The Malta Independent 17 August 2017, Thursday

Updated: University lecturer who could face prosecution over outing transgender protester apologises

Gabriel Schembri Sunday, 16 October 2016, 10:49 Last update: about 11 months ago

Stephen Florian, the University of Malta lecturer who outed a transgender person yesterday on Facebook, could be prosecuted and face a fine of between €1,000 and €5,000.

Mr Florian, a high ranking member of Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin, took to Facebook yesterday to single out Alex Caruana, a transgender man who was one of three counter protesters against the so-called ‘patriots’ who organised a protest walk that took place last Sunday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Outrage was expressed far and wide yesterday after Mr Florian took to the social media to give a gender history of Caruana’s gender history, an act that has been made illegal following recent changes to the law.

Contacted yesterday for its opinion on the matter, a spokesperson for Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli, pointed out that Mr Florian’s actions could very well be prosecutable.

The spokesperson cited Article 11 (1) from the Gender Identity law which stipulates, “Whosoever shall knowingly expose any person who has availed of the provisions of this Act, or shall insult or revile a person, shall upon conviction be liable to a fine of not less than one thousand euro (€1,000) and not exceeding five thousand euro (€5,000).”

According to the spokesperson, the Article was intentionally included in the law to cover cases where “the exposure of the person’s sexual identity is used to undermine that person’s democratic and civil rights that emanate from this or any other law”.

This means that the university lecturer, who teaches at the Faculty of Arts, could be liable to prosecution.

Alex Caruana, who was one of the three people participating in a counter protest against the so-called Maltese Patriots, has become the latest target for the far-right group, led by their ringleader Henry Battistino. The Facebook post which instigated a barrage of hateful remarks was posted by Mr Florian and shared on the patriot’s group.

Mr Florian yesterday wrote on his Facebook page: “The right to pray and our right to know the whole truth. Time to get to know who Alex Caruana is and was. This girl, who now calls herself Alexander, was one of the three atheists who came to photobomb the protest.”

His post, which was accompanied by a photo of Alex with a friend from Moviment Graffiti, was inundated with sexist and racist remarks by the ‘patriots’ supporters. Some even posted photos of homosexuals being killed by being thrown from a building by Muslim extremists, as well as man having his dreadlocks (which Mr Caruana also has) being forcefully removed.

Last Sunday, Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin organised a protest March against the setting up of Mosques and to express what they described as 'solidarity' with the people of Qawra and Bugibba. Alex Caruana, together with two other counter protestors went to the event carrying placards preaching 'Love is the answer' and called on the Maltese to support freedom of religion.

"Every time I disagree with them, they fall back on the argument that I'm trans. It is as if one does not fall under their category white, Maltese and Christian you don't have the right to speak," Mr Caruana said in comments to The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Asked if these bullying tactics had affected him personally, Alex Caruana said this would have affected him a year ago, when he was in his early stages of his transition. But he has now grown immune to such offences.

"I am strong now. But I might not have been able to be so resistant a year ago. Transsexuality is a challenging thing and there are others who are transitioning and are still weak. It is for them I am worried," Mr Caruana said. 

Minister for Education and Employment, Evarist Bartolo took to Facebook to condemn the attack by the so-called 'patriots' against Alex Caruana. "These attacks are absolutely unacceptable, all of this because this student decided to favour respect towards other cultures and religions."

He also added that the work of an educator is to civilize, and not to instigate hatred.  

Meanwhile, Chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika Arnold Cassola described yesterday’s social media incident as a shameless spreading of hatred. "Very worrying for the future of the country when coming from someone who has had a sound cultural and educational formation," he said in a Facebook post.

Lecturer apologises

Lecturer Stephen Florian has apologised to Alex Caruana after a post he uploaded on Facebook in which he exposed Mr Caruana as a transgender person.

In a statement, he said that he never had problems with LGBTI people.

He admitted that he made an error of judgement by writing the post and had no intention to appear homophobic. He said he suspected a media plot when atheists turned up at the protest organised by a group who call themselves Patrijotti Maltin, and this is why “I wrote what I wrote”.

The protest was against the opening of a Muslim Centre in Bugibba.

“I understand that in a political war any uncertainty is used for character assassination, and so I take responsibility,” he said.

 

He said the dialogue that has been opened with the Malta Muslim Council will lead to the desired results.

  • don't miss