Photo: Trans Lifeline
Trans Lifeline is not like other support hotlines. Photo: Trans Lifeline

Get a closer look at Trans Lifeline’s relatively new Spanish-language hotline

AL DÍA recently spoke with T Peña, the bilingual hotline services coordinator of the grassroots org dedicated to supporting the U.S. transgender community.


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When one thinks of a hotline service for those in crisis, one would most likely envision a suicide prevention hotline, where mental health professionals answer calls day and night and rescue individuals from making a decision they might regret.

The call takers may even have access to immediate response from the police force and medical emergency workers.

But Trans Lifeline, the grassroots hotline and microgrants non-profit organization, does not operate in this manner. Their team takes a much more innovative and “person-first” approach.

Trans Lifeline, an organization that provides services to trans people, run entirely by trans people, launched in 2014, shortly after Trans Day of Remembrance, which falls annually on Novemer 20.

It was created partly in response to the epidemic of suicide in the transgender community, and with the knowledge that community-based support free from police and involuntary hospitalization is the safest, most compassionate solution to these issues.

What makes Trans Lifeline unique are the revolutionary principles they are committed to, such as: “equity not equality,” “dismantling white supremacy,” “community not cops,” and “financial redistribution.”

The organization does not operate in the same way as most suicide or mental health hotlines do.

It is peer-supported, encourages mutual aid, crowdsourcing of information and resources, and fosters a sanctuary-like virtual space among people with similar lived experiences.

AL DÍA recently sat down with T Peña, the Bilingual Hotline Services Coordinator, to learn more about Trans Lifeline and their recent addition of Spanish-language services.

Peña is a first generation genderqueer Afro-Cuban immigrant and a native of Miami, Florida.

Through their role as Bilingual Hotline Services Coordinator, Peña assists in bridging the gap for Spanish-speaking trans people so they can better access Trans Lifeline as well as other local services.

Trans people in the U.S face several layers of structural oppression, and when the intersection of Latinidad and immigrant status are factored in, the type of assistance needed becomes more and more specific.

That’s why Trans Lifeline is led by trans people, and recently added Spanish language services.

Peña explained the importance of both of these aspects of the non-profit.

“There really aren’t a lot of direct lines, not a lot of crisis lines that are focused exclusively with trans people. And there are none that focus on the trans Latinx community, for Spanish-speaking folks. It’s extremely important for someone who has the same lived experiences as you to be there to offer you peer support. And we really are peers in that regard,” they said.

Although the trans Latinx community is free from the dangerous era of former President Donald Trump, Peña has yet to see evidence that the new administration is providing any semblance of justice or a safe space for trans Latinx people, especially not immigrants.

Peña believes that without abolition, updated immigrant policies that may be widely viewed as progressive, are empty.

“ICE is a humanitarian crisis that we have right now. [There are] human rights violations happening right now on U.S. soil, under the name of keeping America free,” they said.

Furthermore, political power moves have been  organized of late by Black and Brown activists. The election of Georgia senators Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof led to Democratic control of the U.S. Senate.

This victory was largely a result of the grassroots tireless work of women of color like Stacey Abrams, LaTosha Brown, and Nse Ufot.

“The people that got Biden into power were a lot of abolitionist folks, a lot of Black and Brown people did all this work, and we’re waiting for answers back on all of the work that was started,” Peña said.

It’s already difficult for Black, Latinx and indigenous immigrants to come to this country, but with the intersection of being trans as well, truly adds “more layers of discrimination and violence.”

Even American-born trans people are facing devastating rates of violence and systemic discrimination.

In response, Peña poses the question: if this kind of systemic violence is happening to those with citizenship, to those who have a right to be in the country, what happens to the people that are trying to create a better life through migrating here?

“It becomes exponentially worse,” they stated.

Peña also highlighted that there’s simply not that many resources available for this particular population.

The barriers set firmly in place that hinder people from achieving citizenship or even freeing themselves from detention, are complicated enough, but for those that don’t speak English, it can feel impossible.

That’s where Trans Lifeline comes in

It launched the Spanish-language service in July of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, when the need for support was rapidly increasing.

“We noticed that some folks were calling in and they were Spanish speakers, so we received a grant to create a new line for those who need it,” they said.

Peña emphasized that not being able to speak or understand the language most commonly spoken in a country someone has migrated to can be really daunting and isolating. Navigating the legal system is something that all immigrants will encounter at one point or another, and that can be overwhelming for a non-English speaker.

“I don’t think folks understand how your world really looks when you can’t understand the language. It really shuts off an entire world to you like your news and where you get access to information. So that’s why we created this line.”

When a person calls Trans Lifeline, they dial 1-877-565-8868. For English, they press one and for Spanish, they press two.

Much of the calls that Trans Lifeline receives are about 10-15 minutes, and a caller may simply need someone to talk to during an anxious moment, or it may be something more serious like a mental health or domestic violence crisis. With deeper issues, a call may last up to an hour.

The iconic singer and civil rights activist, Nina Simone once said that freedom means having “no fear.”

This is similar to T Peña’s vision of trans liberation.

For Peña, no one can be free until everyone is. “There is no trans liberation without Black and Indigenous liberation. All of these things will go together,” they said.

Their vision of trans liberation is the uninhibited ability for the most vulnerable community members to thrive, to succeed, to live a life free of violence and fear.

“I also look at access to healthcare, employment opportunities, basic living wages, and the chance to live a life without fear and constant worry of institutions like the police and ICE,” said Peña.

They are an abolitionist, and until the police and ICE no longer exist to traumatize people, trans liberation is nothing but a vision.


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