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Holding Hands by Johann Agius

It's 2018. #Malta is constantly named as one of the most #LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world, and owns the top spot in the EU when it comes to the protection of gay rights.

And yet, thousands of gay men and women in our progressive islands feel uncomfortable holding their partners' hand or giving them a peck in public. Many struggle to own their true gender, because of the indescribable fear that comes with being labelled as 'trans'. Others conceal how they identify, for fear of losing their jobs or having opportunities snatched away from them because they do not conform to what is perceived to be a 'normal' sexual orientation. Derogatory terms that should have been dusted away long ago continue to be used carelessly in everyday conversation.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community in Malta and Gozo continue to feel discriminated against, ridiculed and treated as inferior. This may not be the case for everyone, and different people might experience it in different degrees, but it's still utterly true.

What's the use in granting gay couples the right to marry and adopt children, when something as simple as two men or two women lovingly holding hands in a public place is still considered to be strange? Why do our politicians verbalise support for the LGBTQ+ community, yet the medical and educational institutions beneath them fail to properly cater for such a large portion of the society whom they have the duty to serve?

This is not to say that our islands are unique in this context. In fact, this lack of commitment and understanding is probably even more evident around the rest of the globe. But why hide behind astounding statistics and rainbow flags instead of implementing societal change in practice?

Everything takes time, that's understandable. But it's truly about time that impatient tolerance became selfless acceptance.


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