“Il faut être absolument moderne”
“Huwa kruċjali li tkun assolutament modern”
Maltese society has been experiencing in the last number of years a needed influx of legislation changes facilitating the tools to address inequality long experienced by LGBTIQ members of society.
Could it be said that the field has been leveled? Far from it. Members of the activist community have in stressed different instances the need to translate law into practice in the public sphere at-large.
Initiatives have and continue to be drawn and in the pipeline for implementation such as the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy & Action Plan, the Rainbow Families Network (RFM), including the publishing of LGBTIQ Youth Activism: The Past & the Present funded by the Be Active campaign administered by Agenzija Żghażagh.
What all these initiatives have in common is aiming to create additional structural platforms to address in a sensible fashion the navigating of LGBTIQ individuals, whether single or having formed a family within the spaces of workplace, education sector, health and sports.
These are all needed changes within government and civil society institutions to soften the blow of unnecessary discomfort LGBTIQ individuals may face in practicing their innate right to the pursuit of happiness. This begs the question: What is it not being done?
Here are a few ideas that might be worth contemplating in the process of truly achieving inclusion and not merely “mainstreaming.”
These ideas are overall aimed to gain allies in communities throughout the islands:
Become a sponsor, vendor, and active participant as an LGBTIQ delegation. There are a plethora of annual festivals and traditions. The feast of Santa Marija, the harvest festival of Mnarja, Holy Week, winter holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.), and last but not least, the important festas in villages honouring their parish patron saint to name a few.
It is imperative to work at the grassroots level. The legislative improvements that have been poorly coined as “rapid” - when in reality have been an overdue step toward breaking down antiquated practices that no longer hold truth in our evolving human society.
It is sensitive to remind neighbors and parishes in every city throughout the islands that LGBTIQ citizens are proud members of the community. Celebrating the diversity in gender identity and sexual orientation in one’s city of origin is key in reinforcing the cultural richness of the Maltese islands.
Actively supporting cities’ cultural traditions by having a presence in local festivities are key opportunities to strengthen the sense of community.
Creating partnerships with direct health care providers. Outside the main hospitals (Mater Dei, St. Luke’s, Paul Boffa, St. Vincent de Paule, and the Gozo General Hospital) - it is critical to direct outreach efforts to the 47 local clinics throughout the islands.
Understanding that there is an ongoing effort to create a gender wellbeing clinic for the trans, intersex, and gender individuals is worthy to consider that there is no need to recreate the wheel. Costs could potentially be lowered if health professionals in the areas of hormone therapy, mental health, and infectious diseases can be incentivized to join the islands’ local clinics teams.
These health professionals could be enlisted on at least a half-time basis if not full-time basis so that LGBTIQ community members can have ready access to culturally sensitive direct health services. This would be advantageous for LGBTIQ individuals that may not have the means to travel to the main cities to access medical attention. Also, it would allow for budget(s) to be better allocated to reach more persons and potentially easier to meet sustainability by the National Health Service.
Enlist public libraries to partner with in offering diversity programming with an LGBT-component. Sharing knowledge is power. Part of the initiatives to eliminate prejudice should include public libraries. Starting with training library employees and volunteers to provide diversity-training workshops to the community throughout the year will fuel inclusion in all corners of the islands.
There are any number of ways public libraries can play an important role in shedding light on the Maltese islands great diversity. Plan (if not already existing book clubs) where an LGBTIQ tittle can be discussed in its literature line-up. Host LGBTIQ members in their cities and activists across the islands to be guest speakers to share their experiences. Organize short story contests where LGBTIQ characters are featured. Create movie night series where LGBTIQ films are also featured.
Looking beyond passive programming is the key to touch the hearts of community members and enlighten them about the commonalities that bonds a society together.
Tackling discrimination goes beyond structural changes in a society’s governing institutions and media awareness campaigns.
Cultivating inclusion requires us to mindfully reconcile cultural traditions with everyone’s innate right to the pursuit of self-fulfillment. A society grows stronger when it learns to see the value of the diversity of its people. That is the true meaning of modernity.
My question to you is this: Would you rather keep your gifts in the shadows of the closet or be an active participant in paving the road to equality in practice in every day life?
Catalyst. Mindful Nomad. Advocate. Pure Essence.
Henry is a social researcher, and fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish. He is a public relations veteran, creating magnetic, distinctive brand identities and building relationships for organizations and individuals. A multi-local globalized citizen. Get in touch with Henry if you are in need of innovative, though-provoking content.