There is never enough education surrounding sexuality and disability. One may think that it is either one or the other and rule out all intersectionalities. To shed more light upon the subject and to further educate and even help people who have a disability and are still discovering their sexuality, I got in touch with Matthew pace. A Gay Deaf man.
ARC/Malta Pride has engaged sign language interpreters for the first time in 2019 at the pride parade speeches and opening.
“People don’t consider intersectionality; they never think that a person can be both queer and disabled at the same time. Ok I am gay and Deaf I have at least two parts to my identity. Perhaps for me it is different to other people because my disability is invisible. At the same time, I am independent. I have a normal car and I do not have mobility issues. The only thing that makes me different is that I need a sign language interpreter for important conversations, meetings, and to attend court. The interpreter is like my voice. I am lucky to be born here in Malta, I feel safe. I can walk out and feel free.” - Matthew Pace
1. Who is Matthew Pace, what are his hobbies and passions?
34-year-old Matthew Pace currently works as Hub Courier and Postman with Malta post. He describes himself as a curious and positive person and enjoys drawing and taking/editing photos and videos in his spare time.
2. What is it like being deaf in Malta? What are the challenges that you face?
Matthew explained how his life has both ups and downs, just like a rollercoaster. He has faced many barriers at times, including difficulty in communicating with people due to his ways of communication being different. He uses Maltese Sign Language (Lingwa tas-Sinjali Maltija, LSM) with his Deaf friends. Matthew can speak with his hearing family and friends but his deaf voice is different from ours and he sometimes misses a letter in the middle of a word or pronounces it differently since he can’t hear his own voice, he wouldn’t know whether he is saying it right or wrong.
3. What sort of support (if any) did you find?
Matthew got a lot of support and was accepted even before he could fully accept himself. “When I was a teenager, my mum asked me if I was gay, I had no idea what that was and I said no. Another time, she asked me if I’d like to dress in women’s clothing. I said definitely not. My mum was confused about who I was; I was confused too but then I started to realise that I like boys. Finally, my mum asked again if I like boys, I was angry and shouted no because I didn’t accept myself, I was confused and unhappy. Looking back, I feel like my family and friends already supported me.”
4. Tell us a bit about your coming out experience as a gay man?
It goes back to around 5 years ago, when Matthews friends’ friend from Germany, came to Malta. They immediately made friends and he noticed that Matthew seemed to freeze up, whenever the subject of sexuality came up, as he is a deaf gay man too. He decided to meet Matthew alone for a coffee and explained and helped him to understand himself. Matthew’s main concerns at the time were being judged, whether his friendships and relationships with his family would change and that he didn’t want to be gay.
Now, he wishes he could have come out a long time ago. He said, “don’t wait too long but take your time”. A year later, he decided to come out to his mum when he was nearly 30-years-old but she already knew from when he was about 8 years old. Matthew is extremely grateful to his German friend.
5. Did you find any resistance from family and friends and those from the deaf community?
Matthew usually receives pity from strangers or new people as they feel sorry for him being deaf, thinking he has no social life. In reality, he can do anything except hear. “Unfortunately, people don’t understand that it’s possible to be both queer and disabled.” He also finds that there are some misconceptions about being gay in the Deaf community “e.g. people think that LGBTIQ+ people are more likely to break up with their partners or that they are overtly sexual.” He tries and corrects such misconceptions and points out that everyone is different. I think I would like the same things as many hearing/straight people. I’m single at the moment but I would like to find a good man, get married and have some children and a family of my own. Why not?! “
6. Do you feel included in the LGBTIQ+ community and what can be done for people with hearing difficulties to feel more included?
Matthew definitely feels included in the LGBTIQ+ community. He even went to the organisers of pride in order to book an interpreter and making their videos accessible with subtitles. Explaining that unfortunately, Deaf LGBTIQ+ are a minority within a minority. “Many or just a few – we should be supported anyway.”
7. What advice or words of encouragement would you give to people with a disability that wish to come out of the closet?
“If you need help find the right people who can support you. LGBTIQ+ organisations offer support groups or you could go for therapy to talk about your feelings. Talk about your situation with people who you trust. Don't be afraid to come out (don’t wait too long) because you are not alone and being LGBTIQ+ is not illegal. Maybe it’s a bit hard but you can do it and be brave and don’t let them win. It’s your life, It’s your decision, it’s your journey, it’s your goal. Give yourself some time to think about who you are. Good Luck!“
Bonus: Some Lgbtiq+ terms and words in Sign Language.
(Lingwa tas-Sinjali Maltija, LSM)