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Our existence and self expression not up for debate

It's October 27th, the time is 7.30am and I see an opinion article in the Times of Malta penned by a priest ranting about how homosexuals are damaging themselves and society. My immediate reaction was a smirk and even wondered if Fr Pullicino has ever had a bad encounter himself to tell us so. As a "full time homosexual" all my "homosexual acts" were beautiful. Afternoon came and I checked my socials to see a feed full of angry and upset people who identify as LGBTIQ+ because of those words uttered in one of Malta's largest newspapers. I realised that my shell was toughened that I could let it go, but I forgot that we all experience the journey of self-acceptance differently. Some of us are still looking for reasons to cope with life, and such words may be their breaking point. My anger and frustration began to pent up and as a counter-reaction, rushed words were written where I called for the Times of Malta to be boycotted. How could such a reputable news source allow this to happen? Why was there no retraction of the article or a note by the Editor to disassociate itself from the statement? The rest of the day, I spent it with my head buried in the phone. Some applauding the statement I published, others feeling jarred and saying it was uncalled for. So let me get this straight (pun intended?)! How could anyone think it's right for a newspaper to allow hateful words being said towards a minority? Would we feel ok with statements praising Hitler or calling out all women as the inferior gender? No Editor in their right mind would allow that to happen. And yet, Fr Patrick Pullicino, a member of the Life Network, gets a free pass to say whatever he wants. I may have not been impacted directly by his statements, but many others still struggling would have this priest's words hammered down by their family members, religious community or even themselves. The Editor/s should know better this is not freedom of opinion for the very reasons I mentioned above. At the end of the day, I realised my call to boycott the newspaper is a bit drastic, but I couldn't stop thinking the years and years of privilege the members of the clergy enjoyed by the power vested in them through the Church to persecute minorities: women, those of other faiths, LGBTIQ people and scientific communities. Lest we forget, those who opposed the Church's dogma that the universe revolves around the earth, would have seen the end of their days. And yet, here we are, with members of the clergy still feeling entitled to throw hateful statements at us. I refuse to remain silent. Our existence and self-expression is not up for debate. And whilst I feel accomplished that our country's politicians seemed to have taken a common position that, LGBTIQ+ rights are human rights, I can no longer bear to see a Church which goes against the very teachings of Christ that dismantled dogma and broke bread with the 'unruly'. Furthermore, whilst recognising and appreciating that the Times of Malta has moved with the times and featured beautiful and empowering stories of our communities, one unvetted sentence is all it takes. Our rights as a minority unfortunately, our built on sand. We do not take for granted what we have achieved and will keep ensuring visibility remains at the forefront of what we do so that no one is left behind. Clayton Mercieca, Community Manager, Allied Rainbow Communities.

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