IV is our Hotline Program Director, and has been with Trans Lifeline since 2015. As a non-binary intersex immigrant, they are invested in helping those who feel they are on the fringes of the LGBTQ community feel welcome and wanted. IV believes strongly that trans people know best what our own community needs, and is proud that our peer-led Hotline reflects that value.
What identities do you bring to this work that impact how you do it?
I grew up trans and intersex. Because I was non-binary, I didn’t think coming out was an option for me. Something that motivated me is thinking about other non-binary or intersex people who don’t relate to or feel respect from the broader community.
I’m also an immigrant. People have a lot of misconceptions of what it’s like being LGBTQ in other countries. Being a trans immigrant isn’t tragic. I have experienced more abuse as a trans person in the U.S. than in my country.
Why join Trans Lifeline?
When I heard Trans Lifeline was going to launch I knew I would have benefited from it, and was in a place where I could support other people in feeling less isolated than I was growing up.
What made you feel isolated?
In the public eye, trans people have historically been seen as a joke, or something disgusting or inappropriate. People don’t think about the possibility of children being trans. When you see what you are portrayed as negative, you’re less likely to come out and you feel connecting with community is dangerous and inaccessible. It’s been the experience of a lot of people across the world.
What does your day-to-day look like?
I provide support to Trans Lifeline volunteers and staff through call reviews, developing curriculum together, connecting folks to training, and doing one-on-one coaching. I take calls as well. Today, I had meetings with other departments, I also met with my own direct reports, and provided support to staff around balancing school and work.
What has moved you most, whether types of calls or other work?
Seeing the impact of our community, meaning both our callers and those of us working with Trans Lifeline. When we were founded, a big reason why we opted to have only trans operators is the opportunity to provide support by trans people for trans people. Former volunteers tell us their training and work with us helped them navigate their relationships and be a better peer in their day-to-day lives.
At any other hotline, it could be depressing to see volunteers come and go, but at Trans Lifeline it’s carried out into the wider community. It’s fantastic to hear about callers’ success -- people starting out with no support, who within a year become leaders in their community. Our work isn’t just about accessing services; we focus less on risk assessment and more on questions like finding trans community. Our objective is not to change someone's mind about being in crisis; we are trying to change their material conditions. We want to give them lives worth living by connecting trans community.
How has doing this work changed you?
Having the privilege to work and interface with so many diverse community members has made me a better friend and peer. I’ve learned is how to set boundaries. When you hear, “my friend puts me down for being trans” it’s easy to say they deserve better -- we deserve better. It’s easier for myself to take better care of myself, demand respect from the people in my life, and be unapologetically trans. If I can’t do that, it’s hypocritical to support another person trying to live authentically.
How can we better serve our callers?
One of the major ways we can always improve is by having a strong, diverse pool of volunteers and more bilingual staff with experiences as immigrants. We’ve seen an uptick in calls from detention and from overseas. As an immigrant, it’s exciting to work with people who share that identity in addition to being trans. It makes a difference when you have a Spanish-speaking operator or another immigrant on the line. It’s powerful to build better connection through intersection. Supporting that growth at Trans Lifeline is crucial to me.
What does your dream department/future of the organization look like?
I would love to be able to hire more trans people. It’s most exciting to offer not only a volunteer position but a job opportunity within the community. The main qualification for this job is being a good trans friend and peer. Being able to hire operators, especially more bilingual operators. I would love for folks top be able to call and be automatically connected, and I’d love to add something accessible like chat or text service. Continue to build bridges with other organizations that support our communities. Our goal ultimately is to make ourselves obsolete. Merging with the Microgrants Department was a huge step. Not only can we talk to you, we can provide support with getting identity documents. The more people we bring in, the fewer people need to call. The more resources we provide to families and other organizations, the lower the likelihood of people needing us.
What world do you want do you want to live in?
I want to live in a world in which dignity and basic social and economic rights for trans people are non-negotiable. Right now, these can only be won through organized fighting back. Our communities deserve basic rights -- to not suffer immense rates of domestic violence or be discriminated against. That starts with connection in community -- having trans people talk to one another and build mutual expectations of what we want. Social justice can’t be separated from economic justice. The first step is being able to put our heads together, build solidarity with each other and create the type of support we deserve.
Why would you tell someone to give money to Trans Lifeline?
There is no other organization like Trans Lifeline. Our organization is a manifestation of representation and community empowerment coming to fruition. All of our staff and volunteers are trans. We have trained over 700 trans people and built empowerment for our community in a safe, informed-consent way. We know best what our community needs because we’re living it. We haven’t diluted that principle. We are so unique in our power.