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Tue 13 Dec 2011 In: Hall of Fame View at Wayback View at NDHA

Jack Winter - picture thanks to John Hayward Can you imagine being outed at high school and not experiencing one single degree of homophobia? Well, the inspiring news is that it can indeed happen in New Zealand schools, as Hamilton student and GABA Charitable Trust Tertiary Scholarship winner Jack Winter tells us. "My coming out was almost enforced," he explains. "Because I told a friend in confidence and then word spread. So in a way it was forced upon me, but I greeted it," he recalls. "And it made it a lot easier for me because it meant that I didn't have to walk around saying 'I'm gay' to everyone, that kind of thing, it took the burden off me so I could actually just walk into school and have the confidence that everyone knew and everyone was ok with it." Winter was 15 at the time, and in Year 11. He went on to become Deputy Head Boy at his school, Fairfield College, where he also started a queer-straight alliance. In addition, he's a voluntary facilitator at Waikato Queer Youth (WaQuy). While Fairfield College has been much-maligned in the media, Winter says it's a great school. In fact this is the second year in a row a GABA scholarship winner has come from its campus. Winter says with 50-plus cultures at the school, which opens its arms to exchange students, "we have so many different parts of our school that mould together what Fairfield College brands as a 'real word experience. And I think for me, it was so much easier because everyone supported me. I haven't actually experienced any homophobia in school and that's a real positive thing." He points out last year's GABA scholarship winning Fairfield student Logan Reynolds did not experience any bullying for being openly-gay either. "And I think that's really reflective of the peaceful and accepting environment that Fairfield College has." Winter is hoping to study a BA with a Theatre Studies major at Victoria University, and has also applied for the same degree at Waikato University. "It gives me a tiny bit more financial security than I would have if I was relying on just a student loan or student allowance," he says of the GABA scholarship. "In second year I am looking at going flatting and it can also help out with getting the initial bond or whatever, so it just gives me a little bit more security than I had," Winter says, adding the scholarship also bolsters his CV. The teenager says he is actually quite scared about the future, as he is weighing up a couple of career paths. His dream is to work in the arts. "But because the acting industry is such an insecure one, it's hard to push yourself to the absolute limit when there's the possibility that you might not be good enough, or you might not cut it," he explains. "Even on top of that, I've heard stories if actors who live on $5,000 a year just from acting work. And I don't want to put myself in that situation where I'm doing what I love, but I'm financially living the worst life imaginable." Winter is a sensible teenager who clearly has a wise head on his shoulders – he already has a back-up plan should he be insecure when he finishes his BA, of doing a one-year teaching course which will give him the qualifications for a fall-back of returning to the classroom, (where he would clearly be an asset for glbti youth coming through the doors). But that's all a 'what if' to consider in the future, as right now he will follow his dream and vows to "take every chance" and most importantly "enjoy life". Winter is full of thanks to GABA's Charitable Trust, which he says is continuing the work towards full quality post law reform. The other recipient of a scholarship from GABA's Trust is Farran Ram, who is going to study to be a doctor. She left the panel asking "is she really 17?" due to her maturity and confidence. Inspiring young transwoman Iefata Williams was awarded a special grant from the Cartier Trust to study in the health field.     Jacqui Stanford - 13th December 2011

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Tuesday, 13th December 2011 - 4:39pm

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