A lot has happened since those initial riots of 1969, when police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. People went down the streets and marched in protest against the legislation and environment, which did not allow them to embrace their sexuality. They fought to be recognised as human beings, who also needed legal protection, basic rights and dignity and formed the “Gay Liberation”. Half a century later,
25 countries around the globe now allow same-sex partners to enter into marriages and adopt children. Homosexual and transgender individuals are no longer classified by the World Health Organisation as having a mental disorder, and the majority of the world’s population now live in countries where homosexuality is legal.

So, why do we need to march for pride? Why do you need prideVIDA Magazine LGBT when you’ve acquired all your rights? Why don’t we have a straight pride? The journey here has been a turbulent one, and we are still not there yet. There are countries where if you dare to identify as , you are still persecuted – public lashings of lesbians in Indonesia for being caught having sex, for example, – use of derogatory language in schools; locally, in Malta to bully teens to the brink of suicide- and we, as human beings, have an obligation to remedy this behaviour. When we march, it looks like we’re having fun, and we are, because we are expressing our social diversity, legal achievements, and exercising our democratic right to freedom of speech. But the roots of pride events lie in the dark years of oppression and resentment towards the gay community. Western cultures are becoming ever more accepting of putting legal protections into place for the LGBTIQ community. In Malta, we are, in fact, on the forefront of legal protections, but the reality is that most of the gay population remains afraid to hold their partner’s hand in public for fear of being scolded, or even beaten.

We march to remind people that we had to fight to be who we are, to love openly, to marry our partners, to not be discriminated against in the workplace, to not be considered mentally ill, to not be subjected to ‘conversion therapy’, to have and raise children, to inherit our partners’ belongings, to have the same hospital visitation rights for our partners, to have homophobic comments regarded as hate speech in the eyes of the law. We fought for our voices to be heard, and for our dignity to be upheld. We march to validate all of our community’s achievements.

But we also march in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who at this very second are imprisoned in 71 countries around the globe, merely for being homosexual. We march in
memoriam of those murdered in Chechnya in 2017 in the name of the government-lead ‘gay purge’, for the LGBTIQ teens who are the members of society most susceptible to suicide, homelessness and abuse, for the numerous transgender people that have been murdered in Brazil in the past years, for the people who are told by the governments of Russia and Egypt that their lifestyle is a form propaganda, for the gay men in Syria who were horrifically thrown off buildings by ISIS and finally, for the people who live in the 10 countries where their government can still torture and execute them for being LGBTIQ.

We march to remind the world that we are no different to heterosexuals, and that we are not invisible – that we will keep fighting until every minority has the same rights as the rest. We march to redefine the chauvinistic social expectations that burden each and every member of the LGBTIQ society. We want to remind society that we were born this way and that the only choice we made was to love and accept ourselves. We march to remind everyone that we are sons, daughters, children, parents, neighbours, and colleagues. We march to inspire frightened young teens, so that they understand that being LGBTIQ makes you no less deserving and has no bearing on your future success.

This year I marched. There were thousands of people and it was a truly moving sight. I marched alongside doctors, architects, actors, artists, musicians, teachers, lawyers and every other profession imaginable, not only members of the community, but also allies to it. There were families with their children, politicians, and people from every walk of life – of different race, age, and faith. We marched in the name of self-expression and love. We marched because after centuries of torment we are finally allowed to be who we are in plain sight. We marched to remind other LGBTIQ people that they are not alone, that we are a community and that we understand the pain and beauty of being different.

Sean Mayl

© 2018 – VIDA Magazine