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Maltese gays want to emigrate because of discrimination

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  1. That’s would be stupid to immigrate because of discrimination

  2. As a Maltese gay men I find it very hard to take this article and the study it refers to seriously. Apart from containing a number of inaccuracies (for instance transgendered persons CAN change their gender status in Malta), 150 people are by no stretch of the imagination a big enough sample that would allow you to draw any conclusions. At most one can speak of inidcations but then again at most. It simply is not representative. The study is highly unscientific and rather irresponsible. Such studies do much more damage than they do good because they focus the attention on generic issues and distract social debtate. As a result we do not address the real problems such as the lack of legal frameworks for same-sex couples. Because of such articles reinforcing the mistaken stereotype that Maltese society is Catholic and hence very conservative, politicians form the opinion that society is not ready for such legal changes. In my view society is way more progressive than our legal framework. My partner and I lived together as an openly gay couple and never ever experienced homophobia from our neighbours or society, workplace or at large. Neither do any of my gay friends and acquaitances. What we need is not more acceptance or tolerance but legal amendments. We certainlty do not need patronising articles such as this one. Furthermore if I were a young Maltese gay man or a young lesbian in the processing of coming out this article would scare the living daylights out of me. I wish I could find a way to tell these young kinds that Maltese society is much more tolerant and accepting than this “study” makes it out to be.

  3. Ruth Baldacchino 9 Dec 2008, 11:55pm

    Mark,

    You may be living a comfortable life as an openly Maltese gay man, however that doesn’t mean that all lesbians, gay, bisexual and trans Maltese do.

    As an openly Maltese queer myself, I can way that Malta may have experienced small positive changes in terms of people’s attitudes but it still has a (very) long way to go.

    The research quoted in the article was carried out as part of a broader strategic programme of the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM). Besides the fact that the article gives only a brief introduction to the whole research I don’t think MGRM ever claimed the research to be representational. 150 respondents may sound little, however within the Maltese context this is a significant number. Alternatively, one could also approach the number itself as an illustration of Malta’s widespread conservative mentality as it could show that people still do not feel comfortable to come forward and be open about their sexuality, worse more..they are scared to report any homophobic and/or transphobic incidents.

    With regard to your comment around changing one’s gender status, you are right in claiming that trans people can change their gender status. However you are wrong in claiming the article/research to be inaccurate. There is NO formal procedure for a trans person to change their gender status. A trans person HAS to go to court in order for them to change their status. Oh yes..and that’s about the only thing the Maltese State ‘offers’ to a trans person who wishes to transition.

    The objective of the research was to report discrimination of LGBT people in Malta. The objectives of MGRM’s work is broader, and include doing advocacy work towards the recognition of same-sex relationships, amongst other things.

    It’s always comfortable to criticise others from one’s armchair. I wonder when members of the Maltese LGBT community would stop slagging each other, and start working together for the common good instead!

  4. So who is telling us the truth here then , Mark or Ruth?

  5. john wilfred sharp 10 Dec 2008, 2:46am

    well i lived in 70 countries in the world
    in Muslim stated minimum 80% what out due to religious discrimination,that can mean even death.
    in africa strong discrimination there too.
    though economical better prospects are also a big reason .

  6. Simon Murphy 10 Dec 2008, 12:16pm

    These studies are never scientific – they always seem designed to make a point about how AWFUL it is to be gay in certain countries. Recently on PinkNews there was a study which showed that a majority of queer people living in rural Ireland faced discrimination. That may be true but it was not put into any sort of context ie it did not indicate what small percentage of queer people remain in rural areas (all studies show that the vast majority have moved to urban centres.) Nor did it indicate whether being queer in rural Ireland was comparatively better or worse than in any other country. I always take these reports with a pinch of salt as they rarely seem balanced.

  7. Ruth,

    Thank you for your clarifications regarding the issue of changing one’s gender status. I agree that one should not have resort to legal action in order to enjoyed such a basic right. This example however proves my point. On the one hand Malta is way ahead of many countries in this area and our courts have repeatedly shown themselves to be rather progressive (cetainly much more than our legislators). Of course I agree there is still a long, long way to go but for heaven’s sake let us celebrate what is positive. My point is however that Malta is NOT this horribly oppressive, conservative country that the article makes it out to be. If I remember correctly members of the cabinet have in the past attended gay pride marches for instance. I insist: even taking into account Malta’s population size, a sample of 150 intrinsically contains a huge margin of error.

    I object to your comments about me slagging anyone and me being an armchair critic. I have in my own way worked tirelessly, and at times put my career on the line, to change attitudes in Malta but that is not the point here. Should I meet you personally I will explain in more detail. We are not all meant to be at the forefront. But does that mean that I do not have the right to criticise (constructively)? If the report is, in my view, faulty allow me the possibbility to so comment. I do not believe that my criticism was offensive or peronsal. I put my views forward in the hope that future studies would be more constructive for the good of all society. If I offended anyone I hereby apologise it was certainly not my intention.

    One last point: the reasons why most Maltese gay men and lesbians want to emigrate are identical to why most British gay men and lesbians flock to London and to other urban centres. The problem with Malta is that there is no such huge urban centre. The island nation is in many respects a hybrid: no part of Malta is truly rural and no part of Malta is truly urban (in the sense of major western capital cities).

  8. Mark: “150 people are by no stretch of the imagination a big enough sample that would allow you to draw any conclusions. At most one can speak of indications but then again at most. It simply is not representative. The study is highly unscientific and rather irresponsible.”

    Statistics is a very precise science. A sample size of 150 gives you a confidence interval of 7 at the 95% confidence level which is normally used in population studies. This means that if 74% of the random sample of 150 said that they would emigrate and 67% of the same 150 said that they would do so because of discrimination, if you had to ask the same questions to ALL gay persons in Malta, you can be 95% sure that between 67% and 81% would say that they would emigrate and between 60% and 74% would say that they would do so because of discrimination. Of course, there is a difference between 67% and 81%, and 60% and 74%, but none of these numbers is small and all of them place people like Mark in the minority.

    News articles do not generally go into the trouble of explaining the science behind the numbers and often choose which numbers of a research study to quote and which not to… which is why it is always recommended that one reads a research study in its entirety and evaluates it on the basis of statistical theories before dismissing it.

  9. It is actually not possible to have a representative sample of the LGBT population as, (and the survey also indicates this), many LGBT people remain closeted. There is no register of sexual minorities. A survey is the only way to conduct a quantitative study on gay issues. This particular research focused on harassment and discrimination experienced by LGBT people in Malta. The findings are of concern in that they indicate that visibility as an LGBT person still presents considerable difficulty. It also indicates that many LGBT people continue to experience harassment in school, workplace, and in public places.
    The respondents were of mixed ages, of various educational backgrounds and came from all over Malta. There was also a good balance between males and females. The National Statistics Office conducts studies which are representative of the Maltese population with samples as small as 500. Therefore a response of 150 for 10% of the population is really not bad. It certainly gives a better picture than any one individual’s perception.

    While politicians have attended Pride Marches in the past years, this has not translated into the political will to bring about legislative change for same-sex couples or for access to gender reassignment for trans persons for example. Where legislative protections were introduced such as through the EU Employment Framework Directive, this took years to transpose correctly. Neither has the gay community been willing to come out and support events such as Pride. As you say, one advocates for LGBT rights possibly at the risk of losing one’s job. For others, being out could entail risking custody of children or breaking off relations with family members.

    So, while you are entitled to your opinion, it only has validity if it is informed. This survey provides such information. One can discount it by saying that it is not representative or one could possibly take it seriously and be concerned enough to address the issues that it raises.

    The likelihood of achieving legal equality before LGBT people are actually able to be out and proud with their sexual identities is unlikely. Moreover, even if we did have the legislation, one cannot avail oneself of it if one is closeted. This seems to be the pattern with regards to employment anti-discrimination protection. The law is there but no-one has actually made use of it despite harassment and discrimination in the workplace being a common occurrence.

  10. Max,

    There are many that would not subscribe to your point of view. Statistics are a science but as with any other science there are varying opinions as to what metholody leads to the most accurate results. Apart from whether 150 people consitute a big enough sample there are many more questions that one can ask: how was the sample selected? how were the questions phrased? were there any controls ? How were the replies analysed? Statistics may be a science but are incredibly open to interpretation. What I mainly challenge is the direct link between a Maltese gay men wanting to emigrate and the cause being discrimination. I particularly resent the repetition of the cliche that Maltese society particularly oppressive and intolerant and regressive. This is an insult to my family, my straight friends and coworkers, my neighbours and society at large that yes still has much to learn but has come an incredibly long way. What is so wrong about acknowledging something that is positive? What are we afraid of? Like I have said in an earlier post by painting such an imbalanced picture of reality we are playing into the hands of the conservatice element of society which will throw the “society is not yet ready” card back into our face. What we should be telling our politicians is “our society IS ready so go on and end the legal discrimination which contrasts so sharply with the high level of social acceptance”. Max I am not a minority and if that that is what the result concludes that it is faulty. If the results reflect reality my very large circle of friends and I have been living in a parallel universe ever since we were born.

  11. Mark, pls. note that I have not expressed an opinion. I have merely stated a theoretical point re. sample size and suggested that one should always read the entire report before dismissing a survey. On the basis of the little that was said in this news article, one cannot say much.
    I do share one thing with you – what was reported here does not reflect my personal situation. I do not wish to emigrate :) But I would not go anywhere near saying that I am more representative of the whole gay community than the collective 150 people who replied to this survey. (And, btw, I did reply to this survey myself – Did you?) Neither do I expect the opinions and experiences of the collective 150 people who responded to be silenced just because they are not like mine.
    It may be interesting to consider the findings of this survey against those of a Eurobarometer Survey on discrimination commissioned by the EC and carried out in Malta in 2006 by MISCO across the WHOLE population (Malta’s sample size was 500): 56% of respondents stated that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was widespread; 58% agreed with the statement that homosexuality was still taboo in Malta; 65% believed it was difficult for a gay person to be out at the workplace; 67% agreed that being gay in Maltese society was generally a disadvantage… and this was the opinion of the general population, not just gay people talking about themselves!
    One final comment: Maltese society is not conservative; it’s just the political class that is conservative (on both sides of the House, btw). Everybody does his business, generally behind close doors. But few are willing to stand up for their own rights and those of others, and challenge the political class. It’s a case of “I’m alright, Jack!”

  12. Max/ Gabi

    You both make very good arguments and I essentially agree with most of what of what you say. We have a slightly different perspective but at the end of the day we want the same things.

    My post graduate studies in social sciences have left me very distrusting of surveys in general (yes even eurobarometer ones). More often than not they lead people to reach fast conclusions. Let us keep in mind that we are trying to measure very abstract (as well as concrete) things such as perceptions. For instance when I conducted case studies involving Maltese gay men living in Malta and Maltese gay men living in Amsterdam there were clear indications that those who had lived abraod, and who had the advantage of being able to compare, rated Malta as being far more tolerant than those who never left the island.

    But I digress. What I am trying to say is this: the survey is interseting, it is food for thought, but let us be careful before subscribing to the conclusion that being gay in Malta is so so horrible that 75 per cent of gay men and lesbians want to emigrate. And the million dollar question is? Where do they want to emigrate to? To a small village in the UK? A small town in Denmark? or rather London or Amsterdam? (read large liberal cosmopolitan urban spaces). Nistghu mhux niggieldu ghal gay rights ghax la amsterdam u lanqas londra qatt ma ser ikollna ghax Malta hybrid – nowhere is really rural and nowhere is really urban.

    I repeat the other point that I keep making: let us also focus on the positive, let us look for and publicise positive examples of funcitonal, successful, fulfilled gay and lesbain people. It is only then that we can convince legislators that society IS ready for changes. Let us shed of the msieken image. The glass is half empty and also half full it is NOT empty.

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