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Future Shapers Community Micah Scott
Photograph: Daniel Mahon

Future Shapers: Minus18's Micah Scott, who wants to celebrate queer young people

The CEO of LGBTQIA+ youth charity Minus18 has spent years fighting and advocating for the queer community

Rebecca Russo
Written by
Rebecca Russo

Time Out is profiling the incredible people who are shaping the future of Melbourne in our Future Shaper series. We have asked a panel of esteemed judges comprising Simon Abrahams (creative director and CEO of Melbourne Fringe), Claire Ferres Miles (CEO of Sustainability Victoria) Pat Nourse (creative director, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival), Senator Lidia Thorpe (Greens Senator for Victoria), Peter Tullin (co-founder and CEO of Remix Summits) and Kate Vinot (chair of Zoos Victoria) to help us identify the people changing the future of Melbourne in the areas of food and drink; arts; community and culture; civics; and sustainability. In community and culture, Micah Scott was chosen for his work with Minus18.

According to Micah Scott, CEO of youth-driven LGBTQIA+ charity Minus18, the general perception is that things are getting better for queer young people in the community. Recent research backs this up – however, this isn’t the case for all queer youth in Australia. 

“For young people in particular in 2021, a lot of the issues centre around a changing world and a higher visibility for conversations around sexuality and gender identity," Scott says. So not only are queer young people facing challenges associated with being online, digital spaces, social media and the complications that arise there. But in addition to that, identity is significantly more visible, which is a double-edged sword. There’s a sense of empowerment that can come with visibility, but also, visibility opens up the risks of extra bullying and negative experiences.”

Minus18, at its core, creates safe spaces for queer young people to make friends – one example is the annual Queer Formal, a dance organised for LGBTQIA+ young people who might otherwise feel left out or uncomfortable going to a regular high school formal. The charity has grown over the years to host these sorts of events across Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, all the while running school-based education and workplace inclusion training. According to Scott, “the real mission of Minus has expanded to transform Australia into a safe space for queer young people”.

Despite some headway being made over the last decade or so here in Melbourne, safe spaces for queer people are still hard to find – especially if you’re under 18. “A lot of the community spaces for adults [are] centred around bars and nightclubs. So if you’re in high school and you may not have supportive parents, having a space to go where you can feel safe and be celebrated for your sexuality or gender identity is so rare. So altogether, that is really the driving force behind Minus18.”

Scott began his journey with Minus18 in the early 2000s, when he was 16. “It was an absolutely life-changing experience for me to be able to connect with other people who had gone through similar experiences to me, and it made me feel normal and celebrated for parts of my queer identity that I hadn’t felt proud of yet.” 

“It took years for Minus18, in my perspective, to get anywhere near the level of recognition and awareness that I felt it deserved. Years of continuing to fight and to advocate for that. That was a piece of advice given to me, to continue persevering and pushing through. To strive for that work to pay off and to be recognised by others in the future.”

To inspire young people across the country is a big responsibility, and it’s one that Minus18 takes very seriously. Scott is aware that a disproportionate number of queer young people experience discrimination, bullying and abuse. That experience, more often than not, can lead to poor mental health outcomes for queer youth. "Minus18 is about taking those negative experiences, which, unfortunately, are shared by all members of our community, and transforming those through really fun, celebratory environments," says Scott.

It's that perspective that drives everything that Minus18 sets out to do. “It’s really easy to get caught up on these challenging experiences that queer young people and people in the community have. And they’re really important to reflect on and to overcome. [However] the vision of Minus18 is one of celebration, one of empowerment, and one where we are looking to really celebrate queer young people and create spaces of connection and enjoyment. And that is a preventative model of mental health support. And one that really resonates particularly with young people.”

While there's still a ways to go for the community, the silver lining is the support from local Melburnians. “I think from the experiences that we have had operating throughout all of Australia, in other states and even outside of Melbourne, we have seen a uniqueness of Melbourne in a real desire and drive to be inclusive of people in the LGBTQIA+ community. There is absolutely more work to be done, and it is by no means perfect. But comparatively, the desire to support and create community is really strong in Melbourne. And I think that’s what really makes it unique for the growth of Minus18 here.”

Read about more of our Future Shapers

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