The Malta Independent 26 September 2018, Wednesday

Safe space for LGBTIQ families created

Albert Galea Monday, 27 August 2018, 13:24 Last update: about 29 days ago

A safe space where LGBTIQ families can share their experiences in a secure environment away from society’s mainstream prejudices was announced by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca in a press conference on Monday.

Titled Rainbow Families, the project was borne from discussions with parents and their children who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer, and who felt there was a vacuum when it came to speaking about their family life in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

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Set up by the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (PFWS) and the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) to coincide with next month’s Pride Week, this project will hold regular monthly meetings where families can learn from each other’s joys and the difficulties they encounter.

Speaking about this initiative, the President said that she was extremely proud of the collaboration that occurred for this safe space to come into being.  She said it was imperative that, even though in legal terms Malta is at the forefront of LGBTIQ rights, work is done to change the mentality of people to match this.

President Coleiro Preca said that this change must come especially from schools, which should be focusing on breaking down stereotypes as opposed to reinforcing them. 

Ruth Farrugia, the Director General of the PFWS, explained that the project has been two years in the making and aims to create a space where families and also children feel safe to speak with each other about the issues they are facing in relation to LGBTIQ issues.

The project will initially run for a year, and meetings will take place inside the President’s Secret Garden at San Anton Palace.  During these meetings professional support will be provided to attendees, whilst social support through the building of a community and friendships will also be a bi-product of the meetings, Farrugia explained.

Collette Farrugia Bennett, the Coordinator of the MGRM, also spoke of the need for a safe space which can bring people forward to speak in a place where they will not be judged simply because of their sexual orientations.  She said that the project was vital in reducing the isolation of parents whose children are gender non-conforming and identify as trans, and also for the children themselves to meet their own peers who are going through the same experience.

Neil Falzon, the director of Aditus, who has recently adopted two boys with his partner pointed out that for the four of them, the initiative will be their go-to space to focus on gay parenting experiences, to share and to grow.  He said that he had come to see the importance of this initiative through what his own children had told him; which were moments when he saw that such a space was needed to discuss with others how to go about such challenges.

Alex Caruana, who identifies as transgender, said that he would have felt more empowered when growing up had he had access to a safe and respectful space.  Such a space can help adolescents realise that they are not alone in the issues they are facing, and likewise it can help parents of these adolescents so that they can learn to how to support their children in such matters.

The first meeting of this new initiative shall take place on 13 September between 18:00 and 21:30 at the President’s gardens at San Anton Palace.  To register, one must either send an email to [email protected] or call on 21484662.

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