The last time phones rang off the hook at the Trevor Project — the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth ages 25 and under — was in June, after the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
But as it became clear on election night that Donald Trump would become the 45th president of the United States, calls to the Trevor Project’s hotline began to steadily increase, very quickly doubling in number from the usual daily volume.
Ditto for the hotline of Trans Lifeline, an organization dedicated to the well-being of transgender people, which reported close to 300 calls in the hours immediately following the election.
“Almost everyone is anxious and worried, and there’s a fear that there will be a reversal of the progress that has been made,” Steve Mendelsohn, deputy executive director of the Trevor Project, tells Yahoo Beauty. “A lot of young people don’t know who to turn to, so they call us. After Orlando, people banded together and there was a feeling that things would get better. Now there’s a real fear that everything will come apart, that the entire infrastructure will come undone.”
That fear has taken root throughout the LGBTQ community regardless of age. It is terrifying transgender women like Jemma Jones (whose name has been changed for the article at her request), 48, who say they have no idea what’s coming down the road but fear the very worst in a Trump presidency, not least based on vice president-elect Mike Pence’s radical views on LGBTQ rights. Pence has, among other things, advocated for taxpayer money to support so-called “gay conversion therapy,” opposed a law that would’ve protected LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination, and spoken out against President Obama’s HB2 (transgender bathroom) law support in North Carolina.
“I’m scared to visit my home state of Nebraska for Thanksgiving, scared to face my family, most of whom voted for Trump,” Jones tells Yahoo Beauty. “I just don’t have the ‘balls’ for it, or the fortitude.”
“Trump’s administration is going to do all that they can to silence me and my community,” Xavier Morales, a 36-year-old transgender man in California, adds. “And to hear Trump say that ‘now is the time for the country to heal itself,’ is like receiving a bouquet of flowers from my abuser who just spent the last 15 months beating the s*** out of me. That’s how this feels.”
At this time, the younger segment of the population — particularly those in ethnic, gender, and other minority groups — are feeling particularly vulnerable and are susceptible to the fear and anxiety gripping the nation, says Rachel Ostrov, a licensed clinical social worker at Chicago’s North Shore Pediatric Therapy, who works with children, adolescents, and young adults
“We need to make sure kids are not jumping to conclusions, we need to help them understand how to take things day by day, no matter what anxiety they are working through,” she says. “With older adolescents who have a bit more self-advocacy, they should be encouraged to reach out for support — to parents, to support groups at schools, or elsewhere. Those in minority groups in particular should be encouraged to reach out.”
According to a recent report on child and adolescent fatalities from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of suicides in this demographic rose sharply between 2007 and 2014.
“Parents need to look out for the important signs of changed behavior — isolation, worsening function in school,” Ostrov says. “But it’s also very important now to help kids encourage mutual respect and inclusion, to make them understand that everyone can have their own opinion, that everyone can be who they are.”
That is a principle that Morales continues to uphold. “I want everyone to hear my voice,” he says.
And voices are being heard and will continue to be heard at the Trevor Project and on other helplines across the nation.
“We have had a big step-up in the number of volunteers, and that is extremely encouraging,” Mendelsohn says. “We have extra volunteers coming in [Thursday] and next week. People are asking what they can do — the best thing they can do is tell young people that we love them and care about them and are there for them, because it only takes one person to save a life.”
The Trevor Lifeline, 866-488-7386, is available 24/7; Trans Lifeline volunteers can be reached 24/7 at 877-565-8860.