Trans Support Hotlines Receiving Record Calls

by James Hale

The effect that a Donald Trump presidency will have on the world isn't clear, but the repercussions his election is having on the LGBTQ community are already apparent. Trans Lifeline, the only support hotline catering specifically to transgender people, has received more calls in the 24-hour period surrounding election night than in any 24-hour period before, the hotline tells Bustle. As of 4:45 p.m. EST on Nov. 9, Trans Lifeline had received 400 calls from struggling transgender people.

"Trans people are scared right now," says Greta Martela, co-founder and executive director of the organization, in an interview with Bustle. "We answered 97 calls in the last 24 hours, which is a lot of calls. We saw 400 and some-odd calls come in — we couldn't answer all of them coming in."

Martela explains that the hotline currently has about 100 volunteers, and that between two and four people have been on call since the election results were announced. The hotline, however, has been overwhelmed by the unprecedented amount of traffic.

Trump's history of misogyny, mockery, racism, and Islamophobia didn't deter supporters of his platform; a platform that also supports infringing on transgender people's rights, rejects the banning of conversion therapy, and favors outlawing same-sex marriage. And earlier this week, Vice President-elect Mike Pence confirmed the Trump administration will be pursuing the platform's anti-LGBTQ plans, which include challenging pro-trans bathroom bills.

For obvious reasons, Trans Lifeline isn't the only hotline that's seen an influx of calls. Brad Becker, executive director of the GLBT National Help Center, says the center's various hotlines — it has a general LGBTQ hotline, a talkline for youths, and a line for elderly LGBTQ folks — have been receiving more calls than usual, too.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

"It's too early for us to be able to compile statistics," he says in a phone call with Bustle, "But I can tell you anecdotally that we're definitely hearing from the LGBTQ community specifically about their fears about what happened [Tuesday] night. They're expressing concerns that rights that were available in their area may be rolled back."

Becker says Trump's election has had the most drastic effect on LGBTQ people who aren't comfortable with their sexuality or gender identity.

"What we're trying to do is give voice to these conversations and not minimize them, and at the same time kind of put things in perspective," he explains. "Our approach is to try to understand — what we're finding is a lot of people already have a level of discomfort with their sexuality or gender identity and may have that nervousness magnified by [Tuesday] night ... When people are nervous about other people's reactions to who they are, this can become a crisis for them."

The GLBT National Help Center, which was founded in 1996, also hosts an online talk group for trans youths age 12 to 19 every Wednesday night. On Nov. 9, the day after Trump was elected, teens in the group chatted and swapped transgender-led book recommendations, but also expressed worry about abusive trolls infringing on the chat, and shared experiences of being harassed in public. "School today was a mess," said one participant.

Transgender youths are some of the most at-risk people in the population. A 2014 study found that 41 percent of trans people will attempt suicide during their lifetime, and that 45 percent of trans youths age 18 to 24 attempt suicide.

Trans Lifeline reports on its site that transgender people are 22 times more likely to attempt suicide than cisgender people, and that their "participatory research shows a third of the trans community will not seek help in a moment of crisis due to fear of being discriminated against or having emergency services called on them involuntarily."As the only national trans-specific hotline, Trans Lifeline works solely with transgender-identified volunteers, and says on its website that volunteers have a policy of not calling emergency services without callers' explicit consent.

Martela co-founded Trans Lifeline in Nov. 2014. This month, the organization is fund-raising with a goal of at least $41,000, a number chosen to represent the 41 percent of trans people who attempt suicide. So far, donors have contributed about $25,500.

On its website, Trans Lifeline invites all trans people in need of support, not only those who are suicidal, to contact them for peer-to-peer help.

To donate to Trans Lifeline, visit its website. You can apply to be a hotline operator or a behind-the-scenes volunteer here, and can learn about hosting a fund-raiser here.

You can donate to the GLBT National Help Center here, and apply to volunteer here.

If you or an LGBTQ person you know is in need, please call one of the following numbers:

Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860

GLBT National Help Center: 1-888-843-4564 (main line); 1-800-246-7743 (youth talkline); 888-234-7243 (elderly LGBTQ folks)

The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386