Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.


A Million Times Yes to This Queer Formal in Australia for LGBTQI Students

Flickr - Lynn Friedmann

For secondary school students, their school formal is a right of passage, a chance to let their hair down and celebrate with their friends. But it’s not care free for all students. For students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, that's not always the case.

For many same-sex attracted and gender-diverse students, their school formal is an uncomfortable experience — they may not feel welcome to take a partner of their choice, or dress the way they want at their school formal.

"My last school ... I wasn't allowed to take my partner ...I ended up going by myself," Josh Makawe, age 17, told The Age.

So this year the Queer Formal returned again to Melbourne and Adelaide. And for the first time, Josh Makawe was able to take his partner.

Read more: This Woman Campaigned to Keep Girls in School During Their Period. Now She’s Been Locked Up in Uganda.

The formal was a chance for 550 young people form the LGBTI community to wear what they want, go with a partner of their choice, and celebrate who they are. It is designed as a space to feel safe, included and supported.

“Discrimination free zone, no homophobia or transphobia” signs adorned the walls along with rainbow coloured paper chains.

The event is presented by Minus 18, Australia’s largest youth-led organisation for LGBTI youth. They provide support from youth workers and peer mentoring for young leaders.

"In a perfect world, we wouldn't need to run LGBTI-specific events," Micah Scott, chief executive of Minus 18, told the ABC.

Adults of the LGBTI community also attend the events as "Angels" who are there to welcome, support, and protect the younger party goers.

But the event was not sadly not welcomed by everyone.

Conservative STOP SAFE Schools Coalition group tried to sabotage the event by encouraging its supporters to buy up early-bird tickets so the students it was meant to support could not attend.

"PLEASE go and buy a ticket or tickets. The more tickets sold to us, the more youth we protect," their Facebook post reads. The $10 early bird tickets were aimed at disadvantaged youth who may not be able to afford full-priced tickets.

Read more: This New Heineken Ad Is So Hopeful It Will Make You Completely Forget That Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad

Scott described the group’s actions as “malicious” to The Age.

"For some of these young people, this is the one night of the year when they feel safe and they feel comfortable. And this is a group of adults trying to take that away from a marginalised group of young people who already feel bullying and discrimination."

In an ideal world, there would be no need for a separate Queer Formal. But until everyone feels welcome, safe and confident in their school, we hope organisations continue to provide safe and supportive places for everyone to feel free to be who they are.