What we do
At Minus18, we aim to improve the lives of same sex attracted and gender diverse (SSAGD) youth; to empower them, connect them with others and help them understand themselves. We do this through social events, resource production, partnering with other community groups, and awareness raising. Each year our events and projects reach more than 60,000 youth right across Australia.Minus18 has two key philosophies underlying the management of all projects:
1. YOUTH EMPOWERING YOUTH.
Minus18 believe that the best and most effective way to empower young people is for other young people to be the ones engaging with them. As such, all Minus18 projects are imagined, organised and run by the Minus18 Crew to ensure everyone who attends leaves empowered.
2. SOCIAL INCLUSION.
Social isolation due to location, bullying and homophobia can lead to mental illness and lack of confidence. Minus18 combat social isolation through providing a place where young people feel they belong and are 100% safe. Because of this, participation in a Minus18 event has been proven to improve mental wellbeing in young people.
Why we do it
Being Same Sex Attracted or Gender Diverse isn’t always easy, and it can be even more confusing and isolating when you don’t know other people who are going through the same experiences as you. Unfortunately, because of homophobia and isolation, SSAGD young people experience higher rates of mental illness and suicide than heterosexual young people.
75% of SSAGD young people in Australia experience homophobic abuse - most of this occurring at school.
As a result, SSAGD young people are 2x more likely to experience anxiety or depression and 3x more likely to attempt suicide.
We know that the best remedy for social isolation is to provide a place where same sex attracted youth can make friends in a safe and fun atmosphere. While Minus18 is promoted to young people as a social environment, it’s really so much more. We’re about improving the mental wellbeing of young people, increases their self-confidence and overall making their lives better.
Who we work with
As the peak body for SSAGD youth, Minus18 work with a number of organisations all over Australia, supporting sexual and gender diversity. We also work in partnerships to ensure safety and support at our events and through our projects.
The City of Melbourne
The Victorian Government Office for Youth
The Victorian Government Department of Health
Victorian AIDS Council / Gay Men's Health Center
The Reach Foundation
The GH Hotel
The Victorian Police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers
Safe Schools Coalition Victoria
Rainbow Network Victoria
Zoe Belle Gender Center
A huge and very valid concern for parents is for the safety of their son or daughter attending a Minus18 event. Since we first started in 1998, Minus18 has NEVER had a major incident. Our partner organisations listed above have seen the work we do and truly believe in the benefit of Minus18 - enough to recommend us as safe and essential. These organisations also give us strict guidelines on how to run our events, to ensure the physical and mental safety of your son or daughter. Additionally, our larger events all have:
• A youth worker is in attendance at all Minus18 dance events
• All Minus18 events are drug and alcohol free
• All Minus18 events are smoke free
• Registered crowd controllers are in attendance at all dance events in appropriate ratios to the number of patrons.
• All Minus18 volunteers and staff comply with the Victorian working with children laws and regulations.
How we started
The initial idea of Minus18 was formed in 1998 by parents who saw that their sons or daughters had nowhere to go for questions on their sexuality, or to meet other young people like them. Working together, with a number of event organisers, the first Minus18 underage dance party was created. Minus18 events now attract upwards of 400 youth each school holidays.
Why what we do works
A sense of belonging and inclusion assists the intergration of a SSAGD young person into society and benefits their mental wellbeing.
Minus18 helps young people rebuild social networks and establish close, trusting relationships where they feel valued and safe, and is what is needed to address the impacts of homophobia in young people’s everyday live.
-Health & Well-Being of Same-Sex-Attracted Young People, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University).
Supporting young people
Whether your child, youth member or loved one is same sex attracted, gender diverse or unsure, you have taken the first step to supporting them by reading this. You have opened yourself up to new information, and hopefully you will be better informed. You can support others by educating yourself as much as possible about sexuality or gender identity.
Young people know that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are marginalised by society. Many children learn negative words for same sex attracted and gender diverse people, often before they reach the kindergarten playground. They assume that all the people they know are heterosexual; and they may have no idea that some of the respected adults around them are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
As a result, many same sex attracted and gender diverse young people feel profoundly isolated. 'Surely I am the only person like this' is a common sentiment. Unfortunately, some GLBT young people are viciously harassed and abused.
Whether or not they are labelled by others, these young people often;
- Fear being discovered and expect rejection
- Guard their feelings carefully in order to be accepted (or merely to survive)
- Have few opportunities to openly date, flirt or engage in sexual experimentation like other young people
- Lack accurate information about their feelings and experiences
The vast majority of SSAGD young people are not depressed or suicidal. However, Australian research has identified that same sex attracted young people may be up to six times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. These figures are believed to be even higher for young people with gender identity issues.
A young persons sexual or gender identity does not in and of itself cause them to feel depressed or suicidal. What does impact negatively on their well-being is the experience of growing up 'different' in a society that often rejects difference, and that expects everyone to be heterosexual. Education about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is an important step towards supporting young people and preventing depression and suicide. Young SSAGD people need the following kinds of support, to develop good self-esteem and skills to deal with what can sometimes be a hostile environment:
- Supportive opportunities to socialise with one another
- Resources that specifically address their concerns
- Sensitive, non-judgemental support as they come to understand themselves
There are services and programs throughout Victoria that provide support for same sex attracted and transgender people. Contact the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard for details of services near you.