Trans Lifeline needs help to continue saving lives

Another youth suicide has occurred in the transgender community. On Sunday, February 15th, Zander Nicholas Mahaffey took his own life, leaving behind a suicide note published on his Tumblr. In his note, he says, "…even if the world doesn't see me as one…I know in my heart I am a boy." The family has ignored his request to be memorialized using his preferred pronouns and name. Thus, both his headstone and obituary use his birth name.

This news comes while many people are still reeling from the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl from Ohio. In late December, Leelah's suicide note went viral, calling for action to "fix society." Trans people took to twitter using the hashtag #RealLifeTransAdult to share their stories in an effort to inspire youth struggling with gender identity.

In the wake of these deaths, people are sharing information regarding hotlines for those in crisis. One hotline, Trans Lifeline, is the first of its kind, staffed entirely by trans people for trans people. There are upwards of 80 trained volunteers ready to take calls, and unfortunately, the volunteers have their work cut out for them. Greta Gustava Martela, the co-founder of the hotline (along with her partner, Nina Chaubal) says that as many as 400 calls are answered a week. The hotline is free and anonymous. Still in its infancy, it is awaiting word back from the IRS regarding an application for nonprofit status. In the meantime, Trans Lifeline is hosting a campaign to raise money, which will go towards services.

This hotline is extremely important because, as Martela explains, "A lot of people have told us that they’ve called other hotlines and found that the staff has no trans competency."

Statistics relating to suicide and suicide attempts in the transgender community are frightening. A report from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) found that 41% of transgender or gender-nonconforming people have attempted suicide in their lifetime. Using the data collected in this survey, researchers from the Williams Institute and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, concluded that people who experience discrimination, mental illness, and rejection are at increased risk.

Several hotlines exist for the LGBT community, though the operator may not identify as transgender. Popular resources include the Trevor Project, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the GLBT National Help Center.

The U.S. number for Trans Lifeline is (877) 565-8860. The Canadian line is (877) 330-6366.