Local

America's LGBT youths are calling this LA-based crisis hotline. And they're afraid of Trump.

Two counselors take calls at The Trevor Project, the West Hollywood-based organization that takes crisis calls, texts and chats from LGBT youths.
Two counselors take calls at The Trevor Project, the West Hollywood-based organization that takes crisis calls, texts and chats from LGBT youths.
Leo Duran/KPCC

Listen to story

06:18
Download this story 6MB

Donald Trump hasn't even taken office, and yet America's LGBT youths are saying one thing – they are scared.

The Trevor Project, based in West Hollywood, is the nation's only lifeline for these young people. Volunteer counselors will be an ear to whatever crisis or problem they might have 24/7, from the fears of coming out to thoughts of suicide.

KPCC spoke with several counselors and have agreed to use pseudonyms to protect their anonymity so as not to influence their work.

Since November, they've heard from person after person worried about what's to come with the new administration.

"I don't think I heard politics mentioned that much before the election," says Sadie, one of the counselors. "But when you have 12- and 13-year-olds who are calling and freaking out, that has struck me."

This anxiety is nothing like the people at The Trevor Project have ever seen before.

For instance, another crisis point was the mass shooting last June at The Pulse Nightclub, a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people.

"A day after the Orlando massacre, we had the highest, single day call volume we’ve had in over a year," says The Trevor Project's David Bond. "The day after the election, we had twice as many incoming contacts as we did the day after the Orlando massacre."

And the number of calls in the week post-election ended up setting a record in the organization’s 18 year history.

There is a lot of fear. And it's of the unknown.

Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that he will be a friend to the LGBT community.

"I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens," he proclaimed at the Republican National Convention in July.

But it’s the people he’s surrounding himself with that’s driving up anxiety, like Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

His critics say he supports conversion therapy, the practice where a psychologist will try to change a person’s sexual orientation through counseling. It's banned for use on minors in California and five other states, and is discredited by the American Psychological Association

Pence has never explicitly mentioned the practice, but callers to the Trevor Project point to his anti-LGBT record and believe that his influence in the White House will lead to its expanded use throughout the nation.

"A lot of young people are concerned with conversion therapy because of Mike Pence," says Jean, another counselor. "They fear that their parents will put them in conversion therapy. A lot of fear."

 And it’s a fear of the unknown – nothing has happened yet, and Donald Trump does not take office until January.

But counselors say the stories they're hearing from LGBT youths are weighing on their hearts.

"I feel like they’re very aware of what’s happening in the country. It seems to be creating a sense of anxiety, almost fear," says Robert. "It’s hard for me to hear young people speaking in a manner that lacks hope."

A good volunteer for the Trevor Project, however, will have been trained over the course of three months to be a good listener.

"When you go to friend with a problem, you don’t want your friend to come back to you and say, 'What you need to go do is this and this and this,'" says trainer Chris Bright. "You want your friend to be like, 'Wow, that sounds that’s really hard and I want you to know that I’m here in what ever ways you need me to be here for you.'"

How lifelines like The Trevor Project can help

LGB youths are three times more likely to have thoughts about suicide compared to heterosexual young people, according to the CDC.

But those feelings can subside if that person is able to talk with a compassionate family member or friend.

Not every LGBT young person lives in an area with someone welcoming nearby, however, which is why The Trevor Project is open to people from around the country – the goal is to make sure every person knows that they can always talk with someone who cares.

And the effort can pay off when it helps people like Sam Brinton, 27, who reached out to the lifeline eight years ago as a college student in Kansas.

"I had just basically failed a test," he recalls. "As I was walking home, someone screamed out the F-word as he’s driving past in his pick-up. And no said anything. There were people walking right by me on the street and no one said anything. I looked around in this shock of, 'No one cares that I’m here.'"
 

He was distraught, and decided to dial The Trevor Project to speak with a counselor.

"She told me that it may feel that we’re alone, but we’re never really alone. We always have someone to talk to, just like you’re talking to me right now," remembers Brinton. "That community cared enough for me to be on the phone when I needed them."
 

Those same counselors are trying to find ways to be there for youths in the years to come as they worry about how they might be affected by Trump administration policies.

"Because I remember a day when you could be fired for being gay," says Robert. "Those were some really dark days and we’ve really come a long way. We’re not going back. Always hopeful. Always."

If you are an LGBT youth, you can reach The Trevor Project by calling 866-488-7386, by chat or by texting.