Malta’s reputation for promoting LGBTIQ rights has sky rocketed for the past 10 years. For a country which has seen a rough past for people who are gay, bi-sexual or transgender, Malta has come a long way. The recent Gay Pride in Valletta just goes to show how powerful the message has been over the years.
The truth is Malta’s LGBTIQ movement still experience homophobic attacks till today. A couple of months ago, a transgender woman was allegedly assaulted whilst buying some pastizzi. The barbaric act received a backlash online, as the public jumped to the woman’s aid with comments of support pouring in.
We were lucky enough to speak to Malta’s transgender queen, model & activist Karly May! Our interview with Karly just goes to show what a real icon she is to the LGBTIQ scene. She has been supporting the cause through thick & thin, with her image serving as an icon to many around.
So, here’s how the interview went down:
Karly, what’s your full name?
Hi good morning! My full name is Karly May Naudi.
Thanks Karly! And what’s your occupation?
I am and HR Assistant as well as a part-time student reading a degree in Work and Human Resources at the University of Malta. Moreover, I do some modelling and am a brand ambassador for a few brands.
How would you describe yourself?
Ambitious, passionate and short-tempered.
Being transgender in Malta can be challenging sometimes as we live in a mixed society. What challenges do you face every day and how do you overcome them?
Most of the challenges I face are on par with those that cis-gender women face in a patriarchal society such as cat calling, unwanted advances and sexist remarks. Funnily enough recently while walking to a club a man cat called me and when he approached closely and didn’t like what he saw, or apparently realised that I am a transgender, said “never mind” in a very discerning manner. Other challenges have to do with perceptions of being a transgender women since I feel that we are still deeply fetishized. Also, we are still uncomfortable in certain places and that impacts important aspects of our lives such as career choices, education and relationships.
Self-love and affirmation are very important. Loving myself is a practice and it is something that I must cultivate, and it is something that I must consciously do, or it will go away. I think it’s important to be able to be like:
Yes, you’re really tall and people notice you, and that might make you noticeably trans, but that doesn’t make you any less beautiful. You’re not beautiful despite those things, you’re beautiful because of those things, and believing that must be an active conscious process.
There are obvious problems in Malta, especially with attacks we’ve heard of on transgender people in the past. How do you think Transphobia can be tackled better in Malta?
I think that first, we need to continue to make our institutions more friendly towards the LGBTIQ society. Most of the hate crimes are not reported because of fear of retaliation, being mocked or the feeling that nothing will come out of it. Our presence might prejudices and stereotypes still exist both on an individual level and institutionally. We need to make the institutions more diverse because I believe that through diversification, our institutions may become more perceptive of our struggles and would also make us more comfortable in coming forward.
Many Maltese still perceive being transgender or gay as a sin or mental illness. What message do you have for these people?
On the 25th of May of this year, The World Health Organization voted to remove being transgender from the list of mental illness. Having said that, I was shocked when I got to know that this step was only taken this year but better late than never. On the other hand, I recognise that there are people who still refuse scientific or rational thought on several levels. I come from a very religious family and I know that religious beliefs are very sensitive. Though I do not ascribe to any religion, a philosophy I try to live by is to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ In the new testament it is written that no commandment is greater than this.
We’ve just going through pride week in Malta. The beautiful rainbow colours took over the island, raising awareness all around. Do you have any messages for anyone who is afraid to attend such events because they fear being labelled?
While for most of us Pride is a day of celebrating the achievements of our community, there are still members of our community that, due to a number of reasons, do not feel comfortable in joining these festivities. If attending pride may result in the deterioration of one’s situation, I always advise to put one’s safety and wellbeing above anything esle. If the reason for not attending pride is that of being judged, I’ve learnt that people will judge you no matter what you do, and for a long time, I even kept myself back from being visible just for that reason. So, I invite encourage these people them to join us for the next pride and be visible for those who cannot.
For our last question Karly, we’d like to ask if you have any message you would like to relay to the general public in Malta.
Firstly, I want to thank all the people who have supported me throughout the years and the overwhelming positive response I have received since I embarked on the Karly May project. To those who still find it hard to accept us, I want to tell them that just because we are different it doesn’t mean that you should treat us differently because at the end, we are all human beings and we are all equal.