Some photos can tell a thousand stories, but these two photos placed side-by-side below, taken almost 10 years apart don’t tell the whole story. A lot can change in this time. In my case, I have uprooted myself from the path that seemed obvious and unchallenged to place myself on one much more different than I could imagine.
It is funny to zoom into a specific year in my life, I usually trace patterns and linearity across years connecting the dots that tell the most convenient story. The one that cuts easily from an A to a B.
Of course, it never really is that way.
2009: loss and internalised homophobia.
In summary, 2009 was a difficult year. It included experiencing loss when Nannu died, repeating exams, entering university and dealing with internalised homophobia.
Nannu had taught me about the pleasures of writing a travel journal and showed me that it would never be the same as someone else’s travel journal, even if you shared the trip. He taught me bits and pieces of Malta’s history and architecture and showed how they weaved their ways through our own family’s story. He taught me about the pleasures of reading good books, of writing poetry, of spending time in a beautiful garden. Saying that losing him was difficult, is an understatement.
In 2009 I also had to finally confront my internalised homophobia, I could no longer hide what I felt and unfortunately, there wasn’t really anyone I felt comfortable talking to. I felt trapped, lost and alone even though I knew of people who were gay and read some articles about MGRM in the local newspapers.
It was hard to accept that I might be gay when I was also proud to be a practising Christian. As someone who was questioning their sexuality in this environment, I faced quite a few contradictions. One of these was pledging to have no sex before marriage. For a Christian queer teen, that means pledging never to have sex, or have sex and be doomed.
I can now look back on this time and analyse how internalised homophobia, anti-queer discourse and sex-taboos are constructed and enforced by the society around us. I can understand why I was so hurt, lost and confused. Unfortunately, I didn’t have these same tools back then.
Becoming an activist.
When I first came out in 2010 I set myself on a new path. Being me suddenly meant being political. To be queer in Malta in 2010 meant that I was a second-class citizen.
My existence, suddenly political, allowed me to challenge the norms in areas beyond my sexual orientation and gender identity. Eventually, my coming out lead me to recognise the harm that can be caused by a dominant narrative and politics that mainly serves hetero and cis (not trans) men.
I wish for more beyond the legislative changes that have improved many things for LGBTQI people in Malta in the past 5 years.
For instance, I wish for a society where we could more openly talk about sex and sexuality. This would mean that we allow young people to explore their identities without fear and hostility. It would mean a shift towards comprehensive sexual health education, one in which we can talk about various forms of sexuality, in which we can talk about consent and healthy relationships. In the long-term, it might mean that more people will trust and believe women who speak up about their experiences of domestic violence and/or rape. No matter how long it takes them to speak up. It might mean that more people learn how to set their boundaries, how to say ‘no!’ and how to respect ‘no!’.
2019: new journeys.
Two weeks in and 2019 so far has been challenging. It has included heartbreak and a reminder to not only focus on what is ahead, to not only plan and strategise campaigns, to not just numb myself with work but to also take breaks, focus on the here and now, go offline for a few days and connect beyond the virtual.
This week, after a painful start to the year, I know that if I stop feeling and if I only numb myself with work, there will actually be no point to carry on along this new path that I have chosen.
I am a candidate for Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party because we need politicians and political parties who are able to use both strategy and emotions to lead with solidarity. To make sure that policies and decisions actually centre people. To prioritise life and health not, money and wealth.
I hope I am able to keep my next steps from (political) activism into politics real, honest and emotional, because we need more politicians who also lead from our hearts.