I went to Dublin, Ireland last weekend, and it was so cold I stopped into a coffee shop or bakery as often as possible just to keep warm. As I talked with a friend in one shop, a stack of magazines on a window sill below me caught my eye. Surprisingly enough, I turned the cover over to see a shirtless man, and as I flipped through the issue, I realized it was an LGBT magazine called GCN. I didn’t even have to try and find gay Dublin – it found me.
Somewhere over the UK on my flight back to Italy, I read the issue and found an article by Deborah Ballard on LGBT helplines. I was surprised at what I found out. (The article is available on pages 32 and 33 of the December 2010 issue.
One helpline “often gets calls from isolated men, often from rural communities, who never go to groups, and who will ring just for the contact. ‘Sometimes we forget there’s that level of isolation out there. We live in this lovely bubble, and we can get complacent. Stuff we take for granted they’ve never heard of. I thought everyone knows what LGBT means, but that’s not the case,’” said Bernardine Quinn of Dundalk Outcomers, an Irish helpline.
I put the magazine down for a moment and thought how hard it must be to volunteer for a helpline, and how strong those people must have to be. Because I would say it takes such a considerate person to volunteer at a helpline, these people deserve some sort of recognition. It can’t be easy to pick up a line and steadily talk with someone who is most likely upset or emotional. I’ve always been interested in gay icons and how we rally so easily around some people. I think we need to add these volunteers to the list of icons. Think about it: they are people who are always willing to talk about matters that perhaps no one else in some communities will acknowledge or even knows about. That’s iconic to me.
For those who are interested in hotlines in the US, The Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org) is a good place to start. A 2008 CNN article sums up The Trevor Project’s purpose quite well. The article describes a transgender woman who “was threatening to kill herself by jumping off of a parking structure. The … counselor who answered the phone worked to get the 24-year-old calm and immediately called police for help.” A month later, the woman called back to say thank you.
I repeat: That’s iconic to me.