“If I had not met Amina, who knows, there might be no story to tell”.
In the midst of the 1968 civil war in Ojoto, Nigeria, sits a two-story yellow house guarded by thickets of rose and hibiscus. The roofs of the house covered with palm fronds for camouflage. This was Ijeoma’s home.
It had become routine for them now, emerging from the bunker behind their house once the bomber engines had passed. Walking over fallen tree branches, pieces of zinc and toppled roofs. Only one day, Ijeoma and her mother walked back into their home, over shattered glass, to a sight they will never forget.
Ijeoma stops in her tracks one afternoon under the Udala tree after noticing that she’s being followed by a girl on her way back home from the shop. Amina being a Hausa, the mortal enemies of Igbo’s, the two should be enemies, however, they swiftly become friends. They’d bath out by the tap under the vast night sky together, both of them looking into each other’s faces amongst the grasshoppers hopping, fireflies buzzing, crickets singing their songs, and leaves rustling in the breeze.
Questions like floating bubbles formed in Ijeoma’s head. While everyone at church on Sundays nodded, cried “Amen”, and clapped after everything Father Godfrey said, she would look around, confused as to why no one would ask him to explain anything.
What if Bible stories were just allegories? she thought. Just because one type of event was documented in the Bible, it doesn’t mean all other possibilities were forbidden.
She would rise from her bed and kneel by its edge at night, asking God to help her turn her thoughts away from Amina, to turn her instead onto the path of righteousness. Using prayer as a method of dousing her desires.
Self-purification was now the goal.
As time did what time does, no matter how much we try to go against the truth about who we are, it creeps out in the end. So, when one afternoon, a woman came into her mother’s shop with lingering eyes, Ijeoma could not resist the community she never knew existed. A church converted at night time… soon hiding in a bunker once again. Stood quietly, breathes hushed, but this time they’re not hiding from bombs.
This novel by Nigerian-American author Chinelo Okparanta, set between the 1960s till the late 70’s, is divided into six parts. It follows the story of Ijeoma, a girl growing up in war-torn Nigeria who must come to terms with her sexuality and the conflict this presents in society.
Okparanta’s storytelling is rich and colourful. The story is truly alive and blooming, short of a heartbeat. As she describes the tale of events – some haunting, other’s bountiful with raw beauty, her writing is other-worldly. Think late-night campfire stories with the characters’ voice and image vivid in your mind. Parts will break your heart, other’s will make you want to scream at the top of your lungs, and then, just when you think it’s end, she gives you everything you’ve wanted from the start.
Reading this novel is like the blooming of the brightest yellow flower through all its stages translated into words for us to read.
The book is available, amongst hundred others, at our Rainbow Library, open 3pm-6pm on Tuesdays and Thursday (excluding public holidays). Become a member here.
Interested in joining our monthly book club? Click here for more information.
A captivating read of grief, love, and growing up set in New York during the 1980s AIDS epidemic.
There is only one person who 14-year-old June Elbus – an observant, medieval-era enthusiast – feels understands her, her uncle and renowned painter, Finn. Not knowing which Sunday will be the last as her uncle grows more ill with AIDS, she treasures the moments spent in his apartment watching him paint a portrait of her and Greta, her older sister. Savouring the smell of lavender and orange in the air, all the while unaware of the hidden secrets right in front of her very eyes.
June was always the first to arrive home from school, even after her routine course through the woods. With her sister rehearsing for the play and her parents working late during tax season, she’d gotten used to the quiet solitary. Though one afternoon, the phone rings. A man she’s never heard before with a British accent speaks on the other end, telling her that Finn has passed.
Through family secrets, sneaking away on train rides to the city, unlikely friends and mystery letters, June learns that the ones you love are shaped by other people in ways you never knew.
This poignant tale told through the lens of 14-year-old June as she narrates life before and after her gay uncle’s death far exceeds the average coming-of-age plot.
Brunt’s prose is simple and unadorned, yet undoubtedly engrossing and full of hidden gems. Think romantic with an idealist streak. The plot effortlessly carries the reader through real-time events and recalls memories so wholly that you find yourself grieving alongside the characters.
The written unfiltered thoughts of the protagonist throughout the chapters are full of intricacies and description, and make a large part of what makes this novel a unique experience to read. She takes the reader along through emotionally-charged decisions, unsettling thoughts, loneliness, and love in a compelling way. Strings you didn’t even notice were there pull together and play out as a satisfying chord.
Indulging the reader in what is loved from a classic coming-of-age story – first loves, sibling bonds, and the turmoil that comes with acceptance – topped off with distinctively clever twists makes this a novel truly unlike any other in its genre.
The book is available, amongst hundred others, at our Rainbow Library, open 3pm-6pm on Tuesdays and Thursday (excluding public holidays). Become a member here.
Alongside a publication, this year we will be celebrating Katya Saunders’ life through an exhibition, visualizing her story through her fashion, photographs and mementos.
Being one of the first trans women in Malta, Katya Saunders was a trailblazer and an icon for Malta’s LGBTIQ+ movement. Katya was better known for her iconic fashion, modelling experience and cabaret performances but when she passed away in 2019, it quickly emerged there was more than meets the eye.In absence of voluntary organisations, and at a time when trans identities remained controversial, Katya quickly created her own support system, sheltering friends and young people who became homeless. Through her actions, her friends insist that Katya metaphorically laid down the red carpet for today’s LGBTIQ scene, to be able to safely come out and live their lives.
MGRM has also secured the support of Katya’s friends and family, which will give this project a complete picture.
Aims of the project
The exhibition aims to celebrate and immortalise Katya’s life and fashion, whilst unveiling the story of an important figure in local LGBTIQ history. Friends and family of Katya donated her belongings to MGRM, including photographs, several gowns, jewellery, shoes, and accessories. While doing so, the exhibition will also highlight the impact she left on the local LGBTIQ+ community.
Terms of Reference
– To determine, after consulting the MGRM’s team, the content and form of the exhibition.
– To collect and gather material from Katya’s loved ones, and suggest new content when needed.
– To work closely with the author of the publication, and any videographer or photographer, in order to strengthen the curatorial concept, interlinking both aspects of the project.
– To bear in mind the context of the exhibition and where it is to be held.
– Coordinate with MGRM’s team and provide critical input to the exhibition project as well as collect key information and media materials.
– Attend openings and assist with set up/takedown, greet visitors, and communicate about the exhibition.
– Attend discussions/talks in order to bring more online visibility to the exhibition
– In this and all of its projects, MGRM prioritises sustainability and would request that choices and decisions made are not detrimental to the environment.
Bidders must submit a CV, a quotation, and portfolio with relevant curatorial experience while also demonstrating the ability to produce the work being contracted to the high quality being sought.
– Quality of Portfolio presented
– Knowledge of LGBTIQ issues and LGBTIQ affirmative approach
– Technical and Financial Bid
Maximum funding available is of Eur 1,000 inclusive of VAT.
All intellectual property rights belong to MGRM, and the respective donors of Katya Saunders’ materials.
Individuals may propose working jointly with one or more persons given the tight deadlines envisaged. This must be clearly stated in their submission. Bidders are to attach CV’s of each expert.
Following the adjudication, any subcontracting to third parties other than the selected service provider/s needs to be approved in writing by MGRM other than for technical elements such as translations or proof reading.
Bids are to be sent to MGRM on email@example.com. For any queries, please contact Robert Attardon +356 99255559. Deadline is 1st April 2022.
Call Deadline Application
1st April 2022
Contract of selected service provider
8th April 2022
Gathering data and merging of data
29th April 2022
Presentation ideas of a possible artistic concept for the exhibition
6th May 2022
Final draft/ decision of the artistic concept
17th June 2022
Selection of resources
8th July 2022
Printing and framing
5th August 2022
Exhibition set up
30 – 31st August 2022
2nd – 11th September 2022
This project has been funded through the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector.
As LGBTIQ persons, we are defined by more than our sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics. Being an LGBTIQ organisation, we sought to highlight those proposals made by all parties* in their electoral manifestos which directly impact LGBTIQ rights, or which formed part of the Coalition’s Election Proposals.
This document emphasises proposals made, and is not an endorsement of any political party.
Finally, we feel that casting our vote in general elections brings our year-round activism to a full circle. We urge you to do the same.
Following last year’s exhibition “20 Years of Trailblazing”, we will be celebrating Katya Saunders through a biographical publication with photographical inserts that aims to provide the reader with detail about the late Katya’s life.
Katya Saunders was a trailblazer and an icon for Malta’s LGBTIQ+ movement. One of the first trans women in Malta, Katya was known for her iconic fashion, modelling experience and cabaret performances. When she passed away in 2019, it quickly emerged there was more than meets the eye.
In absence of voluntary organisations, and at a time when trans identities remained controversial, Katya quickly created her own support system, sheltering friends and young people who became homeless. Through her actions, her friends insist that Katya metaphorically laid down the red carpet for today’s LGBTIQ scene, to be able to safely come out and live their lives.
MGRM has also secured the support of Katya’s friends and family, which will give this project a complete picture. Together with friends and family, MGRM will be able to point the author towards the right people who hold key information about Katya and details of her life.
The publication will be launched alongside an exhibition featuring her photographs, garments and jewellery.
Terms of Reference
To determine, after consulting the MGRM’s team, the content and form of the book.
To hold interviews with people who knew Katya and suggest new content when needed.
To bear in mind the context of the book.
Coordinate with MGRM’s team and provide critical input to the book as well as collect key information and media materials.
The creative liberty of the author will be respective.
Bidders must submit a CV and portfolio with relevant experience in writing and/or journalism while also demonstrating the ability to produce the work being contracted to the high quality being sought.
MGRM will be looking to understand the sensitivity of the author around the lived experience of minority groups in Malta.
Quality of portfolio presented;
Knowledge of LGBTIQ issues and LGBTIQ affirmative approach
Technical and Financial Bid.
Maximum funding available is €4,000 inclusive of VAT.
All intellectual property rights belong to MGRM.
Individuals may propose working jointly with one or more persons given the tight deadlines envisaged. This must be clearly stated in their submission. Bidders are to attach CV’s of each expert. Following the adjudication, any subcontracting to third parties other than the selected service provider/s needs to be approved in writing by MGRM other than for technical elements such as translations or proof reading.
Bids are to be sent to MGRM on firstname.lastname@example.org. For any queries, please contact Robert Attard on +356 99255559. Deadline is 15th March 2022.
In the past years, MGRM has agreed with Aġenzija Żgħażagħ, the national Youth Agency, to provide support and financial resources for the Rainbow Support Services Youth Group. For many LGBTIQ+ young people, this group is the first place they truly feel they can be themselves. This in itself is no small achievement however LGBTIQ+ youth groups are, of course, much more than this. Together, various professionals and LGBTIQ+ young people play a major role in tackling discrimination and changing the hearts and minds of others in society.
As such, MGRM and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ have developed this interactive and educational pack filled with various activities aimed at educating young people across Malta and Gozo. This step-by-step youth pack will help various professionals to deliver a session of choice aimed towards addressing everyday issues experienced by many LGBTIQ+ individuals. The main objective is to raise awareness and bring about social change.
There are 5 activities.
Sexual Orientation Fantasy Trip
Gender Bread Person
Fantasy Trip: This fantasy trip will give the participants a chance to feel what it’s like to be born in a body that may not fit their gender identity – assuming that the listeners are not trans.
Sexual Orientation Fantasy Trip: This fantasy trip will give participants a chance to feel what it’s like to be hated and excluded because of their sexual orientation – assuming that the listeners are heterosexual.
LGBTIQ Acronyms: The goal of vocabulary isn’t to read definitions for every word but to allow your participants to highlight the words that they are most interested in learning about, and to clarify those words.
Gender Bread Person: To enable participants to understand the difference between gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation
LGBTIQ Timeline: The main aim for this activity is for participants to learn about some of the main historical events that occurred in LGBTIQ+ history. This will give participants a better understanding of LGBTIQ+ culture and why activism is still important.
Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021. To celebrate this significant moment, an exhibition was held showcasing MGRM’s activism throughout the past 20 years, and to show its contribution to the transformation seen in the LGBTIQ+ rights in Malta over the last two decades.
Besides the exhibition, MGRM published a book to celebrate and document the work we have done in the past two decades. The book celebrates the advocacy, support and power of volunteering, and the role that volunteers have in making Malta a more inclusive society.
The book includes pictures from the early years of MGRM, to moments of supporting the community and a timeline of key dates in Malta’s Road to LGBTIQ equality. Although most of the work MGRM does is not recorded, these moments are. And we are very excited that these moments will forever be available to share with our members.
If you would like to get this book, you can pick it up for free at the MGRM library (open every Tuesday & Thursday from 3 pm-6 pm), or we can send it to you for €20,- (only delivering in Malta)
To celebrate Coming Out Day, we will be sharing coming out stories by three members of our community.
Arin “I came out as nonbinary about 3 months ago and it felt like a rebirth where I could become the person I was always meant to be. From my work to my parents, I’ve felt loved and accepted most of the way through and I’m immensely grateful for the people in my life. My mum even bought me pronoun pins to wear when I go out! Since coming out, I’ve had a new lease on life. I started going to queer meetups and talking to people, I went back to uni for psychology to eventually become a therapist for other trans people, and I’ve felt much happier. I was afraid that coming out as a nonbinary trans person would cause problems and confusion, but surprisingly it’s been so lovely to just receive “oh, okay” responses. If anyone’s thinking of coming out and it’s safe enough to do so (especially if you’re trans), it will unlock so many other things for you and allow you to truly start the rest of your life.”
Rebecca* “I knew I was trans for a while, but hadn’t really done much aside from tell a few people. Living with my sister meant that I had to tell her, if I wanted to start being honest with myself at our flat, so after a lot of thinking it over, I went into her room. I mumbled something about being a girl, and she suddenly got serious and asked me for how long I’d felt like this. She was taken aback, and needed some time to process it, but she was glad I could trust her, and excited to finally have a sister. It took her a few months to properly understand but she’s become one of my biggest supporters and I’m lucky to have her as my sister.”
James* I started gradually coming out to friends back in 2003 and living more openly in 2004, and while Malta was very different back then, I was lucky to have supportive friends back then, and I managed to find LGBT friends very easily. In 2005, a member of the Malta Police Force told my father, even though I’m sure he had his suspicions beforehand. These days, I am so glad to live in a country where the laws prohibit this from happening again. I remember when my father asked me to confirm this, he asked me why I haven’t told them (him and my mother), and I expressed fear of being kicked out of home or not being accepted. My reply drove him to tears, and he said he was hurt that such a thought would even cross my mind. It was the first time I’ve seen him cry, and I was 15 back then. Since then, our relationship has been gradually getting better, and the older I got, the closer we’ve become.”
Trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has met the strict eligibility standards set by the International Olympic Committee and the New Zealand Olympic Committee, and was selected to compete at the upcoming Olympics. This created an international debate on whether trans people, particularly women, hold an unfair advantage. Science shows that this advantage does not exist. We will try to explain why.
A familiar topic
What we are seeing around us mirrors what happened decades ago. Rooted in racism, everyone was fed the belief that white people were intellectually superior, and black people (with all the different ethnicities that fall under it) had an athletic advantage. A self fulfilling prophecy that was created not because black people in general had a genetic advantage, but brought about due to the limited opportunities that such communities had. Throughout the years, even up to this day, people have justified the success of black people in certain sports disciplines by saying that they have a biological advantage. The socioeconomic situation that led to that success is ignored. And as happened in the past, nowadays we see that any success enjoyed by a trans woman athlete is attributed solely to their supposed genetic advantage.
In the meantime, the International Olympic Committee set its first guidelines for trans athletes back in 2003. Between 2003 and now, there were minor changes, the last being in 2015. It took eighteen years for a trans athlete to both meet the criteria and qualify. This is an indication that the argument might be much smaller than it seems.
DNA and XX/XY chromosomes
All these things determine the sex that you’re born as, but they don’t really do much else. They have no effect on our everyday life, because biological processes are mostly determined by the endocrine (and nervous) system. And these hormones released by the endocrine glands can generally be ‘controlled’.
Referring to a trans woman’s body as a male body is incorrect. Uninformed people vastly underestimate how significant these hormones are. Biologically, a trans woman’s body (who undergoes medical transition) functions as a female body. In trans women, if testosterone is properly suppressed, attributes that are generally associated with male strength are very quickly lost, and other things like fat percentage increase in line with female values. Within a few months, bodybuilders can look like they barely ever stepped inside a gym, even if they maintain a certain level of training. And that muscle mass isn’t getting rebuilt as long as hormone levels are maintained. However, in some people it can take longer for muscle mass to significantly diminish, and this is where it might be fair to examine whether the current IOC guidelines should be amended. At the moment, with our limited level of research in this field, it seems like the current framework is correct, as the athletic ability of trans women is far closer to that of cis women than cis men.
Bone structure and other things that do not change with the suppression of testosterone
Firstly, women (and people in general) come in all shapes and sizes. There are cis women with narrow hips, wide shoulders, tall women, short women, and the list goes on. Do we exclude certain cis women from sports because of their shape? Bone density is higher in trans women who have had the effects of testosterone, but those bones need muscle to move, muscle which is diminished through a lack of testosterone. Not only is this not an advantage for trans woman, but it could potentially be a disadvantage when compared to cis women. Hating on a trans woman because they have a deep voice, body hair, and look more masculine (permanent effects of exposure to testosterone) only shows that people are afraid of anyone who doesn’t fit their gender stereotypes.
But VO2 max and lactate threshold and…
Back to our historical context. All of these little arguments was made about black people so you are likely falling in the same trap. We all know that was not right now. or so we hope.
Being trans is unnatural
Instead of producing sex hormones themselves, trans people have to get theirs from an external source. The food we eat, medicines we take, and pretty much everything we do in life is unnatural. Trans people are just as natural and biological as everyone else, and claiming otherwise is dehumanising.
Place trans people in a different category
Sports have never been fair. This is a ridiculous suggestion as human physiological and morphological variance has always been an accepted part of sport. No two people are the same, so should we have categories for age, height, weight, limb length, and whatever else people want to categorise? That’s how you can eliminate unfairness in sport, and it’s also how you end up with no competition as every single person will fall under a different category. Or do we only want to exclude an already marginalised and misunderstood population because we dislike anyone who’s different?
Enough with the hypotheticals
Stop reading (and sharing) disingenous articles about trans athletes who’s main purpose is to create an unfounded fear of trans people. Stop cherry-picking research that you didn’t even read (or understand). Stop claiming that trans women are or will be dominating women’s sports. Where do you see this happening? Trans people have been around and allowed to compete (following certain rules) for many years now. Every few years, whenever a trans athlete makes the headlines (because we only care about trans people when they win something), everyone starts heralding the apocalypse, and yet, we’ve never seen a trans woman be the best in any sport, let alone dominating enough that no other woman has a chance at competing. Men do have a significant advantage over women in pretty much every sport. Trans women, however, do not.
Trans male athletes exist, but we hear less about them for various reasons. Firstly, society and media is obsessed with women and their bodies. Trans women have always received much more attention because we still live in a misogynistic society where being male is superior. Secondly, environmental effects, wherein trans men who grew up as girls are less likely to take sport seriously because of gender stereotypes. Thirdly, nowadays most people transition in their 20s, and then they have to wait for the effects of testosterone, train, and bulk up, always playing catchup with cis men, so they don’t win (also because men’s sports are much more saturated). Comparatively, trans women are ‘going backwards’ in athletic ability, which is easier.
Fear and prejudice
For the vast majority of people, when they think of a trans athlete, they think of a hulking testosterone filled man who one day just decides to compete against women because it’s easy. Whenever anyone does that, all they’re doing is showing how uninformed and hateful they are, because to them, a trans person will never be anything but their assigned gender. This is an issue that goes beyond sport, and the topic of trans athletes is used to disguise general transphobia.
Having different opinions about this topic and discussing the research related to it is good. However, most people I’ve seen commenting about it are unable to do so without resorting to insults and misgendering of trans people.
Remember that typically, trans women use the female pronouns She/Her, whilst trans men use the pronouns He/Him.
Whether you like it or not, trans people are here to stay, in sport and every other aspect of society.