Rev. Elena Rose Vera On the Hotline Created for Trans People, by Trans People

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jul 23, 2019

A Monday (July 22) Paper magazine interview with Rev. Elena Rose Vera digs into the need for services like those provided by Trans Lifeline, which Vera runs.

The grassroots organization offers “direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis—for the trans community, by the trans community,” according to the nonprofit’s website, and it’s the only peer-support crisis hotline in the country that caters exclusively to the community. Its eight full-time operators and 120 volunteers have handled more than 70,000 calls over the last five years, 30 percent of them are from teenagers.

“A lot of other lines serve trans people alongside cis people, and that is wonderful, we are glad for the support, but we think there’s something really special about trusting trans people to help trans people to empower members of the community to lift each other,” said executive director Vera, a Filipina-Ashkenazi trans woman. “There is something special to be able to talk to someone who shares your experience—even a very well-meaning person who hasn’t been through it might slip on some things. The service is special. Between our hotline program and our microgrant program, we are the largest direct service provider to trans people in North America.”

Vera told Paper that the calls they get reflect the current climate; many callers are wrestling with multiple oppressors. “Some people are also talking about dealing with racism or talking about the scary climate around those issues in the country right now,” said Vera. “We have a lot of callers who are immigrants. I think about 10 percent of our callers are Native American. They’re calling to talk about the issues they face both for being trans and for dealing with all of the issues that they face there.”

Everyone who works with callers at Trans Lifeline identifies as trans, and Vera said she hopes that inspires callers. “We’re not just people that need to be rescued, but also have extraordinary gifts,” said Vera. “There’s something really special about receiving help from another trans person who can let you know that so much more is possible in your life and that you too can be someone who helps others.” In addition, the site also offers an Advocacy Library resource, which gathers information surrounding ID changes in one place.

Read the full interview here and reach the hotline at 877-565-8860.

*Note: Story has been updated to reflect the number of calls fielded by Trans Lifeline and the percent of calls fielded from teenagers.