As the Executive Director and CEO of the only national 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention program for LGBTQ youth, I am deeply disturbed by the hatemongering and transphobia that led to the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). This defeat is a setback to LGBTQ rights in Houston, and it sets a dangerous precedent in this country.
As a nation, we were so proud to see Mayor Annise D. Parker elected in 2009 as the first openly gay mayor of a major metropolitan city. We have also been proud of the Supreme Court’s marriage decision and the many states and municipalities that have been passing supportive ordinances. But I am troubled by the backlash I am seeing towards the recent strides forwarding LGBTQ rights. Houston is just the most recent example.
We are entering a challenging time when the rights of so many of our citizens can be set back by decades. This becomes especially disturbing when we talk about the youth we serve at The Trevor Project. Every day we hear from young people whose families reject them because they are different. Homelessness in parts of the country is soaring because more and more, young people are being thrown out of their homes after coming out to their families. This personal rejection and the rejection that the youth are hearing from campaigns like the one in Houston can be devastating.
The Trevor Project offers LGBTQ youth a place to contact when they are most in need. Our 24 hour Lifeline, chat and text programs are contacted by youth every day. We are grateful that we are here to help them. But we are concerned that the dangerous message that is being shouted out from Houston will make matters much worse. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24. Young people who come from rejecting families are eight times more likely to consider suicide. LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Nearly half of all transgender youth have seriously considered attempting suicide, and approximately a quarter have attempted. These facts cannot be denied.
The Trevor Project works hard to advocate for laws and policies that will support LGBTQ youth (and LGBTQ people in general). In recent years we have been heartened by the progress we have seen. We are proud of the part we have played in this progress. But more work needs to be done. As long as some voters in Houston, certain school districts in Illinois, families and elected officials across the nation advocate discrimination and intolerance, The Trevor Project will work even harder to combat these efforts with messages of acceptance, support and love. We are not giving up – and we hope you will join us in our battle against fear mongering and injustice and help us forward our mission to help save young lives.