December 12, 1999
Gillian Anderson Headlines Trevor Project Fundraiser to Help Gay Teens
No one could have scripted the sidesplitting hilarity when Gillian Anderson, Delta Burke and Teri Garr joined forces on stage at the Wilshire Ebell Theater Dec. 12 for a live auction benefiting the Trevor Project's gay teen suicide prevention Helpline. After an innuendo-punctuated introduction by comic Suzanne Westenhoefer, host for the second annual "Cracked Xmas," the trio cavorted, cajoled and colluded to coax thousands of dollars from the entertainment industry crowd.
"Now I want you all to pony up. I know there's a bunch of rich homosexuals out there," said Burke, briefly reprising her Southern beauty queen character in "Designing Women" during the auction for an Outfest package. "We'll party. I'll bring crowns for everyone." Burke also kept trying to coax the barebacked, stylishly overdressed Anderson to reveal her breasts as the "X-Files" star enthusiastically pitched the joys of an Olivia Cruise to the Mediterranean as "lots of gay women in the middle of the ocean." At times the event seemed frozen in frenetic time as the audience shook with raucous laughter, the three women talked over each other simultaneously and Westenhoefer popped in and out adding her two cents.
The scheduled show, blessed by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, was funny as well. Jason Stuart's rendered his impression of a "fabulous" gay doing "Over the Rainbow" on Star Search and Sherri Shepard, Michael Patrick King, the Nellie Olesens, Bob Smith and Judy Gold recalled past holiday experiences with family and friends. It was a warmly life-affirming benefit to sustain the only national 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention Helpline for GLBT teens.
"Suicide is multidimensional," says Dr. Jay Nagdimon, director of the Suicide Prevention Center at the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center which administers the Trevor Helpline. "The Trevor Project is designed to reach out to isolated young people who feel trapped and hopeless about their life situation, specifically growing up gay and lesbian in conservative oppressive communities. The pressure they feel from family members, schools, churches, and society in general accumulates, for some to the point of despair. The Trevor Helpline provides a safety value in which youth can anonymously access support, education, crisis intervention and appropriate referrals to supportive resources."
The Trevor Helpline was originally created in 1998 in conjunction with the HBO gay teen suicide movie "Trevor," which won an Academy Award. They've logged an estimated 18,000 calls for help over the past year, says Peggy Rajski who co-produced "Trevor" and created the Helpline with Randy Stone.
The Helpline also receives calls from young people who've been harassed at school. "I think it's difficult for any young person who feels 'different' and doesn't think they fit in. But if they know there's a place where they can talk about their feelings, there's hope," says Trevor Project executive director Brenda Freiberg.
Last July U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher released a report entitled "The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent Suicide, 1999" which called suicide a public health crisis. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24, who account for 35% of the American population and 15% of all suicide deaths. Additionally, the suicide rate has doubled among children ages 10 to 14 since 1980. However, critics of the report point out, while Satcher includes the oft-repeated statistic that GLBT youth "are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than other youth and that 30 percent of all attempted or completed youth suicides are related to issues of sexual identity," he calls for no specific GLBT-related recommendations or studies. Additionally, no reference is made to the Trevor Helpline as a resource for GLBT youth. Last November the American Psychological Association published a pamphlet entitled "Sexual Orientation and Youth" indicating that suicidal depression is a result of tortured, silent isolation imposed by a bigoted society, compounded by fear of exposure, ridicule and harassment.
Depression was no stranger to Burke after her much publicized battle with the producers of "Designing Women." But, she told the LN in hopes of reaching young GLBT teens, "My trouble were my own troubles and nobody gave a rats' hooey about me until I did. And then you climb back up and you get your pride and you hold your head high and you demand respect from others. And at some point then you have to confront people who don't accept you and you have to demand that they do and if they aren't going to, they're not meant to be in your life. You have to be true to yourself."
Anderson also offered soothing words to GLBT youth in pain. Whatever your hardship, she said, "know there are other people out there who understand and think of you as a perfect individual, just as you are - no matter what you're up to or no matter what your preferences are. There are many, many people out there who have been through and are going through the same difficulties and if you look in the right places there are people who are happy to help and willing to support."
The Trevor Helpline is 800-850-8078. For more information or to contribute to the Trevor Project call: 310-751-5373 or visit their website at www.trevorproject.com. (Story courtesy the Lesbian News.)
>Transcript appears courtesy of Gaywired.