Everyone who knows me knows I have a very colorful family filled with members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community and allies. I enjoy attending local Pride festivals with my family and I like to stay up to date on LGBTQ+ issues and current events.
While scrolling through Twitter recently, I came across a really cool page called “Safe Haven LGBTQ.” The people behind Safe Haven LGBTQ are creating an app and a website available to anyone struggling with their sexual orientation, worldwide, 24-hours a day, in need of support from a real person who understands their situation. Safe Haven provides peer volunteers who will listen, message back and forth, and help people feel less alone in dealing with their fear, hopelessness, rejection, conflict, homophobia, biphobia or any multitude of situations one encounters when they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning and more. Their number one goal: to lower the suicide rate in the LGBTQ+ community.
Much of the current suicide statistics focus on LGBTQ youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth ages 10-24. Additionally, LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. The Family Acceptance Project also reports that LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. LGBTQ and questioning adults also face tremendous struggles that can affect their mental health, physical health, jobs, relationships and livelihood. Safe Haven wants to help these people.
I saw one of their Tweets asking for help in getting the word out, so I reached out to them via direct message. I recently had an exchange with Katie Sullivan, the founder of Safe Haven and SK Marketing Group, who shared her story and a little bit about the app and website with me. As you’ll see, her story is not unlike many others who start out dating heterosexually but eventually find their home in the LGBTQ+ community. Our Q & A is below.
Katie, how should I identify you for our story?
I’m Katie Sullivan, Founder of Safe Haven and Founder of SK Marketing Group. I am lesbian and 26 years old.
I started realizing I was a lesbian when I was in high school, freshman year. I was on the basketball team and a teammate had approached me asking if I was into girls. I laughed and said no, sorry, I am currently dating a guy. The woman (who will remain nameless) gave me her number and told me to reach out if I ever get curious. Well a month went by, my boyfriend broke up with me on his birthday because I wouldn’t give it up. That should have been a sign, looking back now, haha. I reached back out to the girl and we met up in a stairwell. I was nervous as all hell and as I was rambling, she just shut me up by kissing me. That kiss lasted a while and from then on out I knew I was a lesbian.
Please explain what Safe Haven LGBT is and the app you’re developing.
Safe Haven is for everyone within the LGBTQ+ community. The goal is to lower the suicide rate within the community.
We are not a platform that has licensed professionals, we are peers helping peers. You can come to us for advice, to chat, educate & learn more. There is a community resources page packed with endless knowledge from a LGBT Term Dictionary to information for anyone thinking of or transitioning. We also just created an 18+ section of the resource page as well to assist in anything transition related, and an 18+ dictionary.
How did you come up with the idea for the app? Is there a personal connection?
I was lying in bed trying to think of ways how I could make an actual difference in this world. When my father passed away in 2014, he told me to travel, live life fully and to help make a difference. So that is what I am doing. I also would have loved to have something like this when I was coming to terms with my sexuality. I dated a girl in the past that didn’t have an accepting family whatsoever, I never want someone to feel isolated and alone.
Explain the idea behind the volunteer Talk Leaders? What are the requirements?
When you log into the website or app you will be able to select either chat, resources, merchandise or other, and if you select chat you will let us know what it is that brought you here today. Using that information I am able to pair you up with the talk leader with the most similar of experience. This ensures that everyone coming in can see someone that truly made it through the same/similar matter. The most important thing for Talk Leaders is that they are 16+ and willing to be able to check in once a day and see if there is anyone who needs help.
Can you give us some details on when people can begin using the app?
The website & app are currently in development, the website is estimated to be available by the end of this month, April. In the meantime, you can still utilize the features of Safe Haven by following us on any social platform and direct messaging us. I currently have over 100 talk leaders all over the world that are on, 24/7, and responding to people as we speak.
Once the app is fully launched, what would success look like for you? What do you hope to accomplish?
My end goal is to lessen the suicide rate within the community, spread awareness & push for more equality. I hope that we can be a part of making this world safer and better for everyone; to be able to awaken someone that previously hated the community.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Myself and my team will be attending as many Prides around the world that we can! We would love to meet everyone, so stay up to date by following our social media platforms.
You can follow Safe Haven LGBTQ with the following addresses:
Twitter: @LgbtqApp and #safehavenlgbtq