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    The Trevor Project Gives the Greatest Gift of All

    Danny Cowan

    By Danny Cowan, Guest Editorial

    Whether you are preparing for a holiday celebration this season with your chosen family, your biological one, alone or with friends, I encourage you to take time to think about a special group within our community: LGBTQ youth. The holidays can be particularly stressful for young people who feel isolated from their school friends during the winter break and/or without a family that accepts them for who they are. For those LGBTQ youth who may feel alone and that their world is ending, The Trevor Project is there to help them see that their future starts the moment they reach out for help.

    More than 14 years ago, the makers of TREVOR, an Academy Award® winning short film, chose to spread a much-needed message of acceptance and support for LGBTQ youth in crisis. Since then, hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ youth have reached out to The Trevor Project for help, connecting with trained volunteers who facilitate a wide range of programs like the Trevor Lifeline (suicide prevention hotline), TrevorChat, Ask Trevor, TrevorSpace and in-school workshops. Every day, hundreds of volunteers, many of whom are here in the Bay Area, work tirelessly to ensure that LGBTQ youth nationwide know they have value and their bright future begins today.

    I was fortunate to grow up in the Bay Area, known for its historically accepting attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals, and my family was always loving and supportive. In college and as a young professional, I quickly learned that my case was an exception to what seemed a much darker rule, even for people who call California “home.” It wasn’t until I connected with Trevor that I realized the full gravity of the struggles countless LGBTQ youth face every day across our country and here in the Bay Area. The San Francisco Ambassadors of The Trevor Project have given me an opportunity to not only advance Trevor’s mission here at home, but also to join an utterly inspiring group of advocates who are working every day to give LGBTQ youth the greatest gift of all – a new outlook on life.

    For thousands of LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project is a life-saving resource that empowers them to see a future that extends beyond the overwhelming challenges of their present. This year, more than 35,000 LGBTQ teens and young adults, (15 percent from California), called the Trevor Lifeline to talk to a counselor. Online, youths instant message with counselors three nights a week on TrevorChat, with a fourth night of service opening on December 18 and expansion to seven nights a week by summer 2013. Via Ask Trevor, youths ask questions and gain responses from trained volunteers. Beginning next year, LGBTQ youth will be able to text message with trained volunteers through TrevorText.

    Trevor is also building communities that are safe and affirming of LGBTQ youth, both online and off. Nearly 50,000 LGBTQ youths from around the world are part of their own unique social networking community at TrevorSpace.org where, for many members, it is the only outlet where they can fully and safely express their gender or orientation. Locally, Trevor teaches suicide prevention skills to parents, educators, healthcare workers, and students, and in cities like San Francisco, volunteers called Trevor Ambassadors are working to make our schools and neighborhoods safer for LGBTQ youth.

    Every day, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of LGBTQ youths who need a supportive listener to talk to, or who simply want someone to tell them that they matter. If an individual you know seems to be having a tough time this holiday season, let them know you care. Share the Trevor Lifeline number (1-866-488-7386) and let them know it is free, confidential and available 24/7. Help them refocus, relax and stay calm if they face a difficult situation. Help the LGBTQ youths in your life to plot out a personal safety plan, outlining activities they can do to feel less overwhelmed–such as creating an art project to express their feelings, going on a run to clear their head, making music or more.

    Let’s start 2013 off strong. This holiday season, empower the LGBTQ youths in your life to reach for the bright future they deserve, and visit www.TheTrevorProject.org to learn more about how you can help end suicide among LGBTQ youth nationwide. Together, we can make a safer, more accepting and inspiring future for all young people.

    Danny Cowan is a corporate communications specialist at Edelman and serves as a San Francisco Ambassador of The Trevor Project.