Friday marks the 50th anniversary ofin New York, which served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.
A recent survey by The Trevor Project reveals that nearly 1-in-5 LGBTQ young people attempted suicide in the last year. For more than two decades, The Trevor Project has worked to end the long-running crisis, offering emergency counseling by phone, text and chat. More than 200,000 calls and messages come in every year.
Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, says that while a lot of progress has been made since Stonewall, there's still a lot of work to be done.
"What concerns me the most is still the discrimination and the sense of isolation that so many LGBTQ young people feel across the country," Paley said. His company's survey found that 39% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year – a statistic he describes as "heartbreaking and unacceptable in 2019."
Paley, who has spent eight years volunteering on the phone lines, said a common topic is "a sense of fear, of what will happen if they ever reveal to someone who they really are, and who they really love."
That's been especially true since Trump's presidency, Paley said. "The day after the 2016 presidential election, our call volume at The Trevor Project more than doubled in a 24-hour period of time," he added. "When the president tweeted that transgender people would be banned from the military, we saw trans and nonbinary youth reaching out to us in record numbers."
"Words really matter," he said. "We talk a lot about the policies, policies and laws protect people, but when people in positions of power use hateful words, young people hear that and it makes them feel like they are less than or not deserving of love and respect."
And despite the fact that so many people have spoken out about their orientation in recent years, many young people still feel alone in 2019, he said.
"Not everyone sees that message. And we have to remember that there are young people across the country. If you're a young trans person in rural North Dakota, you might see on TV that there's a lot of acceptance," he said. "But then you look around your community, and if you don't see any openly LGBTQ people, if your faith community is not supporting you, if your school is not allowing you to use the restroom that corresponds with your gender identity, you're gonna feel like people won't accept you. And that can lead to that sense of isolation, and feelings of wanting to kill yourself."
Part of the problem, Paley said, is conversion therapy, which he describes as "the completely discredited and dangerous practice of trying to forcibly change your sexual orientation or gender identity." Conversion therapy is still legal in 32 states, Paley said, and The Trevor Project estimates that 700,000 people who have undergone it the country.
Going through conversion therapy "puts you at a much higher risk of suicide," Paley added. "So we need to stop that in every state in this country."
If a young person comes out, Paley said that the most important thing for parents to do is to "come from a place of love … if you come from a place of 'this is my child, and I love them no matter what and I will support them,' it's very hard to go wrong."
For immediate help if you are in a crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidentia