Fifty-three years after the Stonewall Riot, the LGBTQ community is still fighting for respect, the right to simply exist, and equality on the most basic levels. Today, organizations like The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention nonprofit, work to push Pride support beyond the month of June by. calling for political change throughout the year, holding major corporations accountable, and continuing its mission to end LGBTQ youth suicide all year long.
Creators of the Oscar-winning 1994 short film Trevor, which focused on a gay 13-year-old boy who attempted suicide when his loved ones objected to his sexuality, launched the organization in 1998 after realizing young queer people had no outside resources to lean on for mental health aid. Since then, The Trevor Project has become one of the go-to suicide crisis hotlines.
For CEO and executive director Amit Paley, providing tools and resources to stop youth suicide remains a top priority.
"Our research has found that just one accepting adult can reduce the risk of suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40 percent," Paley told Cheddar. "Our hope is that by empowering people with the knowledge to address LGBTQ youth suicide, we can help create a safer, more welcoming world where every single LGBTQ young person can thrive."
To paint a picture of how dire the situation is, a 2022 survey from The Trevor Project found that 45 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered taking their own lives. Another 60 percent who sought mental health aid were unable to access it.
In order to offset these staggering rates, community support is essential. Queer youth who received support from family reported suicide attempts less than half as often as those without it, according to the same survey.
"One of the best ways to be an ally is to educate yourself. It can be tiresome for LGBTQ people to bear the burden of having to educate others about their identity and lived experiences. By educating yourself and spreading awareness, you can help foster acceptance in your local communities," Paley said.
Authentic allyship isn't just limited to individuals, however.
Each June, during Pride Month, brands and major corporations display their rainbow flags, merchandise, and marketing efforts, all geared toward supporting LGBTQ people. Yet, in most cases, that corporate support halts once the month ends. Paley is calling for businesses to show their support beyond Pride month.
He noted that "tangible investments," like charitable donations, providing access to educational tools, and implementing pro-LGBTQ values into the company's DNA, are ways to create a true alliance between the LGBTQ community and brands/organizations.
"When a visible brand amplifies the LGBTQ experience, it can create a groundswell of support and affirmation for the community. It's also important to remember that many LGBTQ young people find themselves in unsupportive environments and communities — so a brand's loud support for their existence may be the only affirming messaging that they see. We've found that more than half of youth said brands who support the LGBTQ community positively impact how they feel about being LGBTQ," Paley told Cheddar.
Paley also said companies should consider using their visibility to encourage policy change from lawmakers, particularly as more states establish anti-LGBTQ legislation. Several states including Texas, Ohio, and Alabama have discussed or rolled out measures specifically targeting transgender people. In March, the Human Rights Campaign reported that more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills had already been drafted this year.
Paley called the blatant attacks on LGBTQ youth from the country's lawmakers "heartbreaking" and said saving young people from suicide "is something that should transcend politics."
Still, the right of LGBTQ people to live free is actively being targeted, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday. In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Court should consider overturning a number of other precedents, including those that cleared the path to same-sex marriage, which would be a devastating blow to the LGBTQ community.
"The preservation of LGBTQ life is not up for debate, and amid the increase in anti-LGBTQ bills, we've seen our allies, partners, and supporters be loud in defense of our mission," Paley said.