Jess’ journey: From school yard to Oxford Street

By Jess Vaughn, 19 April 2016 , Comments

I have Neurofibromatosis, depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This has meant I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs in life and these are some I’d like to tell you about.

Firstly school, where I had teachers tell me I wasn’t worth teaching because they didn’t understand me or the disabilities I live with.

I found I wasn’t listened to until I joined a support unit in Year 11. There I was listened to and my needs were met. I could join in mainstream classes where I was capable and had the right support.

I had no friends and was horrendously bullied even in Kindergarten.

The bullies called me names “booger monster”, “spaz” and “retard”. One time I was even told to go hang myself.

Adding to my problems was the fact that I was confused about my sexuality.

At my school it was common to hear words like “dyke” and “faggot” thrown around so I kept the fact that I was questioning my sexuality a secret.

I felt like I was bullied enough and didn’t want to give people more reasons to pick on me.

I also thought I couldn’t accept myself until other people accepted me.

When the time came to finish school, I was extremely anxious to leave the structured environment I had known for last 18 months as I didn’t know what the future held.

As luck would have it my mum went to an open day the Northcott office in Hornsby held.

Once I got in touch with the coordinator and learnt more about the program, I decided to give it a go and see where I ended up.

That decision turned out to be a good one. I absolutely love the program and its helped me learn things like how to write a resume and even approach employers.

I’ve made new friends and been able to help other people who do the program.

After I finish the program I have decided I want to work in the childcare industry because I love teaching young kids.

One of the other highlights of my time at Northcott so far has been going in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade on the people with disability float.

Jess having a great time at Mardi Gras

I wanted to celebrate that we’ve come from a dark past of beatings, shame and abuse, and we’ve gone “guess what, we’re gonna turn this around into a night of pride”.

Being involved in Mardi Gras was also important to me because I’m proud of who I am – both my disability and my sexuality.

I loved the experience and it surpassed every expectation I had. I got to clap people’s hands in the crowd, met new friends and was really on what I like to call a gay high.

We are all different and this experience really highlighted to me how we should treat each other with respect and in ways we want to be treated ourselves.

People ask me what I identify as and now I just say “human”.


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