Equality from the heart

This newspaper supports EuroPride and the values it seeks to champion and as such would like to extend a warm welcome to the hundreds of people expected to visit Malta specifically to be part of this celebration over the coming days

Malta starts hosting Europride this week, a series of events spread over 10 days that culminate into the EuroPride March and concert on Saturday 16 September.

The celebration includes a varied programme of discussions, artistic expression, concerts and exhibitions.

EuroPride is a pan-European international event dedicated to LGBTIQ+ pride that is hosted by a different European city each year. It is only fitting that Malta should be hosting this event after a decade of impressive change that ushered in new rights for LGBTIQ+ persons.

This newspaper supports EuroPride and the values it seeks to champion and as such would like to extend a warm welcome to the hundreds of people expected to visit Malta specifically to be part of this celebration over the coming days.

At a time when reactionary forces are pushing back against measures that promote equality and inclusivity, events such as Europride serve as a reminder that the struggle for dignity, respect and equality is not yet over. Indeed, vigilance is required to ensure the achievements made are not reversed.

Furthermore, the progress Malta has achieved since 2013 cannot be taken for granted. The laws and regulations may have changed; the bureaucracy may have adapted; the general attitudes may have evolved; the visibility of queer persons has increased; but it would be a mistake to believe that all is hunky dory.

Indeed, there are still too many instances of micro-aggression, whether within the family or in the community that cannot be dealt with laws but education and dialogue. There are still problems with perception and misinformation when trying to expose children to the diversity within them and around them in a language they can understand.

One other aspect that is often overlooked by many, including the mainstream media, is the lack of recognition of the diversity within the queer community and the different challenges that exist. The LGBTIQ+ community is often talked about as if it represents a homogenous body of persons – the convenience of a singular label makes for brevity and better communication but can betray the differences. The challenges a lesbian person faces are different to those faced by a trans person, and the solutions although sometimes overlapping, have to be different.

Over the years, there has been a growing appreciation towards this diversity but greater sensitivity is required, even within the queer community itself.

It is through awareness, education and uninhibited dialogue that legal change is transformed into a new cultural mind-set that makes the leap from tolerance to equality.

One of the EuroPride events being held at Spazju Kreattiv in Valletta is an exhibition of the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress. With a diameter of over 16m, this dress is adorned with the flags of 68 countries where being LGBTIQ+ is still punishable by law. It includes eight countries where homosexual acts can even lead to the death penalty. According to the description offered by the organisers, ‘the bodice of the dress proudly showcases the Amsterdam city flag, representing a city that has long been a sanctuary for the LGBTQ+ community’.

This dress is a powerful reminder that reality may still be very cruel for people in some countries – something that cannot be ignored when dealing with asylum seekers who are forced to flee because who they are runs counter to what their State wants them to be.

Another thought-provoking exhibition by artists and activists from 11 Mediterranean countries at Spazju Kreattiv will serve as a reflection on the past, present and future of their community and their identity. The exhibition explores resistance through activism, gender expression, sexual liberation and self-exploration.

Once again, it will enable visitors to be aware and have a discussion on identity and the challenges that still exist across families, communities and borders.

An exhibition put up by Heritage Malta presents a number of human stories which unfolded in Malta along the centuries in a bid to provide answers to some pertinent questions: How did society deal with sexual diversity over time?; Was it always considered a ‘problem’?; Were all such acts deemed a crime?; What did people have to go through to adapt and conform to the ‘solutions’ imposed by mainstream society?

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in Malta in 1973, the exhibition will provide a historical insight through the eyes of those who suffered the consequences. This is an important reminder lest the lessons learnt are forgotten.

That great American civil rights campaigner, Martin Luther King, once said that “power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.” He went on to say that “power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice”. But King did not stop at that. “Justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love,” he said in a statement that continues to resonate until this very day.

EuroPride is a celebration of love and more importantly a statement in favour of justice and equality.

Europride Valletta 2023’s slogan is ‘Equality from the Heart – Human Rights for Everyone, Everywhere’. It captures the essence of King’s wise words; after all, creating safe spaces, communities and societies for all is about making it possible for people to live a fulfilling, happy life, where their identity is not a source of shame or discrimination.