The Malta Independent 19 October 2019, Saturday

Malta is a pioneer in defending LGBTIQ+ rights

Monday, 16 September 2019, 08:28 Last update: about 2 months ago

Malta has firmly placed itself as a pioneer in defending LGBTIQ+ rights and has well deserved the credit for being avant-garde in this aspect. I myself couldn't be prouder of what this island has achieved on the legislative, expertise and organisational level. I personally witnessed less welcoming attitudes of governments and societies towards LGBTQ+ communities in some major European countries which are way bigger and more Metropolitan than Malta.

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I can confidently say that Malta can currently play the role of educator to other countries in how laws as well as public opinion and perception can be shifted from conservatism to the acceptance, inclusion, tolerance and equality for all genders, sexual orientation and expression.

Malta has managed rapidly and steadily to accept and tolerate LGBTQ+ individuals considering the impact religion, and other forces, have in our everyday lives. This tolerance has sometimes become a fierce defence of the rights of our community in times where there have been incidents jeopardizing them. I often read comments on social media and witness personal reactions which are nothing but a source of confidence that Malta is a safe place.

I myself have not had any discomfort in holding the hand of another man in the street or to show in public, signs of having a same sex partner. The same applies in what I choose to wear, say, behave, etc. I have learned by experience, since I was a teenager in my country, that as much as you manage to balance between the respect to the beliefs and traditions of the communities you are surrounded by from one hand, and emphasizing, practicing, and forcing the respect of your freedom of beliefs, behaviour, and preferences on the other, the rate of tolerance around you will be rapid such as in the case of Malta where the LGBTQ+ community has not been firm but non-violent to the rest of the components of society.

However, I must as well state here that this doesn't mean that Malta has actually become a paradise for LGBTQ+ members of society as there is a segment silently and implicitly brewing hatred. There have been incidents where gay people have been faced with aggression, oppression and despise. The last example is the reaction to the minister carrying the Rainbow flag adapted to the Maltese national flag. The reaction of a significant number of conservative Maltese was shocking and proves the fact that some Maltese pretend to be open-minded but are willing to bring out their worst when they have to choose between their nationalism and tolerance.

Some public service employees and police do not really seem tolerant either. Alpha Male (macho) mentality still dominates and perpetuates in all levels of society. I have seen friends who had difficulties in adoption and registration of children of same sex married couples. There are also severe weaknesses within the LGBTQ+ community, which is reflected in unnecessary competition, lack of communication and act with malintent towards one another.

I sometimes wonder if one day we will find ourselves in a situation where what we acquired now will be lost because of power shifts. We are seeing this happening in the USA and the UK. A wait-and-see scenario is not a viable option. We need to have more dialogue as a society on what is good, bad and ugly about diversity and inclusion where such a dialogue includes people of all ages, including children and elderly. It can be uncomfortable for some to share a seat at the table, but it would be a shame to see our younger generation growing to believe that one race and heteronormativity is the solution to our world's problems.

M. Hammoud is of Lebanese nationality living in Malta working as a professional in the aviation sector and a committee member of Allied Rainbow Communities


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