Bec* is beloved at Wayside. In fact, by the time she had finished telling her story, three people came up and hugged her, just because they wanted to. Bec’s journey has touched many people across her life, but it was only recently where she was ready to truly open up about her story. “Picture this: you are growing up in South West Sydney, where being different is not only frowned upon but where it is an excuse to become a victim of crime and assault.”
This is the line that starts off Bec’s monologue, a piece of work that took her two years to even put pen to paper. When she performed it for Wayside’s Got Talent 2016, she had tradesmen in tears, and people throughout the audience blown away by her honesty, vulnerability and passion. “This is my life, I have never looked at it like something worth crying about…”
Bec grew up with a different reality to many of us. From as young as the age of five she knew she had been born the wrong gender. This complex and life-changing situation was made yet more challenging by her parents not being able to accept who she truly was. For years Bec lived her own personal hell trying to conform to society’s expectations.
This all changed when the first member of Bec’s family reached out to her, her Aunt. Bec describes the moment, sitting on a beach, opening up to her aunty as the best day of her life.
“My aunt said “You need to open up, what the hell is going on?” So I told her the truth. “I can’t live as a male anymore, I am a female.” Not expecting a good reaction, I was shocked when she said “Ok this afternoon, I am buying you your first dress.” It was the most amazing day, to finally be accepted by someone in my family for who I was.”
From there, Bec had to go through the normal adolescent stages of her teenage years, made even more confusing by her gender dysphoria. She attempted to live a normal life, get through school, work as a diesel apprentice and get along with her parents. This reached boiling point at 20-years-old when she decided to finally come out as transgender to her father and ended up in the hospital.
From then on, Bec did not feel safe at home, around people that could not accept her. This is not unusual. Studies have found that LGBTIQ youth are over-represented in the homeless population, as many parents reject their child’s true identity. Bec moved in with her Godfather at first, but after six months, it didn’t work out. She became homeless. Bec wanted to stay around Sydney, and found her only option was Matthew Talbot Hostel.
“Male only, hundred beds, three dorms, and it was rough and violent. They are usually an “over-25s service” but for some reason they put me there. It doesn’t get spoken about because the outside people see they are doing a good thing, when they will literally take most of your money off you for rent. If you are charging a homeless person $280 a fortnight rent, with someone on Newstart only gets $400 and something, it’s not the best situation to be in. Most of my anxiety comes from stuff that’s happened there.”
After Bec decided to finally get herself out of the Hostel, she moved into community housing with a LGBT organisation for 11 months. Here, she attempted to get her life back on track and to become more comfortable with her transgender identity. She got a full-time job, and started thriving, until a few months later she was kicked out of the accommodation after being accused of something she didn’t do.
Being thrown back on the street was a huge setback for Bec.
“The stereotypes were the worst. Being labelled as a drug-user when that’s not the case. Being labelled a bludger because you don’t have a job or a house. That’s when I used to say to people “I’m actually working and I’m homeless.” – It was hard, even from food vans, you’d have some Christian organisations… once they found out if someone was queer, they’d be reluctant to give them food….”
Bec’s saving grace came in the form of the NSW Gender Centre, a place that provides programs and services for transgender and gender diverse. They helped Bec with accommodation. She stayed in their Crisis Program for 7 months, then moved into transitional housing for just under a year. She is now back on her feet and looking for her own home for the very first time.
Bec is living proof that a healthy environment leads to a healthy state of mind. She is a loving and understanding person, who has made a huge impact here at Wayside. She first found us here at Wayside when she was 23.
“I remember the day quite well. I was walking around Kings Cross, I was actually looking for food. I heard two people who had just injected talking about Wayside.”
Bec instantly felt at home at Wayside Youth. She loves to perform in the drama group and participates in all sorts of activities like movie nights, gym workouts and outings with Day to Day Living, our program for people with long term and persistent mental health issues. The Wayside staff have been her rock, in particular our Youth Worker Amy Mitchell.
“From day one, Amy has never been judgmental. She’s organised community care plans, she liaised with my social worker. She’s always been a huge support, even checking in on me when I was in hospital. Amy taught me how to do makeup…I don’t know where I’d be without her. I don’t know if I would be alive without her.”
With Wayside, Bec got to go to her first Mardi Gras, walking in the parade and falling in love with the atmosphere. She loves to cook with the other Youth visitors in their kitchen, especially on Pancake Wednesdays. In her spare time, Bec makes YouTube videos, designed to guide those people transitioning and living with gender dysphoria.
For the last 15 months has been fundamental in the changes at Wayside, particularly enlightening people around transgender issues and broadening many people’s views about gender. She was able to take her struggles and turn it into art that could inspire, motivate and spread love through understanding and compassion.
“The more people you inform, the more knowledge people will have. We’re all on a journey of our own. It’s changed me a lot, and likewise, my story has changed a lot of workers about how they will cater for gender trans people. I’ve been Google for a lot of people. I’ve seen workers adapt a lot more to trans-people, asking me about the correct pronouns. That’s how it’s changed.”
Bec is committed to fighting the stereotypes in society about homeless youth, as well as those in the LGBTIQ community.
“People often say there’s a high percentage of homeless people who take drugs, but there’s also a high percentage of people who live in houses who use drugs so you can’t pinpoint a certain minority because they don’t have a roof over their head. We are normal people just like anyone else. Gender queer, trans, whatever you want to label it as, it’s the same – we are just normal people. I try to tell people we eat the same, we walk the same and pardon my vulgarity, we go to the bathroom almost the same way. We still breathe, we still have legs, and we’re still humans.”
Bec continues to illuminate her truth, and help others through their similar journeys. She has a bright future ahead of her. This year, she completed a certificate for Community Services, all while working full-time, and plans to study social work in the future. She views this as her way of giving back, and following in the footsteps of all those who helped her. We look forward to continuing to watch her flourish.
*Bec is trialing a new name, Emma. She will let you know which one she’d prefer you to call her.
You can help support Bec and many others like her by making a donation to Wayside Chapel.