the incredibly diverse community that who helped to pave the way for a more inclusive society.  In the face of this difficult political climate, learn your history to find strength in the trailblazing heroes who came before us, who stood up to oppression, and changed the world.

“My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds” – Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde was a writer, feminist, and civil rights activist. As a poet, she expressed anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life with technical mastery, passion, and beauty.

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” – James Baldwin
James Arthur Baldwin was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His work explores fundamental internal and external pressures facing people of color, gay and bisexual men, and the internalized obstacles facing those with intersecting identities.

“It’s a long old road, but I know I’m gonna find the end.” – Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, and is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on other jazz singers, earning her the nickname the Empress of the Blues.  Her story was told in the HBO TV film Bessie, directed by Dee Rees and starring Queen Latifah.

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something – to say something – and not be quiet.” –Rep. John Lewis. Mr. Lewis spoke in support of LGBT equality from the podium in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the 40th Anniversary March on Washington event. John Robert Lewis is an American politician and civil rights leader. He is the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, serving since 1987, and is the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. Lewis was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” – Angela Davis
Angela Yvonne Davis is an American political activist, academic scholar, and author. Davis’ imprisonment for over a year in 1970 inspired the international “Free Angela” movement and among other subjects, she has taught about black liberation, inclusive feminism, LGBT equality.

“Pay it no mind” –Marsha P. Johnson
Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender and gay liberation activist, a veteran of the Stonewall riots, cofounder of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries with Sylvia Rivera, and an AIDS activist with ACT UP.


NY State Bans Conversion Therapy

As one of the national leaders in advocacy and policy change for LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project applauds the Governor Cuomo Administration for making bold efforts to end conversion therapy–a practice grounded in homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination.

Abbe Land, Executive Director and CEO of The Trevor Project expressed support and gratitude for Governor Cuomo’s efforts to end conversion therapy in New York.

The Trevor Project has been on the forefront of fighting against the harmful results of conversion therapy for years. We need and encourage all people who have the power to ban this practice, which can cause a lifetime of damage to the youth we serve, to stand up and take action.

The Trevor Project has continued to work with political leadership and decision makers to help structure the ban that has taken place in California, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. We are pleased that Governor Cuomo has taken action to add New York to this list.

As an organization, The Trevor Project offers support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth (LGBTQ) who face so much intolerance, prejudice, and even hate mongering. The reality that someone can be placed in conversion therapy as a way to “change” their authentic selves can increase a young person’s risk for self-harm or possible cases of suicide.

The causes of suicide are complicated, but we know that over 41% of trans people have reportedly attempted suicide, and LGB youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. This is happening in our country, right now. We have to take steps to protect these youth, and help save lives nationwide.

There is virtually no credible evidence that any type of psychotherapy can change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and, in fact, conversion efforts pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, risky behavior, and suicidality. Nearly all the nation’s leading mental health associations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy have examined conversion efforts and issued cautionary position statements on the utilization of these practices.

The Trevor Project continues to work closely with other policy makers and organizations around the nation to talk to and provide information about the detrimental results of conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth. We see a future where conversion therapy is banned throughout the nation and our youth are allowed to grow and live as their authentic selves.


Black History Month

As a son of former slaves, historian and scholar Carter G. Woodson of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History established the second week of February as “Negro History Week” in 1926, coinciding with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 and abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ birthday on February 14. The goal of the week was to ensure that the role of African Americans in U.S. history was not misrepresented or erased and that race would be talked about in public schools within the context of the broader society.  Woodson had said, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition. It becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

During the Civil Rights Movement, as folks fought for black rights and black history clubs thrived, the week was extended into Black History Month in 1970, with urging from the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University. Now, the Month is recognized in the UK and Canada.

At Trevor, we understand that race, sexuality, and gender are interrelated and must be talked about in the context of socioeconomic privilege so that we can move towards creating a brighter future for all youth. To raise awareness about intersectionality, we often share on social media about how privilege can both undermine and uplift folks of varying identities, and that it is our responsibility to listen and affirm queer youth of color whose individual lives have been shaped differently by their experiences. For Black History Month, we will be highlighting the achievements of black LGBTQ folks, recognizing activists and artists who inspire our future young LGBTQ leaders with the hashtags #BlackHistoryMonth and #BlackFutureMonth. Follow along on our InstagramTwitter, and Facebook as we share information and inspiring quotes. And, please remember that we’re here to celebrate every LGBTQ identity every day.


Help Pass The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act

When Oregon Senator Gordon H. Smith’s son died by suicide, his mission was to raise awareness about suicide prevention in colleges. Through the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA), signed by President George W. Bush in 2004, $82 million was authorized to provide suicide prevention and crisis intervention programs across the nation. For over a decade, funds have been used to support the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy Grants to States and Tribes, campus-based grants for college students, and mental health and substance use disorder services. At The Trevor Project, we recognize that this act has been crucial to the health of youth in the LGBTQ community.

Now, Congress is back in session and it’s time to make sure that the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act is passed so that vital funding for suicide prevention and intervention services remains available.  Besides being its own standalone bill, all provisions of GLSMA are included in several bills currently in Congress, including the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act and the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act. The time is ripe for mental health reform in Washington, and Trevor supports the passage of any of these bills as long as the GLSMA provisions are contained and fully funded so that youth who may be thinking of suicide have the support and resources needed to maintain their mental health.

More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder. Four out of five young people with a diagnosable mental health condition do not receive treatment. LGB youth are four times more likely and questioning youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, while nearly half of transgender youth have seriously considered attempting suicide. We can do better for young people who should be receiving treatment, but are not being diagnosed, do not have access to mental health professionals, or who face stigma and shame that keep their mental health challenges from being addressed.

Help save young lives by taking action to reform the mental health system and ensure Congress takes into account the needs of LGBTQ youth. Email your representatives today and ask them to include the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act provisions in mental health reform efforts. Together, let’s prevent suicide through education and awareness.

Photo courtesy of The White House


Moments to Remember: TrevorLIVE Los Angeles

On December 6, 2015 at The Hollywood Palladium, celebrities and supporters gathered to raise over 1.1 million dollars towards The Trevor Project’s suicide prevention and crisis intervention services for LGBTQ youth. The night began with an engaging red carpet livestream, hosted by Shira Lazar, Todrick Hall, and RJ Aguilar, with questions gathered from youth on Twitter and Instagram. The irreverently comedic, yet heartfelt show, directed by Adam Shankman, began with a moving speech from Executive Director and CEO Abbe Land, who spoke about our Southern Initiative, which aims to bring more resources to youth in rural areas who may not know about our services.

Joel McHale hosted the night of entertainment, which began with an electric performance of “Peeno Noir” by Tituss Burgess.  Lisa Kudrow made a special appearance as Valerie Cherish in a tribute video to HBO’s President of Programming, Michael Lombardo. Julia Louis-Dreyfus presented the award to Lombardo, honored as the Trevor Hero for his fight to bring LGBTQ equality into the workplace and his pivotal role in inspiring Vice President Joe Biden to announce his support for marriage equality in 2012.

“The Trevor Project, by providing crisis counseling and a sense of community, is a lifeline to scores of youth struggling to feel unbroken, to feel of value,” said Lombardo. “There is nothing more basic, more critical, than the work Trevor does and what it represents – that one is never alone, that being gay or lesbian or trans is a difference to be embraced and valued.”

The Youth Innovator Award, presented by Candis Cayne, Kevin Zegers, and Jeffrey Paul Wolff and sponsored by Wells Fargo, was awarded to Jazz Jennings for her work with the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues and advocate for transgender youth. In her speech, Jennings said, “Being transgender has not just been a physical transition for me. It’s been about discovering who I am, how to love myself, and spreading that love towards other people and accepting one another no matter their differences. Knowing that I can help folks discover themselves, and that organizations like The Trevor Project exist to help kids understand their feelings and identities is lifesaving.”

Presenting the Trevor 20/20 Visionary Award to The Walt Disney Company was Amy Adams, following Jeremy Jordan’s uplifting Disney medley and a touching video that highlighted Disney’s support of the LGBTQ community through its various television, film, and theme park projects over the years. Chairman of Walt Disney International, Andy Bird, accepted the award, saying: “The Trevor Project saves lives. It is a candle in the darkness, illuminating the way to safety for so many young people struggling to find acceptance. And, even though the world has changed dramatically since this organization was founded, there is still so much to be done. The Walt Disney Company is proud to be part of the effort…and to stand with The Trevor Project tonight and always.”

The evening was full of laughs, heartfelt speeches, and jaw-dropping performances by Aja Naomi King, Alex Borstein, Alfred Enoch, Brad Goreski, Brenna Whitaker, Cheyenne Jackson, Conrad Ricamora, Eli Lieb, Guillermo Diaz, Jack Falahee, Jeremy Jordan, Martin Starr, Matt McGorry, Niecy Nash, Pauley Perette, Rachel Bloom, Sarah Silverman, Suzanne Cryer, and Tony Hale. Pictures and videos of celebrities offering support to LGBTQ youth can be seen on Flickr and Instagram.

To commemorate the lifesaving work of The Trevor Project, the night ended with a powerful performance of “The Circle of Life” by Burgess.

We thank TrevorLIVE presenting sponsors Wells Fargo, HBO, and The Walt Disney Company, corporate and individual donors, volunteers, and staff for making this a night to remember. To find out more about TrevorLIVE New York in June 2016, check in at trevorlive.org.


MLK Day: A Time to Be of Service

As one of the greatest leaders in the advancement of civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr. combatted racial inequality with radical nonviolence, a protest tactic inspired by independence leader Mahatma Ghandi and gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. By organizing protests against segregation, poverty, and the Vietnam War, King was consistently of service to others as a minister, activist, and humanitarian. It is for this reason that MLK Day is now recognized as a National Day of Service.

No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your race, gender, or sexuality is, you can be of service any time of the year. But on MLK Day, we want to pause and reflect on all those who contribute to The Trevor Project daily to make a positive difference in the lives of LGBTQ youth. Every day at The Trevor Project, volunteers are answering calls, chats, texts, and saving young lives. Those who are of service inspire young people to see the good in themselves so that they can be of service to others. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can be of service.”

While online civil rights movements like #BlackLivesMatter and transgender movements like #SayHerName become the next wave of our civil rights movement, consider how you can contribute to intersectional movements. Whether you make MLK Day or any other day your time to start being of service, there are many ways you can become involved in changing the lives of others through service. For local activities you can take part in on MLK Day, find some in your area. Share your acts of service on MLK Day with the hashtags #ServiceSelfie, #DayofService, and #MLKDay on Twitter and Instagram. Show us how you’re giving back to your community and connecting with others.  After all, being of service is a great way to make a positive difference not only on the lives of others, but also yourself.

To pledge a commitment to volunteer this year, consider becoming involved with The Trevor Project. Be a part of our mission to end suicide for all LGBTQ youth and support the LGBTQ community as a whole. And, in February, follow us on Twitter and Facebook as we share inspiring information during Black History Month.