News & Politics

Albania’s 2nd Gay Ride Against Homophobia

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I grew up in the US as a child of the 1980s and 90s. I was born after Stonewall but before marriage equality in any state. I am part of the in-between generation. The one that didn’t live the acute violence but still didn’t have Gay-Straight Alliances at school or LGBT role models on TV.

I have lived most of my adult life in developing countries whose politics around LGBT community are about 50 years behind the US, whose LGBT activists are young, revolutionary, idealistic, extremely brave, and can be counted on a few hands. I have watched or participated in the early gay rights walks in countries where all the marchers could afterward fit in a tiny corner bar. I have also seen how quickly things can and are changing.

DSC_0185On Friday, I participated in the 2nd Annual Gay Ride Against Homophobia in Tirana, Albania. It was scheduled to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (May 17)*.  This bike ride down the main boulevard with police escorts was attended by several dozen people: many young Albania LGBT activists, some from an NGO which focuses on environmental issues (and donated use of the bikes), and many from the international community. The organizers were thrilled that participants were multiple times larger than last year. In fact, the ride started 15 minutes late because they had to send for more bikes! Even so, at least 8 people (myself included) ended up participating not on bikes, but in accompanying cars. This, of course, really helped me get good pictures and they still let me have a commemorative t-shirt.

At the end of the ride, one of the participants (who I know because he let me post this video on Albania’s LGBTQ community a while back), ran up to me, his smile beaming from ear to ear: “This was a success! This was incredible! …And there were no explosions!”

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Another organizer was videotaped, fist in the air, declaring: “This is our VICTORY”.

And it is a victory.

But my heart cries for them, knowing that they took to the streets with the knowledge that explosions were a possibility.  That last year, tear gas and explosions were a reality.  That the one child I saw at the event, only showed up after the ride when it was clear she would be safe.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand what her mother is thinking.  While I agreed to go and I will march in September if they have their Gay Rights Parade, I wouldn’t consider bringing my daughter.  Not yet.

The fears are not unfounded and Kristi’s comments may have come a bit too early.  After the ride, many went to a near by bar for drinks.  They were followed in by two men who threw two canisters of tear gas.  (Side note: Who carries around tear gas with them???).  Nobody was hurt. I heard from them later that night, they were in a club, celebrating.  This was their victory.

Around the world, people took to the streets to march (or ride) against homophobia only to be met with homophobia, hatred, and violence.  In Georgia (the country, not the state), a violent mob stopped the march while the police evaluated activists to safety.  Thankfully, most of the events went off without a hitch.  All of the events, make a difference.

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* The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) is celebrated on May 17th, a day specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. IDAHO is now celebrated in more than 100 countries, in all world regions and in places as diverse as Australia, Iran, Cameroon or Albania. It is not one centralised campaign; rather it is a moment that everyone can take advantage of to take action.

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2 Comments

  1. Lesbian Family is cross posted in Albanian! This has to be a first. 🙂 http://historia-ime.com/en/2011-08-07-02-53-55/item/2190-kjo-ishte-nje-fitore.html

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