Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Metro Weekly: Transgender Breakthrough

EEOC ruling that gender-identity discrimination is covered by Title VII is a ''sea change'' that opens the doors to employment protection for transgender Americans

By Chris Geidner
Published on April 23, 2012, 10:38pm | Comments

An employer who discriminates against an employee or applicant on the basis of the person's gender identity is violating the prohibition on sex discrimination contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to an opinion issued on April 20 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The opinion, experts say, could dramatically alter the legal landscape for transgender workers across the nation.

The opinion came in a decision delivered on Monday, April 23, to lawyers for Mia Macy, a transgender woman who claims she was denied employment with the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after the agency learned of her transition. It also comes on the heels of a growing number of federal appellate and trial courts deciding that gender-identity discrimination constitutes sex discrimination, whether based on Title VII or the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

The EEOC decision, issued without objection by the five-member, bipartisan commission, will apply to all EEOC enforcement and litigation activities at the commission and in its 53 field offices throughout the country. It also will be binding on all federal agencies and departments.

In the decision, the EEOC states, ''[T]he Commission hereby clarifies that claims of discrimination based on transgender status, also referred to as claims of discrimination based on gender identity, are cognizable under Title VII's sex discrimination prohibition ....''

Masen Davis, head of the Transgender Law Center (TLC), says the decision is a ''big leap forward.'' TLC advocates, who brought Macy's case, note that after today's ruling transgender people who feel they have faced employment discrimination can go into any of those 53 offices and the EEOC will consider their claims. What's more, the EEOC could take action itself to sue the employer for discrimination.

''Given the incredibly high rate of employment discrimination facing transgender people, this is incredibly significant for us. Data from the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 78 percent of transgender Americans say they've experienced workplace discrimination at some point in time,'' Davis tells Metro Weekly. ''Given that transgender people do not have employment protections in the vast majority of states, this creates a whole new fabric of legal support for our community.''

Macy says that the discrimination she faced after having gone through the background check for a job as a ballistics technician was abrupt. She had applied as a man before transitioning and she says, ''Within three days after my background [check] was completed and they alerted the lab that Mia would be coming to work, I was notified that the position was no longer available — even though I was certified and trained for the job.''

She later found out that another person had been hired for the position.

Macy says that before she even knew about the other person being hired, she ''didn't think something was right'' and contacted the Transgender Law Center, which took her case. Davis says Macy's case was an obvious one to pursue.

''We hear from 1,500 people a year who are experiencing discrimination, and our attorneys work every day to help out everyone who calls and make sure they have the legal information and support they need to be successful. Sometimes we hear from people who have suffered such egregious discrimination that we have to put every resource into righting a wrong,'' he says. ''And, in this case, we heard from Mia Macy, who was so clearly discriminated against — somebody who had been so clearly qualified for a job that she had every right ... and we had every responsibility to bring this case forward.''

TLC filed a formal complaint on behalf of Macy with the Office of Equal Opportunity (EO) of the ATF, which is responsible for handling internal complaints of discrimination within the ATF. Among the claims was one that Macy was discriminated against under Title VII because of her gender identity.

According to Macy's TLC attorney, Matt Wood, ''in October [2011], [the EO] responded to that filing by letting us know that the EEO process was not available to her because they did not view, in their mind, that Title VII applied to transgender employees.'' In a series of letters between ATF and Wood the issues underlying Macy's claim were disputed, but Wood says that, eventually, ''We appealed to the EEOC, and that was in December of last year, asking for them to clarify the law.''

THE LAW: In 1974, Ramona Holloway — initially hired as Robert — was fired after telling her employer, Arthur Andersen and Company, that she was taking hormones and intended to transition.

In a lawsuit challenging that firing, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit noted that, after the disclosure of Holloway's intended transition, ''an official of the company suggested that appellant would be happier at a new job where her transsexualism would be unknown.'' Soon thereafter, when she did not leave the company after asking that her name be changed in the company's records, she was fired.

When the Ninth Circuit looked at Title VII, including the amendments to it contained in the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, the court concluded that ''the provisions were intended to place women on an equal footing with men.'' In light of this, the court dismissed Holloway's claim because, as the court held, ''Giving the statute its plain meaning, this court concludes that Congress had only the traditional notions of 'sex' in mind.''

Although claims of transgender discrimination were treated with ''disdain'' in those early days of Title VII interpretation, as National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter puts it, two Supreme Court cases that followed dramatically changed the views of lower courts on the issue.

In the first, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the Supreme Court in 1989 addressed the claim brought by Ann Hopkins, who sued for sex discrimination because she was not offered a partnership at the accounting firm. Her chances would be improved in the future, she had been told, if she ''[w]ould 'walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry.''' Describing Title VII, the court noted the words in the statute prohibiting sex discrimination and concluded, ''We take these words to mean that gender must be irrelevant to employment decisions.''

In the second, Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., the Supreme Court considered the case of Joseph Oncale, a man who worked on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico and was ''forcibly subjected to sex-related, humiliating actions against him'' by members of the eight-man crew, ''physically assaulted ... in a sexual manner'' and threatened with rape. Noting that male-on-male sexual harassment was ''assuredly'' not the aim of Congress when passing Title VII, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that ''statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed.''

Although neither was directly on point, the Price Waterhouse conclusion that sex discrimination includes protection of those who are gender nonconforming and the Oncale conclusion that Title VII's protections do expand, within the text of the law, to areas not considered when the law was passed opened up the pathway to a reversal of those 1970s and 1980s decisions.

Assessing the landscape, Minter contrasts the early cases to the more recent cases, saying, ''It was really so clear when you read those decisions that they were simply based on disdain for transgender people, and it has been very encouraging over the past 10 to 15 years to see the courts changing that, to see that trend reversing itself.''

Ilona Turner, the legal director at TLC, concurs, telling Metro Weekly, ''The very strong, very clear trend by all of the federal courts that have heard this kind of case in recent years has been to hold that Title VII's sex-discrimination prohibition protects transgender people.''

When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 2004 heard the case of Jimmie Smith, a lieutenant in the Salem Fire Department in Ohio who claimed he was suspended in retaliation for hiring counsel after officials learned of Smith's plans to transition, it applied Price Waterhouse to Smith's claim. ''[D]iscrimination against a plaintiff who is a transsexual — and therefore fails to act and/or identify with his or her gender — is no different from the discrimination directed against Ann Hopkins in Price Waterhouse, who, in sex-stereotypical terms, did not act like a woman,'' the three-judge panel held.

This past December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn — a transgender woman fired from her job as an editor with the Georgia General Assembly's Office of Legislative Counsel because her boss, among other things, said her transition was ''unnatural'' — was discriminated against on the basis of sex because of anti-transgender treatment.

Applying other courts' Title VII analysis to Glenn's claim brought under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, the three-judge panel held, ''We conclude that a government agent violates the Equal Protection Clause's prohibition of sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a transgender or transsexual employee because of his or her gender non-conformity.''

Appeals courts in San Francisco, Boston and D.C. have reached similar conclusions.

THE EEOC: Less than two months before the 11th Circuit's opinion in Glenn's case, the EEOC had put down a marker on its view of the question in a little-noted filing by the commission's general counsel in a trial-court case involving Freedom Buick GMC Truck in Midland, Texas.

In the case, in which Alex Pacheco had been fired from her job as a receptionist at the dealership shortly after she had begun taking hormones and disclosing that she wished to begin presenting as a female at work, the EEOC filed a motion Oct. 17, 2011, asking the court to allow it to file an amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court brief. The EEOC regularly files such briefs to inform courts about its views on the state of the law.

As Minter says, ''The EEOC is the administrative agency that is charged with interpreting Title VII and other nondiscrimination statutes, and the federal courts give a lot of deference to EEOC's interpretation of the statute. They're not strictly bound by it, but an EEOC ruling does get a lot of deference.''

In Pacheco's case, the EEOC had sought to file a brief stating, ''In Price Waterhouse, the Supreme Court recognized that Title VII's prohibition of discrimination 'because of … sex' means 'that gender must be irrelevant to employment decisions.''' It went on to note the ''discrimination based on a failure to conform to stereotypical gender norms'' is thus prohibited and concluding that ''if an employer were to take an adverse employment action because an employee's gender identity is not consistent with the employee's biological sex, the employer would be discriminating 'because of … sex.'''

In an appellate court, the EEOC would have the right to file an amicus brief without obtaining court permission, but, at the trial-court level, it must seek court approval to do so. In Pacheco's case, the EEOC filed a motion asking the court to let it file an amicus brief in the case — but also attached the brief that it would be submitting in the case as an exhibit to the motion. Here, the judge denied the EEOC's request as moot on Nov. 1, 2011, because the judge decided days earlier, on Oct. 28, 2011, that Freedom Buick GMC Truck's motion to have the case decided in its favor before trial was denied.

On March 23, the court in Texas closed Pacheco's case because earlier that day the court had received notice that Freedom Buick GMC Truck had reached a settlement with Pacheco.

But, the brief was submitted on the EEOC's behalf, and though little noted at the time — likely since it was never accepted by the court — the October filing was given new life on a far more broad level today with the EEOC's ruling in Macy's case.

In the decision in her case, none of the five commissioners — which include two Republican members — objected to the conclusion that gender-identity discrimination is sex discrimination actionable under Title VII. Because the case is an appeal from the ATF EO decision, the case was considered by the Office of Federal Operations within the EEOC and then presented to the full commission for its consideration.

In the decision, which is signed by the executive secretary for the commission — a procedural move that those familiar with EEOC process say means the decision is binding on all federal agencies — the commission considers first whether the case has properly come before it for review and then, because of ATF's conclusion that Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination does not include transgender discrimination, whether it has jurisdiction over the case.

In today's opinion, the EEOC concludes that the case is properly before it and that, consistent with the overwhelming trend of federal courts, the ATF conclusion was incorrect.

''When an employer discriminates against someone because the person is transgender, the employer has engaged in disparate treatment related to the sex of the victim,'' the decision states. ''This is true regardless of whether an employer discriminates against an employee because the individual has expressed his or her gender in a non-stereotypical fashion, because the employer is uncomfortable with the fact that the person has transitioned or is in the process of transitioning from one gender to another, or because the employer simply does not like that the person is identifying as a transgender person.''

The case has now been sent back to the ATF for consideration in light of the EEOC decision, but either the agency or Macy now have 30 days to ask the commission to reconsider its decision.

THE IMPLICATIONS: Minter, who has been working for LGBT legal equality since law school in the early 1990s, says, ''This is huge. This is a real sea change.

''To have just a clear, definitive EEOC ruling that Title VII protects transgender people gives us so much more certainty and security and solid, reliable legal protection. For decades now, advocates and scholars both have been saying Title VII should be applied to protect transgender people,'' he says. ''And now, to have the EEOC confirm that, 'Yes ... Title VII should and does protect transgender people when they're discriminated against because they've changed their sex or intend to change their sex or because they're gender nonconforming. That is sex discrimination.' That is really an important capstone.''

Davis, the head of the Transgender Law Center, says the decision is a ''big leap forward in the journey to equality.'' Explaining, he says, ''It is the game-changer, asserting that transgender people can bring claims at EEOC offices across the country.''

Throughout the 53 district offices of the EEOC, investigators will now accept claims brought by transgender people, and — though the EEOC process means it could take some time — the EEOC's legal staff can bring lawsuits against employers the agency has determined have discriminated against transgender employees or job applicants.

Another impact, Davis says, is on Macy, and the fact that today's decision, while significant, doesn't mean her case is over. The decision only sends Macy's case back to the ATF Office of Equal Opportunity for resolution. ''We need to make sure that Mia is able to have her case dealt with fairly, and we're confident in a positive decision from the ATF,'' Davis says.

Minter notes that the decision will, in his view, quickly have application outside of the case, the EEOC and the courts, noting: ''It sends a really strong message to all employers and I think will have a dramatic impact on business culture. This has such a strong legitimating impact in many different arenas.''

One of those potentially impacted arenas is the political one, where President Obama has faced criticism for nearly the past two weeks since his decision, announced April 11, not to pursue an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Although White House press secretary Jay Carney has repeatedly pointed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as the path forward for workplace protections, that bill is stalled in a Republican-led House that opposes it and a Democratic-led Senate that hasn't even held a hearing on the measure during this Congress.

Both Davis and Minter say that the EEOC's decision doesn't reduce the need for ENDA — particularly as the decision has no impact on sexual-orientation discrimination — but Minter acknowledges, at least as to gender identity, that this decision could shift the ground somewhat.

''It would still be important to have specific federal protection, but having protection by an EEOC ruling — which is consistent with the trend of federal courts — that is very significant, that's very strong protection,'' he says. ''Title VII is a very protective statute, and transgender people being able to rely on that statute now is transformative.''

The EEOC's decision, though given significant deference by federal courts, could be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, which — though unlikely following Price Waterhouse and Oncale — is a possibility that will lead advocates like Minter to continue to push for gender-identity-specific protection, as well as sexual-orientation protection, in legislation like ENDA.

Today's decision also could make the signing of the executive order and the passage of ENDA easier if the gender-identity provision in those items would be seen as buttressing existing Title VII protections because of the fact that, as ENDA lead sponsor Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said at the end of the 111th Congress in 2010, the gender identity provision had been the provision about which more education was needed before enough members would be willing to support it.

For today, though, transgender advocates are focused on the EEOC decision, itself a breakthrough.

Turner, TLC's legal director, says, ''Discrimination against transgender people in the workplace remains at unacceptably high levels, but we're hopeful that with a positive ruling from the EEOC, transgender people across the country will now know that they are in fact protected by federal law if they're denied a job or fired just because of who they are. And that's a really big deal.''

Macy, hopeful even a year into this fight to do the job that she'd been trained to do, breaks it down even further.

''It's one more piece in the puzzle of equality. It's kinda hokey, but it is,'' she says. ''It's one more locking little piece in that puzzle.''

Times: Lesbian girl’s nose broken
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A doctor who examined a teenage lesbian couple said that one of them suffered a fractured nose in an argument with two teenage boys but the injuries were not serious.

The doctor, Phillipa Ergyu, took the witness stand in the case in which the couple, aged 15 and 16, allege they were attacked in January by two brothers, aged 15 and 17, who called them names.

The boys were arraigned along with a 35-year-old woman who allegedly got involved in the fight despite not being connected to the boys.

The girls too were arraigned and accused of slightly injuring the boys.

Dr Ergyu said that the injuries suffered by the 15-year-old were not serious and would heal.

In the previous sitting, a friend of the couple said that one of the girls had been head-butted by one of the boys.

The case continues.

Lawyers Michael and Lucio Sciriha appeared for the boys and the 35-year-old woman.

Lawyer Cedric Mifsud appeared for the two girls.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

MGRM: Marriage Equality Campaign - Get Involved!

Celebrating 11 years of work towards LGBT Equality in Malta
2001 - 2012
Malta Gay Rights Movement
April '12                      
Malta Gay Rights Movement 
32, Parish Street, Mosta, MST 2021
 Tel 21 430 009 - Mob 9925 5559 -

Marriage Equality Campaign - Get Involved!

While the government has promised to table a civil partnership bill this is unlikely to include more than basic rights and obligations. Civil marriage for same sex couples will only be achieved if we are prepared to ask for it. Get involved by sending the letter below to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi ( and the Minister for Justice, Dialogue and the Family Chris Said ( asking for the introduction of civil marriage. This is the surest way to achieve equality for same-sex couples. Show them that marriage matters!

The template below is just a guide. The most effective letters are those that tell your own personal story. Whether you're gay, a parent of a gay child, a friend or a gay parent your story is unique and important. We encourage you to explain what it would mean to you if same-sex couples were allowed to marry. 

Dear Prime Minister/Minister,

I would like to take this opportunity to express my strong support for the introduction of marriage equality that would extend the right of civil marriage to same sex couples. 

The denial of marriage equality hurts not just same sex couples but also family members and any children they care for. While cohabitation or registered partnerships may grant some rights and protections to such families there is no substitute for marriage. No legal mechanism for protecting families is as widely accepted and as far reaching as marriage. Denying access to marriage to same sex couples discriminates against them and relegates them to second class citizenship.

Marriage equality hurts no one. It is not a threat to society, nor does it negatively affect marriage between opposite sex couples. It only serves to validate the love and commitment of same sex couples and their families and sends a clear signal that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not acceptable in any sphere.


Other things you can do:

(i)                 Meet with your local MP’s and discuss with them the importance of marriage equality.
(ii)               Hold a Wedding Breakfast to help raise funds for MGRM’s Marriage Equality Campaign – for more information see
(iii)             Share this with your friends and family and encourage them to join the campaign.
Thank you for your support

Euro News: Diversity and discrimination at work

16/04 13:41 CET

Click on the hyperlink above to watch the video.

Diversity is important to companies. It’s a source of creativity  and innovation. It recognises that different points of view are important in a growing multi-cultural world. Studies show that this idea is gaining momentum around Europe, but studies also show that discrimination is still widespread in the work place.
Euronews spoke to a man who, between 1993 and 2004, was a victim of discrimination in France. Because of what happened he wants to remain anonymous; we’ll call him Marc.
He said: “I was met with great hostility because of my homosexuality. You would come back from lunch and on your desktop would be a note reading ‘Death to the faggot’ or ‘Dirty faggot’. You’re working and you receive anonymous phone calls – death threats. And you’re put down all the time, given the worst jobs and you can, as happened with me, end up for months and months in a room, completely isolated, without being given any work, without seeing anyone.”
In 2000, two EU directives were introduced, they provided a legal framework to fight against discrimination at work.
These guidelines recognised Marc’s sexuality and gave him the legal rights to protect himself.
“Europe showed that homosexuals had the right to respect too. Europe allowed us to defend ourselves in the workplace. I learned very quickly and I used what I had learned,” Marc added.
After a long, hard fight, Marc won the battle against his tormentors. They were demoted and he received compensation.
Anne Devineaux, reporting on this story for euronews, explains: “The European Union has one set up of the most advanced legal systems in the fight against discrimination. In each country there is an independent public agency that is responsible for promoting equal opportunities.”
These organisations are based on the EU directive introduced in 2000. Their role is to help enforce anti-discrimination law. They are now part of a network called Equinet.
At its head is Jozef De Witte, who also runs the Centre for Equal Opportunity in Belgium.
He said: “First we have to make clear to people that they have a fundamental right not to be discriminated against. And that they can address, if they have a discrimination problem, a public body like the Equality body, to find a solution. We can start an investigation on a case, we can talk with all the partners, with the other party for example, who committed the discrimination, to stop the discrimination, to look for some compensation for the victim and to make sure the discrimination does not take place. “
Legal protection has been introduced in the European Union – there are at least six areas concerning discrimination including ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, and religion.
Despite the legal protection, proving discrimination on any of these grounds is often difficult.
Yacouba Barry from Burkina Faso is a French citizen. He passed the exam to become a school head master. He was very successful and so between 2007 and 2009 completed further training as a deputy head in a college near Paris. There he encountered racial discrimination from the head.
“As soon as she saw me, her first words were ‘What are you doing? I don’t want you here, I will do anything to get rid of you.’ It was like that for two years. She constantly humiliated and persecuted me,” said Yacouba Barry.
Despite documented evidence of his competency and the support of his colleagues, he was denied the right to be a college principal.
“The education system is among the institutions that does most in the fight against all forms of discrimination, but in the field there is sometimes a big gap between the laws and how they’re implemented,” he said.
Yacouba Barry is currently waiting for his case to be heard in an administrative court. “I’m waiting for justice, until then I’m suffering,” he said.
“Being refused just for what you are and not for what you do is very difficult. And so quite a lot of people are not wanting to address the situation of discrimination because they feel so offended and so vulnerable that it is a difficult case to empower those people to bring a case to a equality body, even to bring to bring a case before a court,” said Jozef De Witte.
Anne Devineaux of euronews, said: “Fighting discrimination encourages the development of diversity policies in companies. Diversity charters have been introduced in most parts of Europe. By signing, companies agree to promote equal opportunities.”
For over 30 years Myrtha Casanova fought for diversity in the workplace. She founded the European Institute for Managing Diversity in Spain, an NGO that promotes the benefits of diversity throughout Europe.
Over a decade ago the institute conducted some research into discrimination and found there was a large gap between northern and southern European countries.
“In the year 2000, when we did our first research on diversity in Europe, one of the stunning results was on the attitude and performance in diversity inclusion. In the northern countries 20 percent of companies were engaged in diversity inclusion, whereas in the southern part of Europe, there was only awareness of one per 1,000,” said Myrtha Casanova.
She says since then things have improved. More and more countries and companies are raising awareness and diversity charters are increasing.
“The diversity charter is a very successful tool in the creation of awareness because it is a voluntary commitment that companies assume, the reality is that when a charter has many signatories in a country these companies exchange their best practices, they learn from each other and the movement starts and diversity policies are being implemented,” Myrtha Casanova added.
France is the first European country to have adopted a charter for diversity. Among the signatories is the national railway company SNCF. Its staff and recruiters now receive training on the subject. A specific job was introduced to promote equal opportunities.
Claude Mwangelu, Head of Diversity at SNCF, told euronews: “I don’t think that companies today engage in such policies to protect their image. No, diversity is now considered to be truly worth while. We introduced an inclusive policy that allows everyone to be recognised, to be valued, and be accepted, with their contributions, with their differences and with their uniqueness.”
The company has to make extra efforts to adapt the workplace for disabled people. Something which has for Pierre Vautrin, who manages train schedules and is responsible for leading a team of nine people.
He said: “We have to find a role where we can be as independent as possible. We can add different perspectives. As a disabled man, my way of thinking can bring something different to my colleagues. I really enjoy my job. Everything is going great and I’m happy.
Defending diversity is imperative for businesses today and in the future as people celebrate difference.

Malta Today: IVF, cohabitation laws awaiting Cabinet’s blessing
Monday 16 April 2012 - 14:59

Chris Said: public consultation on cohabitation law will start following approval of the Cabinet and the PN’s parliamentary group.

 The justice minister has said new cohabitation laws will be limited to establishing “basic rights and obligations entailed in a civil partnership” even for same-sex couples. James Debono 

Pending legislation regulating cohabitation and in vitro fertilisation has been finalised and will be shortly discussed by the Cabinet and will "definitely" be approved before the next general election.
In an interview with MaltaToday, Justice Minister Chris Said confirmed that the draft law on cohabitation which was first proposed by the Nationalist Party in 1998 but never enacted, will include a legal framework for civil partnerships for same sex partners.

Independent: How much should sex matter?
by Agata Sagan, Peter Singer

Jenna Talackova reached the finals of Miss Universe Canada last month, before being disqualified because she was not a “natural born” female. The tall, beautiful blonde told the media that she had considered herself a female since she was four years old, had begun hormone treatment at 14, and had sex reassignment surgery at 19. Her disqualification raises the question of what it really means to be a “Miss.”
A question of broader significance was raised by the case of an eight-year-old Los Angeles child who is anatomically female, but dresses as, and wants to be considered, a boy. His mother tried unsuccessfully to enrol him in a private school as a boy. Is it really essential that every human being be labelled “male” or “female” in accordance with his or her biological sex?

Times: Get Over It!

At the moment, London buses are going around sporting an advert with the words ‘Some people are gay. Get Over It.’  
The people behind this campaign are lobbying for gay marriage and more equal rights, but as liberating as this is, in the same forward-looking, super-tolerant city that is London, you can still find organisations like CORE.
CORE is a non-profit Christian organisation which believes that gay people can be ‘cured’.

Times: Blotting paper, oasis seekers and wily contestants

A series of surveys shows that Joseph Muscat’s vote of no confidence in PBS stations is countered by a massive vote of confidence by the audiences
- Fr Joe Borg
Muscat’s statement puts him on the right side of the complex debate about media and their audiences. Research in the first half of the 20th century considered the audiences to be like blotting paper – absorbing everything that media producers were pleased to dish out.
Research showed that things were not so simple. Audiences were made of sterner stuff than blotting paper. They tended to choose what they want to read, listen or watch. Like oasis seekers in the desert, audiences turned to the media products they thirsted for.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Malta Star: Miss Universe Organization to allow transgender women to compete
Tuesday, 10 Apr 2012, 19:47

The Miss Universe Organization announced today that it will begin allowing transgender women to compete in its annual beauty pageants starting next year.

The decision, which follows last week's ruling to allow booted Miss Universe Canada contestant Jenna Talackova to rejoin the pageant, was the "result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD," Miss Universe president Paula Shugart said in a statement. "We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously."

Times: Miss Universe contest open to trans models -

Campaign by Canadian sex-change womanreverses Donald Trump’s long-standing policy
Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jenna Talackova 23, underwent her sex change operation when she was 19 and is identified on her Canadian passport as a woman.

Jenna Talackova 23, underwent her sex change operation when she was 19 and is identified on her Canadian passport as a woman.

Donald Trump’s Miss Universe contest threw open its doors to transgender models, allowing men who have had a sex change the chance to be crowned the world’s most beautiful woman.

Times: After five sittings court hears of headbutt in ‘attack’ on lesbians
Thursday, April 12, 2012 by Waylon Johnston

One of the girls sustained a facial injury allegedly caused in the fight.
One of the girls sustained a facial injury allegedly caused in the fight
Mocking two lesbians, a 17-year-old boy headbutted one of them and said he had no qualms hitting a girl, a court heard yesterday.

Details of the incident that occurred last January in Ħamrun began emerging yesterday in the fifth sitting of the case that had to be put off four times for different reasons.

The evidence heard so far suggests that the incident started with name-calling and then turned nasty when the teenager headbutted the girl, 15.

The girl and her 16-year-old friend allege that they were attacked by two brothers, aged 15 and 17, who called them names.

The boys were arraigned along with a 35-year-old woman who allegedly got involved in the fight despite not being connected to the boys.

The girls too were arraigned and accused of slightly injuring the boys.
Two friends of the lesbian couple, a 16 and 14-year-old, both of Ħamrun, said they were inside a gazebo in a public garden dancing in front of the girls to music being played on a mobile phone.

They were larking about when, all of a sudden, the two brothers and an older woman who were on a balcony overlooking the area started making fun of them, one of the boys calling them lesbians.

The older of the two girls involved in the incident shouted "pufta", the two boys rushed downstairs and an argument ensued. The younger one waved his hand in front of one of the girls while his brother pushed the other.

The elder boy said he had no problem hitting girls and then headbutted one of them. The two girls and the 17-year-old then started fighting and fell down a number of steps on top of one another.

The case continues.

Lawyers Michael and Lucio Sciriha appeared for the boys and the 35-year-old woman. Lawyer Cedric Mifsud appeared for the two girls.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times'website.]

Independent: A queer body of art
8 April 2012 by Erika Brincat 

Despite some progress in our mentality as a whole, as a nation we undoubtedly still have some prejudices with regards different expressions of sexuality, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. It may have become more socially acceptable to be gay, yet discrimination and occasional abuse aren't unheard of. So an exhibition aimed at breaking down fears and boundaries when it comes to the words 'sexuality' and 'queer' is definitely intriguing and one which deserves our attention

L-Orizzont: L-“inċident tal-lesbjani” fil-Ħamrun - Xhud tgħid li tfajla minnhom qalgħet daqqa ta’ ras'Ahbarijiet'&ID2=88954
11.4.2012 (?)

Erba' tfajliet ilbieraħ irrakkontaw fil-Qorti tal-Maġistrat x'raw u x'semgħu fl-inċident fil-Ħamrun li fih żewġ tfajliet lesbjani kellhom xi jgħidu ma' żewġ ġuvintur u omm wieħed minnhom. Skont waħda mix-xhieda, waħda mil-lesbjani qalgħet daqqa ta' ras mingħand wieħed mill-ġuvintur.

Tnejn mit-tfajliet li xehdu huma ħbieb tat-tfajliet involuti fl-inċident, oħra tiġi l-maħbuba ta' wieħed mill-ġuvintur, u l-oħra z-zija tal-ieħor. Xeh det ukoll omm waħda miż-żewġ tfajliet akkużati, li anke esebiet ritratti tal-ġrieħi li ġarrbet minnha, u tabib li ċċertifika l-ġrieħi li sofriet waħda mit-tfajliet.

Iż-żewġ tfajliet akkużati għandhom 17-il sena waqt li l-ġuvintur għandhom 19 u 17-il sena, bl-omm għandha 35 sena.

L-ewwel ma xehdet kienet tfajla ta' 16-il sena li spjegat kif hija u ħabiba tagħhom kienu qegħdin jiżfnu ħdejn 'gazebo' fil-Ħamrun waqt li ż-żewġ tfajliet akkużati, li huma ħbieb tagħhom, kienu bilqiegħda.

F'gallarija viċin kien hemm żewġ ġuvintur, żewġ tfajliet u mara, li bdew iwaqqgħuhom għaċ-ċajt u wieħed minnhom għajjar liż-żewġ tfajliet akkużati "lesbjani" b'waħda minnhom tirrispondih lura bil-frażi "pufta".

Kien f'dan il-ħin li l-ġuvni niżel isfel u qal lil dik li għajritu li huwa ma jiddejjaq xejn jagħti lil xi mara u li kien lest idaħħak biha. Imbagħad mar fuq tfajla oħra u għamel idejh ma' wiċċha u anke mbotta lit-tfajla akkużata l-oħra. Hawn reġgħet daħlet dik li għajritu u t-tnejn li huma ġew fl-idejn fejn anke waqgħu t-taraġ.
Skont ix-xhud, waħda mill-akkużati kellha wiċċu kollu demm waqt li l-oħra weġġgħet f'sieqha. Imbagħad ġew il-pulizija u hija telqet minn fuq il-post.
Xehdet ukoll tfajla ta' 14-il sena li wkoll hija ħabiba taż-żewġ akkużati tfajliet u li dak il-ħin kienet magħhom. Hija wkoll qalet li wieħed mill-ġuvintur akkużati għajjar lit-tfajliet "lesbjani" u dik li għajritu "pufta" qaltlu li mill-gallarija kien qed jagħmel l-arja.

Bħat-tfajla l-oħra hija rrakkontat kif il-ġuvni niżel isfel u waqt li qal li ma jiddejjaqx jerfa' jdejh fuq mara, sostniet li ta daqqa bir-ras lit-tfajla li kellu xi jgħid magħha waqt li l-ieħor imbottaha.

Tfajla oħra li xehdet, u li għandha 15-il sena, kienet bint l-omm u allura oħt wieħed miż-żewġ ġuvintur. It-tfajla, li qiegħda f'relazzjoni mal-ġuvni l-ieħor, irrakkuntat li kienet fil-gallarija u għalkemm ma tafx min beda jgħajjar lil min sostniet li semgħet leħen ta' ġuvni jgħid "lesbjani" u leħen ta' tfajla tgħid "pufta".
Imbagħad daħlet ġewwa biex tinħasel u x'ħin ħarġet mill-kamra tal-banju u marret ħdejn il-gallarija rat lill-maħbub tagħha jiġġieled ma' waħda mit-tfajliet għalkemm ftit tas-sekondi wara qalet li ma ratux jiġġieled.

Ir-raba' tfajla li xehdet, u li għandha 19-il sena, tiġi oħt ir-raġel tal-mara akkużata fejn qalet li kienet fil-kċina u ħarġet tpejjep fil-gallarija imma ma rat xejn imbagħad reġgħet daħlet sakemm semgħet l-istorbju u meta ħarġet għal darb'oħra fil-gallarija rat lil wieħed mill-ġuvintur jiġġieled ma' tfajla.
Omm it-tfajla li allegatament għajret lil wieħed mill-ġuvintur, li toqgħod Pembroke, xehdet li dakinahr bintha ċemplitilha u talbitha tmur għaliha. Hija marret fuq il-post u sabtiha tibki u b'wiċċha minfuħ.

Hija qalet li l-pulizija qalulha biex teħodha ċ-ċentru tas-saħħa tal-Floriana u minn hemm it-tabib li raha qalilha biex teħodha l-Isptar Mater Dei għax seta kellha ksur f'imneħirha. L-omm xehdet li hija ħadet xi ritratti ta' wiċċ bintha u fil-fatt ilbieraħ esibithom fl-awla.

Xhud ieħor kien it-Tabib Carlo Refalo li jaħdem fl-Isptar Mater Dei u kien hu li eżamina lil din it-tfajla. Huwa qal li hija kellha grif f'wiċċha, nefħa fuq ħaddejha u oħra f'imneħirha.

Ta' min isemmi li qabel ma bdiet il-kawża l-Maġistrat Joseph Apap Bologna widdeb lill-omm li hija akkużata f'dan il-każ talli fis-seduta ta' qabel ma dehritx u talli f'dik tal-bieraħ mhux biss waslet tard imma ma ġabitx iċ-ċertifikat tal-mard. Huwa widdibha li darb'oħra kien se jsibha ħatja ta' disprezz.
Il-każ se jkompli jinstema fit-12 ta' April li ġej.

Il-prosekuzzjoni kontra l-ħames akkużati qed titmexxa mis-Supretendent Carmelo Magri waqt li l-Avukat Cedric Mifsud qiegħed jiddefendi lit-tfajliet u l-Avukati Michael Sciriha u ibnu Lucio Sciriha qegħdin jidhru għaż-żewġ ġuvintur u l-omm.

Independent: Court: Accused said he did not mind beating up a woman - witness
12 April 2012 

One of two young men allegedly involved in a fracas with a gay couple told one of the girls that he did not at all mind beating a woman. He had earlier called the two young women lesbians, when he was in a balcony with members of his family, and one of the girls called him a pufta.

The compilation of evidence in the case is being heard by Magistrate Joseph Apap Bologna. The fight occurred in Guardamangia between two girls (the couple) aged 17 and 16 years, and two young men, aged 17 and 15 years. A 35 year old woman is also facing charges.

The fight occurred on 13 January at about 7.30pm, ending with one of the girls being injured in the face.

At the start of the sitting Magistrate Apap Bologna asked the 35-year-old woman if she had brought a certificate with her in connection with her absence from the previous sitting, and to explain why yesterday she was also late arriving in court. The woman said she had forgotten to bring the certificate and she had been late because it had taken her time to find where to park. She apologised to the court and was told she had to bring the certificate with her at the next sitting, and if she did not she could be found guilty of contempt of court.

Diandra Sue Vella testified that on the day they were in a gazebo not far from the Nationalist Party's headquarters. She and a friend, Chantelle Baldacchino, were dancing to music being played on a mobile phone.

They were in the company of the two accused girls, who were sitting inside the gazebo.

Ms Vella said that two young men, a woman and a young woman were in a balcony close by, and someone from the balcony called the girls sitting inside the gazebo lesbians. She did not know who had called out, but it was definitely a male voice. One of the girls answered back by uttering the word pufta.

Ms Vella testified that a short time later one of the young men came down and he told one of the girls he did not mind beating up a woman and making her a laughing stock. The young man hit out at the girl's face.

This led to a fight and the two involved in a tussle, with the other girl joining in and all ending beside a dustbin after falling down some steps. At this time, Ms Vella testified, the other members of the family came down from the balcony. The other man did not touch her friends and shortly afterwards the police came on the scene.

Charlette Baldacchino confirmed Ms Vella's testimony.

Nikita Aquilina, daughter of one of the accused, said one of the young men involved is her boyfriend. She had not seen everything, she had only seen two young women dancing and two others sitting down. Her boyfriend was involved in a dispute, and that was all. She had not seen her boyfriend's friend, one of the accused, in the area.

Darlene Aquilina, who was also in the balcony, confirmed this. She had stayed there to smoke a cigarette, and that was it. One of the young men was not even present.

The mother of one of the girls who had been called lesbians testified that her daughter had telephoned her and told her she had been headbutted by a young man when she was in a gazebo. The young girl started crying and asked her mother to call for her. The mother testified that she drove from Pembroke to the scene in 10 minutes, finding her daughter with her face covered in blood, which was coming out of her mouth and nose.

The mother said the police were already on the scene and she immediately took her daughter to Floriana health centre, from where she was sent to Mater Dei Hospital for fear that her nose could be fractured. She displayed in court seven photographs of her daughter's bloodied face.

Emergency doctor Carlo Refalo said the young woman was slightly injured in her face and had a swelling in one of her cheeks and another near her nose.

The prosecution is being conducted by Supt Charles Magri; Dr Cedrid Mifsud is defending the two young women, and Dr Michael Sciriha and Dr Lucio Sciriha are appearing for the two young men and the woman.