August 18, 2017
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US Crisis Hotlines See Surge From LGBTQ Callers After Trump Win

By Sebastien Malo (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


NEW YORK - Crisis hotlines in the United States have seen a surge in calls and texts from distressed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people following the presidential election of Donald Trump, the groups said on Monday.

Donald Trump's election victory last week has left LGBTQ rights advocates in fear that the president-elect's upcoming administration would see a reversal of the civil rights gains the community has made in recent years.

Three major U.S. crisis and suicide prevention hotlines told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they had been flooded with calls and text messages from the LGBTQ community since Trump's win.

The spike sometimes forced the groups to bring in extra staff to meet unexpected demand, they said.

At The Trevor Project, a Los Angeles-based suicide prevention program for LGBTQ youth, numbers more than doubled after Trump's victory in the presidential election.

The non-profit's crisis and suicide prevention service normally receives 100 to 150 calls, texts or online messages a day, said spokesman Steve Mendelsohn.

In the two days after the election, nearly 700 people contacted the service, he said.

"We know there is (a correlation with Trump's win) because more than 95 percent of the people who called us last week mentioned their fears about the election," Mendelsohn said in a phone interview.

Callers expressed worries that under a Trump presidency gay marriage would be outlawed, that they would be forced into gay conversion therapy and spoke of their fears for their personal safety amid a hostile political climate toward LGBTQ people.

Trump, a Republican, said during his election campaign he embraced the LGBTQ community. But his choice for vice-president, Mike Pence, has rankled many LGBTQ rights activists due to his years of opposition to gay rights as governor of Indiana.

The president-elect's promise to nominate a conservative justice to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court also raises the possibility of a reversal of civil rights gains made in recent years, including same-sex marriage.

At the Crisis Text Line in New York, which provides support by text message, a spokeswoman said the organization had seen a fourfold increase in text volumes in the days following the election.

The non-profit does not only support the LGBTQ community, but said its data showed the word "scared" was most often associated with the word "LGBTQ" in the messages it received in the election's aftermath.

A San Francisco-based crisis prevention hotline for transgender people, Trans Lifeline, said it was being contacted by anxious callers at more than double normal rates.

"Particularly we get a lot of calls from rural America and people in the South, people who live in social climates that aren't very hospitable (to transgender people)," said Andre Perez, a spokesman for Trans Lifeline.

"A lot of people are calling having first hand experiences of harassment - there's been an increase in people getting harassed, yelling transphobic slurs, violent acts," he said.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)