Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.
I went through quite a journey to get to where I am at the moment. I struggled with self-acceptance and I experienced quite a significant amount of transphobia and homophobia from those around me.
I’ve been an activist for the rights of transgender people, disabled people and First Nations people for a few years now. Through my activism I’ve seen the positive effect that programs like the scholarship program offered by The Pinnacle Foundation can have on young LGBTIQ+ people.
In 2019, I completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) majoring in Theatre and Performance Studies at The University of Sydney. Despite facing hardship including ongoing transphobia and homophobia, I received a first-class honours grade at the end of the year.
I found out about The Pinnacle Foundation from my previous careers advisor and we spoke through how to apply. I knew that I wanted to do a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) but that I would need appropriate support from LGBTIQ+ people to achieve this. So, I applied last year and was absolutely over-the-Moon (pun definitely intended) to receive The Tea Uglow Scholarship!
What have you gained from being part of the Pinnacle program so far?
I’ve gained so much from The Pinnacle Foundation. Being a Pinnacle Scholar has helped me in so many more ways beyond the funding. I’ve found the Pinnacle community to really be the most valuable part of the program so far. I really love the family atmosphere at Pinnacle, it’s such a caring environment where everyone really supports one another and wants to see each other succeed. It’s really incredible to be surrounded by so many other LGBTIQ+ students and to have a mentor who can always offer support. Sometimes it can feel very lonely being a trans and queer person at university. I am the only transgender student in my department at my university and I know many other Pinnacle shcolars are in the same position – this can leave you feeling very isolated. But, I’ve made some really close friends through Pinnacle and I always feel like someone at Pinnacle will be there to help me out if I need anything.
What has your experience with your mentor been like?
My experience with my mentor, Harri Harding, has been great! We’re both in the arts and we’re both musicians so we get along really well. Harri has been a great support when I’ve needed him and is always happy to chat. It’s been really good to know he’s there if I need support, especially during COVID-19 when things at university became quite stressful – I found it really helpful to chat to him about organisation, connecting to people and self-care. It’s just really helpful to have an older LGBTIQ+ person to turn to when you need advice or support, someone who understands you, who knows what you’re going through.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for the Pinnacle Foundation scholarship program?
My advice would be to go for it! I know as a young and marginalised person that it can feel really daunting and intimidating to apply for a scholarship like this, and I also know that you can struggle with feelings of not being good enough or not deserving of this kind of support. I definitely felt this way when I applied. I filled out the application nervously with a friend by my side and I remember saying to them “I won’t get it” and here I am!
So, my advice would be to believe in yourself and know that you’re capable of achieving amazing things. You should definitely apply because being a Pinnacle Scholar is a really rewarding experience.
Hayden completed the first year of his PhD in 2020 and was awarded the Out for the Next Generation –
Student of the Year award in Out For Australia’s 30 Under 30 Awards. Hayden will continue his PhD studies in 2021 with the support of The Pinnacle Foundation.