Trans Lifeline is the first crisis and suicide hotline dedicated to the wellbeing of transgender people, and it already started taking calls just at the end of last year. Greta Martela and her partner Nina Chaubal started it “on a whim on a Sunday afternoon” in September. Nina works on the technical aspects of the hotline while Greta gets the word out about it. Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860) is staffed exclusively by transgender volunteers who are there to support transgender callers, and welcomes genderqueer, questioning and otherwise gender non-conforming folks as well. I was lucky enough to speak with Greta over the phone, and she made it clear that Trans Lifeline also welcomes calls from all folks — parents, friends and partners regardless of gender — who are looking for a resource to support a trans loved one.
Many of us have been reminded yet again of the urgent need for such a resource by the recent passing of Leelah Alcorn, the transgender girl from Ohio who died by suicide on December 28th. The prevalence of suicide attempts among transgender and gender non-conforming adults is 41%, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey as reported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. This is a staggering fact on its own, and even more so in comparison to the prevalence of suicide attempts among the overall U.S. population (4.6%), and lesbian, gay and bisexual adults (10-20%). In one way, it is incredible that something like this didn’t exist before. In another way, it is all too regrettable that something like this is so dearly needed.
As all brilliant, thoughtful entrepreneurial projects go, Trans Lifeline is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to fund the hotline itself while they wait to be officially approved as a 501c3 (non-profit) organization. In addition, they hope to use the funds to run a large outreach campaign “to make sure that [their] toll free number is readily available to trans people everywhere.”
It’s important to note crisis and suicide hotlines are available for people who are suicidal, struggling with self-harm, and also their friends and loved ones. Anyone touched by suicide or self-harm can call a crisis or hotline for support. In this case, Trans Lifeline is there for trans people and their loved ones.
If you are concerned about privacy, I’m happy to tell you that calls to Trans Lifeline are routed through their answering service, and as such remain completely anonymous. In addition, if you’re nervous or curious about who might answer your call, you can go to their website and check the column on the right to check who is on call. The line covers the United States (877-565-8860) and Canada (877-330-6366), and while it is based in San Francisco, their volunteers live all over the US.