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Life that began at 40

I was unaware of the fact that 40 years had passed since the Labour Party had decriminalised homo­­­sexuality and adultery and I was then too young and too uninformed to have appreciated it. It is incredible how much life has changed since 1973. That was the year I started working.

The prejudice was so strong that it took me another 24 years to throw caution to the wind and come out
- Kenneth Zammit Tabona

I was 16 and had joined Barclays Bank out of pique on a temporary basis which eventually lasted 29 years and left me no wiser as to how to look at a simple balance sheet without passing out. In those days whatever the Labour Party did was wrong, for the Church, the Courts, the British were all formidable opponents and yet, miraculously, Dom Mintoff managed to pass this law which gave the police discretion as to how and when to ensnare the hapless victim; very often using pretty policemen as decoys.

We have seen enough on TV since then to know that while society adhered to Mrs Patrick Campbell’s maxim of condoning doing what one liked behind closed doors without frightening the horses, bribery and blackmail were the order of day. The self destructive trial of Oscar Wilde had shaken the gay world of the time – a world that existed in a different dimension – to its very foundations and traumatised it into invisibility. That is why so many gay people of my generation and older packed their bags and left for distant shores.

It must have taken great courage to pass a law like this at a time when people who knew anything about homosexuality still called it “the love that dare not speak its name”, the word “gay” still meant happy and being gay was considered to be a mental illness. Despite the law being passed in 1973 the prejudice was so strong that it took me another 24 years, coincidentally on my 40th birthday, to throw caution to the wind and ‘come out’, only to find that the people who mattered in my life already knew and had simply kept mum out of respect and more significantly, love.

I then realised that ‘coming out’ has little or nothing to do with ‘other people’ but is merely the final acceptance of oneself to be different; a member of a species that at times feels it came from outer space and which all the time, deep down, wants to conform with everyone else but simply cannot. Only we know what a terrible burden this is.

I was invited to address a gathering by LGBT Labour to mark this significant anniversary, the consequences of which had made such a difference despite the fact of many of us being unaware of it at the time, and was moved by the testimonials about how traumatic acceptance of oneself is and how we all had this terrible fear in common. It is this fear which sometimes makes gay people too strident and too aggressive, as anyone with the slightest knowledge of psychology will confirm. If people sometimes think that the gay lobby is too loud and in one’s face they must think again as there are at least two millennia of suppression to make up for.

So, we think we have come a long way. We may feel as if we have been emancipated and there is no more ‘us and them’. Think again. There are still regular correspondents in this newspaper who declare that love in the true sense of the word is forever denied to people of the same sex. They state that people like myself are slaves to demoniacal lust!

There are others who perorate about plugs and sockets forgetting that they are discussing human beings with feelings and sentiments who are far more fragile than most.

I wonder if they ever stopped to think about how deeply they have hurt people. These are people who are devoid of charity and compassion; people who are so judgemental as to render even Rhadamantus as innocuous as Winnie the Pooh!

They do not represent the Church and are causing the Catholic Church untold harm, for while the Church is, by statute if you like, unable to accept any sexual union other than the one legitimised in a heterosexual Catholic marriage, it does recognise the validity of the emotional relationship, the Love with a capital L, between people of the same sex.

It also deplores any sort of persecution, defamation or bigotry against gay persons and I feel that maybe it is time for us all, Church included, to stop making such a big deal about a mere bodily function and concentrate on what is real and true; a love that transcends basic sex which is the kind of love we all crave for whatever our orientation.

We have now reached a stage where for the past four years the PL has espoused the gay cause openly and with aplomb.

In comparison, up to a few months ago, the PN was hoping to solve all social problems by proposing a one-size-fits-all bill called Cohabitation – completely oblivious as to how antediluvian it was being.

Up to a couple of months ago people were wondering in which oubliette the centre-right had hidden its liberals when suddenly, coincidentally just after the providential advent of Simon Busuttil, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction in an incredulous and jaw-dropping manner.

Too little and too late; there is something called memory and something called credibility.

The harm caused by the politicisation of the divorce issue and its disastrous aftermath cannot now, on the eve of an election, be absolved and obliterated as if nothing had happened. If the PN has had a Damascene conversion it is going to take far more than pre-election spin to prove it.

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