The scholarship helping trans student Jay through university


Members of the LGBTQIA+ education scholarship Pinnacle Foundation stand behind a rainbow sign in rainbow outfits.

The Pinnacle Foundation provides educational scholarships to young LGBTQIA+ people to reach their full potential. One of their scholars, Jay Bowman, shares how the support has helped them. 

I remember getting the call to say I’d been chosen as a recipient of a Pinnacle Foundation scholarship and being so knocked back I could only say ‘okay’.

Having come out mid-way through high school, I saw uni as a fresh start, a place I could be ‘trans from the beginning’, and it was incredibly important to me that I’d be able to transition during my degree. 

To do that I had to move out of home, and I wasn’t sure I’d get there without help.

I’d looked through scholarship and bursary options at my uni, but many had highly specific criteria it was hard to meet.

It was mostly by accident I found The Pinnacle Foundation just days before applications closed, crossed my fingers and submitted. 

I was successful and I’m now studying for a Bachelor of Journalism and Film and TV studies in Brisbane. I’ve always been interested in how trans stories – fiction and nonfiction – are told and I want to advocate for our voices to be heard. 

How a mentor helped

As part of the program, recipients are partnered with a mentor who works in the same or a similar field and has the same or similar identity. 

I won’t lie, the mentorship aspect was an afterthought for me. I knew I’d appreciate speaking to another trans person in media,  a field we have a famously complicated relationship with, but I was mostly seeking financial support.

My mentor was a trans man who works in media studies. He emphasised that even though we had a lot in common, it was paying attention to each other’s differences that could help us learn from each other.

I found we thought quite differently about things. That meant sometimes I had to sit with his words for 12 to 24 hours before they sunk in. But our conversations taught me a lot about my approach to study and, on a deeper level, my approach to my own goal-setting and priority-arranging. 

I’ve always wanted to juggle six hats and never have to choose one – he taught me to figure out what I actually want and focus on being good at that.

I decided I wanted to be a good student. Not in terms of grades, which I could always achieve reasonably easily, but in terms of effort and time put into learning.

He taught me specifically that those two things – getting the grades and doing the work – are separate skills, and just because I was good at one didn’t mean I wasn’t abysmal at the other. 

Juggling family commitments

My mentor also listened while I talked about my complicated sense of responsibility to my parents who denied me support to transition but still relied on me emotionally and financially.

Sometimes advice from queer people regarding family can fall into two camps: ‘it gets better,’ and ‘you don’t owe them anything’.

I find both unhelpful. He didn’t tell me either.

He helped me figure out ways I could help my family while also prioritising my safety and freed me from some of the burden of taking on their struggles as well as my own. 

The support I got from my mentor wasn’t always active in that way.

Coming from a place where I had been told that transitioning would mean I would be unemployable, be unaccepted, and struggle my whole life, spending time with a trans man who was by all accounts thriving in all those areas helped me start to untangle some of those internalised knots.

I hadn’t realised how hard it would be for me emotionally to leave home, even when I knew it was what I needed to do.

Over time, it was the confidence in myself and my abilities that my mentor stoked that helped me finally make the move.

Financial reality

Of course, the financial aspect did come in handy too. As well as helping me buy essentials for my new place, the scholarship has been covering my groceries.

It also helped me finally buy gender-affirming gear I couldn’t have kept at home. After I placed the online order, I burst into tears. 

All trans people, all queer people at large, deserve to feel safe in their homes and their places of learning. Financial security is only part of that picture.

What I’ve learnt over my time with TPF sounds cliche, but it’s true: never underestimate the power of community and the impact we can have on each other as queer and trans folks.

For more information on the Pinnacle Foundation visit thepinnaclefoundation.org

 

Read next:

The Pinnacle Foundation helping LGBTIQ+ youth to thrive

Championing Equality through Education

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Jay Bowman

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