Most parents would step in if they heard one of their children call the other “gay” during an argument, but for Neil Falzon, himself gay, the point took on an added importance.
“I asked him if he knew what ‘gay’ meant, and he said he didn’t but he’d heard it at school,” Dr Falzon, who recently adopted two children with his husband, said at the launch of a new initiative for LGBTIQ families by the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society.
“I slowly explained it to him, and explained that it wasn’t a bad word but that some people used it like that, and then I asked him if he knew anyone who was gay. He thought for a bit and then said that he didn’t. So I explained to him slowly that papà and papà were in fact gay.
“That was the first time I really realised that there was a need for certain discussions about the identity of the family and also about the conversations and social relations children are going to have at school.”
Dr Falzon, also the director of the Aditus Foundation, was speaking at San Anton Palace at the launch of a “safe space” where LGBTIQ families can share their experiences in a secure environment without fear of judgement or prejudice.
The project, Rainbow Families, has been set up by the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society and the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) to coincide with next month’s Pride Week.
Read more: Video launched to help overcoming prejudice towards LGBTIQ families
Monthly meetings will be held where families can learn from each other’s joys and the difficulties they encounter. The project will also provide participants with the opportunity to engage in debates and discussions facilitated by professionals.
President’s Foundation director Ruth Farrugia said that through its work with LGBTIQ families in recent years, the foundation had realised the need for a space for families, and especially children, to share experiences with others similar to theirs.
President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca highlighted the importance of the initiative in helping to eradicate the stigma that still exists around LGBTIQ families in Malta and foster understanding and common ground between families of different make-ups.
MGRM coordinator Colette Farrugia Bennett and Alex Caruana, an MGRM member who identifies as transgender, also spoke of the need to reduce isolation for children who are gender non-conforming, as well as for their parents.
The first Rainbow Families meeting will take place on September 13 at 6pm at San Anton Palace. To register, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 21484462.