AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thousands of young people from the LGBTQ+ community in Texas have reached out seeking help from a national suicide prevention organization.
Within the last year, The Trevor Project shared it had more than 14,500 crisis contacts with young Texans who asked to connect with a counselor through a call, chat or text message. This happened during a time when state leaders pursued legislative actions related to transgender kids and their families.
A spokesperson for The Trevor Project said the organization could not share any other numbers to provide context about how much of an increase this represents in crisis calls. However, the group said it built capacity the past few years to be able to staff its crisis services 24/7, so the spokesperson said The Trevor Project could not attribute an increase in numbers to one particular factor.
The spokesperson, though, pointed to results from a poll released by The Trevor Project earlier this year that found an overwhelming majority (85%) of transgender and nonbinary youth citing political debates for harming their mental health.
For LGBTQ mental health support, call the Trevor Project’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 866-488-7386. You can also reach a trained crisis counselor through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255 or texting 741741.
Advocacy groups describe the last year as a particularly tough time for LGBTQ+ Texans. Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that effectively bars transgender students from playing on girls’ sports teams. Republican lawmakers who supported the legislation said it was needed to maintain fairness in athletics, but critics argued it targeted vulnerable young people and addressed a problem that doesn’t exist. Texas became the largest state to enact such a ban, and now more than a dozen states have passed similar restrictions across the country.
Families with transgender children could also face child abuse investigations now after Gov. Abbott directed the state’s child welfare agency to look into parents who get gender-affirming care for their kids. An injunction from a Travis County judge halted those investigations from proceeding statewide. However, Attorney General Ken Paxton recently asked the state Supreme Court to intervene and allow child abuse investigations into parents of transgender children to proceed.
Emmett Schelling, the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, said he worries how all of these actions are impacting how young people, particularly trans kids, feel about being themselves and embracing their identities.
“It just breaks my heart that right now where we’re at in this visibility fight, it’s now been fraught with this just galling reality of where we’re at in the state of Texas in this conversation,” Schelling said.
Texans are recognizing Thursday as Transgender Day of Visibility, which coincided with the federal government announcing new actions to make travel and government documents more accommodating to transgender Americans. Those include making a new “X” gender marker on U.S. passport applications available starting on April 11 and new Transportation Security Administration scanners that are gender-neutral.