Category: Uncategorized

Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta (book review)

Review by Florence Vella

“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.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt (book review)

Review by Florence Vella

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

Call for Author

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.

Eligibility Criteria

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.

Selection Criteria

  • Quality of portfolio presented;
  • Knowledge of LGBTIQ issues and LGBTIQ affirmative approach
  • Technical and Financial Bid.

Budget

Maximum funding available is €4,000 inclusive of VAT.

Intellectual Property

All intellectual property rights belong to MGRM.

Subcontracting

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 mgrm@maltagayrights.org. For any queries, please contact Robert Attard on +356 99255559. Deadline is 15th March 2022.

Timeline

Call Application Deadline 15th March
Contracting of selected author 22nd `March
Gathering qualitative & quantitative data 17th June
Final Draft 9th September
Proofreading 21st October
Printing 11th November
Book Launch 9th December

Celebrating 20 Years of Trailblazing

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)

PLAN - PRICE

Description

Pickup

Pickup the book: 

from our offices in Mosta,

Tuesday and Thursday 

from 3-6 pm

For Free

Postage Malta 

Cost of postage in

Malta:

€20

Postage + Donation

Book postage plus Donation:

€20 + €5

3 Coming Out Stories for Coming Out Day 2021

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.” 

 

*Names have been changed

Call for designer

Project: Youth Packs on LGBTIQ themes activities

These activity packs are to be designed for use by youth workers and educators working with youths. The aim is to educate about the LGBTIQ acronym, the differences between gender identity, sexual orientation and other LGBTIQ+ terms, LGBTIQ+ history. This project is funded by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ. 

Timeline

Call Application Deadline 11th December 
Contracting of selected service provider 16th December
First Draft 27th December
Final Draft4th January

Terms of Reference

X5 activities are listed below with design specifications required. Number of pages is an approximate guide of amount of content at this stage. Printing is not to be included in quote.

Target Audience: Session Plans are to be used by educators (marked with *), while activities will be used by youths.

  1. FANTASY TRIP – Gender
    1. Session Plan – A4 x1 page *
  2. FANTASY TRIP – LGBTIQ
    1. Session Plan – A4 x2 page *
  3. LGBTIQ+ TERMS ACTIVITY
    1. Session Plan – A4 x 1 page *
    2. Full Terms – A4 x 6 pages
    3. Activity – A4 x1/2 pages
  4. GENDERBREAD PERSON
    1. Session Plan – A4 x1 page *
      + additional page of (b) filled out.
    2. Design of A4 Genderbread person – A4 x1 page
  5. LGBT TIMELINE
    1. Session Plan: A4 x1 page *
    2. Design of LGBT Timeline cards – 40 text or image cards (2 per A4) – A4 x20 pages
    3. Design of Rainbow Pride sheet – x1 A3 

 Eligibility Criteria

Bidders must submit a CV and portfolio with relevant experience within the design industry.

Selection Criteria

  • Quality of portfolio presented;
  • Knowledge of LGBTIQ issues and LGBTIQ affirmative approach;
  • Technical and Financial Bid;

Subcontracting

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.

Bids are to be sent to MGRM on mgrm@maltagayrights.org. For any queries please contact Alex Caruana on +356 99255559. Deadline for quotes is 11th December 2020.