The Pinnacle Foundation has announced its first transgender scholarship winners.
Four Victorian students received scholarships, though only three could attend the awards night.
Lindsay Stewart, Laura Partington and Lee, who did not want to disclose his surname, received scholarships worth over $2000 each. Olympic gold-medal swimmer Daniel Kowalski congratulated the recipients and shared this advice.
“Never forget those hardships and struggles you have faced to get to this point and use that as motivation to continue to achieve,” he said.
“You are the true heroes, just by what you have gone through and achieved to date, what you have earned tonight this is just the next part of your story.”
The scholarships help marginalised young LGBTI students in secondary, tertiary and vocational studies.
Lee, 21, one of Pinnacle’s first ever transgender scholarship winners, was open about his story.
“I felt very confused about why I had a girl’s body and a boy’s mind and I tried my very best to suppress it,” he said of his earlier days.
The foundation’s scholarship allowed Lee to buy his first ever laptop, as well as university basics such as books, enrolment fees and a printer. Scholarship recipients also get a mentor.
While Pinnacle could not find a transgender mentor for Lee, he said he appreciated the support of his mentor, Gay and Lesbian Switchboard co-president Dominic Smith.
“The mentor has been great,” Lee said. “He gives me tips you don’t really learn or you can’t really pay to know that stuff.”
Pinnacle Foundation chairman Sean Linkson said the organisation was about helping young people achieve their full potential.
“There’s a whole generation of young LGBTIQ people who are marginalised or disadvantaged simply because of their sexuality or gender identity,” he said.
“In only three years of operating, purely on volunteer support, Pinnacle has provided nearly $140,000 of grants to 25 young people all over Australia.
This year, 14 Pinnacle scholarships were awarded across Australia.