All posts by mgrm_malta

TRANSformazzjoni Documentary Launch

TRANSformazzjoni is a documentary that provides an insight into Trans* peoples’ everyday lives in Malta. The documentary puts a spotlight on 5 Maltese Trans* people from different walks of life giving full visibility to a wide range of people in the Trans* community, which all represent a section of Maltese society and which different people can relate to.

It will also serve as an educational tool, featuring the recent laws and policies directed to enhancing the lives of Trans* people in Malta. 

Location: University of Malta, Valletta Campus
Date: 7th June 2019
Time: 7 pm

RSVP: mgrm@maltagayrights.org

Sexual Harrassment, Physical Assaults And Homophobic Teachers

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.

Safety Pic

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.

Safety Pic 2

Over a third of the students (34%) felt so unsafe in their conditions that they missed at least one full day of school.

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2. Harassment

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

Pie Chart 1

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.

Quote 3
Pie Chart 2

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.

Bar Chart 1

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

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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%)
  • Cyberbullying (45%)
  • Broken or stolen property (30.9%)
  • Racist comments (54.7%)
  • Sexism (71.9%)

A terrifying 43.3% of LGBTQ+ students even reported being sexually harassed at school

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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.

Bar Chart 2

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.

Chart 1

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.

Quote 6

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.

Chart 2
Chart 3

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.

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The quotes in purple are taken directly from some of the participants of The 2017 Malta National School Climate Survey Report

Source: Lovin Malta

Download Report

The 2017 Malta National School Climate Survey Report

Addressing the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) issues in schools has long been a priority for MGRM although national data on the school experiences of LGBTIQ youth was hard to come by.

In the initial years following MGRM’s inception in 2001, access to schools by LGBTIQ organisations was often restricted and direct contact, when granted was often limited to that with educators. Few opportunities to engage directly with students existed. Schools were wary to explore LGBTIQ issues for fear of opposition from parents and many educators felt ill-equipped to handle explorations of LGBTIQ topics in the classroom.

Nevertheless, MGRM tried to make the most of any opportunity to intervene that presented itself. This included the publication and dissemination of information booklets for LGBT youth through EU Youth Programme funding in 2005, an anti-bullying campaign produced with funding from the VOICES Foundation back in 2009 and the donation of a number of books to the Ministry for Education in 2015 purchased through an EEA/Norway Grant.

When providing feedback on the proposed National Curriculum Framework in 2011, MGRM remarked that ‘safety is a precondition for learning’ and advocated for a number of measures that would help ensure that the school climate was one that was inclusive of LGBT students such as inclusive curricula, teacher training and anti-bullying policies that made specific reference to homophobic and transphobic bullying.

The EU LGBT survey conducted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency in 2012 found that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia were experienced by 80% of students in education across all EU member states and Malta was no exception. It highlighted the need to provide equal opportunities to LGBTIQ students.

Malta has come a long way over the past 6 years in legislating for LGBTIQ equality and now boasts one of the best legal and policy frameworks in the world, including in the educational sector. Access to schools by LGBTIQ community organisations has become much more commonplace and the work with educators to ensure that schools are safe spaces for all children and young people under their care is ongoing. This is no easy task and requires skilled and committed educators and administrators who are able to implement appropriate strategies that help to create inclusive environments where diversity is not only tolerated but celebrated. This process of mainstreaming is a long term project and will take time to reach all those involved in education whether they be school administrators, teacher trainers, educators, support service professionals, students and parents.

In 2014 the Ministry for Education launched the ‘Addressing Bullying Behaviour in Schools Policy’ which for the first time made specific reference to homophobic and transphobic bullying. This bound schools to develop strategies that were cognizant of various forms of identity based bullying when drawing up their school based anti-bullying policies.

This was shortly followed by the launch of the ‘Trans, Gender Variant and Intersex Student in School Policy’ in 2015. The policy aims to foster a school environment that is inclusive, safe and free from harassment and discrimination for all members of the school community, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.

Furthermore, the policy promotes the learning of human diversity that is inclusive of trans, gender variant and intersex students, and aims to ensure a school climate that is physically, emotionally and intellectually safe for all students to further their learning and well- being. In practice, it translates to a shift away from the often strict binary definitions and stereotypes of what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl, recognising that traditional notions of gender and gender expression do not necessarily apply to all students.

To implement the policy, over the past three years, experts from the LGBTIQ movement and the Ministry of Education collaborated in delivering training to psychologists, counsellors, social workers, guidance teachers and other student support staff in a systematic manner.

Over the past two years, MGRM’s Rainbow Support Service has increasingly been involved in delivering training and assisting schools in dealing with a number of trans children and youth who are transitioning in state-run but also in Catholic and Independent Schools. Other LGBTIQ groups such as Drachma and Drachma Parents have also been involved in similar initiatives, providing training and support to teachers and parents. The drivers behind this shift in educational policy, as for much of the legislative and policy changes that Malta has undergone, have been the lived experiences of LGBTIQ individuals, in this case, children and youth. This school climate survey is aimed at garnering a better understanding of what it is like to be an LGBTIQ student in Malta and what still needs to be addressed given the lack of data at hand.

In the absence of quantitative data around the experience of LGBTIQ students, MGRM partnered with GLSEN and Columbia University to conduct this School Climate Survey. Malta was one of a number of European countries to conduct the survey. We hope that this will provide baseline date against which future progress can be measured.

“For 12 years I attended a Catholic school, it was horrible for any LGBTIQ+ students. In fact, the only few that were out were constantly either bullied or ignored. Even the staff was not supportive.”

Download report

A partnership between:

MGRM, GLSEN & Teachers College Columbia University
Author: Oren Pizmony-Levy

Malta l-aqwa fid-dinja fil-ġlieda kontra l-omofobija u l-protezzjoni abbażi tal-orjentazzjoni sesswali

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.

Source: one.com.mt

LGBT Christian group tells gay people not to try to ‘heal’ sexual orientation

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.

Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents Group

Source: independent.com.mt


UK patient ‘free’ of HIV after stem cell treatment

A UK patient’s HIV has become “undetectable” following a stem cell transplant – in only the second case of its kind, doctors report in Nature.

The London patient, who was being treated for cancer, has now been in remission from HIV for 18 months and is no longer taking HIV drugs.

The researchers say it is too early to say the patient is “cured” of HIV.

Experts say the approach is not practical for treating most people with HIV but may one day help find a cure.

The male London patient, who has not been named, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012.

He had chemotherapy to treat the Hodgkin’s cancer and, in addition, stem cells were implanted into the patient from a donor resistant to HIV, leading to both his cancer and HIV going into remission.

Researchers from University College London, Imperial College London, Cambridge and Oxford Universities were all involved in the case.

‘Not an anomaly’

This is the second time a patient treated this way has ended up in remission from HIV.

Ten years ago, another patient in Berlin received a bone-marrow transplant from a donor with natural immunity to the virus.

Timothy Brown, said to be the first person to “beat” HIV/Aids, was given two transplants and total body irradiation (radiotherapy) for leukaemia – a much more aggressive treatment.

“By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly and that it really was the treatment approaches that eliminated HIV in these two people,” said lead study author Prof Ravindra Gupta, from UCL.


Hope of a cure?

By BBC Online Health Editor, Michelle Roberts

Although the finding is exciting, it is not offering up a new treatment for the millions of people around the world living with HIV.

The aggressive therapy was primarily used to treat the patient’s cancer, not his HIV.

Current HIV therapies are really effective, meaning people with the virus can live long and healthy lives.

But the reason this case is so significant is that it could help experts who are looking for new ways to tackle HIV and achieve a cure.

Understanding how the body can naturally resist the infection does offer up hope of this, even if it is still a long way off.


Prof Eduardo Olavarria, also involved in the research, from Imperial College London, said the success of stem cell transplantation offered hope that new strategies could be developed to tackle the virus.

But he added: “The treatment is not appropriate as a standard HIV treatment because of the toxicity of chemotherapy, which in this case was required to treat the lymphoma.”

How does it work?

CCR5 is the most commonly used receptor by HIV-1 – the virus strain of HIV that dominates around the world – to enter cells.

But a very small number of people who are resistant to HIV have two mutated copies of the CCR5 receptor.

This means the virus cannot penetrate cells in the body that it normally infects.

The London patient received stem cells from a donor with this specific genetic mutation, which made him resistant to HIV as well.

But a reservoir of cells carrying HIV can still remain in the body, in a resting state, for many years.

The UK researchers say it may be possible to use gene therapy to target the CCR5 receptor in people with HIV, now they know the Berlin patient’s recovery was not a one-off.

Prof Graham Cooke, National Institute for Health Research research professor and reader in infectious diseases from Imperial College London, said the results were “encouraging”.

“If we can understand better why the procedure works in some patients and not others, we will be closer to our ultimate goal of curing HIV.

“At the moment the procedure still carries too much risk to be used in patients who are otherwise well.”

‘Potentially significant’

Dr Andrew Freedman, reader in infectious diseases and honorary consultant physician at Cardiff University, said it was an “interesting and potentially significant report”.

But he said much longer follow-up would be needed to ensure the virus did not re-emerge at a later stage.

“While this type of treatment is clearly not practical to treat the millions of people around the world living with HIV, reports such as these may help in the ultimate development of a cure for HIV.”

In the meantime, he said the focus needed to be on diagnosing HIV promptly and starting patients on lifelong combination antiretroviral therapy (cART).

This can prevent the virus being transmitted to others and give people with HIV a near-normal life expectancy.

Source: bbc.com

WATCH: It Cannot Be Bad To Be Gay, Says Priest On Xarabank: ‘Where There Is Love And Sincerity, There Is God’

‘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”.

Source: Lovinmalta.com

Maltese Association of Psychiatry

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.

Say No To Abortion Lies: Maltese Pro-Lifers Fined For Spreading False Rumours About Gay Rights Lobby

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.

Source: Lovinmalta.com