Children of LGBTIQ families feel precluded by bullying in schools and the former President is urging educators to step in and be the champions of inclusion.
Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, who heads the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, said Malta had been a trailblazer in legislative changes in this area but to achieve a truly inclusive society, non-violent dialogue processes were fundamental.
“I believe children raised by LGBTIQ+ people can better thrive if our society effectively upholds a culture of inclusion and justice. We need to engage in dialogue with everyone, including with those who oppose change, and even when their arguments may sound irrational and unreasonable,” she said.
Ms Coleiro Preca was speaking at a press conference on Thursday held to mark Malta Pride Week and celebrate the first year since the creation of The Rainbow Families Network, a joint initiative by the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society and the Malta LGBTIQ+ Rights Movement (MGRM).
The network was set up to provide a safe space where LGBTIQ families could share their experiences in a secure environment away from society’s mainstream prejudices.
To date, 36 parents and 30 children of different orientations found support in this network, and one of the recurring issues that emerged during the regular meeting was bullying, coupled with inadequate school practices that automatically marginalised them.
Marzia Farrugia, the network’s outgoing coordinator, said LGBTIQ children felt invisible in the classroom, and wanted their family structures to be acknowledged.
“Children feel they are ‘made’ to lie about their family to avoid being bullied, excluded and/or shamed. And, on Mother’s or Father’s Day, few were given alternatives to choosing a significant parent when it came to making a card,” Ms Farrugia said.
This feedback encouraged the network to start offering training for educators and psychosocial professionals working in State, Church and independent schools, to enable them to deal with today’s realities of diverse families.
Over the past year, MFWS joined Ilga (The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), and Nelfa (Network of European LGBTIQ+ Families Associations), which provided the local organisation with an international dimension and additional resources that could be utilised by families in Malta.
Looking ahead, Raisa Bartolo, the incoming project coordinator, said that the network is working to expand its link to other members of the LGBTIQ trans community, to help enhance their wellbeing and further contribute to creating an inclusive society that truly values and celebrates diversity.
Alex Caruana, MGRM community outreach officer, said it was satisfying to see the network’s members gain confidence over the past year and become activists of change.
“Over the next year, we plan to reach out to adults who identify as trans, because we feel it is important for them to also have a safe and non-judgemental space to share their life experiences and work together towards an inclusive society.”