For many transgender people, the risks we face when coming out include losing family, friends, jobs, healthcare, partners, housing, and spiritual communities. This is particularly true for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous trans femmes, who face increased financial and institutional barriers due to racism and transmisogyny. Increased experiences of physical violence, sexual assault, domestic and intimate partner violence, and state violence results in individual and collective trauma and loss. Unfortunately, most mental health services (and especially crisis services) rely on a clinical framework that focuses on impulse stabilization and approaches mental health as a personal, individual issue rather than an underlying lack of material resources and overwhelming discrimination.
Trans Lifeline’s healing justice-informed peer support model understands that suicidality and mental health crises are normal responses to the traumatic conditions and experiences we’re exposed to – rather than pathological responses. Our real emergencies are the interlocking systems that further stigmatize us and make affordable housing, affirming healthcare, safe work, homes, family, and community connection unavailable.
Rather than analyzing our peers’ experiences through the lens of behavioral risks, our peer support model challenges the underlying institutional, structural, and cultural factors leading to suicidality in trans people and communities. Our community’s need for self-determination and agency in this context means we honor the autonomy of trans people as the sole decision-makers in our own lives in every situation. Accordingly, we advocate for an end to police intervention in mental health crises and for decriminalization of suicide. By connecting trans people with each other based on lived experience, we’re able to provide affirming community and trans-specific resources for resilience.