The Malta Independent 24 October 2020, Saturday

LGBT group 'deeply saddened' with negative attacks against transgender child, parents

Kevin Schembri Orland & Gabriel Schembri Monday, 6 June 2016, 14:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents' Group are deeply saddened with the negative attacks against Willa and her parents that recently appeared on social media and online news-sites regarding the launch of the book Truly Willa, Drachma spokesperson Joseanne Peregin told this newsroom. 

8-year-old transgender child Willa Naylor recently presented her book to the Minister for Education Evarist Bartolo and the Minister for Family and Social Solidarity Helena Dalli. This newsroom contacted three LGBTI groups to ask for their reactions to the book launch.

The book, which goes by the name 'Truly Willa', describes Willa's story as she experiences this drastic change in her life at a very young age.

Drachma said that Willa’s highly empathic nature, “that has driven her to share her own story in the hope that it could help others like her to be brave, has been met by sharp criticism which is sad”.

Drachma explained that society would do well to ask: “how can children like Willa feel they are better accepted in society?  How can we show support and respect toward those in minority groups that need compassion and understanding, rather than they being judged, threatened, used or pitied as though they were inferior persons. Drachma stands in support and solidarity with Willa, Beck, and James Naylor and wishes to focus instead on the strengths of such a united family that has stood close by to each other all through their journey. Society would do well to learn a thing or two from this family and the book recently launched”.

Giving children a voice and a sense of agency in their own lives is important – MGRM

Malta Gay Rights Movement Coordinator Gabi Calleja said that the book is Willa’s story   in her own words, and as such is a way in which she can affirm her identity and educate others who might benefit, either because they are going through the same experience, or because they are in a position to provide support to someone who is.

“It is not the only book of its kind. I am Jazz is another book written by Jasmine a trans child in the US. Her book is used in a number of countries around the world as part of LGBTIQ inclusive curricula”.

Asked whether an 8-year-old should publish such a book, she believes that giving children a voice and a sense of agency in their own lives is important. “So long as it is her choice and she is informed and prepared beforehand to handle both positive as well as negative reactions to her story, then I do not see why Willa's initiative should be curtailed”.

“It is the role of her parents to assess both the risks as well as the benefits of such a course of action for their child. Having met Willa and her parents, and given Malta's legislative protections where LGBTIQ rights are concerned and the accompanying shift in public perception, I find no justifiable reason to oppose the publication of Willa's book. When Destiny was thrust into the limelight for winning the Junior Eurovision no similar concern was expressed with regards to potential negative reactions which could have ensued given the prevalence of racist commentary on social media”. 

As for whether this book should be available in schools, Gabi Calleja explains that two of the pillars on which the Respect for all policy framework which Maltese schools are guided by are Learning to Be and Learning to Live Together. “I think this book is one resource that schools can use to help children understand what it is to be a trans child. The recently launched UNESCO campaign ‘OUT IN THE OPEN’, highlights the responsibility of governments to put in place comprehensive education sector responses to prevent and address homophobic and transphobic violence in educational settings and enable all children to access safe and inclusive learning environments”.

Asked whether children should be exposed to such issues, she explained that children pick up impressions and learn from what they encounter in the world around them. “LGBTIQ persons are now an accepted and visible part of Maltese society and therefore children are inevitably going to be exposed to such issues. The Closet is no longer an option and therefore education for diversity is an important component of children's education. The UNESCO guidelines state that education sector responses should be rights based, learner centred and inclusive, participatory, gender responsive and transformative, evidence based, age appropriate and context-specific and culturally sensitive”.

 

Public cannot judge if it is too early for a child to become transgender - Allied Rainbow Malta

Russel Sammut, from Allied Rainbow Community told The Malta Independent that the public cannot judge if it is too early for a child to become a transgender.

“I am sure she was properly assessed by professionals and surely, the public cannot judge the girl or her parents. It would be very presumptuous of us not to let this girl live as she wishes.”

Earlier this week, 8-year-old Willa presented a book about her transitioning from boy to girl. The news triggered mixed reactions by those who praise the little girl for her courage and those who find it outrageous.

Asked if a child can really feel that they are a girl trapped inside the body of boy at 8-years of age, Russel said he felt he was gay when he was still very young.

“Just to make it clear, I am a homosexual, not transgender. But still, I felt very differently when I was still young. I remember we used to watch Baywatch, and while all my friends remembered Pamela Anderson, I could only remember Mitchell.

Russell agrees with having Willa’s book accessible in public schools. “It wasn’t books that made me gay. To have the right information at hand, will not make you gay.”

He said he met Willa once and thought she is a brilliant bright girl.

 

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