Nationalist Party MP Alex Borg has come in for criticism by Malta’s gay rights lobby, after he implied that taxpayer money spent on gender reassignment surgery would be better spent on fibromyalgia sufferers. 

The Gozitan MP sparked controversy with a Facebook post on Tuesday in which he argued that Prime Minister Robert Abela’s promise to provide frere gender reassignment surgery was a “populist” move. 

That government proposal was part of the Labour Party’s electoral manifesto, which also contains pledges to provide free medication for fibromyalgia and other conditions. 

Abela mentioned the government’s plans for gender reassignment surgery at the tail end of Pride Week celebrations. 

In his post, Borg wrote that while he was “glad” to see the LGBT community progress, “we need to be realistic, too,” and asked why the government could not afford to finance fibromyalgia treatment.     

“Let’s instead choose the common sense path that would see all Maltese and Gozitans benefit, and not just one part of society,” he wrote. 

“I can’t understand how people consumed with pain 24/7 due to fibromyalgia or other conditions are told that there is no money for them,” Borg said, adding that he hoped the upcoming budget would take such people into consideration. 

His post drew many congratulatory posts from his followers, including one by former PN leader and current MP Adrian Delia. The two were among three MPs to break party ranks and vote against a revision of IVF laws in July.

But not everybody was so complimentary about Borg's perspective. 

Lobby group hits back

The country’s leading LGBTIQ lobby, the Malta Gay Rights Movement, said the PN MP was engaging in “whataboutism” and said the party he represents had also promised to make gender reassignment surgery free. 

“We do not understand why now, following the general election, this is being questioned,” the MGRM said of Borg’s comments. 

The premise of Borg’s argument – comparing gender surgery to helping fibromyalgia patients – was a logical fallacy that showed how “some politicians are out of touch with the electorate... or else opt to be populist.” 

“It is particularly disappointing when new generations of politicans reason like this,” it added in a reference to Borg. 

Borg’s comment “implies that people who are trans are not interested in fibromyalgia treatment. It further assumes that people who are trans do not also suffer from fibromyalgia,” the lobby group argued.

“Why is it being thought that the LGBTIQ community won't be happy when fibromyalgia treatment is free, and equally why is it being assumed that people with fibromyalgia are not happy that gender reassignment treatment will be free?”

The Labour Party was also quick to pounce, with Equality junior minister Rebecca Buttigieg accusing Borg of hypocrisy. Borg, Buttigieg said, was among PN MPs who showed up to march alongside LGBTIQ activists during last week’s Pride march, but were now showing their “true colours”.

“Help to the LGBTIQ community does not come at the price of help in other areas,” she said.

“Your comment just goes to show that the PN still includes people that do not believe in equality and who, even worse, used Pride Week for political purposes, not because they believe in the cause.”     

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