Micah Scott has been CEO of Minus18 for over 10 years, leading the charge for LGBTIQ youth empowerment and building the most visible platform for young queer Australians to connect and be heard. He has channelled his experiences of growing up in a conservative religious environment and the negative effects that homophobic bullying had on his mental health into developing groundbreaking LGBTIQ youth initiatives Australia-wide.
Micah Scott, CEO of Minus18, Photo: Daniel Mahon
How would you explain the work that Minus18 does?
Minus18 is Australia's youth driven charity making a better country for LGBTIQ+ youth. While things are improving, the experiences of LGBTIQ+ young people, especially trans youth, can still be pretty crap, experiencing huge amounts of discrimination that leads to poorer mental health.
At Minus18, we tackle this in a few ways: We build events where queer teenagers can meet each other and make friends. It sounds so simple but having people who love and accept you is so core to better mental health. We publish resources and host workshops in schools and workplaces all over the country to educate on LGBTIQ inclusion. And we build education and awareness campaigns, like IDAHOBIT(International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism, & Transphobia) on May 17 to empower the community and raise awareness for the fact that LGBTIQ young people still experience some of the highest rates of bullying and discrimination.
What was your first experience of Minus18?
When I was 16, I learned about a Minus18 event from a friend online. The thought of meeting other queer people like me was overwhelming, but I eventually mustered up the courage to head along to the event. Being queer was a really confusing and scary part of me at the time. I would stay awake at night praying and begging for God to turn me straight – it was rough experience. Walking into the doors of the Minus18 event, where there were hundreds of other LGBTIQ+ teenagers completely blew my mind. I sat in the corner on a couch talking to people and slowly realising that we were all going through the exact same experiences, the same questions, and had the same anxieties. Suddenly, I wasn't alone. I went home and wrote a huge thank you note to the event organisers, and got involved as a volunteer.
Do you think it’s easier for young people to come out now than when you were younger?
In some ways coming out is made easier by the fact there’s incredible visibility for LGBTIQ people in media and pop culture – especially if you’re gay or lesbian and living in a metro area. But it’s still a huge generalisation, because coming out is such a personal experience, and the fear of discrimination, bullying and rejection is sometimes just as damaging as experiencing the real thing. LGBTIQ young people pick up this notion from a very young age that there’s something different (or sometimes ‘wrong’) about them. For transgender and non-binary young people, the experience is even more challenging, with majority of trans young people experiencing abuse and discrimination because of their gender identity, which leads to negative experiences of mental health.
How far do you think Australia has to go in terms of equality for the LGBTQI community across society?
The progress Australia has made recently is incredible, and it’s pretty wonderful to reflect back on the past few years – particularly in some of the more progressive states like Victoria. There is, unfortunately, a really strong correlation between the gaining of rights and visibility, and incidents of discrimination and abuse. When laws like Marriage Equality are passed, it’s not without people in the community lashing out and causing hurt, which is what we’ve seen happen since. We have a long way to go and the community still faces discrimination every day. Conversion therapy is still operating throughout many states, LGBTIQ asylum seekers are being denied entry to Australia, and it’s still legal for religious schools to expel students and fire teachers who are LGBTIQ – to name a few of the issues.
When was your first Mardi Gras/Pride event? How was it? And what are your Mardi Gras tips?
My first Mardi Gras was 2009 – so a decade ago this year, woah! I remember it just being a sea of muscle men dancing and living their best life, it was a very entertaining sight for teenage me. It took me a few years to realise that there’s so much more to Pride and Mardi Gras events than partying – there’s a whole range of queer performances, art and culture as part of the celebration, and that’s where the real meaning is. My biggest tip is to do a bit of research on some of the smaller events, especially run by the queer/trans community, and head along and support those. They’re a really good time.
You wrote a letter to yourself as part of our Mardi Gras celebration. If you could write a thank you note to anyone living or dead who you have or haven’t met, who would it be?
That’s a hard one – there are so many people who I would love to write a note to. Would they write back? Kylie Minogue still isn’t replying to my Instagram message, so I would start with her.
What does the future hold for Minus18?
With programs like Safe Schools being defunded around the country, the work of Minus18 is more important than ever to make sure LGBTIQ youth have a place to belong – especially at school. This year we’re focusing on running youth events like our Queer Formal across Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, and providing online support and resources to hundreds of thousands of people all over the country – especially when it comes to supporting transgender youth.
We’re also passionately fighting to ensure that the Government remove discrimination exceptions that allow religious schools to expel LGBTIQ students, which is something that’s still happening in 2019.
As well as donating 100% of the House of Holland Rainbow Waves stationery collection to Minus18 until 31st March, we've also asked 5 friends from the LGBTIQ community to write a note to their younger selves.