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!

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.