YOUNG people seem to get a lot of attention — mostly for the bad crap we do or experience.

Straight young people tend to be shown as the bullies or perpetrators of transphobia and homophobia, who post abuse online in areas of the internet adults just don’t seem to understand.

LGBTI young people, on the other hand, tend to be shown as being the helpless victims, unsure of who they are and unable to stand up for themselves. It’s an “us” versus “them” scenario.

It’s irksome, mostly since the indicators might show these stereotypes to be true. Seventy-five per cent of LGBTI young people experience homophobic or transphobic bullying, and most of that occurs at school. It’s compounded by the fact that when an LGBTI young person is bullied, they likely don’t have an educated family to go to for support.

But within all the negativity, a positive change is occurring.

We talk face-to-face with thousands of young people each year who love their sexuality and gender identity, and who want to be more than just the “gay/trans* kid who’s been bullied”. Now, more than ever, younger and younger LGBTI people are turning to advocacy and rejecting the notion that things will just “get better” on their own. They want to make things better.

They’re prepared to stand out against discrimination, raise their voice at injustice, and perhaps most importantly, work towards ensuring no other LGBTI young person has to experience the discrimination they or their friends have endured.

National Youth Week 2015 showcases the positive ways that young people are changing the world and defying the stereotypes that can be cast on them. It can become so easy to look at things from a problem-saturated approach or pigeonhole young people by an identity instead of listening to their experiences. The annual event gives us a chance to showcase the incredible, positive change that young people are creating all over the country.

The Minus18 Same Sex Gender Diverse Formal opens National Youth Week each year as just one of the many events organised entirely by teams of young people. The formal mirrors a typical high school formal, with the exception that all attendees (not just LGBTI young people) are encouraged to bring partners of the same sex or wear clothes that they feel most comfortably matches their gender identity.

Beyond simply providing a safe space for LGBTI young people to have a formal experience many are denied, the Same Sex Gender Diverse Formal acts as a platform for students to send the message to their schools that more needs to be done in order to create inclusive spaces.

The fact that this is created entirely by young people is mind-blowing.

There are hundreds of thousands of LGBTI youth in Australia, many of whom are already showing enormous amounts of courage by standing out against homophobia and transphobia with their schools and communities. Young people are organising events, rallies, social groups, school support groups, website, social media platforms and even entire organisations like Minus18. The list goes on, and their work is nothing short of amazing.

For us, National Youth Week isn’t just about reminding LGBTI young people that they aren’t alone ­— in terms of our community, young people are pretty visible. It’s about reminding others that there are hundreds of thousands of young people, both straight and LGBTI, who are willing and passionate about creating an Australia free from homophobia and transphobia and that all we need to do is give them a platform to do so.

Micah Scott is CEO of the Minus18 Foundation, Australia’s largest youth-led organisation for LGBT young people. Twitter:  

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National Youth Week 2015 runs from April 10 to 19.

The Minus18 Same Sex and Gender Diverse Formal will run as one of the opening events on Saturday, April 11. To purchase a ticket, to sponsor ticket for a young person to attend, click here.

RELATED: Minus18’s school formal for LGBTI students celebrates fifth year

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**This article was first published in the April edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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