Supporting World AIDS Day

 

On World AIDS Day, we take a moment to reflect on how we can support those who are currently living with HIV and those who have lost loved ones to this virus.

Over the years there have been incredible scientific advances and many laws have been enacted to protect people living with HIV. Today we understand much more about how to support those impacted by the virus. Yet, with 34 million people who have HIV globally and more than 35 million who have died from the virus, there is still so much to do.

In a world where stigma and discrimination are often faced by the LGBTQ community, World AIDS Day is an opportunity to educate young people about their health, the health of others, and how to treat everyone with respect and understanding. Throughout November, we’ve shared educational materials for LGBQ and trans youth about practicing safe sex, and we’ve raised awareness about how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today.

However, the education must continue beyond World AIDS Day, and when youth ask us questions on the Trevor Lifeline, TrevorChat, TrevorText, and TrevorSpace.org, we are committed to sharing facts and knowledge. This year, you can share your support of World AIDS Day by not only wearing a red ribbon, but also educating yourself and raising awareness. And, if you or someone you know needs support during this time, call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.

Our hearts go out to all those in the community who have been affected by AIDS and HIV, and we hope you know, we are here to offer support when you need us, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


Building Resilience and Community During Transgender Awareness Week

From November 14-20, people across the world come together, building community around Transgender Awareness Week. This is a time to not only help raise visibility of transgender and genderqueer issues, but also recognize the challenges these communities face. Unfortunately, transgender people often face hatred or fear just because of who they are. Violence, harassment, discrimination, and lack of support are huge issues facing the young transgender community today – especially among young transgender women of color. This is why, on November 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance, we remember lives lost.

At The Trevor Project, we recognize that loss in the transgender community, on top of the adversities and non-affirming conflicts that transgender folks too frequently face, can wear on a community’s resilience. In one report, over 40 percent of transgender people attempted suicide and according to GLSEN’s National Climate Survey, 80 percent of transgender students stated that they felt unsafe in school because of their gender expression. This is why it’s important for transgender individuals to find supportive networks and share positive, life-affirming stories that connect them and build strength within the community.

Renowned suicidologist Thomas Joiner theorizes that a feeling of belongingness can reduce suicide attempts and death by suicide, and according to Psych in the Schools, one supportive person can reduce suicide by 30 percent. At The Trevor Project, we offer nonjudgmental support to transgender and questioning youth who have nowhere else to turn to for help. Our crisis-services volunteers on the Trevor Lifeline go through extensive training to understand the distinct challenges transgender young people face, and they continue to learn about various LGBTQ topics throughout the year.

No matter how old you are or where you live, our life-affirming online hub, the Trevor Support Center, allows readers to explore a wide range of transgender and non-binary topics, Q-and-As, and resources in a way that promotes visibility, spreads awareness about diverse identities, and offers support to youth around the country. TrevorSpace, our online social network for LGBTQ youth and their allies, gives members a chance to select gender terms with which they identify (they can use more than one or forgo a label completely). For some youth, this can be the first time they’ve ever identified as their true self.

According to TrevorSpace Coordinator, Chris Angel Murphy, “It is incredibly inspiring to see youth connect and share their stories on TrevorSpace. There is a strong network of trans-identified youth who support and check-in with each other regularly. Some of them have even shared that TrevorSpace is one of the few places they can live their truth. The best part? They are intentionally creating and holding that space for each other.”

Within The Trevor Project’s Youth Advisory Council, several transgender activists are advising our programmatic and outreach efforts so that we can best serve LGBTQ youth. YAC Member and Co-founder of Transgender Student Educational Resources, Eli Erlick says, “The Trevor Project introduced me to a community of empowered young trans activists who want to make a difference in our communities. I know that with this community, we can change the world.”

When YAC member and transgender activist Charlie Kerr met Erlick she said it was life-changing: “Before I joined the YAC, I didn’t have any other friends who were transgender women, let alone who were transgender women involved in activism and organizing. I consider Eli Erlick one of my best friends despite the fact that we are on opposite sides of the country. YAC member Juniper Cordova-Goff is also one of the most amazing, powerful, driven, and dynamic activists I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Without Trevor, I would have never had the opportunity to meet and bond with these two people who each, in their own, give me so much strength and inspiration every day.”

Organizations like The Trevor Project will continue to be there for transgender youth who need lifesaving help or want to connect with someone who simply lets them know that it’s okay to be who they are.

Thankfully, society is slowly changing to be a more affirming and accepting place. Shows like Beautiful As I Want To Be, True Life: I’m Genderqueer, Transparent, and The T Word are promising advancements in visibility and understanding. Heroes like Jen Richards, Tiq Milan, Angelica Ross, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Geena Rocero, Chaz Bono, Laura Jane Grace, and Lana Wachowski are giving new visibility to important conversations about what it means to be transgender. Advocates will continue to push forward in the fight for true equality, and for the rights of transgender people nationwide who face disproportionately high risks and discrimination.

Whether or not these pivotal steps continue to make a difference is up to all of us. As author and activist Jennifer Finney Boylan said in GLAAD’s video series, I AM: Trans People Speak:

“People don’t need to understand all the ins and outs of what it means to be transgender in order to be loving. If we begin with love, everything else will flow from there. And the things that we need to understand will flow from that as well.”

However transgender folks find a community to be a part of this week, remember that we all have a part in making the community feel supported. As Youtuber and Harry Potter Alliance Communications Director Jackson Bird states, “We have a long way to go towards equality and acceptance of transgender people and it’s going to continue to be a fight…These injustices we face are due to a stigma born out of a lack of understanding and compassion that our world, including our friends, coworkers, and families have for transgender people. If you are not a transgender person, or if you are a transgender person with any amount of privilege, security, or a platform, continue to educate yourself, educate others when able, amplify the voices of the less privileged than yourself, take action when you can, and remember those who came before us and those we’ve lost. And if you are transgender…find support where you can. There are a ton of resources you can turn to online…I recommend The Trevor Project.”

To be inspired by transgender folks who are raising awareness and taking action, see images we shared on social media throughout the week below.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, help build resilience with the community by joining our staff at the events below or visit this link of events compiled by TDOR.info. This is not a full list, so please check your area to find an event near you. To submit your own event, visit the following link.

West Hollywood, CA

  • Date: November 20, 2015 6:00 PM PST
  • Location: West Hollywood Library, Auto Court; 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard

New York City, New York

  • Date: November 20, 2015 7:00 PM EST
  • Location: The NYC LGBT Center; 208 W. 13 St. NY, NY 10011

Washington, D.C.

  • Date: November 20, 2015, 6-8 PM EST
  • Location: Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, DC, 474 Ridge St. Washington, D.C. 20001

San Francisco, CA

  • Date: November 20, 2015, 6-8:30 PM PST
  • Location: SF LGBT Center, 1800 Market St., SF, CA

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.


The Importance of Asexual Awareness Week

By Founder of Asexual Awareness Week, Sara Beth Brooks

This week, asexual people around the world are celebrating the sixth annual Asexual Awareness Week. When I founded this project In 2010, I had no idea it would not only reach across the United States, but also around the world. As Ace Week has quickly become a tradition in the lives of asexual, demisexual, grey-asexual, and other ace spectrum people each October, it’s important to take a moment to remember why this awareness is so important.

Asexuality is an orientation where a person does not experience sexual attraction. Oftentimes, asexual people, or aces, experience erasure and invisibility in everyday life, because there is little to no public discourse about asexuality. Some aces struggle with understanding their sexuality for some time before finding the asexual community. A common theme of ace identity is feeling broken, alone, or even ashamed of one’s sexual orientation. But as information about asexuality is starting to reach mental health professionals, they are seeing how they can better serve us.

Over the last six years, we’ve worked with countless organizations to educate on asexuality and ace experiences. Since 2012, Trevor Project has integrated materials about asexuality into their trainings and services. And our work as a community isn’t done yet. Last year, the University of California system took demographic information from among its undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff and found that 4.6% of that population identifies as asexual. These growing numbers of people identifying as asexual show that it has never been more important to continue educating about asexuality. Community events such as Asexual Awareness Week not only serve to bring us closer together, but also help more people understand the fundamental diversity of human sexuality.

This week, as profile pictures turn purple, white, grey, and black in support of asexuality, you can learn more too through the collection of resources we’ve gathered on asexualawarenessweek.com. A curriculum is even available for download at asexualoutreach.org and events around the globe are listed here. For more information on asexuality, please visit www.aceweek.org or www.asexuality.com.


World Mental Health Day

October 10, 2015 is World Mental Health Day. In the United States, mental health is much more accepted as a part of overall health than it is in many other countries across the world.  We are privileged to be able to talk about it in this country, which we hope encourages those who are struggling feel more open to getting help. This allows us to decrease the stigma and is key to suicide prevention efforts like The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a safe place for LGBTQ youth to open up about their identities, and the counseling they receive on the Trevor Lifeline, TrevorText, TrevorChat, or on TrevorSpace.org can be a crucial part of improving their state of mind.

With LGBQ youth being three to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers and transgender youth having an even higher risk, suicide prevention and crisis intervention services like ours are key to public health. For youth who face suicidal thoughts, they often feel hopeless and may believe they have no one to turn to for support. However, there are alternatives to sitting in the hopelessness, and at The Trevor Project, our trained counselors are here to help youth ages 13-24 explore alternative ways of thinking.

Warning Signs

If you or someone you know notices changes such as those in the list below, it may be time to address feelings of sadness, despair, loneliness, or immense hopelessness with a professional, our trained counselors, close friends, or a trusted family member.

1. Sleeping too much or too little

2. Losing appetite or overeating

3. Difficulty concentrating
4. Phasing out

5. Isolating

6. Activities that used to give you enjoyment no longer do

Coping Strategies
When you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to connect with a supportive community around you, like TrevorSpace.org. Reaching out to friends and loving family members can help you feel like you’re not alone and that people care about you. Know also that sometimes, you can’t change the way you feel, but you can work on changing the way you think about things. If you can consider a new perspective, sometimes the way you feel about things will change too. Taking care of yourself, with activities such as the examples below, can help you shift your mindset.

1. Journal out your thoughts

2. Schedule fun events (go to the movies, a park, dance, play sports)

3. Do something creative that fuels your mind

4. Spend time with friends

5. Exercise

6. Meditate

7. Visit a mental health professional (therapist, school counselor, or psychiatrist)

8. If you are spiritual, connect with a supportive and affirming religious leader or spiritual healer you trust

9. Identify what feels good and bad in your life, then minimize the bad to feel more balanced

Know that help is always available and people do want to support you when you’re experiencing mental health issues, even if you may feel like a burden. Surround yourself with people who care, and you may find your mental health improving.

Chronic Mental Health Issues
Some people do experience chronic mental health issues. In this case, seeking out a mental health professional can be particularly helpful. Be sure to talk to your doctor to figure out what’s best for you.

Staying mentally healthy is like taking care of your physical fitness. You can’t exercise just once and expect to be healthy. It’s important to consistently examine how you’re doing and give yourself check-ups once in a while. The good news is, there is support out there, and you are not alone.

If you or someone you know has been considering suicide or has been feeling down lately, call our Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or find a supportive community online at TrevorSpace.org.


What Five Things Matter Most to Our Youth Advisory Council?

On October 17, our Youth Advisory Council will be meeting with our board to present five issues that the nation’s LGBTQ youth care about so that The Trevor Project can serve our youth even better and increase our visibility through outreach and programmatic efforts.

Comprised of 20 members across the country, ages 16-24, the YAC serves as a liaison between youth nationwide and The Trevor Project, where members have the opportunity to become leaders in suicide prevention, sexuality, and gender identity.

If you’d like to join the YAC, look out for our applications to open up later this year, and in the meantime, check out how to get involved with volunteer and advocacy opportunities.


World Suicide Prevention Day & LGBTQ Youth

On September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, long-time supporter Victoria Justice explains the startling statistics affecting LGBTQ youth. If you are in need, remember, it’s brave to #AskforHelp (OkToAsk.org) or call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. And, to support our crisis intervention and suicide prevention services so that we can help end suicide for our youth, text VICTORIA to 41444 to donate. If you’d like to extend your support through September 18th, download Victoria’s film “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List” and 10 percent of proceeds will go to The Trevor Project. Help save young LGBTQ lives on World Suicide Prevention Day.


NextGen New York Hosts Inspiring Speakers

On March 4 in New York, Trevor NextGen hosted an empowering event focusing on LGBTQ youth and the media. Throughout the evening, advocates and leaders shared their stories and spoke to more than 50 attendees to inspire, spread awareness, and educate.

It is increasingly important to lift of the voices of LGBTQ young people who are often not represented in media outlets, as well as share their diverse stories and perspectives. Oftentimes, LGBTQ young people are unable to see people who reflect their identities. This can be isolating and challenging, especially if a young person is struggling to accept themselves for who they are.

Trevor Youth Advisory Council member Charlie Kerr

The speakers who discussed this important topic included Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and President of GLAAD; Jonathan Higbee, Associate Web Editor at Instinct Magazine; Kelvin Moon Loh, Broadway actor; and Charlie Kerr, filmmaker and Founder of Trans Across America.

Charlie, who is also a Trevor Youth Advisory Council member, shared her experiences related to street harassment on the streets of New York as a trans woman. She debuted her video series showcasing youth who share the emotional and physical toll of this public type of harassment.

Thank you to NextGen New York for creating this important event, and to HuffPo Gay Voices for their partial sponsorship!


Facebook Allows Users to Fill-In their Own Gender Identities

In this screen grab provided by Facebook, the custom gender options now available are seen on a profile page. Facebook users who don’t fit any of the 58 gender identity options offered by the social media giant are now being given a rather big 59th option: fill in the blank. “Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own,” said a Facebook announcement published online Thursday morning, Feb. 26, 2015, and shared in advance with The Associated Press. Facebook software engineer Ari Chivukula, who identifies as transgender and was part of the team that made the free-form option, thinks the change will lead to more widespread acceptance of people who don’t identify themselves as a man or woman. (AP Photo/Facebook)

A recent, exciting announcement marked a crucial milestone for the future of mainstream social media: Facebook announced that it would allow users to fill in their own gender identity.

 

Last year, the company made it possible for members to choose a gender identity from a long list of possible options. During this process, Facebook consulted with The Trevor Project, and our team was able to provide feedback and guidance as the social network moved toward becoming more inclusive. Now, Facebook is taking the next step in allowing for a wider range of gender identities and terms.

Youth deserve the chance to identify with the words that best describe who they are, and we know that allowing a “fill-in-the-blank” option opens the door for young people with diverse genders. Imagine being able to self-identify as your true gender for the first time, and actually allow others to see it; for some, that can be life-changing.

In fact, that’s why our safe and secure social network for LGBTQ youth, TrevorSpace.org, allows members to choose from more than 20 gender identities. What if a young person can’t find what they’re looking for? In that case, each user has the ability to fill in and create any gender identity that speaks to them, even if it isn’t listed – or, they can select multiple identities rather than simply choosing one.

The importance of supporting LGBTQ youth and respecting diverse identities cannot be understated. As the younger generation’s communication continues to shift into the digital world, it is our hope that more social networks and online profile features will allow for self-expression outside of the gender binary. To learn more about gender, and why it’s so important to reflect diverse identities, click here!


27th Annual Creating Change Conference

The Trevor Project was proud to attend The National Conference on LGBTQ Equality: Creating Change, sponsored by the National LGBTQ Task Force, in Denver, CO from February 4-8. Here, over 4,000 people came together to learn, empower, and strategize about the coming year in LGBTQ rights and social justice.

For the second year in a row, Trevor staff presented a day-long institute called “Advancing LGBTQ Youth Mental Health and Well-Being: Building Capacity in Our Communities.” Over 70 mental health professionals, campus life staff, educators, and youth-service coordinators from every region in the country took part in crisis intervention role plays, identified ways to reduce stigma through safe messaging, brainstormed ways to advocate for youth voices, and built empathy with activities.

“As always, Creating Change gave me the opportunity to become a stronger advocate for LGBTQ youth.  I loved attending the many youth-led workshops to hear firsthand how we can better support them, and I am always touched by the moving stories attendees share with us when they visit Trevor’s table. Creating Change always reminds me of how powerful our work truly is.”  Wes Nemenz, Senior Education Manager at The Trevor Project.

Trevor also staffed a table in the exhibiting hall, gathering hundreds of signatures from folks who showed interest in volunteering, sharing our resources, and supporting our work.

Check out a few of our tweets during Creating Change:


LGBTQ Youth During the Holidays

The holiday season can be especially tough for the LGBTQ youth that Trevor supports.

“Our busiest times are actually the days before and after the holidays,” said Odalis Gonzalez, one of Trevor’s Crisis Services Managers said. “Young people are considering whether or not to ‘come out,’ are facing isolation or judgment from family, or are unable to go home at all. And these are just a few stressors that our youth may face.”

Thankfully, there are people who are ready to listen, and help. Because of Trevor’s invaluable volunteers, we’re able to keep our phones and chat lines open for any young person who needs to talk, even on holidays.

“We have a lot of counselors who volunteer to work extra shifts during the holidays,” said Liam Mina, Crisis Services Manager for TrevorChat. “They have supportive families themselves, and want to be there for youth whose families may not be as accepting.”

Together, we can help make sure that this holiday season is a safer for LGBTQ youth nationwide. Remind the young people in your life that they aren’t alone, and be aware of the warning signs of suicide. It only takes one supportive adult to make a difference!

If you know someone who might be feeling suicidal or needs support, please encourage them to call the Trevor Lifeline (1-866-488-7386) or reach out over TrevorChat (7-days a week during select hours). We are here to listen, 24/7.

To make an end of year donation that will help support LGBTQ youth year-round, visit www.Trvr.org/Donate to make a tax-deductible gift.