Why a trans activist spoke up against the PM for invoking civil rights in wake of scandal 

When Christian Pace took to the stage, draped in a trans-pride flag, at a national protest against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the 37-year-old said that he felt like a weight had been lifted off him.

He told a crowd of thousands that the LGBTIQ community would not tolerate being used as a catchphrase and accused Dr Muscat of using civil rights as a shield from criticism.

Christian Pace on why he spoke out.

“It would have been a mistake to not speak up,” Mr Pace, who is transgender, said of his decision to address the national protest on December 8.

“To be loyal to somebody who waves a pride flag in one hand and with the other secretly supports a gross violation of human rights, that’s profoundly hypocritical.”

Last month, Dr Muscat announced he would resign in January, following pressure over how he handled the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.

During his speech, he highlighted his government’s social justice and civil rights reforms.

Mr Pace, who voted for the Labour Party in 2013, is candid with his political ideology.

“I recognise that the Labour Party gave us our rights and I also recognise that the Nationalist Party didn’t, but I have no allegiance to either party,” he said.

This doesn’t mean that just because Joseph Muscat gave us our rights, we are forever indebted to Labour

He says the LGBTIQ community had long desired to “quench the thirst for their rights” and many cast their votes in protest after years of broken promises from successive administrations.

“In reality, Malta was obliged to give us our rights. They weren’t doing as a big favour. We had long been told that ‘society wasn’t ready’. But why should I have to wait for society to be ready just to be equal with others at law? It doesn’t make sense,” Mr Pace says.

“But this doesn’t mean that just because Joseph Muscat gave us our rights, we are forever indebted to Labour. This was a betrayal and we are not in a sane situation. People demanded answers from their prime minister and instead he talked about civil rights.”

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Mr Pace works full time as an animal rights activist with the MSPCA and when he’s not advancing that cause, he whiles away at another – volunteering as a climate activist.

By his own admission, it is not in Mr Pace’s character to see injustice and allow it to go unaddressed.

“I’m not the kind of person to say ‘this needs to be done’ and then not be a part of the action that brings about that change,” he told Times of Malta.

“Realistically, we can’t expect politicians to do the right thing without telling them what needs to be done. This isn’t ideal, but I think this is just the stock of politicians we’ve been saddled with globally.”

Mr Pace says that while he did receive some negative feedback, even from within the LGBTIQ community, for his decision to speak out, overwhelmingly his actions were supported, particularly in private where people thanked him for speaking up about a divisive issue.

While tribalism would always rear its head in Maltese political discourse, Mr Pace says that it was important to keep having conversations that en-courage people to be critical of their politics.

“If we wanted to, Malta could be a beacon of progress,” Mr Pace says, “and we don’t need corruption to be progressive.”