‘Pride’ is a tool for social change | Clayton Mercieca

Malta has advanced in leaps and bounds when it comes to equality legislation; but CLAYTON MERCIECA, community manager at Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC), argues there are still areas where we lag behind

As Malta’s Gay community prepares for its annual Gay Pride March, a public ‘Rosary Rally’ is being organised to pray for ‘reparation’ for this ‘sin’. It seems to illustrate that, for all the legislative changes in favour of gay rights, Malta is still not completely ‘ready’ to accept the new social realities. Could this be because the changes themselves came about too quickly... a case of ‘too much, too soon’?

There is clearly a reaction to the speed of the progression in terms of equality rights. From our end, I would tend to say ‘about time’; but obviously, some people feel the change has been too sudden, and they feel threatened by it. It’s understandable. Where I disagree with their branding/imaging, however, is that they used a picture from another Pride parade, outside our shores, which was totally out of context. It showed two men in drag, posing very flamboyantly as a bride and groom. So obviously the message was that Gay Pride is there to ridicule marriage and family life as we know it: which is totally not the case. That is what I was against. By all means, anyone can go and pray for gay people; they are welcome to do so. But it hurts me when they put that kind of image out there, distorting what Gay Pride is all about. Pride started out as, and remains to this day, a tool for social change. I know that the media, and society in general, tends to focus more on the ‘party’ side of things; but that’s just one side of the whole spectrum. Speaking for myself, when the first Gay Pride March took place in Malta [in 2004] – there were about 50 people at most – it was an affirmation that ‘I am not alone’ in this country. Because when you’re coming out, you think you’re the only person who’s gay. You feel totally clueless as to what you are, what you can identify with. Seeing that there is such a thing as a ‘gay community’ – even if, back then, it was very small – makes a big difference. I was 17 at the time; I stood in the background, not wanting to be part of the crowd. But at least it was the first indication, to me, that I was not alone. That is why Gay Pride is so important.

Malta’s Gay Pride March does tend to be less overtly flamboyant than elsewhere. In San Francisco, for instance – where it all started – it has a much more Carnivalesque flavour. Doesn’t that aspect give rise to the perception (evidenced by the photo you mention) that the idea of a public parade is also partly to ‘provoke’ precisely such a reaction?

I would say that the idea behind Gay Pride is not to flaunt one’s sexuality; but then again, we’re all sexual human beings – except, perhaps, a very small percentage that is asexual – and for that one day out of 365, the idea is to allow full creativity in the way people want to express themselves...

Read the full interview on the MaltaToday Digital Edition.