NET Tv's ON AIR invited Clayton Mercieca from Allied Rainbow Communities to discuss the importance of having a community in today's world. Francesco Catania began the interview by asking what ARC is all about, with Clayton highlighting that ARC's mission is to provide a sense of belonging by organising a variety of events tailor made for different cohorts.
Clayton continued by saying that ARC also plans Malta's annual pride celebration, with Malta hosting EUROPRIDE in 2023.
The interview also discussed the very real issue that many LGBTIQ+ individuals face such as psychological abuse, threats and alienation. Despite Malta's small size, Clayton said that many people have struggled to build friendships and communities because of the anxieties attributed to being open about your sexuality. He also recounted the importance for diversity to be displayed in society.
In relation to his own personal life, Clayton discussed his earliest memories of conscious same-sex attraction, something that at that time, was not talked about or seen in the media. He explained the struggle of growing up as a gay man in a heteronormative education system, having to hide away from his truth. In contrast, he also explained how during his time at sixth form, one of his friends would publicly showcase that she was an ally by accessorising with rainbows - this helped Clayton feel more comfortable in expressing himself.
"I started seeing the importance of the colours of the rainbow for LGBTIQ people"
Rainbow symbolism proves to be a powerful tool to showcase that LGBTIQ people are welcome, in fact Clayton recounted that both public and private sectors should include this in their environment.
Clayton discussed that nowadays, MGRM offers the Rainbow Support Service, which is dedicated to supporting LGBTIQ youths with counselling, social work and youth groups. ARC also provides guidance towards these services.
The Covid-19 pandemic unfortunately also impacted the LGBTIQ+ community, with Clayton saying that many events had to be postponed or cancelled. This impacted many people and their mental health, however efforts were made nonetheless to provide support through video calls. Clayton discussed the importance of counselling and therapy, something which helped him come to terms with his sexuality. Despite laws having changed, Clayton explained that certain individuals will still find difficulty in accepting that their children may be gay.
Clayton continued by saying that employers should be aware of employees not necessarily fitting into the heteronormative characteristics of having an opposite sex partner or being cis-gendered. He reiterated this by saying that culture and religion often impact one's beliefs and in fact, local NGO DRACHMA strives to tackle this by working with parents of LGBTIQ children. In this regard, ARC also provides sensitivity training for individuals or groups looking to improve their awareness and education. https://fb.watch/boC-qlaZ2O/
In contrast to Malta's first pride march in 2004, it has now become a massive celebration of diversity, change, and acceptance. Clayton said that this is here to serve the community, to provide a safe space to be who you truly are even if just for a few hours.
"The shame and embarrassment you grow up with is difficult to remove, but PRIDE can be one way to change it."
Clayton and Francesco also discussed the importance of expression and being allowed to do so with how you look, with a strong emphasis on the fact that clothes should not have a gender.
In recent weeks, ARC met up with the leading religious figures in Malta. Clayton said that this was very fruitful towards creating a link between the catholic institution and LGBTIQ individuals. The discussion continued onto the topic of the harm religion can impose on the LGBTIQ community, especially with many countries still allowing conversion therapy.
The importance of constant conversation and education is excessively important, hence the importance of EUROPRIDE was once more mentioned by Clayton, noting that the tagline is "Equality from the Heart". This 10 day program will serve to bring world-wide attention to the cause by way of conferences, cultural programmes, as well as celebrations.
Watch the full interview here: