Gozitan initiative LGBTI+ Gozo have released some interesting data after running a survey for Gozitan queer residents. The survey consisted of 18 questions that covered key demographical issues faced by those who openly express their sexuality in on Malta’s sister island.
The survey was run online during August 2019, the main findings can be found below.
In total, 53 respondents were recorded to fill in the survey, with the average age of respondents being 31-years-old. The youngest sample was 17 and the eldest 59. The majority of respondents were those who identify within the male gender spectrum at 71.7% (38) with 15.1% (8) female, the remaining 13.2% (7) identify as either agender, trans or otherwise.
Upon further analysis, the average age that LGBT+ individuals in Gozo will ‘come out’ is 21 years of age.
Respondents reportedly took a further 3 years after ‘coming out’ to feel comfortable with being open about their sexuality entirely, with 60% (32) feeling comfortable within the first 2 years. This is an interesting piece of data to analyse, especially considering Gozo’s size.
A reported 69.8% of respondents stated that conditions in Gozo were worse than those in Malta for open LGBTQI+ residents, with Malta being perceived as a more open and diverse region with less of a tight-knit community than Gozo has – another interesting point again that reigns on the size of the island and its population.
Some participants even indicated that despite living ‘out of the closet’, they still do not feel comfortable being open about their sexuality in Gozo.
Could it be that perhaps Gozo’s queer community feel more comfortable when off the island, or is it more a case of participants being comfortable with their family and friends knowing their sexuality but not being comfortable with actively expressing their sexuality in their daily life?
In general, more than half (56.6%) of the respondents considered being open about their sexuality to be difficult, with 25% feeling neutral and 19.4% saying it wasn’t difficult for them at all.
The main barriers cited by those who had mentioned the difficulty are things like living in a closed and small community and, traditional in nature, upbringings marked by religious beliefs or rules. Such conditions are believed to support stigmatisation of LGBTQI+ individuals and are proven to assist in the promotion of discrimination.
The results have shown that there is still a tendency in Gozo to provoke individuals of the LGBTQI+ population with questions that are aimed to humiliate them or to use derogatory terms, especially towards effeminate men.
Furthermore, some individuals find barriers within their own family, mainly related to not being comfortable with discussing their sexuality with family members. This is partially due to trying not to hurt their family members, by being labeled as ‘different’.
The latter connotes an air of mystery, but it is widely recognised by the majority of the community that relatives of respondents tend to be embarrassed when questioned by others about their current relationship status.
All in all, the results of this survey provide a great deal of insight into the lives of LGBTQI+ residents of Gozo, something sometimes overshadowed by Malta’s own reports.
While it is important for the country as a whole to keep an eye on statistics like this for the sake of all wellbeing, it is still worth noting that lifestyles in Malta and Gozo are a stark contrast from each other. With Gozo being perceived as more of a ‘laidback’ region and Malta more of an upbeat, cosmopolitan island, do these results come as a shock to you?
Some respondents left personal statements at the end of the their replies, with one telling of how “it was more difficult 10 years ago.”
“I think it’s the mentality, and the looks. My mother asked me not to be open so that not everyone would find out. I was also afraid I would be shunned by my family and friends.”
This single quote is something we all could do with understanding a little further: it sums up where we were, not some 10/20 years ago, and where we are heading in the future.
With Malta Pride 2019 now in full swing, perhaps it’s time that those in attendance take a glance to their sides and notice every ally in the circle of celebration. Lend a shoulder, reach a hand, crack a smile – you never know who might need one; of any sexual identity, orientation and expression.