Gay or Grabby Awards? Has the MGRM lost its way?

Can the gay rights movement tell us why it accepted the nomination of Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna for an LGBTI Community Award and what he has done for the community?

Cartoon for MaltaToday Midweek by Mark Scicluna
Cartoon for MaltaToday Midweek by Mark Scicluna

In the past I have heaped praise on the MGRM. I recognized its achievements in Queer Mediterranean Memories: Penetrating the secret history and silence of gay and lesbian disguise in the Maltese archipelago (2009). But it also has had some dismal failures, allowing consecutive PN administrations to take the mickey out of it and failing to turn Pride March into a mass movement. I have also appreciated the support MGRM has at times provided me.

Achievements and failures aside, the rights of gay men and lesbians remain my first loyalty. I am loyal to gay or lesbian groups so long as they stand up for our rights! And the time has come to condemn the insensitive and outrageous actions of MGRM, actions that are tantamount to betrayal of what we should hold dear. As an organisation, MGRM has forfeited the right to claim that it represents the interests of gay men and lesbians.

Let me make myself clear. I have no problem with gay organisations recognising the achievements of members of our community, a community that includes our allies whatever their sexual orientation. Nor do I have a problem with MGRM recognizing the achievements of members of any particular religion. But I have a problem with recognizing the dubious achievements of some of the nominees for the MGRM awards.

Does Scicluna no longer consider homosexuality intrinsically disordered? Is he now saying that gay men and lesbians, as individuals and couples, should be allowed to adopt children and that it is in the interest of children to have gay and lesbian parents?

Take, for example, the nomination of Mgr Charles Scicluna, former Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Would MGRM tell us who nominated Scicluna and why it accepted the nomination? What has he done for our community?

I may have missed something but does Scicluna no longer consider homosexuality intrinsically disordered? Is he now saying that gay men and lesbians, as individuals and couples, should be allowed to adopt children and that it is in the interest of children to have gay and lesbian parents?

Does he no longer subscribe to the principle of ‘just’ discrimination against gay men and lesbians? Is he saying that the Church has no right to dismiss gay men and lesbians from its employment even if they are open about their sexuality and their same-sex relationship? Is he no longer requiring gay men and lesbians to be chaste? Is he in favour of same-sex marriage? Is he advocating the teaching of homosexuality and the struggle for homosexual rights at schools? Is he not of the view that homosexuals can be changed into heterosexuals? Will he stop priests in Malta from telling gay men and lesbians that they can become heterosexual? Has he spoken out against gay conversion therapy and the atrocities being committed against gay men and lesbians in some countries?

I am not against priests, prelates and nuns being nominated by a gay or lesbian organisation. Mark Montebello is one priest who deserves the nomination. For decades he has been a public supporter of gay men and lesbians. His church has silenced and exiled him. Montebello has supported gay men and lesbians before any current members of MGRM decided to ‘stand up’ for gay rights. More than that, he has provided help to marginalised gay men and lesbians, many of whom are amongst the most vulnerable in our community and who have been ignored by our community. I refer to gay men and lesbians who have not had the advantage of a good education, gay men and lesbians who are poor and isolated, and gay men and lesbians who have no access to Malta’s ruling elites.

What about posthumous awards to gay men and lesbians who lived their lives openly in Strait Street and Balzunetta and on the wharves of Senglea and Gzira? What about awarding those who received prison sentences for daring to love a person of their own gender? People like Bobbie Papagiorcopoulo?

MGRM would have been better advised to turn its attention elsewhere. What about some posthumous awards to recognize gay men and lesbians who lived their lives openly in Strait Street and Balzunetta and on the wharves of Senglea and Gzira? Men and women who faced greater discrimination than any of us have faced!

What about awarding those who received prison sentences for daring to love a person of their own gender? People like Bobbie Papagiorcopoulo? What about recognizing people like Lou Bondì, Emmy Bezzina and Peppi Azzopardi who worked hard to put homosexuality on the national agenda? What about pressing the government to introduce expungement legislation? What about standing up for those gay men and lesbians who are facing persecution and prosecution in other countries? Or is it no longer ‘sexy’ to be an activist? Is the pursuit of gay rights in Malta all about our self-appointed leaders appearing to be respectable?

Let’s get one thing clear. MGRM was not responsible for the introduction of the civil union legislation. It made a contribution but much work was done before MGRM was formed. Perhaps even before some of those closely associated with the legislation found the courage to admit their sexuality publicly! Much of the credit has to go to Joseph Muscat who faced opposition from within his party.

Before writing this article, I went to a cinema to see Pride, a film that documents the relationship between gay men and lesbians and Welsh miners. Here was a group of gay men and lesbians who aligned themselves with vulnerable people and who emerged victorious. And if you think I am angry, you’re bloody right! Malta has seen nothing of the struggle and courage of gay men and lesbians in other countries, among them the UK, USA, Canada, NZ and Australia. Gay Liberation has never reached the shores of Malta. The MGRM awards are a testimony to that!

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