LGBT History Month - Malta
We're joining other countries in observing #LGBTHistoryMonth this February with a focus on #Malta. We hope to create awareness across all our communities to remember the struggles and people that paved the way for where we are today.
24 February 2021 at 23:00:00
In the autobiographical book of Joe Bugeja "Reminiscences of Childhood in Floriana: Malta in Peace and War 1930 - 1950" (2010) he dedicates a chapter on Childhood Experiences in Wartime and a sub-section of this chapter is given the title "Colourful Neighbours".
He mentions Patist (Baptist) the cobbler who used to spend days in and out sitting on the doorsteps of his humble abode. Besides being a shoe-repairer, hordes of people used to come to him, both old and young to hear his stories. Bugeja describes the scene:
17 February 2021 at 23:00:00
Robert (Bobbie) Papagiorcopulo was one of Malta's best female impersonators. He enjoyed playing the part of the diminutive Carmen Miranda. Decked in a skirt, a bra, a large hat topped with bananas, a Brazilian-style vest and castanets in hand, he tried his best to be as funny and zany as the great lady herself. He was especially fond of songs like "I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi, (I Love You Very Much)", "A Week-end in Havanna" and "Chica Chica Boom Chic".
13 February 2021 at 23:00:00
Although we may believe that our ancient human ancestors were very different from us, their fundamental physiological and psychological needs would have been quite similar.
This is gracefully expressed in the prehistoric miniature figure of the embracing couple which is exhibited at the National Museum of Archaeology.
10 February 2021 at 23:00:00
An exclusive look at a particular case of a 53-year old person being admitted to Mount Carmel Hospital (Malta's Mental Health Hospital) for 'Melancholia' (depression?) in 1931. The reason for his admission seems to be based on the fact that his son was imprisoned 3 months earlier for 'Sodomy'.
8 February 2021 at 19:30:00
Beats have a long history within gay communities. In years past when the vast majority of men who have sex with men (MSM) faced violence and ostracism, the confidentiality and access of beats made them the only space some people could use to get their rocks off. In the '60s and '70s - and probably long before - the beat scene exploded with men gathering in parks, toilet blocks, reserves, and any space they could find to get some good sex.
26 February 2021 at 23:00:00
In 'Strait Street: Secrets and stories from behind closed doors' by George Cini (2017), the author interivewed Ġużi Sutlana of the Cairo Bar in 2010 where he was 74 back then. His narrative goes as follows:
"Everybody knows me as Ġużi of the Cairo Bar. The bar belonged to my mother, RIta known as il-Ġinġrija because she was blonde. Mum ran away from home when she was about 18, maybe younger to start working in Strait Street. She started at the Victoria then moved to New Life, the Majestic and the Cinderella. But mainly she worked at the New Life Music Hall. At the time, women wore evening dresses when they hosted men at the bars."
23 February 2021 at 23:00:00
One person who faced a constant uphill struggle and went against all odds was Joanne Cassar.
After saving up, at the age of 22, she got the surgery done. Before going under the knife she was subjected to various hormone treatments and medical and psychiatric tests to ensure she was medically and psychologically prepared for this invasive surgery.
The surgery was successful and, following an excruciating recovery period of about six months, Ms Cassar filed a court application to have her gender changed to female on her birth certificate. Some nine months later the court upheld the request allowing her documents to truly reflect who she felt she was.
20 February 2021 at 23:00:00
Cookie (Carmel b. 1924) was born into a poor and very religious working class family. He was a relative of St. Ġorg Preca (his grandfather's brother). Cookie's father died at the age of 25 and his mother, Sylvia, remarried in 1933 to an English sailor whom she had met in the early 30s at the Klondyke where she worked as a barmaid.
12 February 2021 at 23:00:00
Carnival was chiefly "a celebration for male revelers". At Nadur, women wore male attire to take part in Maltese folk singing (għana). Some Carnival events still excluded women. Il-Parata, a sword dance held on Carnival Saturday, revives memories of Malta's struggle against (and victory over) the Ottoman Turks. Only young men and children were allowed to participate. Likewise, il-Kukkanja was only open to young men.
10 February 2021 at 17:30:00
Mock weddings have long been part and parcel of the gay subculture. In the UK, they were staged mostly at molly houses. They were often embroiled in controversy and scandal, with police hounding and arresting gay men.
But Rabat's mock weddings were part and parcel of mainstream Carnival revelry, attracting the interest and admiration of villagers and the participation of straight men. They were not a gay phenomenon. Few participants were (or were believed to be) homosexual. Still, they afforded men a unique opportunity live out their desire for glamour, defy gender roles and challenge the prevailing social and sexual order around the institution of marriage.
7 February 2021 at 17:00:00
One of the many reasons why Eileen Montesin is a queen, LGBTI icon and an ally is because she was one of the very first local tv producers, actors and directors to include an affirmative queer storyline in one of her TV shows "Undercover" which started in 1999 and ran until the early 2000s. Queer representation was close to Nil during those times in Malta.
1 February 2021 at 17:00:00
Prime Minister, together with Minister of Justice Dr Anton Buttigieg introduced the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill into parliament on 20 November 1972. He reintroduced the Bill on 2 January 1973 when he set out the government's proposed changes to the Code with respect to adultery and homosexuality. The Bill entered the committee stage on the 10 and 11 January 1973 and was read a third time on 29 January 1973 when parliament voted 28 in favour and twenty-six against the Bill.
25 February 2021 at 23:00:00
Perhaps not a direct LGBTQ history piece but a transgression of long standing gender-roles took place during the wartime in Malta: Women led the way in construction!
In Bugeja's memoir, he recounts how his widow grandmother had no pension or social benefits to fall onto and therefore had to find ways to make an income. Work was irregular, sometimes periodical, and sometimes seasonal.
22 February 2021 at 23:00:00
Joe Fountain gives a glimpse of what the Queer Nightlife was in the 1990s. Joe remembers how he and some friends began organising gay parties at a club in Xemxija called Natasha's. The first party had an attendance of around 30 people which by the third party alone had people waiting around the block to enter the famous Natasha's. "The popularity of the party grew by word of mouth. We organised so many parties, pantomimes and drag shows. Many people till this day tell me that those parties at Natasha's were the best thing that could have happened at the time." After a while Joe let go of Natasha's and left it in the hands of Stefan Aquilina to organise.
18 February 2021 at 23:00:00
Any LGBTIQ person that grows up in Malta is bound to grow up with teachings and values indoctrinated by the Catholic Church. Whilst some LGBTIQ persons decide to distance themselves from the Church because of the hurt it often inflicts by members of the clergy, other seek to resolve this internal conflict with wanting to belong to their faith without suppressing their sexuality.
It was in 2004 that Drachma was established for this very reason. Founded by Tyrone Grima, who is still active today, but also led by a number of activists like Mario Gerada and Diane Xuereb for many years.
3 February 2021 at 17:00:00
In various ways then, society recognised the age of eighteen as a watershed in young males' lives. Boys's abandonment of the passive role around this age, whether they continued to engage in sodomy as the dominant partner or not, marked like a symbolic and sometimes experiential rite of passage their entry into the sexual world of adult males.