Il-Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) ilha għal dawn l-aħħar għoxrin sena taħdem għall-kisbiet ta’ diversi drittijiet ċivili, li ħafna minnhom inkisbu f’dawn l-aħħar snin. Fid-dawl tal-bidla fit-tmexxija tal-Partit Laburista u allura fil-pożizzjoni ta’ Prim Ministru, drittijiet bħall-ugwaljanza fiż-żwieġ, id-dritt li familja b’koppja tal-istess sess tkun tista’ taddotta, id-dritt li persuna tibdel il-ġeneru legali skont l-affermazzjoni tal-individwu, id-dritt għal trattament mediku għal persuni trans, u b’mod ġenerali l-ugwaljanza sħiħa quddiem il-liġi jafu jkunu mhedda.
Għaldaqstant, l-MGRM tat l-opportunità lill-Onorevoli Chris Fearne u Robert Abela bħala ż-żewġ kandidati għal din il-pożizzjoni sabiex jagħtu r-risposti tagħhom għal sett ta’ domandi komuni bejn it-tnejn.
Il-kandidati ġew mgħarrfa li r-risposti ser ikunu qed jiġu ppublikati fuq is-sit tagħna, kif ukoll fuq il-paġni tagħna fuq il-mezzi tal-media soċjali li nużaw.
For the past twenty years, the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) has worked hard for the achivement of several civil rights, most of which were achieved in the past few years. As a result of the change in leadership of the Partit Laburist, and therefore the position of Prime Minister, rights such as marriage equality, equality in adoption laws, the right to change name and legal gender, the right to treatement for trans people, and in a general sense, equality in the eyes of the law, could be threatened.
For this reason, MGRM invited the Hon. Chris Fearne and the Hon. Robert Abela, as the two candidates for this position to set the record straight, and answer an identical set of questions related to the above.
The two candidates were made aware that their responses were going to be published on our website as well as on our social media pages.
We would like to note that both the questions and the answers were made in Maltese. Although the responses were professionally translated into English, please refer to the original language in case of any ambiguity.
MGRM Launches HIV Malta Campaign with a Three-Year Action Plan
The Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) has today launched its new HIV Malta campaign and website www.HIVMalta.com. HIV Malta’s objectives are to destigmatise HIV, start a conversation on the subject by making information easily accessible, promote the importance of mental wellbeing, and ensure that there is an ongoing commitment to make newly developed HIV medication including that which is preventive, available without any further delay.
Given the significant global improvement in the understanding of the virus and new antiretrovirals (ARVs) with less side effects, individuals living with HIV can now expect to live a normal healthy life. Research endorsed by WHO and the CDC shows that effective treatment suppresses the viral load making the virus undetectable and therefore untransmittable (Undetectable = Untransmittable, or U=U). This can only be achieved through rapid and unobstructed access to modern medicine and treatment, with the best results seen in those countries where treatment has been reduced from 5-6 a day to a single tablet a day.
The single-tablet treatment regimen is still not available in Malta. Some of the drugs currently being administered have even, for long, been struck off from international medical guidelines (EACS and WHO). Like other stakeholders, MGRM remains in the dark with respect to a Request for Proposals (RFP) for improved treatment launched in February 2019, and although imminent news is expected about new treatment, to date, there has been no consultation with us stakeholders. It also remains unclear whether additional services listed in the RFP would eventually lead to partial or total privatisation of HIV-related care which is very much a public matter. Questions on whether this would require sharing of data also remained unanswered.
Similarly, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a pill which reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by over 99%, remains not affordable for the most members of society and might therefore not be accessible by those who would mostly benefit from it. Although this is a marked improvement over the previous situation where PrEP was not available locally, we cannot help but comment on the fact that the same generic treatment sold in Malta at a price of EUR 57, is available for purchase online, and in several other European countries, at around half the price.
Even more shockingly, Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), an emergency treatment administered after possible exposure to HIV, provided solely at Mater Dei comes at EUR 600, notwithstanding the continuous and repeated appeals to make it free. Individuals who are unable to afford paying this unreasonable price are turned away. This irresponsible approach to preventative treatment comes at the expense of avoidable HIV diagnosis, and the financial cost of a lifetime of care and treatment.
Against this background, MGRM will be announcing several projects, including a new messaging campaign on dating apps, and other specific projects within different sectors of the community. HIV Malta aims to work in tandem with other NGOs and stakeholders including PrEPingMalta, the Allied Rainbow Communities and the newly set-up Checkpoint Malta to bring this plan to fruition.
Furthermore, the Rainbow Support Services which is now in its sixth year, remains committed to enhancing the quality of life of LGBTIQ individuals including those living with HIV, through the provision of information, consultation and psycho-social welfare services.
MGRM – HIV Malta Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement HIVMalta.com
Firsthand Accounts Of Malta’s LGBT+ Students Show We’ve Still Got A Long Way To Go
40% of students said that teachers ‘never intervened’ when they were present for episodes of bullying
While Malta tops the ranks in terms of LGBTQ+ legislation, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of day-to-day acceptance of minority groups and marginalised communities in general.
In fact, the latest study by the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) which focused on understanding the experiences of LGBTQ+ persons between the ages of 13 and 22 who had been in an educational institution for the 2016-2017 scholastic year, has proven that we still have a long way to go before Malta can truly claim that it is fully queer-friendly.
The 2017 Malta National School Climate Survey Report have found some damning statistics about the way LGBTQ+ student are treated in school, and how they in turn feel about the education system they were, or still are being raised in.
1. Safety at School
A scary number of respondents said they’ve experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia at school before.
Of the 139 students who participated in the study, half of them said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation
A further 41% felt unsafe due to their gender identity or the way they express their gender, with many respondents also saying they felt unsafe because of other uncontrollable characteristics, such as family income or disbaility among others.
This lack of safety even causes students to miss lessons
With a number of students feeling uncomfortable and avoiding certain areas of the school such as locker rooms and hallways while over a quarter of them even skipped Physical Education (PE) Lessons completely.
Over a third of the students (34%) felt so unsafe in their conditions that they missed at least one full day of school.
In terms of homophobic language, 46.8% of students reported that they received derogatory comments such as pufta and linfa often or frequently. The study also found that 61.9% of these said that they received the insults from some or most students.
Many participants (33.1%) even said that some homophobic remarks came from teachers and members of staff
For gender expression and identity, 49.3% and 40.3% of students received offensive and transphobic remarks often or frequently, respectively.
In brief, over half of respondents (59.4% and 55.5%) of participants reported being verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation and gender expression, while a further 36.1% experienced harassment based on their gender identity at least once in the previous scholastic year.
Many respondents also said that they had been physically harassed because of their sexual and gender personality, with 22.6% for their sexual orientation, 21.7% for their gender expression and 14.9% for their gender identity.
Unfortunately, some of the participants even reported being physically assaulted (punched, kicked, injured with a weapon)
8.6% of people said this occurred because of their sexual identity, 13% said it was because of their gender identity, and 8.8% said it was caused by their gender expression.
What makes these statistics even worse is that 40.4% of people said that teachers ‘never intervened’ when they were present for these types of bullying
3. The bullying unfortunately doesn’t stop there
Unfortunately, apart from the before mentioned harassment, many of the study’s participants also reported being victims of other forms of bullying, such as:
Being purposefully excluded (81.4%)
Had rumour spread about them (73.5%)
Broken or stolen property (30.9%)
Racist comments (54.7%)
A terrifying 43.3% of LGBTQ+ students even reported being sexually harassed at school
On a slightly more positive note…
36.4% of respondents reported these forms of harassment and bullying to school staff, however only 11.7% did this ‘most of the time’.
At least, school staff apparently handled the situation ‘somewhat’ or ‘very effectively’ 32.1% of the time
Students also reportedly informed their parents or family members 36.4% of the time, but many of them (39.3%) never addressed it with any of the school staff.
The only heartwarming fact highlighted in this study found that a whopping 95.6% of LGBTQ+ students said there was at least one supportive teacher or staff member at their school, and 62.2% said that they had six or more
Furthermore, 46.3% of people were accepting to the LGBTQ+ students, with some schools even reportedly having multiple students out of the closet.
Unfortunately, despite this, many schools still do not teach and inform young people about LGBTQ+ topics and history, which means that kids are often uninformed for certain important subjects such as sexual health
On the other hand, 40% of students say that sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity were brought up and discussed during talks about violence.
How can we change these statistics?
The study found that a more inclusive environment made the student body as a whole a lot more accepting of LGBTQ+ people.
It was also concluded that more supportive teachers who actually intervene during homophobic and transphobic conflicts, and a more informative curriculum also helped queer individuals to feel safer, and which may be the reason that they missed less days of school than those LGBTQ+ students who felt unsafe or unhappy in their situation at school.
What’s the next step we need to take to ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ youth?
The survey report ends with a section listing a number of possible and, frankly, quite simple fixes to the current system that can significantly impact the student climates found in schools.
Implementing national, LGBTQ+ inclusive bullying policies that prevent victimisation, providing transgender and gender variant students with equal access to non-discriminatory facilities (such as gender-neutral bathrooms), and ensuring that school policies such as dress codes do not discriminate against queer students, are just a few of the suggestions put forward by the MGRM.
The quotes in purple are taken directly from some of the participants of The 2017 Malta National School Climate Survey Report
Malta kklassifikat l-aqwa fid-dinja fil-ġlieda kontra l-omofobija u l-protezzjoni abbażi tal-orjentazzjoni sesswali. Dan ikkonfermatu l-Assoċjazzjoni Internazzjonali tal-Persuni Leżbjani, Gay, Bisesswali, Trans u Intersex f’rapport ippubblikat fi New Zealand.
Ir-rapport juri kif Malta hi l-unika pajjiż li ssodisfa l-kriterji kollha tal-ILGA World li jinkludu l-protezzjoni Kostituzzjonali, il-protezzjoni fil-liġi tax-xogħol, il-protezzjoni kontra kull forma ta’ diskriminazzjoni u mibegħda, iż-żwieġ ugwali u l-unjoni ċivili. Kriterji oħra jinkludu addozzjoni konġunta jew addozzjoni mit-tieni ġenitur, u l-projbizzjoni ta’ prattiċi ta’ konverżjoni jew ir-riklamar tagħhom.
B’reazzjoni għal dan ir-rapport, il-Ministru Helena Dalli qalet kif dan ir-riżultat li ħareġ minn rapport li sar minn organizzazzjoni li ilha mwaqqfa għal erbgħin sena fejn spjegat kif għandna nkunu sodisfatti ferm b’din il-kisba.
“Hija xi ħaġa tajba u importanti li Malta tinsab l-ewwel fid-dinja fejn tidħol l-ugwaljanza. Qabel konna l-ewwel fl-ewropa issa ġejna l-ewwel fid-dinja. Meta tara l-pajjiżi li hemm warajna pereżempju l-aktar viċin tagħna huwa l-kanada. Huwa pajjiż avvanzat fejn tidħol ugwaljanza però għad ma jissodfiswawx il-kriterji kollha li trid tissodisfa skont dan ir-rapport biex ikollok ugwaljanza totali. Ovvjament aħna nieħdu gost għax in-nies qed igawdu mix-xogħol li għamilna f’leġislazzjoni f’dan il-qasam, issa qed jgħixu ħajja aħjar,” qalet il-Ministru Dalli.
Dan kien possibbli wara li l-Gvern implimenta numru ta’ riformi leġiżlattivi li poġġew lil Malta fil-quċċata Ewropea f’dan il-qasam.
Din l-aħbar issegwi dik li ħarġet ftit tal-jiem ilu meta pajjiżna għall-ewwel darba għamilha mal-aqwa għaxar destinazzjonijiet turistiċi għall-persuni LGBTIQ.
The LGBT Christian Group Drachma this morning published an open letter addressed individually to gay persons, telling them that any attempt to “heal yourself” from “your sexual orientation” will cause “irreparable harm”.
“Do not try to suppress it,” the group writes. “Do not marry to hide it. You would be doing harm to the one you marry too. Do not try to change your orientation just because one section of society does not accept you. It is society that needs to change; it is society that needs healing.”
The full letter is below
Dear gay person,
Congratulations for being a perfectly normal human person. You are not sick or mentally disordered. You are not bad. It is not your or your parent’s fault that you are gay. It’s nobody’s mistake. Indeed, there is no fault or mistake involved at all. The Bible does not condemn you. Of course not. How could it condemn you, when it says that you were wonderfully made, and created in God’s own image?
How can the Bible condemn you, when you are God’s beloved son or daughter? Instead, feel bound by the Bible’s core moral teachings:
be loving and kind, be forgiving and merciful, be honest and be just.
Work for harmony and peace. Stand up for truth. To do that is to follow the Bible.
To do that is to follow God’s way. To do that is to love God with all your heart and soul. To do that is to be a true disciple of Jesus. Please do not try to change your sexual orientation. Do not try to ‘heal’ what is not an illness.
The truth is that you can’t, anyway, even if someone someday were to pronounce you ‘healed’.
You are different. Of course, you are different:
some of us are left-handed, others are right-handed; some are tall, some are thin; some of us have pink skin, others are light brown or dark brown.
It is in accepting who you really are that will help you grow as a person. You may need help from a qualified person to do this (but before you consult any, do make sure that they are indeed qualified).
If you try to ‘heal’ yourself of your sexual orientation, you will be doing yourself irreparable harm.
Do not try to suppress it. Do not marry to hide it. You would be doing harm to the one you marry too.
Do not try to change your orientation just because one section of society does not accept you.
It is society that needs to change; it is society that needs healing. One day, you may meet someone with whom you can build a long-lasting relationship, a relationship that is special, intimate, beyond friendship, a loving, fruitful relationship in which you can help each other to flourish.
Of course, you are free to lead a chaste and celibate life. That will be your decision, but that does not mean you are no longer gay.
Even some straight people do that,but that doesn’t mean they are no longer straight either.
Whatever your decision, please count us always as your friends.
‘Love your children. Always, no matter who they are’
A progressive priest by the name of Fr Kevin was interviewed on Xarabank, where he stressed that it cannot be a bad thing to be gay, because God created all mankind… with all variations included.
“It can’t be bad to be gay because God created it in his plan for mankind, with all our variations. When a person knows at the bottom of their heart that they are gay, they are recognizing the way God created them, and are accepting themselves”.
Fr Kevin works as a Theology lecturer at the University of Malta and also sits on the Church tribunal.
The Xarabank team, when uploading clips of the interview to their social media site, conceded that they had actually asked Archbishop Charles Scicluna to speak on the show. He instead sent Fr Kevin, insisting that the public would want to hear what he has to say.
Last week, the popular current affairs programme interviewed two River of Love members, a religious group promoting Christian values, including aggressively promoting heterosexual values.
One of the members, Matthew Grech, made waves and angered many after, on X Factor Malta, he spoke of how he used to be a homosexual but after much effort is now a straight man. He continues to promote efforts to convert people back to heterosexualism.
Asked to speak on the issue and react to the two member’s statements that they are no longer gay, Fr Kevin said that if a gay Catholic person is being true to themselves, they should not change and will hurt themselves by failing to accept who they are.
Fr Kevin highlighted the troubling views of internalized homophobia.
“People who do not accept themselves, or maybe parents who do not accept their homosexual children, this can create internalized anger towards themselves.”
Fr Kevin spoke of his brother, who is homosexual. Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi asked whether he ever tried to dissuade his brother from being gay. Fr Kevin said that in reality, he was changed for the better by his brother and the people he came into contact with through his brother.
The refreshingly progressive priest spoke of young people asking him to join them in coming out to their families. He described a moment which touched him where a young person, who was frightened of admitting to the priest he was gay. After being gently prompted to open up, the young man wrote down that he was gay on a small piece of paper, and upon seeing Fr Kevin’s acceptance he burst into tears with relief.
Asked whether the priest had any final message to the public, he said:
“Love your children. Always, no matter who they are. Accept yourselves, be sincere and share your stories. On the Church, the Church should not be seen as a rigid institution but as though it is population of people always changing and always exploring”.
Press Release 23.02.2019 – The MAP notes the recent debate on homosexuality and especially the statement reported in the media that homosexuality could be a psychological disorder. The MAP would like to publicly and clearly state that this is not the view of the local psychiatric community, nor is it the view of any established psychiatric or psychological association. This is because homosexuality has become understood scientifically to be a part of the spectrum of normal human behaviour, and is not to be considered as an illness. The same consideration applies to people who are transgender. For the same reason, psychiatry does not endorse and in fact condemns so-called conversion therapies, and does not support terms such as ex-gay, which are misleading. It is to be noted that adjusting to living a gay or alternative lifestyle in a hostile or critical environment can and does lead to emotional and psychological distress and that this is not to be mistaken for a person’s sexual orientation as leading directly to the distress.
They claimed the gay rights lobby received funds to lobby for the legalisation of abortion in Malta
Pro-life lobby Gift of Life and politician Ivan Grech Mintoff have been forced to pay a combined €4,000 to the Malta Gay Rights Movement after claiming it was being funded to promote the legalisation of abortion in Malta.
In 2015, Gift of Life and Grech Mintoff claimed that the MGRM was secretly being funded by Planned Parenthood, a major American NGO which provides reproductive healthcare, including abortion.
This is because MGRM had in 2011 received a $10,000 grant from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, of which Planned Parenthood is a member, to develop proposals for a Gender Identity Act, which has since become law.
However, GoL and Grech Mintoff claimed the funding was actually intended for MGRM to lobby for the legalisation of abortion in Malta, for which an IVF law permitting embryo freezing was actually the precursor.
“BREAKING NEWS! Are the Malta Gay Rights Movement being supported by international abortion promoters Planned Parenthood?” Gift of Life posted on Facebook. “The drive to legalise abortion by stealth under the disguise of embryo freezing is now clearer for you to understand.”
Grech Mintoff dedicated a part of his F Living TV show Exodus to these rumours and repeated these allegations on Facebook, stating: “In brief she [representative of MGRM] admits to taking money from murdered children to fund her own personal agenda”.
MGRM subsequently sued for libel and magistrate Francesco Depasquale ruled in their favour this morning, ordering Gift of Life to pay €1,000 in damages and Grech Mintoff to fork out €3,000. In Grech Mintoff’s case, the court noted that his allegations were particularly severe and that, as a politician, he should be particularly responsible to the truth.
In his judgement, Depasquale ruled that MGRM’s $10,000 grant originated specifically from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and not Planned Parenthood, and that the link between this grant and Planned Parenthood’s abortion services was frivolous at best.
“The court understands that the topic of abortion is in the public interest and that it can trigger diverging and strong views, but this doesn’t mean that one should just invent arguments and reach conclusions against an entity on the basis of very remote circumstances which are substantially false,” he said.
“Everyone has the right to their opinion, to air that opinion and defend it in public, but no one has the right to twist facts so as to damage their adversaries with the intent of harming people’s trust in them.”
MGRM was represented in this case by lawyers Cedric Mifsud and Gianluca Cappitta.
“Homosexuality is not a pathology, mental anomaly nor psychological disorder. In line with our sister association in America (APA) we appeal to all to support us in the removal of the stigma of mental illness which shrouds people of lesbian, gay and bisexual orientations,” the MCP said.
In a debate with Gabi Calleja, who today heads the Equality Ministry’s human rights and integration directorate, Grech insisted that the idea of a fixed sexual orientation had been questioned by the APA in 2014, and suggested that the association had said that homosexuality is a psychological disorder.
“In a democratic country, I have every right to believe and proclaim that homosexuality is a psychological disorder. Therefore, the country is refusing to provide psychological help to those who believe this; to those who want, and have every right, to seek it. It is a denial of basic human rights,” Grech – who says he was converted over from homosexuality after becoming Christian – said.
But the Chamber of Psychologists reiterated that the notion of gay conversion, as a therapy or simply even as a concept, was harmful and noxious to persons from the LGBTIQ community.
“It not only rejects a group of individuals based on unfounded promises, but also promotes a lack of tolerance to diversity within our community. In fact, being gay is not something which deems the need for a cure or transformation, and the very implication of such is a form of homophobia,” the MPC said.
“As a body we promote respect and equality for all persons and we strongly condemn any practices, public outcries or vociferous attacks on any minority group or section of our population. The discipline of psychology is concerned with the health and well-being of humans and groups, and we consider such behaviours to be a direct threat to public well-being.
“MCP also promotes the importance of learning to know, accept, love and respect oneself for who we are; a practice which leads to our psychological maturation and integrated sense of self. Denying our true nature may in itself lead to psychological difficulties, and denying our sexual orientation – if it so happens not to be hetero-normative – is in fact known as internalised homophobia.”
Grech, a member of the evangelical community led by Gordon-John Manché, declared that it was not possible for a Christian to be gay, as they would have forsaken the word of God. When asked whether Archbishop Charles Scicluna was wrong to celebrate mass to gay Catholic society Drachma, Grech said that “would be going against the word of God”.
The mantra associated with the Sustainable Development Goals is that of leaving nobody behind. In taking bold steps to develop health care services for transgender persons, we are effectively giving testimony to the fact that, for this Government, leaving nobody behind is not merely a slogan but is something we work to achieve assiduously every day.
Transgender inclusive health care can profoundly increase the quality of life for transgender persons. This service may only have an impact on a few hundred persons and their families but, for us, every single individual and their needs is of paramount importance.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of witnessing first-hand the clinic for gender well-being delivering services to transgender persons. This service is the result of months of hard work by a multi-disciplinary team of health and social care professionals who took up the challenge of planning clinical services for transgender persons. The development of these services is being implemented as laid out in the transgender health care policy document.
The document was launched for consultation in April last year and in-depth discussions were held with transgender persons and civil society organisations representing them. We also liaised with the LGBTIQ Council and the Malta Gay Rights Movement. I believe that the manner in which we worked to formulate this policy is an excellent example of the way in which health systems will continue to be shaped in the 21st century.
In the design and development of services for transgender persons, health professionals embarked on a process of co-creation. This means that while scientific evidence remains the backbone of clinical services, planners and health system policy-makers are increasingly acknowledging that service users are experts in their own right and have a clear contribution to make in service design. I am grateful to the professionals and the service user representatives who worked closely to develop clinical pathways that will primarily ensure the safety and effectiveness of the interventions provided but will also respect the dignity and legitimate expectations of service users.
At the start of the year we changed the legislation on entitlement to medication by including gender identity and sex characteristics-related conditions in the list of conditions for free treatment. As a consequence, transgender persons who have had to pay for their treatment for years are now able to obtain treatment free of charge through the gender clinic.
However, transgender persons do not merely require medication or surgical interventions. Indeed, the social, psychological and emotional support provided to transgender persons as they embark on the difficult gender transitioning journey are equally important to ensure success. In fact, persons may be referred to access services by doctors, psychologists or social workers, since some persons will opt only for psycho-social support and intervention whilst others will opt to undergo surgical interventions to align their physical characteristics with their gender identity.
In developing these services, we have drawn on the experience and assistance of other countries, tailoring the programme to fit our contextual realities and our legal framework. There is still, however, much that remains to be achieved. In the coming months we aim to continue providing training for our multi-disciplinary team, as well as more generic awareness training throughout our health service. We will also start offering surgical interventions where these are required. We aim to eventually have a service that will be considered a model for other countries to follow.
None of this would have been achieved had we not put in place the necessary legal framework that makes it possible to change legal gender. We sought to transform civil liberties in this country and we did. Our track record speaks for itself.
Mr Fearne is the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Health