The Texas Department of Health and Human Services appears to have removed resources for LGBTQ youth from its suicide prevention webpage.
February 1, the webpage included a caption for The Trevor Project, describing it as “the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people.” young people under the age of 25″. The section provided the organization’s website, phone number, and text line.
A few days later, on February 5, the section was gone. Of the four suicide prevention phone or text lines, only The Trevor Project has been removed.
Now, there are three crisis lines listed: the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Veterans Crisis Line, and the Crisis Text line. The Trevor Project phone number is still included in a resource PDF under “Parent and Youth Suicide Prevention” as it was before, but it’s not as easily accessible as the section that was removed, and does not indicate that The Trevor Project is a specifically LGBTQ organization.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not return a request for comment.
Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, said mental health is not a partisan issue and that the removal of suicide prevention resources from a government website “because they are specific to LGBTQ youth is not only offensive and wrong, it’s dangerous. ”
“We are talking about a group of young people who are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide over their peers,” Ames said, citing research from the Trevor Project. In another survey, the group found that over 80% of LGBTQ youth said it was important for a crisis line to focus on LGBTQ youth.
“Especially in this time of unprecedented political attacks on LGBTQ youth, we encourage all youth-serving organizations and government agencies to learn more about the Trevor Project’s life-saving crisis services and make them known to young people and families who need support the most,” Ames said. .
This isn’t the first time Texas officials have removed suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ youth — and the Trevor Project, in particular — from state websites.
In August, following criticism from one of Governor Greg Abbott’s top Republican challengers, Texas officials took down a web page titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” and a page devoted to Texas Youth Connection, a program run by the Department of Family and Protective Services, which included a link to The Trevor Project.
Sexual orientation and gender identity page again displays an error message. the Texas Youth Connection website also displays the same message as in October: “The Texas Youth Connection website has been temporarily disabled for a full content review.” the site says. “This is done to ensure its information, resources and referrals are up to date.”
Patrick Crimmins, director of communications for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said in October that the review of the web pages “is still ongoing” and would not provide further comment on why the pages were taken down. . He did not respond to a request about when or if the pages will be restored.
Cameron Samuels, a senior at Seven Lakes High School in Katy, near Houston, and an activist, said the removal of LGBTQ-specific resources from state websites was “part of this broader attack on LGBTQ youth in Texas. “.
As an example of this “broader attack” — which Samuels, who uses gender-neutral pronouns says, is causing widespread fear among trans people in Texas — they cited a directive issued last week by Abbott that called on the state child protective services agency to investigate parents of minors who receive gender-affirming medical treatment for child abuse. Abbott’s directive also called on “licensed professionals” and the general public to report parents of trans minors if it appears they are receiving gender-affirming medical care.
Last year, the state Legislature considered 50 anti-trans bills, Abbott signing one that bars transgender girls from competing on girls’ school sports teams.
Samuels has also fought censorship of LGBTQ websites within their school district, the Katy Independent School District.
After student activism they said the district removed its block on the website for the Montrose Center, a local LGBTQ group in the state, in December. In January, he removed restrictions on websites for three national organizations: the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group; GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQ students; and PFLAG, which supports LGBTQ people and their families, among other sites.
Samuels said the district has “remained insistent” that the Trevor project continues to be blocked due to its chat feature. But they noted that the chat feature is what allows students to message a trained counselor.
The district did not return a request for comment, but an official Recount the Houston Chronicle in January that the Children’s Internet Protection Act has a requirement to “ensure safe communications, including email, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications.”
“The Trevor Project website has a community space for ‘getting advice and support within an international community for young LGBTQ people aged 13-24,’ which is available to anyone who chooses to” join now,'” said Maria Corrales DiPetta, director of public relations for the district. “Minors communicating with adults, unsupervised, online are a concern for communication and chat rooms, as noted in the CIPA.”
Samuels said it was disappointing to see health and human services officials making decisions that “are very detrimental to the students and young people they represent.”
“And this is in addition to the governor’s efforts to investigate parents of trans youth for child abuse and to remove LGBTQ books from school libraries,” they said. “It’s really disturbing and disturbing to see this.”
CORRECTION (March 2, 2022, 3:50 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the month in which the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services took down two web pages containing resources for LGBTQ youth. It was August, not October.