8 May 2023

Having a gender-diverse mentor helps Violet feel more understood and better prepared to face his life with confidence and pride.

Image: A young person at a pride march, wearing a white shirt and rainbow suspenders with the trans flag painted on their face.

Life Without Barriers welcomes all those of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics to join our organisation and supports all LGBTQIA+ employees to bring their whole selves to work.

International Day Against LGBTQIA+ Discrimination (IDAHOBIT), held on May 17, is the anniversary of when the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases in 1990.

IDAHOBIT is a day to celebrate this milestone and other advancements in LGBTQIA+ equality. It is also a day to reflect on the steps we can take to prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination towards LGBTQIA+ people in Australia. If you want to learn more or get involved, here are some great IDAHOBIT resources you can use and share!

To celebrate IDAHOBIT, we sat down with Violet*, who shared their experience growing up gender diverse.

All pre-teens and teenagers are exploring their identities, and for some, this includes discovering their gender identity. Thirteen-year-old Violet identifies as transgender and goes by the pronouns he/him. Violet and his three siblings are in out-of-home care, and he lives with two of them.

“Growing up gender diverse, it can sometimes be hard,” said Violet, who also describes himself as ‘weird’.

When Violet’s mental well-being started to impact his schooling, Violet was matched with a mentor from Life Without Barriers via the Department of Education.

Life Without Barriers was determined to find Violet a transgender or gender-diverse mentor who could assist him in navigating the unique challenges faced by young people who are gender diverse. Child and Youth mentor Elliot, who had recently come out at work themselves, was thrilled with the opportunity to work with Violet.

“They hadn't told Violet that I am gender diverse,” said Elliot.

“I walked into Violet’s home for the first time, and I introduced myself, and I said, ‘I use they/them pronouns’. Violet’s gaze whipped towards me with his eyes wide, and then looked at his carer and said,

‘What? No one told me!’ then ran off to his bedroom and returned with his transgender flag.

"Immediately, a connection was formed - within the first few seconds. And it really started off our mentoring journey on such a positive note.”

Violet too, remembers their first meeting and said, “I thought Elliot was funny. I was excited to find out they were nonbinary.”

Elliot and Violet spend their time together doing various activities and having meaningful conversations.

“A lot of our first conversations together were about Violet’s experience being gender diverse and him asking about my experience," said Elliot.

"We were able to relate to each other's stories, the feeling of being misunderstood by people sometimes, and going against the grain in many ways. And how we both feel a lot better presenting as ourselves to people around us, regardless of how hard that can be sometimes.

"Our time together gives Violet a safe space to vent and debrief about the times he gets misgendered."

"When I tell him, ‘That’s difficult, I understand’, I am saying that from lived experience, and Violet knows that,” said Elliot.

They work through a ‘trans self-care workbook’ as part of some mentoring sessions, which contains activities and reflections around self-confidence, affirmations, and gender labels, that help gender-diverse young people develop resilience.

When teachers and friends sometimes misgender him but correct themselves, Violet said, “I don’t mind it anymore; it doesn’t affect me as much.” However, he wished more people would educate themselves about gender diversity.

“People think being genderqueer is easy. It’s not. It’s hard because of people not understanding," said Violet.

"I wish people would make more of an effort to learn and try to use our preferred pronouns and understand the trans experience.”

One of Violet’s goals was to attend the Pride March for the first time. He wanted to do this with Elliot, who was more than happy to be a part of this experience.

In their weekly sessions leading up to the event, Elliot and Violet bought a denim jacket from an op shop and used some fabric paint to decorate the back with the trans symbol. Violet is very proud of the jacket, saying, “I still have the jacket now.”

At the Pride March, Violet lit up at seeing so many people being proud of their queer identities. He continually pointed out rainbows and other Pride flag iconography on people’s clothing and accessories.

On the way back home, Violet said, “I want to attend Pride every year. Can you come with me next year too?” Elliot said they would love to.

Before working with Violet, Elliot was told that Violet’s engagement in weekly mentoring sessions might be sporadic as Violet had ‘sad days’ where he won’t attend school or leave the house.

Since sessions began five months earlier, Violet had not missed a single session with Elliot.

Violet appreciates having Elliot to talk to.

“Elliot just talking and being with me is good. I like having a mentor who’s trans. I feel more understood.”

Elliot respects Violet’s maturity and inner strength.

“Violet has already been very resilient since prior to us meeting, but I think he's slowly developing a sense of ‘yeah, I am going to stick up for myself in this, and I am going to ask for more support. And when I don't know how to ask for that support, I'm going to come to the people I know care about me and ask them to help me',” said Elliot.

Hear more from Elliot here!

Image: A woman holding a rainbow flag smiles at the camera. The text says 'We stand against LGBTQIA+ Discrimination'. The IDAHOBIT logo is in the corner.

A person's story is precious. We take storytelling seriously. Sometimes people are able to tell their own story, and we love that. We always make sure they give us their ok, and we will always honour the trust placed in us to bring their story forward. *Names have been changed to protect the children in this story.

Diversity and inclusion at Life Without Barriers

At Life Without Barriers, we celebrate diversity, and we practice inclusion.

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