Google is putting its money where its mouth is during Pride Month by donating $1.2 million to the Trevor Project.
The tech giant's gift will be used to help fund the nonprofit's suicide prevention programs for LGBTQ+ youth, including its 24/7 TrevorLifeline (866-488-7386), TrevorChat, and TrevorText programs, which offer at-risk young people an avenue to talk.
Additionally, Google has committed to Trevor a group of Google.org fellows, a program in which employees dedicate six months of pro bono work to a cause.
In total, the fellows will log a year of work to help Trevor expand upgrade its crisis lines, automate moderation of its online forum, refine a virtual training simulator, and promote TrevorSpace.org, an international forum for LGBTQ+ young people (ages 13 to 24). Google employees have already logged 12,000 hours, or about 1.37 years, in providing technical assistance.
These resources are sorely needed. In the United States, an estimated 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth seriously contemplate taking their own lives, Trevor reports. Its services have also received a surge of volume during the pandemic, when many queer young people may be forced into isolation with nonaccepting family members.
Shira Kogan, Trevor's senior manager of corporate development, said Google has been instrumental in honing Trevor's ability "to identify and prioritize crisis contacts at higher risk of suicide while serving a greater number of contacts."
"Over the last year, Google’s support has helped our counselors leverage AI and leading-edge technology to identify highest-risk youth faster and serve them with a consistently high quality of care," Kogan said. "With the help from the Google.org fellows, we're looking forward to using the training simulator to scale our crisis services training and run through scenarios to prepare our volunteers for their work as digital crisis counselors."
Indeed, tech has the power to save lives. Fellow Amber Zhang, a software engineer at Google, shared how "fortunate" her time with Trevor had been in building programs that would better serve LGBTQ+ youth.
"Not all youth who contact the Trevor Project are suicidal. Most of them just want someone to talk to," Zhang said. "If you simply ask them what's going on, it's statistically difficult to tell a suicidal contact apart from one who isn't — two people could tell you the same thing, but one might be suicidal, the other might not be. From a clinical perspective, it's really important that one ask the right questions and listen deeply.
"When it comes to building the natural language processing (NLP) models for this project, the language that young LGBTQ people use is distinctly different from the language used in the corpora we'd traditionally use to prepare these tools. So we fine-tuned our models specifically to language used by LGBTQ youth so that the models could better analyze it."
Google has given more than $3 million to the Trevor Project over the years. In 2019, it gave a $1.5 million grant.
In addition to Trevor, Google has also committed to giving $1.2 million this year to over 70 local LGBTQ+ organizations around the world, which have become even more vital during a pandemic.
"What we know is that LGBTQ+ organizations are often a last line of defense in the community, especially for those who are homeless, hungry, or out of a job: from finding a bed in a shelter to offering critical health care services, lives depend on these organizations," said Jen Carter, head of skills-based volunteering at Google.org.
"All of this hard work is being done virtually, with increased demand and strapped financing — which is why they need support right now," Carter added. "With one of Google’s largest commitments to the LGBTQ+ community to date, we’re proud to support organizations who serve trans and nonbinary communities, LGBTQ+ people of color, LGBTQ+ families, and so many more on a daily basis."
In a blog post outlining these donations, Google's Pride 2020 Committee also acknowledged the historic Black Lives Matter protests that have been swept cities around the world since the killing of George Floyd, and how Pride's inception, the Stonewall riots, were begun by transgender women of color.
"Pride should still be a protest. For those within the Black+ and LGBTQ+ community, the injustices we're seeing today are reminiscent of past and present struggles for equality under the law, equity, and justice," the post stated. "We believe communities must show up for one another, and we stand in solidarity with the Black+ community across the world, honoring the longstanding Pride tradition of unity."