A lot has been said about what X-Factor competitor Matthew Grech said about rethinking his own homosexuality when he “found God”.
Some have argued that this kind of declaration should not have been broadcast, particularly on national television. Others were concerned about potential damage to other LGBTIQ youth currently in the process of ‘coming out’.
In a heteronormative society, where values, norms, rituals, institutions and expectations peripherally cater for LGBTIQ identities, a homosexual’s puberty is likely to be an ambiguous experience, to say the least.
Rather than focusing on having a healthy engagement with the physical, psychological, emotional and social novelties of adolescence, most LGBTIQ youth need to negotiate proving themselves despite taboos, prejudice, reprimand and similar.
Matthew Grech’s statement might have easily fuelled reprimand by unsupportive family, friends and communities of homosexuals. ‘If Matthew did it, so can you?’ was the feared reaction projected to the TV-watching Maltese ‘salott’.
Public outcry and concern are understandable, particularly when considering that pejorative and belittling comparison is rife in segments of Maltese culture, where the ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ mantra is easy to say but hard to practice.
As a mother, a daughter, an educator, a sociologist and a researcher I disagree with Matthew’s conclusions.
But that is not my point today.
My point is that I want to live in a society where Matthew Grech has the right to say what he said.
He might have been trying to influence public opinion, but not more than the Archbishop when he condemns use of contraceptives
In this particular instance, Matthew was publicly voicing his personal experience.
Just like if anyone asked me what inspired my commitment to public life in my various roles, I would talk about my biographical narratives: why I delivered a hospitalised birth not a home one; or why I chose to cohabit rather than marry – while perfectly accepting that the next woman’s experience and opinion are likely to be different from mine. He might have been trying to influence public opinion, but not more than the Archbishop when he condemns use of contraceptives.
Voltaire-biographer Beatrice Evelyn Hall said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
This is not a statement to generalise but to summon when censorship threatens dialogue, because silencing dialogue voids the space for the rise of violence to resolve our differences.
So, while I do not believe anyone can say anything, I believe the way forward when we disagree is not to shut up one another, Matthew, the Archbishop, or anyone else perceived as countering our standpoints.
Within these parameters, Matthew’s right to voice his experience implies my duty to listen.
Society's duty is to foster an educated, emancipated and non-sensationalist discussion populated by voices that are not fueled by violence, hate or totalitarianism.
This is our calling.
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