Europe Trip #3

Europe Trip #2: Waking Up in Rome

Trip to Europe: #1

I have decided to share my upcoming trip to Europe with my friends. I will be heading to Italy, Kosovo, and Albania over the next three weeks.

 

LGBT Documentary “United in Love” – Kosovo

Being a gay Albanian is pretty tough. I should know because I am one! I was the first openly gay Albanian in the Detroit area to come out of the closet. Some people were fucking shitty about it. I know many Albanians said terrible things about me, and some said them to me. However, I am proud to be both Albanian and gay, so no one’s words will deter me from being happy and appreciating both cultures.

Check out my blog post for about my life as an out gay Albanian man: Gay Shqiptar?! What?!

This post is more about raising awareness. There is a group of brave men and women in Kosovo called QESh who are helping spread the word about the LGBT community. They are bringing awareness that the LGBT community exists, that we are just like everyone else, and that we should be treated as equals by our Albanian brothers and sisters. You can check out their Facebook here: QESh.

The problem is Kosovo’s societal view of homosexuality. Between religion and Albanian pride, being gay is severely frowned upon. QESh is doing a great job of letting people know that being is gay is not the evil and horrendous act against humanity and the Albanian culture that people make it out to be.

They created this wonderful documentary to show what it is like being LGBT and living in Kosovo as well as the legal and psychological views of the LGBT community. Interesting enough, the LGBT community is considered protected and equal by the law. Protection against discrimination sexual orientation is specifically listed in the Kosovo Constitution.

I remember what it was like when I first came out. In the 16 years that I have been out, I have personally seen the progress in the Albanian community when it comes our view on homosexuality. They’ve adapted and have become more accepting than ever before. Coming out was tough, but if trailblazing the way for progress was the outcome, then it was worth every nasty word and dirty look.

This tells me that what QESh is doing can and will work. They will help bring the Kosovo Albanian people into the modern age by spreading knowledge and awareness and help build a stronger Albanian community!

Albanianism

An interesting and very powerful message for all my Albanian brothers and sisters.

You can watch the video here:

O Sa Mire Me Ken Shqiptar

This song is catchy as fuck lol!

My Single Life #singleguyproblems

I have been single for the past 6 years. I’ve been so busy doing stuff for myself that it wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t even worried about it or thinking about it. Until recently that is. For some reason, everyone has been reminding me that I am single lately.

Honestly, I’ve really been O.K. with being single. I never really thought it would be a permanent thing. After my break up with my ex, I just figured I was going through the “get to know yourself and grow” stage that usually comes with break ups. Only that stage took 6 years lol. A lot of great things happened though. I learned to become a stronger person. I learned what I wanted in life. I got into my awesome career of a Senior Training Consultant at Quicken Loans. I bought a house! I learned to budget and just be really independent. I’ve been hitting the gym to get into great shape. I worked through some of the bullshit in my own head. Once I did all of those things, my relationship status has become the next thing to focus on I suppose.

During that “growth” period I did meet a couple of guys that I liked. They never really panned out, but it was nice to know that I was able to put myself out there a little. I also learned that dating in the gay scene in Detroit is awful. There is no one out there. I do go out to the bars, but in reality you are less likely to meet someone at the bar than anywhere else. It is a stat I heard somewhere. Do I keep my eyes open when I go out? Of course I do!

I had always hoped that I would meet another gay Albanian guy to end up with. So the lack of gay scene in Detroit didn’t really bother me. However, meeting someone like me is nearly impossible thanks to our culture looking down on homosexuality. Gay Albanians just do not come out of the closet.

I had to admit to myself very recently that I can’t hold out for another Albanian guy to come along. I am fucking myself (literally and figuratively). However, between realizing that there is no one in the gay scene and there are no Albanian guys, I got hit with this huge wave of desperation. The feeling of “I am never going to meet anyone” hit me hard. I am 32 (almost 33). If I haven’t met anyone in the last 6 years, and I don’t meet anyone in the next 6 years, I’m fucked. I even caught myself contemplating guys’ advances that I am not even into.

In my desperation, I also found myself downloading Grindr, Scruff, Mister, OKCupid, and some other shitty apps. If you ever wanted to feel depressed, download those apps. Occasionally you “meet” someone cute, but they usually aren’t looking for what you are, or they aren’t interested, or you aren’t interested. I am also not very good at talking to guys “online.” I am an “in-person” kind of person. For a few minutes there, I was glued to my phone. Checking and waiting for messages from guys that may be interested in me. It didn’t really happen. The 40, 50, and even 60 year old single gay men looking for love or to fuck on those apps is a sad possibility of my future. I can’t be that. I won’t be that. I just uninstalled those apps.

Another challenge I discovered was myself. I am afraid that since I have been on my own for so long that I have become too independent. I do everything for myself. I am not even sure I would know how to knock back some of that independence if I met someone. I just do what I want when I want. I have the final say in everything related to me (unless it’s my mom lol). I think that is pretty hard to change. I would say this is the least of my concerns since I haven’t even met anyone to ponder how to change that.

The truth is I just may not end up with someone. The idea of true love and finding “the one” is nice, but it is a bit of a fairy tale. Not everyone ends up with someone. It just may not be in the stars for me. That is a crushing reality. Does that mean that I am going to just lay down and die over it? Not at all! I have started planning my life out to make it so adventurous and exciting! I want to take trips and try new things. I am going to make more friends and network so I am meeting my “socialization” quota as a human being.

I am not saying that it won’t happen, I am just saying that I need to prepare my life accordingly in case it doesn’t happen. I may not find love in someone else, but I can at least find love in myself.:

Living Single In Gay Detroit

I will admit, at first I was hesitant to write this post. This is pretty personal. Then I though, why not? I am not the only single person out there. I am sure being single weighs on everyone’s mind. That was enough reason for me to go ahead and start writing this piece.

I am a 31 year old gay Albanian man living and working in Detroit. I have a great job, live on my own, and just loving life. I am very health oriented. I work out and eat healthy. I love to travel and want to do it more. I am working toward building a better life for myself and moving forward. I am making goals and reaching them. I come from a very rich and colorful culture which has shaped who I am today.

The only part that sucks is that I am single. Now when you read that, and if you are single as well, you are probably thinking “Yeah being single does suck.” Let me make sure everyone understands this from the beginning: I do not have a problem with being single. I do not need anyone to make me feel complete.

The issue that I do have is that there aren’t any prospects out there. Being gay in Detroit is like trying to do a backstroke in puddle. It is rather pointless. Meeting someone here is so hard. The gay community is very small here so everyone already knows everyone. New faces rarely show up. If they do, they are either “12” or come attached to a boyfriend. Detroit wasn’t always like this. The gay scene was booming and there were so many people in the community! But that was 10 years ago. It has dramatically decreased because everyone has moved away from Detroit to bigger cities.

Being almost 32, I am at that stage where I am a little concerned that I will end up alone, on Grindr, and trolling guys to come over for “$ome fun.” Life is just starting to feel a lot more real now. I would love to go out and meet new people and go on dates. I miss the butterfly in my feeling stomach when someone I like calls or touches me. I could touch myself all day, but I am so used to me that even I pretend to have a headache to get away from me. Ha! I was in love once. That was such an amazing feeling to experience. The last time I was in a relationship was when I was 23-26. I have not really dated anyone since then. I miss having someone to text/call for no reason except that we just wanted to hear from each other.

When I started working in downtown Detroit, I thought that would be a superb place to meet new people! I even downloaded Grindr when I first started to see who was around. I quickly learned that no one I was interested, or they lived on the Canada side, were on. So I deleted that. Going to the gay bars suck here. Even with that, sometimes I will go just on the off chance that I might actually meet someone. I even started working at the mall again partly so I could just meet new people and break out of my life of routine.

I even created an OKCupid account to see who is out there. It’s the same people of course. What are the chances a good looking guy in his early thirties looking for something serious is going to be on there? Not impossible, but not likely either.

Part of the problem is myself. I know that. When I meet people, I can immediately tell if they will fall into the friend zone, or something more. I have never dated friends. Once we become friends, it just will not go past that. I am not the type to develop feelings either. They are there or they aren’t.

Another problem is When I moved to MI, I always said that even though I live here, my soul mate is going to be back in NY. It’s just a feeling I’ve always had. That could be a huge part. Maybe my future husband is in NY? I am going to plan trips down to NY I think. If not for that, just to travel and see friends and family.

I think I am a good guy. My friends say I am a good catch. I’m not the perfect guy, but I think I could make someone really happy. I just feel like I am in the prime of my life and it is all going to waste.

Wish me luck. It’s all going to workout however it’s going to, so at least I know there will be a resolution to this.

Albania’s prime minister strongly supports the gay community (Repost)

I am reposting this article from here:

Dr. Sali Berisha, Albania’s prime minister, expressed his support of LGBT rights and gay marriage

22 APRIL 2013 | BY DAN LITTAUER

Albanian Prime Minister, Dr. Sali Berisha met with Xheni Karaj and Kristi Pinderi, local gay activists, expressing his full support for LGBT rights in the country

Albanian Prime Minister, Dr. Sali Berisha met with local gay activists expressing his full support for LGBT rights in the country.

In the first ever meeting of its kind, Berisha, of the right-wing Democratic Party, welcomed today (22 April) two Albanian LGBT activists, Xheni Karaj and Kristi Pinderi.

He is the first Albanian PM to do so, after being the first Albanian politician to have declared himself in favor of same sex marriage, almost 4 years ago, after the elections of 2009.

During the meeting he expressed his full support for the LGBT movement in Albania stating: ‘I have carefully followed all your actions and I think that you have, so far, responded in a very good way whenever that has been necessary’.

He added ‘it is important to believe in the cause you represent. […] To tell you the truth, [in the beginning] I have felt sorry when the debate about LGBT issues was going on and no one from the community was able to go publicly and defend the cause.

‘So, I really appreciate that you both have appeared on television and have brought the LGBT issues to public attention’.

Berisha also condemned a previous declaration of the vice-minister of defense Ekrem Spahiu who said gays should be beaten up with a stick.

The prime minister said: ‘This kind of declaration is unacceptable not only for a vice minister but for everyone’, adding that every politicians should express their views on LGBT rights without fear.

The two activists asked the prime minister about the recently proposed amendments of the penal code, which include the criminalization of hate speech and intentional harassment towards LGBT people through digital technology.

Berisha stated that he is carefully following the procedures and discussions for these amendments and he added that he is fully supporting them.

Karaj and Pinderi stressed the need to include civil society in discussing the work of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner institution.

They emphasized the gay rights groups, Aleanca LGBT and Pro LGBT are unsatisfied with institute’s performance.

Berisha said that his government will pursue to enforce Albania’s progressive anti-discrimination law.

Pinderi and Karaj also asked the prime minister if his is still committed to marriage equality, or at least in favor of gay civil unions as he stated four years ago.

Berisha gave his cautious support: ‘I don’t see any wrongdoing if they want to live with each other.

‘But don’t forget, that the job to breaking the ice [about gay marriage in Albanian] society is a job that will … need … time.

‘But what is important is that you are on the right track’, advising a non-confrontational attitude.

The prime minister guaranteed that LGBT rights could be more political and visible through events like Tirana Pride 2013, in September and public events during the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 may.

My thoughts:

As a gay Albanian man, I love this! I would be so happy and so proud of my people if they moved in the direction of LGBT acceptance! I wish I could be part of the LGBT civil rights movement in Kosova and Albania!

Gay Shqiptar?! What?!

Some of you might have read my Facebook and Twitter updates regarding this topic. I have decided to gather my thoughts and feelings into this one blog post. I always strive to give gay Albanians a face, but I don’t want to shove it in anyone’s face on Facebook or Twitter either.

I am an Albanian man. I was born here in the United States. My parents are from Kosova. I also happen to be a gay man. A lot of people might think, so what? What does one have to do with the other? A lot! And not in a good way either.

I will be the first to say that I take pride in my ethnicity. I believe, for the most part, that we have a beautiful and rich culture. We do have some antiquated beliefs that boggle my mind a bit. No one is perfect though. The negative views of homosexuality is what I take strong issue with. I have been an out and proud gay man since I was 17 years old. I have definitely faced some challenges from people who had difficulty accepting I am gay.

Out of all of those people who took issue, my own people sadden me. For an Albanian, to say you are gay brings shame to your family. “Zoti” meant for a man and woman to be together.” Not man with man or woman with woman. I’ve argued with my fair share of Albanians because of this. Some even had the nerve to tell me that I am not Albanian because I am gay. I’ve also heard I am a disgrace to Albanians.

You know what is a disgrace to Albanians? Showing intolerance toward your own people and hating them because of the way they were born. I have had my nationality denounced by other Albanians. For quite sometime I was so embarrassed and hated being Albanian that I went by the name “Val Truman.” I didn’t really care to associate with people who hate me and talk shit about me for something I can’t help. As I have matured and gotten older, I have gained a new appreciation of where I come from, and I just dismiss the negativity.

Sometimes it’s hard though. I work with several Albanians, and except for one girl, no one ever talks to me.  They make it really uncomfortable, and to be honest it’s annoying. I’ve said hello, nothing. I sent them welcome emails when they started to make them feel comfortable, nothing. What I do get though is awkward avoidance of eye contact, and obviously uncomfortable feeling when we are in close quarters like an elevator. Not too long ago, one of them had just got married and someone had bought him a Congrats wedding balloon. I walked by it on my way to get coffee and looked it for a second to make out what it said. When I came back around, it was tied down and out of sight. Seriously?

That is the part that really gets to me. I think of the ethnic cleansing that happened in Kosova during the Clinton administration. Many Kosovar Albanians were tortured and slaughtered because of Serbia’s nonacceptance of them. Naturally, one would think that with that disgusting act forever imprinted into our culture’s history, that we would come together and show unity, love, and support for one another. But instead people who are “different” than societal standards (not just gay people) are quick to be judged and not accepted. I understand that most Albanians, regardless of religion, are a devout group. But I think it is forgotten that we are Albanian first.

How are we supposed to have others’ respect us if we cannot even respect ourselves?

Here are a couple of links from threads on Topix.com to check out. They give you an idea of things Albanians like to say to other Albanians who are gay.

http://www.topix.com/forum/world/albania/TFNK23LB2CM195PTG

and

http://www.topix.com/forum/world/serbia/TU56VJBE4M9NM11LD

I think I am a good person. I work hard and put myself through school. I don’t bother anyone. I don’t think I deserve be considered less than anything but a human being.

To be honest, I am pretty fortunate. Over in the old country, forget it! You could get beat up, possibly killed, or forced into marriage of the opposite sex! There is a whole underground world in Albanian, Kosova, and Montenegro that the LGBT community have to live in. At least with me being born and living and America, there are plenty of accepting Albanians. I know it sounds dumb, but I actually really take pride in all of my Albanian friends and have the utmost respect for them. They are much more open and accepting. They like me for me. Everything else is trivial.

I have sort of made it a personal goal to remind my Albanian brothers and sisters that gay Albanians do exist. We are your children, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and whoever else you have in your life. All we want is what you want, to be loved and part of this huge and crazy family called Albanians.