Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project, has a message he wants to send to young transgender and non-conforming people across the United States: ‘You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.’
Paley is relatively new when it comes to being CEO. The Board of Directors named him to the position on 6 June, 2017.
However, he served as a counselor on the non-profit organization’s 24/7/365 Trevor lifeline for six years, answering thousands of calls. He also served on the Board of Directors for a time, chairing the Public Policy and Advocacy Strategic Planning committees. So he knows what he’s talking about — and it shows.
In speaking with Gay Star News, Paley is effortlessly eloquent and emphatic. There are goals The Trevor Project strives to accomplish and the actions taken to achieve these goals are done with compassion.
An increasingly busy time for the Trevor Project
Founded in 1998, the organization is the largest LGBTQ youth crisis intervention & suicide prevention organization in the United States.
Earlier this month, the group revealed a dramatic increase in crisis contacts from transgender youth.
‘We were originally seeing upticks from Texas as a result of the bathroom ban,’ Paley tells GSN. ‘And then we saw an uptick nationally after the President issued his tweets saying that trans troops would not be allowed to be in the military.’
These numbers have not only increased in the last couple of months, however.
‘It began actually with the election,’ Paley recalls, a sympathetic lilt to his voice.
‘The day after the election, our call volume doubled in a 24-hour period of time. And we’ve seen a continued increase so the past few months have been the highest call volume in the nearly twenty year history of the organization.’
Sending a clear message
Given the current trend and difficult time, Paley says the organization has a foremost goal.
‘Our first response has been to send as clear a message as we can with as many allies as we can to trans and gender nonconforming young people across the country.
That message is that: They are beautiful, they are worthy. They deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, regardless of what anyone in Washington says.’
Wherever they are, Paley stresses, the Trevor Project wants to make sure that sentiment is clear because of the hateful messages coming from around the country.
Fighting the stigmatization of mental health and seeking help
‘It is brave, it is courageous to ask for help,’ Paley affirms.
By its nature, The Trevor Project fights the stigmatization that surrounds issues of mental health and seeking help in the United States. Rather than contributing to the shame people can feel suffering from depression and more, the organization actively helps.
‘We know that sometimes people can be scared to do that, so we want to make sure everyone knows it’s okay to ask for help. Everyone needs help. Everyone should feel they have somewhere they can turn to for support. In certain parts of the country, there’s stigma not just around mental health, but around suicide, around when people have suicidal feelings. We want to make sure people know that if they have those feelings, they don’t have to be ashamed and hide them.’
He emphases that it’s especially important for LGBTQ people because there is also still stigma around being LGBTQ.
What can you do?
Express love and support, advises Paley.
‘It sometimes may sound like it’s trite, but it is so powerful, especially for young people when they are hearing message from powerful people in DC or state capitols,’ he responds when asked what other members of the community and allies can do. ‘It is so important to hear: “We support you, we care about you. You do have dignity.”‘
He also recommends supporting various LGBTQ organizations, not just financially, but with time volunteering as well.
The Trevor Project, for example, is staffed by volunteers.
Politically, Paley says: ‘Let politicians know it is not okay to discriminate. For people living in Texas right now, they should contact their elected representatives, specifically in the House. Call your representatives in the House and Senate, call the White House and express your support for trans youth, trans troops, and trans people in general.’
‘I think the most important thing is that everyone stay vigilant,’ Paley comments about the community going forward. ‘From our services, I know how difficult and challenging this time is for many people. We want them to know there are people across the country in the LGBTQ community and allies in the US and around the world who are fighting for them and support them.’
The Trevor Project is available 24/7/365 for LGBTQ young people who need to talk or are in crisis. You can call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or text and chat from 3-10pm EST every day here.