Follow the rainbow to the capital city for a celebration of diversity as Malta tops the ranks for LGBTQ equality rights in Europe.
The European Capital of Culture 2018 is throwing its most colourful party of the year: Malta Pride hits Valletta in what promises to be the biggest and best LGBTQ celebration yet.
Organised by Allied Rainbow Communications (ARC), the Pride March and Concert on Saturday 15th September will be the culmination of a week-long series of events including community discussions on politics, mental health and family issues, as well as fun activities like beach volleyball and football tournaments.
This year Malta topped the ILGA-Europe index of 49 countries for LGBTQ rights after introducing a whole raft of gay-friendly policies, including gay marriage and equal adoption rights for same-sex couples. Malta made history when it became the first country in Europe to ban conversion therapy, and changed the language concerning domestic and family relationships in the Marriage Act to make them gender-neutral effectively banning terms 'husband', 'wife', 'mother' and 'father'.
The theme of this year’s march is Pride at the heart of the Mediterranean, highlighting Malta as a gay-friendly country. Clayton Mercieca, community manager for ARC, explains why Pride is still important for the island. “As organisers of Malta Pride, we are often asked by some members of the rainbow community and allies why we still need a Pride event when Malta tops the ranks in LGBTIQ+ rights. Others even refuse to attend the march in protest, as they feel it is an ‘opportunity for gays to show off their bodies’,” he says.
“First, one must appreciate the fact that we are living in a world where by default everyone assumes you are heterosexual, starting from family life, school, work and friends. Throughout most of their childhood and adolescence, these individuals have to constantly take on the assumption imposed by social discourse that they are heterosexual, and obviously it is a huge internal conflict when they are faced with feelings of non-heterosexuality. For the LGBTIQ+ Community who is struggling, Pride becomes a tool of visibility that other gender identities and sexual orientations exist,” explains Clayton.
He goes on to explain that some members of the rainbow community may feel unrepresented due to their experiences or background, and their experiences may be based on what they have seen abroad or on TV or social media.
“Rights/laws and lived experiences are two very different realities that co-exist,” points out Clayton. “Some people seem to live a plain-sailing life for being 'str8-acting', white, educated and decent looking. They are respected at work and by their peers and family members. They have no problem finding dates because they are at the top of the 'food-chain' when it comes to preference. They never seem to bother anyone because they pretty much follow a hetero-normative lifestyle.”
“Reality is very different for many, however,” he continues. “Our experiences at ARC open us up to many different identities, stories and people of all kinds. Many still feel underrepresented, their bodies and self-image do not match the poster-guys/girls they see on social media. They feel they are part of a community which does not really understand them.”
“Some have families and are raising kids, others are going through a gender transition, some feel they are un-date-able and have given up on ever finding authentic relationships, others simply don't want any form of sexual relationships at all and are made fun of. We all suffer to an extent. But some face harsher realities than others. We are seeking acceptance. And these issues are still very much persistent in 2018,” points out Clayton.
He adds that Pride week is “an opportunity for the community to come together without judgment towards one another, to learn from one another and to appreciate how different we are yet beautiful in our own way. We need to come together to stand tall and be counted for the many others who experience so much shame and self-hatred.”
“We at ARC will keep on working towards a Pride that represents all the colours of the rainbow. We do it because we believe in its social and political force,” he emphasises.
The Pride March and Concert kicks off at 4pm at the Triton Fountain, Valletta on Saturday 15th September. For full details of all the Malta Pride week events, click here. Listen to Malta Pride's own playlist on Spotify at Go Pride or Go Home.