Lucas knew as early as primary school that he was different. Unable to relate to girls and not fitting in with the boys, he felt trapped and alone. His own online research led him to confide his thoughts and feelings to a teacher and then a therapist, who gave him the courage to accept his sexuality. But this was only the beginning of a long road for Lucas.
At 16, fearful of his parents’ reaction, Lucas applied to Mission Australia for refuge while he gathered his thoughts and considered next steps. At this time, he also submitted his application for an ABCN Foundation LGBTQI scholarship, supported by Citi’s Pride Committee.
‘I was still in the closet,’ says Lucas. ‘I didn’t know if I would have a home once my parents found out and that was scary. I hoped the financial and mentoring support of an ABCN scholarship would help me in my new future – even just to continue with school if needed. I wanted to make sure I could support my passion for art.’
As it turned out, Lucas’ parents were very accepting. And not long after, he was awarded an ABCN scholarship and Lucas began his transition from female to male.
Two years later, Lucas was in his element, studying art at the National Art School in Sydney, working part-time at Luna Park and discovering a whole community of new friends. For the first time in years, he felt like he belonged. He was happy.
But then COVID-19 hit. His mentor, Jacqui Jones from PwC, says this was an extremely tough, dark time for Lucas.
‘All of a sudden, his whole world turned upside down,’ Jacqui says. ‘Both work and uni stopped. And with that, Lucas was cut off from a support network of friends. When you’re 18, and still exploring who you are, your “tribe” is so crucial to your sense of identity. It’s very hard for a fiercely independent, LGBTQI student to return to the suburbs of south-western Sydney, to live with parents, away from community and peers.’
A perfect storm
Like many young people today, Lucas was also anxious about the impact of COVID-19 – the once-bright future suddenly seemed dim and uncertain. It was a perfect storm and his mental health began to spiral. He is grateful for weekly chats with Jacqui that helped him through this period.
‘Before the scholarship I didn’t have a support person that I could talk to,’ he says. ‘Jacqui isn’t an authority figure. She’s someone I can share my thoughts with when I don’t have friends. She listens. And I know I can talk to her about anything without any judgement.’
‘The continuity of our three-year relationship was important,’ says Jacqui. ‘I was glad I could help, not by being a counsellor, but as a trusted person that Lucas could speak to, who understands what it feels like to live in a world where you are marginalised. The assurance that the way you’re living life is OK and that you are normal really matters at 18.’
Today, Lucas is back on campus at university and looking for an apartment to rent nearby. He sounds confident, strong and focused. And he’s also working towards an exhibition of his own work, which will document his transition and reflect both LGBTQI and mental health issues.
‘I don’t know where I’d be today if it wasn’t for my ABCN scholarship,’ he says. ‘I really hope this support continues for other kids like me. It helped me at the time I needed it the most and I’ll always be grateful for that.’
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