The Malta Independent 22 September 2017, Friday

It’s not equality when you mark people out as different

Daphne Caruana Galizia Sunday, 16 July 2017, 10:45 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Labour Party has rebranded its LGBTI 'section' as Equality Labour, totally oblivious to the irony of creating and running what is effectively a sectional ghetto for people marked out as different, then calling it 'Equality'.

If the Labour Party really does think of those who are homosexual, bisexual and transgender as just the same as everyone else, it wouldn't have set up a special department for individuals it clearly thinks of as different. Special departments for those who are not heterosexual are no different to the special sections for women, which date back to a different era when men were the default position and women were tolerated and ghettoised. Is an LGBTI section in a political party evidence that that political party is liberal and progressive in its attitude and thinking? No, actually it's the precise opposite.

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When I was in my 20s and starting out in journalism, I got a sound piece of advice from Ena Cremona, the only Maltese woman of her generation, as I recall, who studied law, graduated and went on to build a career in the field - and no, she was not unmarried and childless. She went on to become a judge at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, retiring six years ago at 74. I had rung her because I was writing a feature on Maltese women who had a career: this was in 1990, when such things were a complete novelty and aberration, so much so that I was able to pinpoint very few suitable subjects for my piece. I had been spurred to write it by the fact that quite normal people stopped me to ask me in the street, on a regular basis, whether my husband/father/brother (I don't have one) wrote my newspaper columns for me. That was the darkness of the era from which Malta had only begun to emerge after almost two decades of progressive, liberal and feminist Labour government which spanned all the 1970s (the big era of feminism elsewhere in Europe, but definitely not in Malta) and most of the 1980s.

Ena Cremona turned me down, taking me completely by surprise with the reason she gave me. She always refused to be interviewed or to give talks or comments as a woman with a law career, she said, though she would comment on a matter of law, as a lawyer. "Never join a women's group or a women's network," she told me, "because they're ghettos." Her point was straightforward, and the advice has served me well ever since. To be seen as part of the mainstream, you have to place yourself in the mainstream. If you place yourself in a women's department, you have colluded with the notion that men are the natural mainstream and women must lobby from ghettos on the exterior.

Maltese society has since caught up with that view, and the women's departments in the two big political parties are now like a legacy of the dinosaur era, though they continue to exist. Though the Labour Party has almost no women in its official hierarchy, the Nationalist Party has had several over the last few years. In either case, the thought of ghettoising women in a special group in the political parties, and considering the parties themselves as being the realm of men, now belongs to the past. Those groups should never have existed in the first place, because when women began to participate actively in politics, they should have done so in the mainstream at the outset.

Today, I would give Ena Cremona's advice to me in 1990 to those who think of themselves as 'LGBTI' and who allow themselves to be ghettoised in that manner and even encourage it. You are a person, not an "LGBTI" or worse "a gay". Put yourself in the mainstream, where all the other people are. Because I'm afraid that what you are doing now is allowing yourself to be turned into a caricature and patronised. It's the equivalent of the government portraying women as a caricature of a stay-at-home housewife busy at the oven and then boasting of what it 'gave' them. No, thank you.

www.daphnecaruanagalizia.com


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