University scholarships help ‘rejected’ LGBTIQ + youth in regions

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Arthur Forrest loved growing up in the beauty of Toowoomba, but being a young gay in the Australian region meant having to hide who he was. Not that it stopped the bullies.

Mr. Forrest was “mercilessly harassed” throughout elementary and high school for his sexuality, even though he was still looking for what it was.

Arthur Forrest said his experience with bullying in regional Queensland was “damaging”.(Provided: Arthur Forrest)

Search by LGBTIQ + Health Australia shows that lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, intersex, gay, and other sexual and gendered (LGBTIQ +) people are between five and 11 times more likely to attempt to self-harm or experience distress psychological related to bullying and discrimination.

Mr. Forrest said his experience of bullying was “damaging”.

“It’s something that I feel like maybe I should have grown up, but I still have those thoughts and feelings of guilt that I had as a kid,” Mr. Forrest.

Despite his experience, the 25-year-old hopes to one day return to the Queensland area after graduating in medical laboratory science on the Gold Coast.

“This [Toowoomba] has a lot of people who are pretty close-minded, ”Mr. Forrest said.

Education is the key to changing the lives of young people

Mr. Forrest’s career ambitions have been aided through a scholarship program helping LGBTIQ + students who have grown up in environments where they have been rejected because of who they are and how they identify with themselves.

Pinnacle Foundation CEO Andrew Staite said education is key to changing the lives of LGBTIQ + Queenslanders.

“The scholarship program was created because it was recognized that LGBTIQ + youth, in many cases, were rejected by their families, by their faiths and even by their communities,” he said.

The program also matches applicants with a mentor of the same gender, of the same sexuality and who works in the same field as the one the researcher is studying.

This has been invaluable support for Mr. Forrest.

“It’s just an incredible opportunity,” he said.

Still barriers for the LGBTIQ + community

Mr Staite said the achievement of marriage equality in Australia has opened doors for many young people.

However, many still do not feel that they have the freedom to openly express their identity within workplaces and communities, especially in regional areas.

A group of people holding placards and waving LGBTQ flags stand in front of a building in the dark.
The Pinnacle Foundation says young people still don’t feel they have the freedom to be open about their identity.(ABC Southwest WA: Georgia Loney)

“What often happens is that young people are kicked out of these areas because they feel there is no one with whom they can relate,” he said.

“We spend a lot of time trying to just raise awareness and encourage people to think ‘hang in there, if I have younger kids, what would I be like if my kid ever told me he was gay. ? “”

The foundation encourages young LGBTIQ + Australians from regional, rural and remote areas to apply for the 2022 cycle of scholarships which ends this month.

“The scholarship is for any study that undertakes full-time study at a public higher education institution,” Mr. Staite said.

Mr. Forrest encourages other LGBTIQ + people to apply.

“This is such an incredible opportunity for your future, so please think about it,” Mr. Forrest said.

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