Virtual learning gives transgender teen space to come out

Since March 2020, the Trevor Project received more than 2,000 contacts from North Carolina youth. But a representative from the Trevor Project estimated that number to be less than 5% of the state's LGBTQ youth who could be in crisis and in need of help.

Video Transcript

AKILAH DAVIS: For 17-year-old Hazel Hart,

HAZEL HART: This is really the first year I've really started to understand my gender identity, how I want to be presented to other people.

AKILAH DAVIS: This school year has been transformative, and virtual learning helped.

HAZEL HART: I have to voice train. I have to think of what I want to wear. I have to think of how I want to do my hair up. It's nice to be able to just be home and figure that out before having to go out and do it in public.

AKILAH DAVIS: The transgender teenager is a senior at C.E. Jordan High School in Durham. The COVID-19 pandemic giving her the time and space she needed to be her authentic self, learning remotely from her bedroom with her camera off.

HAZEL HART: I'd rather just have my camera off and not be acknowledged, not have people look at me and create judgment about me.

AKILAH DAVIS: Hazel's story is unique in that she's used this pandemic as a transitional period. But many others can't.

AMIT PALEY: Now we have so many LGBTQ young people who are trapped in homes with parents or family members who are unsupportive and who are emotionally or in some cases even physically abusive because of their LGBTQ identity.

AKILAH DAVIS: Amit Paley is CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, the largest suicide and prevention crisis organization for LGBTQ youth, telling me this pandemic has removed their sense of community.

AMIT PALEY: Being in a physical school environment where they have that one supportive teacher, or guidance counselor, or GSA, or friend, is the only source of support they have.

AKILAH DAVIS: The Trevor Project releasing data showing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a need for crisis services and support has increased significantly, at times, double the pre-COVID volume. Officials say since March of last year, they have helped in more than 2,000 crises, including suicidal thoughts. In a poll released by the Trevor Project and Morning Consult, transgender, non-binary, and Black LGBTQ youth indicated feeling more lonely at the start of the pandemic. 40% of LGBTQ youth say the pandemic impacted their ability to express their identity. About a third of transgender and non-binary youth reporting feeling unsafe in their living situation. Fortunately, not the case for Hazel, who has support from family and a school social group called Spectrum she's found community with, offering words to others struggling.

HAZEL HART: Since we're not in school in person, it's a lot easier to find support groups online, not just in the school, but outside the school.

AKILAH DAVIS: I'm Akilah Davis. ABC 11 Eyewitness News.