Uni­ver­sity lec­turer could face pros­e­cu­tion over out­ing trans­gen­der pro­tes­tor

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Gabriel Schem­bri

Stephen Flo­rian, right, the Uni­ver­sity of Malta lec­turer who outed a trans­gen­der per­son yes­ter­day on Face­book, could be pros­e­cuted and face a fine of be­tween €1,000 and €5,000.

Mr Flo­rian, a high rank­ing mem­ber of Ghaqda Pa­tri­jotti Maltin, took to Face­book yes­ter­day to sin­gle out Alex Caru­ana, a trans­gen­der man who was one of three counter protesters against the so-called ‘pa­tri­ots’ who or­gan­ised a protest walk that took place last Sun­day.

Out­rage was ex­pressed far and wide yes­ter­day af­ter Mr Flo­rian took to the so­cial me­dia to give a gen­der his­tory of Caru­ana’s gen­der his­tory, an act that has been made il­le­gal fol­low­ing re­cent changes to the law.

Con­tacted yes­ter­day for its opin­ion on the mat­ter, a spokesper­son for Civil Lib­er­ties Min­is­ter He­lena Dalli, pointed out that Mr Flo­rian’s ac­tions could very well be pros­e­cutable.

The spokesper­son cited Ar­ti­cle 11 (1) from the Gen­der Iden­tity law which stip­u­lates, “Whoso­ever shall know­ingly ex­pose any per­son who has availed of the pro­vi­sions of this Act, or shall in­sult or re­vile a per­son, shall upon con­vic­tion be li­able to a fine of not less than one thou­sand euro (€1,000) and not ex­ceed­ing five thou­sand euro (€5,000).”

Ac­cord­ing to the spokesper­son, the Ar­ti­cle was in­ten­tion­ally in­cluded in the law to cover cases where “the ex­po­sure of the per­son’s sex­ual iden­tity is used to un­der­mine that per­son’s demo­cratic and civil rights that em­anate from this or any other law”.

This means that the uni­ver­sity lec­turer, who teaches at the Fac­ulty of Arts, could be li­able to pros­e­cu­tion.

Alex Caru­ana, who was one of the three peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in a counter protest against the so­called Mal­tese Pa­tri­ots, has be­come the lat­est tar­get for the far-right group, led by their ring­leader Henry Bat­tistino. The Face­book post which in­sti­gated a bar­rage of hate­ful re­marks was posted by Mr Flo­rian and shared on the pa­triot’s group.

Mr Flo­rian yes­ter­day wrote on his Face­book page: “The right to pray and our right to know the whole truth. Time to get to know who Alex Caru­ana is and was. This girl, who now calls her­self Alexander, was one of the three athe­ists who came to pho­to­bomb the protest.”

His post, which was ac­com­pa­nied by a photo of Alex with a friend from Movi­ment Graf­fiti, was in­un­dated with sex­ist and racist re­marks by the ‘pa­tri­ots’ sup­port­ers. Some even posted pho­tos of ho­mo­sex­u­als be­ing killed by be­ing thrown from a build­ing by Mus­lim ex­trem­ists, as well as man hav­ing his dread­locks (which Mr Caru­ana also has) be­ing force­fully re­moved.

Last Sun­day, Ghaqda Pa­tri­jotti Maltin or­gan­ised a protest March against the set­ting up of Mosques and to ex­press what they de­scribed as ‘sol­i­dar­ity’ with the peo­ple of Qawra and Bugibba. Alex Caru­ana, to­gether with two other counter pro­tes­tors went to the event car­ry­ing plac­ards preach­ing ‘Love is the an­swer’ and called on the Mal­tese to sup­port free­dom of re­li­gion.

“Ev­ery time I dis­agree with them, they fall back on the ar­gu­ment that I’m trans. It is as if one does not fall un­der their cat­e­gory – white, Mal­tese and Chris­tian – you don’t have the right to speak,” Mr Caru­ana said in com­ments to The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day.

Asked if these bul­ly­ing tac­tics had af­fected him per­son­ally, Alex Caru­ana said this would have af­fected him a year ago, when he was in his early stages of his transition. But he has now grown im­mune to such of­fences.

“I am strong now. But I might not have been able to be so re­sis­tant a year ago. Trans­sex­u­al­ity is a chal­leng­ing thing and there are oth­ers who are tran­si­tion­ing and are still weak. It is for them I am wor­ried,” Mr Caru­ana said.

Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion and Em­ploy­ment, Evarist Bar­tolo took to Face­book to con­demn the at­tack by the so-called ‘pa­tri­ots’ against Alex Caru­ana. “These at­tacks are ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able, all of this be­cause this stu­dent de­cided to favour re­spect to­wards other cul­tures and re­li­gions.”

He also added that the work of an ed­u­ca­tor is to civ­i­lize, and not to in­sti­gate ha­tred.

Mean­while, Chair­man of Al­ter­nat­tiva Demokratika Arnold Cas­sola de­scribed yes­ter­day’s so­cial me­dia in­ci­dent as a shame­less spread­ing of ha­tred. “Very wor­ry­ing for the fu­ture of the coun­try when com­ing from some­one who has had a sound cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional for­ma­tion,” he said in a Face­book post.

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