This week saw Quad come alive with rainbow flags proudly swaying on the flagpoles by the stairs. The reason behind this is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, also known as IDAHO (not to be confused with the American state) on the 17th of May.
To commemorate this important day, We Are – the LGBTQQI organization on Campus- teamed up with Betapsi to organize three days of events aimed at raising awareness and promoting tolerance and acceptance.
Some questions which sprang to my mind on seeing this activity were: ‘Is this event really necessary? Aren’t university students knowledgeable enough yet?’The answer is a resounding ‘no’.
After having watched a video where students were asked whether they knew what homophobia was; I was shocked to see one particular person ask if homophobia was when a man wanted to become a woman. For lack of a better reason to explain this behaviour, I figured that the respondent was an avid Eurovision fan and obviously must have had ‘Rise like a phoenix’ playing on a loop in their mind.
Homophobia and transphobia are used to describe people who for some reason or other are afraid of or hate a person who is LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex). This type of mentality therefore leads to LGBTI people hiding who they are for fear of being teased, taunted or attacked.
A 2013 survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights revealed that 97% of Maltese youth have felt the need to hide their identity at school. This is definitely too high for a first-world country in the 21st Century.
This year, candidates for the forthcoming MEP elections were invited to attend the activities on campus and therefore take a stand against homophobia and transphobia. Arnold Cassola, Miriam Dalli, Roberta Metsola, Marlene Mizzi, and Jonathan Shaw all accepted their invitations; Shaw even signed ILGA-Europe’s Come Out Pledge as he was the only one out of the five to have not already signed it. Basically, this Pledge is a promise to stand up for human rights and equality in Europe. It is definitely great that five MEPs have declared their intent to promote human rights; hopefully if elected they will not forget this promise.