Pride was a big challenge for We Are this year. After three years of hard work within the university, student, and youth sectors, we felt that it is very unfortunate that Pride is happening in June. “Big deal” most said. But in reality we knew that it would be even harder than usual to encourage students to attend, as it is still exam period. It is after all already hard enough to increase participation during a normal period of time, let alone during exams.
So we chose to appeal to other student and youth organisations to join us today. It’s probably the first time that KSU – the University Students' Council – is at a pride march, publicly supporting LGBT rights. Being the oldest national student union in Europe, we’re really happy and proud that they’re supporting us today, together with other youth organisations like KNZ – the National Youth Council (Malta).
In the end this challenge taught us a lesson, as most challenges do. It taught us that joining forces can make for a much stronger statement. It taught us that even when an underlying goal is largely similar, it is good to make some points of difference shine.
As We Are, we are bound to focus on students, and youth, and issues related to them. As a university based organisation we are bound to focus on issues in education, on raising awareness within these spheres, and on trying to make students feel comfortable at university.
In a recent survey published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights it was found that of 18-24 year olds in Malta, the great percentage (97%) felt the need to be selectively open or hide their LGBT identity at school.
This statistic clearly indicates that many young people are scared to be out, because of the repercussions this might involve. Because of the rampant homophobia and transphobia that is still found in our Maltese educational institutions, and in our schools.
We should aim at eradicating homophobia and transphobia from the places which youth frequent, so that our future politicians, policy makers, doctors, educators, and parents, can be more accepting, more loving and more inclusive. So that one day we may live in a society in which one does not have to live with the same fears that many are surrounded by today.
Homophobia in education is a fact that needs to be challenged, and of course it cannot be challenged on our own. it is only through the help of straight-allies and organisations that we can truly promote an idea of unity in diversity.
It has been great to participate in a pride where this was a possibility, where we have united with all these organisations and people, despite our differences, to take a stand. Where we had the opportunity to be ourselves, which is after all what pride is about. In which we have had an opportunity to celebrate our individual identities both as organisations and persons.
See you next year.
(Thanks to Anne Heywood for the first photo)