Letters: 30 November 2014

Gender identity bill

What are the implications of this bill on children and adolescents – both those who are transgender or intersex and those who are not? What do our doctors, sociologists, psychiatrists, educators have to say about it, both coming from the LGBTIQ field and those who are not?

What implications will it have on our educational system? Once we recognise that there are no longer only boys and girls but that there are six, seven or more genders, will teachers still be allowed to say “boys and girls” in class? How will sex education be taught?

Physician and philosopher Carl Elliot (The Atlantic, 2000), asks whether our cultural and historical conditions have just revealed transsexuals or also created them. “That is, once ‘transsexual’ and ‘gender-identity disorder’ and ‘sex-reassignment surgery’ became common linguistic currency, more people began conceptualizing and interpreting their experience in these terms.

“This is not to say that there is no biological basis for gender-identity disorder. No. But... that certain social and structural conditions – diagnostic categories, medical clinics, reimbursement schedules, a common language to describe the experience, and, recently, a large body of academic work and transgender activism – have made this way of interpreting an experience not only possible but more likely.”

We acknowledge the sensitivity of this bill and how important it is to ensure non-discrimination, the rights of the LGBTIQ community, and support – for example when someone is in the process of accepting one’s body with ambiguous genitalia or experiencing social isolation in school.

For too long society has set aside or brushed off these issues with cynicism or humour. However, when such bills, which touch the deepest core of the human person, are legislated without any discussion, they feel like an imposition on the rest of society.

We should strive to move towards an inclusive society where LGBTIQs feel comfortable and happy to be themselves and where straight people who are not only tolerant but also welcoming towards the gay community but do not fully endorse all their values, such as family values, are not afraid to be themselves or speak their minds either.

Suzanne Vella, Martha Fitz, Naxxar

Witness fees revision overdue

 A long outstanding issue which is rarely mentioned is the compensation due to a witness in civil lawsuits. At present such compensation is regulated by the Witnesses (fees) Ordinance (Chapter 108 of the Laws of Malta).

According to this law a person called as a witness can claim from the party summoning him/her to give evidence up to a maximum of 70 cents, which fee varies according to the profession or trade of the witness. In addition the person in question can claim travel expenses and if a sitting is held in the afternoon an additional 12 cents per hour or part thereof.

These fees may have been reasonable when they were made way back in 1940, but are certainly not in 2014. For some unknown reason these fees have not been revised in line with current realities and obviously no one bothers to make any claim for compensation on the basis of these outdated fees. Yet clearly it is high time that the fees are revised and people made aware of their right to claim compensation.

While it is the right of litigants to be able to call upon witnesses in support of their case, it is equally right that people called as witnesses are adequately compensated for their time and possible loss of earnings.  

Paul Edgar Micallef, Valletta

An impersonal universe

The outer space epic Interstellar is a “don’t miss” movie, Time reported on 10 November.

The review of the film started as follows: “There is no reason at all you should care about the universe. For one thing, it doesn’t care a whit about you. It’s huge, it’s cold, it’s soulless. It’s possessed of forces that would rip you to ribbons the second you dared to step off the tiny planetary beachhead it has permitted us.”

Sooner or later, Christians have to come to terms with the fact that we live in an impersonal universe. As Richard Tarnas wrote in The Passion of the Western Mind, “it is starkly implausible that the universe as a whole should have any pressing interest in this minute part of its immensity – if it has any ‘interests’ at all.”

John Guillaumier, St Julian’s