“I knew something was different with me from a very young age and it kind of hit home when I was about nine, when I started going through puberty,” Tobias, known as Tobi by his friends, recalls.
But it was at the beginning of high school when I was 12 and had more access to the internet and was able to find information that made me think, ‘Hang on, that describes exactly how I feel’ which is when I started making the transition.”
Unfortunately for Tobi, he had no support from his family during his transition.
“It was also hard on myself because I felt like I was growing up and all these changes were happening but it doesn’t fit with who I am inside.”
Leaving home at the age of 15, Tobi turned to MercyCare and found support as a resident at Carlow House, which provides up medium-term accommodation for young people between 16 and 19 for up to 12 months.
This was where Tobi met MercyCare youth worker and mentor Sarah Hopa, and the duo formed a strong and trusting rapport.
“Sarah was my key worker at Carlow House – she inspired me to want to help others, so this is kind of my way of giving back to others,” he says.
“If I can have half the impact that Sarah and other youth workers at Carlow House have had on me and I can do that for others, that would be amazing.”
Tobi is now a part of MercyCare’s Homes for Youth and Family program, which provides quality transitional accommodation and individualised support for young people and families up to 35 years old.
Tobi recently completed MercyCare’s Youth Peer Pathways program after hearing about it through his Homes For Youth and Family Case Worker.
Wrapping up in August, the program ran for 11 weeks and provides young people aged between 18 and 25 with exposure to the community service sector, with a focus on learning more about Peer Support Work, personal growth and story telling.
The program was co-designed by young people with lived experience with adverse life experiences.
“I kind of had an idea that I wanted to get into youth or peer work and I like the hours, and I like the information they were offering up,” he says.
Aspiring to one day work with youth from the LGBTQI+ community, Tobi says he wants to give back to others who are going through what he has been through.
“I’d love to help the LGBTQI youth, it’s something very close to my heart,” he says. “I just want to help young people who have been in similar situations as I have.”
Since completing the program, Tobi says he’s gained valuable insight into the world of peer work and is keen to take it further.
“I’m already looking at options and pathways I can go down, so it’s just about finding what’s most accessible to me,” he says.
Tobi says that since undergoing his transition it has been liberating to finally be the person he feels he was born to be.
“It was also really empowering when I did come out,” he says. “Then when I turned 18 earlier this year, I legally changed my name. It felt so liberating.
“I’ve always felt like, my mother gave me a name because I couldn’t name myself, and now it’s my turn to take hold of my identity and go forth with it.”