About that Spraggan incident: most waiters at trendy Valletta restaurants aren’t Maltese, sooo…

No 110 – LGBTIQ Tourists Welcome (Kinda)!

British singer Lucy Spraggan posted about an experience of sexual harassment she and her girlfriend experienced in Malta
British singer Lucy Spraggan posted about an experience of sexual harassment she and her girlfriend experienced in Malta

What are we skinning? Former X-Factor singer Lucy Spraggan and her partner cutting their Malta holiday short after being pelted by a barrage of homophobic comments and sleazy interactions with passersby and service workers.

Why are we skinning it? Because it’s just the kind of clash between perception and reality that this column thrives on, like a vampire reeling for their next kill.

Vampire? What are you talking about? Flourish for effect – would you rather collapse in the depressing muck of this episode straight away?

Yes, I’d rather confront unpleasantness asap so we can move on from it just as quickly. If only it were that easy… in fact, believing that the simple act of pencilling in an ideological safeguard onto our governmental advocacy mechanism is enough to ensure far-reaching change in and of itself is also at the root of what we’re talking about.

I’m gonna need you to back up and get a bit factual (and lucid). Okay, so Lucy Spraggan – the British singer-songwriter who rose to fame after her stint on X-Factor in 2021 – took a trip to Malta with her girlfriend earlier this week, only to turn back after “2.5” days as a result of the gross and homophobic treatment they casually received from passersby and waiters.

Very shameful. But are you implying that it has wider ramifications? Contrary to what Equality Minister Owen Bonnici would have us think in his pleading follow-up Instagram comments to Spraggan, such incidents can never reasonably be understood to occur in a total socio-cultural vacuum.

I’m not entirely convinced. There are assholes everywhere. Spraggan just got unlucky. You can choose to cultivate that take if you fancy. But on the singer’s own admission, part of her reason for picking Malta in the first place was its supposedly sterling reputation as a progressive, LGBTIQ-loving place.

Yes, but even the most progressive place in the world will have a few bad apples… The kind of bad apples that will pop up with such vulgar vehemence in the span of a two-day visit? That’s a pretty intense coincidence there, buddy.

Okay, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s no direct mandate for Malta to be LGBITQ UNfriendly… There may not be, but that’s just it: if you hype yourself up as a ‘top destination’ for LGBTIQ tourists, you need to be able to back that up pretty extensively.

But there’s only so much politicians can do about the day-to-day interactions of people on the street… Well if they intend to ride on the coat-tails of any residual feelgood factor they managed to siphon off the LGBTIQ community as a result of policy-tweaking and other token gestures, they’re all gonna have to work harder to come up with creative solutions to implement significant, wide-spread change across all of society.

So I’ve dug a little deeper into it and I can see that one of the incendiary comments was made a by a Valletta waiter… Yes, and?

Well, most waiters at trendy Valletta restaurants aren’t Maltese, so… What does that change? They are living and working in Malta, and so very much liable to drum up precisely this kind of reputational risk for the island.

So what do you suggest? Well, implementing initiatives like MGRM’s suggested ‘Welcome for All’ initiative would be a start.

What was that? A sticker awarded upon the completion of a successful bout of LGBTIQ-sensitivity training for staff.

Not an unreasonable proposal, considering everything. Well, it got laughed out of the room. Because apparently, equality is achieved by magic and we’re all wizards now.

Do say: “Let’s make allowances for unfortunate one-offs, sure. But raising one’s bar so high has its consequences, and one minor slip-up can make you look like a shoddily prepared hypocrite.”

Don’t say: “We must maintain Malta’s reputation as a top-tier progressive nation at all costs. I suggest a totalitarian ban on all free speech that criticises said reputation. Yes. That’ll do it.”