Transgender Advocacy Group Launches Spanish Hotline To Help Latinx in Distress

Trans Lifeline BELatina Latinx
Photo credit IG @nslifeline

Starting July 1, the grassroots Trans Lifeline has launched a Spanish version of its phone line, which since 2014 has offered direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis.

In a statement posted on their website, the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization announced that, due to a significant increase in calls for help in Spanish, they have decided to open up their range of help in other languages.

Between 2018 and 2019, Trans Lifeline operators answered 23 times more calls in Spanish, the organization said. “We had a 386 percent increase in calls where the person identifies as Latinx, and a 146 percent increase in calls from immigrants, including those in detention centers.”

“Trans Lifeline recognizes the great need for help that our trans Latinx and immigrant people require,” the statement said. “Our trans-Latinx and immigrant people have been at high risk for violence in employment, housing and health care. The work of Trans Lifeline is not only about supporting our community but also about drawing on resources.”

It is therefore “imperative” to make available a “classified and bilingual” community space, which guarantees those who choose to call that their data and information will not be shared with immigration and customs agencies or other authorities that put the community at risk.

According to Alvaro Gamio Cuervo, a bilingual operator with experience in mental health and clinics, “because of being anonymous and not using active rescue, trans Latinx and immigrant people feel safer to call us and be vulnerable without fear of any consequences.”

For T Peña, coordinator of bilingual services, this new effort allows resources to “reach those who need it most.” 

Since its founding in 2014, Trans Lifeline is the only service in the country where all operators are transgender people, facilitating the especially vulnerable relationship that their peers often suffer at the hands of the police or other agencies.

During its work, the organization has recognized the direct relationship between precariousness and the high rate of suicide within the trans community, which coincides with “economic justice issues” that are increasing “at an alarming rate.”

In a 2015 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 58 percent of respondents said they were mistreated by law enforcement. And 57 percent said they were somewhat or very uncomfortable asking police for help.

“Even prior to the current administration, trans Latinx people and immigrants have faced higher risks of violence in employment, housing, healthcare and accessing resources,” IV Staklo, the hotline’s program director, said in the blog post.

“This hotline’s work is not just about peer support but also about accessing resources. One part of building out this program is creating a reliable and trustworthy resource database, as well as building partnerships with Latinx and immigrant LGBTQ organizations that do similar work,” Staklo said.

Two of the most common themes for Spanish language calls prior to the launch were police violence and legal aid help, according to the group’s call data.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the NCTE, said she is glad Trans Lifeline is able to provide this service.

“It’s important to try to remove as many barriers as possible, and it’s a good thing if we can remove the language barrier to get people the resources they need,” Keisling told CNN. “We want people to be as comfortable as possible.”

Keisling said the NCTE is working on translating their resources into Spanish.

The Trans Lifeline Spanish language hotline is now available and can be accessed by calling (877) 565-8860 in the United States or (877) 330-6366 in Canada.