Calls to LGBTQ safety hotlines spike following news of transgender erasure memo
The New York Times reported last week that the Trump administration is planning to erase any recognition of transgender people under federal law. That news prompted a massive spike in calls to mental health support networks like Trans Lifeline and The Trevor Project.
“After the trans memo dropped, our call volume quadrupled, with a particular increase in new callers who had never had to use the line before,” Sam Ames, Interim Executive Director of the Trans Lifeline, told ThinkProgress Tuesday.
A social media post last week indicated that the number of first-time callers had, in fact, doubled.
The call volume has remained high for a full week, sparked in part by additional attacks on the trans community beyond reporting on the memo. This included the administration arguing in court that it should be legal to fire people for being trans, the Department of Health and Human Services removing “gender” from its civil rights page, and claims that the administration was also trying to erase “gender” from United Nations documents.
“It has taken a cumulative toll,” Ames explained, noting that calls to Trans Lifeline had finally begun to slow this week.
“What it’s telling us is actually a good thing,” they explained. “It’s telling us that people are still reaching out, that they’re still fighting for their lives, and that they are still trusting us enough to fight alongside them.”
Kevin Wong, a spokesperson for The Trevor Project, confirmed to ThinkProgress that in the 24 hours after the Times article ran, calls from transgender and gender non-conforming youth nearly doubled. “While I can’t share confidential call content, we hear from many folks that they feel scared, terrified, and alone,” he said.
Ames indicated that callers to the Trans Lifeline are similarly struggling with isolation and feeling alone in the fight. “What is hitting trans folks really hard this week is the silence of their cis friends and family,” they explained. “One thing that becomes very clear when these crisis moments hit is that we as a suicide prevention organization cannot do this without the support of our cis friends and family. We’re just too small a community. We address employment discrimination, poverty, and economic barriers at a higher rate than our cis friends and family and we need that support and we need it now.”
As Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, noted in an op-ed for The Hill last week, “When our daily lives as transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are attacked, our mental health suffers. It is a testament to the resilience of our community that so many of us continue to thrive and survive.”
Both organizations implored people to reach out to find the support they need. “The Trevor Project is making sure all LGBTQ youth know that their life has value, they are beautiful just the way they are, and that they are never alone,” Wong said.
“Reach out to us; reach out to someone,” Ames added separately. “Frankly, it doesn’t matter who you reach out to. Don’t try to do this alone. It’s a hard time to be a trans person in America. It’s not in your imagination, and you are not alone in it.”