Researched and Written by David Watters
How and why author Stephanie Silberstein plans to support the Trevor Project
Many of us can take a lifetime to understand and “accept” ourselves, even with the support of enlightened peers and family members.
Just imagine how it must be for those who grow up in the darkness of a conservative environment, where there is an active resistance to diversity; where family and the wider community are intolerant to homosexuality or gender variance.
Developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson famously said, “Someday, maybe, there will exist a well-informed, well-considered, and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit”.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people continue to live in a world where singular sexuality is promoted, binary definitions of gender prevail and where heterosexism dominates every aspect of culture.
For many individuals identifying as LGBT, there can be a social disconnection, not through choice but through their awareness of “otherness” and of a difference which is sadly still perceived as “less than”.
For those isolated individuals, who are or perceive themselves to be without family support, the feelings of invalidity and hopelessness can be overwhelming.
In 2010, the impact of this was all too clearly and shockingly illustrated, with the tragic deaths, through suicide, of so many desperately lost, tormented and disenfranchised young people, who could find no other alternative than to prematurely leave this world.
Charles Robbins, Executive Director and CEO of the Trevor Project had this to say, “Much like cancer used to be the unmentionable health epidemic; it’s now suicide and has been. Suicide, in America, is the third leading cause of death among youths in general and LGBTQ youths are up to four times as likely to attempt suicide”.
There are so many ways to engage in social change, to participate in assisting others, and it is vital that we recognize and support the numerous local, national and international organisations which exist to celebrate diversity, advocate equality and assist the vulnerable to achieve the self-belief and confidence to make better and more positive life decisions.
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.
They are determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including a nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone.
By providing these critical resources, The Trevor Project, are key players in actively advocating a future where possibilities, opportunities and dreams are the same for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Charles Robbins, who has greatly inspired my work as an Equality Advocate and is a vital contributor who has influenced the direction of my book, NEVER BLEND IN, told me:
Youths reach out to us in a time of crisis or when they are actually experiencing suicide ideation and our goal is, clearly if it is a high risk or rescue call, and a rescue would mean that there is imminent danger of them harming themselves, we would deploy rescue services to that youth.
Usually those calls are a one time relationship, meaning that the youth at some point in time in their life came to this kind of critical juncture, reached out to us, we were able to take the call and in some way provide some kind of help; whether it’s emergency medical services or more often it is reducing the risk level from a high or medium risk to a low or no risk.
What we found, in doing all that work, was that our relationship with our constituency was just that one phone call. So what we noticed and what we felt was missing was some kind of continuum of care and that’s why we decided to deploy the website, because it provided linkage for youths. One statistic that’s really interesting for us is that two thirds of the calls that originate, originate from non-urban areas in the US, so you can imagine these are the mid-West, the South, areas where there’s a higher concentration of conservatism and conservative religious backgrounds and not a lot of services.
In order for us to effectively tackle both homophobia and Transphobia, in order for the younger generation to feel worthy, valid and empowered, in order, let’s be blunt, to SAVE lives, we must all engage in actions which address discrimination and prejudicial attitudes in every area of our society; our schools and universities, our workplaces, our communities and our shopping malls.
We all have the potential to use our particular skills to educate and bring light to the world. Whatever those strengths, whatever those core character traits, there is something that each individual can do to influence change in the world.
One such person is author Stephanie Silberstein, who has utilised her considerable talents to create the novel Shades of Gay, an engaging work of sensitivity, compassion and humanity.
Shades of Gay is described by Silberstein as a young adult novel, written specifically for LGBT teens, which features three teenagers caught up in a love triangle of sorts: Arthur, who is gay; Mitch, who is bisexual; and Emily, who is asexual.
The novel is told from Arthur’s point of view, and examines the effects of homophobia on LGBT teen’s lives, as well as delving into coming-of-age issues such as leaving home and holding onto friendships for longer than appropriate.
Author, Stephanie Silberstein, created Shades of Gay in response to a close friend’s struggle to accept her orientation. The novel is intended to support LGBT teens who may be feeling isolated and/or suicidal and 10% of the novel’s profits will go to support the Trevor Project.
Stephanie told me:
My main interest as an LGBT advocate is in suicide prevention. My best friend nearly committed suicide, in the summer of 2008, because of non-acceptance of her sexual orientation. Even at times when she was not acutely suicidal, she was suffering and hurting.
Nobody should be in that kind of pain just because they don’t happen to be heterosexual.
I decided to write my novel, Shades of Gay, in honor of her struggles. It is for her and for all the people who still suffer from depression/suicidal thoughts and impulses because of being LGBT.
Somewhere along the way, I learned that her situation is not at all uncommon; in fact, 1 out of 3 suicides are LGBT related. At this point, I realized my mission was bigger than writing a book for LGBT young adults. I wanted to dedicate my life to lowering the suicide rate in the LGBT community.
This issue has become even more important to me now because I’m realizing that it is not a ‘hot button” issue like many of the legal issues we are dealing with. I believe this issue is just as important and needs as much press time/advocacy time as marriage equality. Our community is losing members to suicide on a daily basis. My mission is to change that.
There are many ways to make a difference, many methods to repair the world. It’s not necessarily about writing a book and it’s not even about waving a placard or marching in a parade, unless that’s your style. Instead, it’s about finding the correct method of communication for you.
Sign that petition, tweet and retweet your views, repost a powerful YouTube video or an article you’ve found, Facebook or MySpace it, write to your political leaders, talk to, write to, email if you have to politicians, police forces, health services, broadcasters and employers so that they too can all positively influence the way that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are perceived.
Above all, take a moment to view The Trevor Project’s website where you can access information on their mission, values and service provision portfolio.
We should not be complacent and presume that, without our support, the Trevor Project will continue to exist. They are literally a lifeline providing support services to those who have all but lost hope; yet who have, in their time of crisis, found the courage to reach out.
Charles Robbins tells us why the Trevor Project needs public support and emphasises the need for us all to remain vigilant:
The single most important act that anyone can do is to send a contribution because we are not government funded; we rely solely on the goodwill of the general public. It’s an investment that goes a long way because it really only costs about fifteen dollars to answer one call and, therefore, one fifteen dollar gift is literally saving one life. Financial contributions matter and then also what we’ve posted on our website are the warning signs of suicide and it’s really important for us to have people read what those warning signs are for two reasons:
- 1. Should anyone ever have a friend or family member who exhibits those signs, you really need to know what to do and
- 2. It’s very empowering for people to be able to talk about the subject of suicide, because it’s often, it’s like the hidden epidemic, it’s something that a lot of people just don’t talk about and so to be able to arm yourself with some educational talking points I think is just a very, very helpful way in helping to reduce suicide across the country, here in the United States, and I’m sure anywhere else.
Each and every one of us has an obligation to take responsibility for making our society safer, fairer and more inclusive and we should not rely on the good will and hard work of others to secure that just and equal society, whilst complaining that we ourselves are powerless.
We can no longer wait for another Harvey Milk to follow or rely solely on the high profile leaders of this world, the pioneers, a visionaries, to fight our fight; but instead must learn ways to be tenacious, tireless and determined advocates for social equality ourselves.
We must, ourselves, find the strength, resolve and determination to lead and influence the change we want to see, to bring hope to those who have none. Somehow in some way we too can be capable of great things.
As Stephanie Silberstein says, “I live by the principle of Tikkun Olam. God calls Jewish people to repair the world. According to the Kaballah, when we do mitzvot (good deeds), we reclaim the lost pieces of God. In addition, on a personal level, I feel my life has meaning when I have helped and/or positively affected others. So I strive to make people’s lives better and by so doing make the world a little better”.
Save Lives/Take Action
If you are feeling suicidal, please call their 24-hour lifeline immediately at 866-4-U-TREVOR [866.488.7386]. All calls are confidential and toll-free from anywhere in the United States 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
Shades of Gay – Author Interview: http://vimeo.com/14876927
Shades of Gay KINDLE EDITION: