Brayden

Coming out as gay to my parents: Brayden’s story – SBS

Brayden wrote a note to his mum, walked away and started to cry

Noongar man Brayden Cockroft faced a challenge coming out as gay before he was ready to but says it shouldn’t have to be so hard for others in Australia. A special scholarship program is hoping to support young LGBTIQ+ people who have faced setbacks.

A man wearing a suit and tie standing outside with office buildings in the background.

Brayden Cockroft says it took some time for him to reconcile the different parts of his identity, but now he fully embraces it. 

Content warning: This story contains reference to suicide.

For Brayden Cockroft, coming out was a highly charged and emotional moment.

The Noongar man from Perth can’t quite remember the exact words he wrote in the note he left for his parents to tell them he was gay at the age of 15.

“There was a bit of relief, but also genuine fear as well – not knowing what might happen [with their reactions],” he says.

“I had written a note and left it waiting on the bench for my mum to read when she got home from work.”

And then came the tears.

“I just broke down and didn’t know what to do. I was in the shower for a solid hour or so,” he says.

His mum read the note and let him have some space before knocking on his door to have a chat and reassure him. A flood of emotion followed.

“I just started bawling my eyes out because there was just so much rush of emotion of something that I hadn’t actually had the chance to really talk about with somebody in an open way at that point.”

His parents rallied around him.

A man and two people taking a selfie

Brayden with his parents. 

Things had come to a head at school for Brayden. He had been outed as gay by a person he had trusted before he was ready to tell his story. The threats included outing him to his parents.

“Very quickly, everything kind of turned around the opposite way for the worst. And there was a lot of bullying, there was a lot of horrible things that were said, threats that were made.”

He lost friends who wouldn’t accept him, and bullies destroyed his enjoyment of playing Australian rules football.

Gaining a scholarship at a different high school eventually allowed him to heal, move forward and proudly own his identity.

Four years later, at the age of 19, he is pursuing a university degree in exercise and sports science. He’s the first member of his family to reach university.

Brayden holds his high school year book as he stands next to his parents at his graduation ceremony.

Brayden marks his graduation from high school in 2021 with his parents by his side. 

“That’s not something that really plays on my mind too much,” he says, remaining humble.

“But it’s exciting to think about the fact that it can be something that could necessarily change our whole family path going forward – having access to potentially better jobs, more money, and being able to support everybody a bit more.”

Achieving that milestone was made easier with the support provided by a scholarship for young LGBTIQ+ people.

Scholarship opportunities available

The Pinnacle Foundation’s annual program supports people like Brayden to further their studies and help dismantle stigma and prejudice in communities.

Scholarships are awarded for full-time higher education study in Australia for the purpose of gaining a qualification in any profession, trade or the arts. Recipients receive grants of up to $8,000 and each individual is paired up with a mentor.

Brayden spends time with his dog Nala.

Brayden spends time with his dog Nala. He says having the right support network around him has made all the difference. 

The monetary resource and support network made a huge difference to Brayden.

“Without the scholarship, I definitely wouldn’t be in as good of a spot I am in now,” he says.

“I wouldn’t have had the same level of support that I’ve had, especially over the last few months, and I think I’d be struggling definitely a lot more when it comes to uni.”

He says the support network has also helped him to be comfortable in his own skin – owning both his sexuality and his Aboriginal heritage.

“I’m very proud of who I am and how far I’ve come with those things. They’re a major part of my own self-identity that I have to always appreciate and outwardly put out – not only for myself, but also just for other people who need that person that they can see and be like: ‘well, they’ve been lucky to kind of have these situations; and maybe I could do the same, if I was open with it.'”

More than a decade after the annual round of scholarships was first launched in 2010, Pinnacle Foundation CEO Andrew Staite says there remains a lot of stigma and prejudice to overcome.

Research published by Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University released last year, found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ+ people frequently encountered discrimination within the LGBTIQ+ community, Indigenous communities and broader society.

The work found more than 73 per cent of those surveyed reported experiencing discrimination in the past 12 months, including being ignored or teased, maliciously ‘outed’, followed in public, or being victims of physical violence and other crimes.

LGBTIQ+ Australians also experience poorer mental health outcomes and have a higher risk of self-harm and suicide, based on data compiled by LGBTIQA+ Health Australia. LGBTIQ+ people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to have attempted suicide in their lifetime.

Mr Staite says he is working towards the goal where there is no longer a need for his charity’s scholarship program.

“The perception that since marriage equality [legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia in 2017], things have mysteriously got better for everyone just is not correct,” he says.

Mr Staite says he is working on chipping away at the prejudice and stigma that existed when he came out decades ago – and still exists today.

“There are still young people who are self-harming, there are still young people who are not able to continue their education because they’ve had to move away from where they’ve grown up to feel safe. Those challenges are deep-seated.

“When I grew up, school was a very difficult thing, and I was bullied and abused … I’m now in my 50s. And that is why I’m so passionate about the Foundation’s work. It is because I don’t want to see young people today, still experiencing those same things that happened to me so many years ago.”

Article originally posted on SBS https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/brayden-wrote-a-note-to-his-mum-walked-away-and-started-to-cry/1llq0j2l0

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