The Malta Independent 19 October 2019, Saturday

Taking Pride in the battles to come

Josianne Cutajar MEP Sunday, 15 September 2019, 11:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Pride week is once again with us, and I for one am glad to enjoy a week-long celebration of being true to oneself and loving one's identity. Amid the festivities, however, there are always some individuals who feel the need to question 'pride', even going so far as proposing a 'straight' pride as a mockery of the celebrations which symbolise how far the LGBTIQ community has come over the years.

I am proud of the way our country has tackled LGBTIQ issues. From a third-world situation, we have become European trail-blazers when it comes to law and policy. Today, every person can live their life on their own terms and not subject to outdated traditions.

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From the introduction of civil unions, which ultimately paved the way for marriage equality, to the criminalisation of harmful conversion therapy and the recognition of the rights of trans and intersex persons, Malta has truly become a safe space for the LGBTIQ community - legally speaking.

I strongly believe that the law has the potential to alter mind-sets and cultures. In this case, it has certainly contributed to improving social relations in our everyday life and has allowed LGBTIQ people to be their true selves and marry whoever they love. But we definitely cannot, for a moment, think that our laws perfectly reflect what happens on a social, popular level - and that has to be our next battle.

This is all the more reason to celebrate Pride with vigour. We ought to celebrate it, if only to remind everyone that there was a time when the expression of one's sexuality would have exiled one from mainstream society, and would have dashed any career or academic aspirations. Sadly, it is still the reality in too many places - even within the EU.

In a place that has gone through significant progress, such as Malta, celebrations should be louder so they are heard clearly in those places still unfortunate enough to have archaic laws meddling in people's private life.

The argument of gender indoctrination is often put forward by admirers of foreign populists. What is even more interesting is the way these same people brand the Government as being 'populist' for introducing legislation that made the lives of so many people better and guaranteed the protection of human rights. If that is being populist, then I am glad that our kind of populism has people freer, safer and happier about their life in our country. The foreign populists they admire so much have people dying for the love of their own brand of populism.

Pride celebrations do well to remind us that our work is far from over. If people are being attacked on the street, if an individual still feels free to intimidate another on the basis of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, it means that we still have a long way to go in education. Indeed, when I read news of attacks on transgender people during their day-to-day business, or of certain arguments implying gender indoctrination of sorts, I do question whether the great progress made on a legislative level is being reflected within our community.

There is more we should be looking at. Requiring LGBTIQ individuals to abstain from any sexual activity for at least a year to be able to donate blood, for instance, without any medical reason supporting this requirement, feels incongruent to the society our laws aim to create. To me it is a question of right, as it has always been. Like the Public Registry before it, our healthcare system should reflect the rights that our laws have now enabled. This applies equally to treatments essential for LGBTIQ persons to carry on with their life.

We have done well to eliminate all the obstacles for a person to legally and formally declare their lived gender. But it is very clear to me that the enjoyment of one's private life requires so much more than formal recognition on official documents. The LGBTIQ community is facing a number of challenges - from mental health issues to material deprivation, with even the job market sometimes inaccessible to them.

These issues go beyond our national borders. We must come together as a European bloc to ensure that the gender identities we recognise have access to the services they need, be it healthcare or law enforcement. The recent creation of a separate Equality portfolio within the European Commission - spearheaded by our very own Helena Dalli - augurs well for a European future that truly respects the individual and is a safe environment in which everyone is able to live freely.

This is why we still celebrate Pride - to come together as a community and clearly state our commitment to human rights for all.

 

 


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