News & Politics

IDAHOT: A Three Part Journey to Acceptance

Part I:

Like last year, for me, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)* started with a bike ride in Albania, gay activists, the international community, progressive straight allies, and a bit of trepidation about potential violence. In the end, only Mother Nature was bombarding us – in the form of cold rain.

More people than last year came out, despite the driving rain. Moreover, I am pretty sure that the gentleman who sells umbrellas now has a sweet spot in his heart for the gays because he certainly has a lot of our money in his wallet. Why did I think knee high plastic boots and two raincoats would be enough?

After the ride, many of us ventured over to a diversity fair where stands were set up not just by queer groups, but also by the Roma, Women’s collectives, and other minorities to support diversity and solidarity. Sadly, that too was a very wet and cold event.

Part II:

PHOTO CREDIT: Clare Masson

PHOTO CREDIT: Clare Masson

That evening I attended SkaNdal, a documentary made by the Albanian Gay Rights organization about the history of the gay rights movement in Albania. For the first time, multiple people spoke publicly about what being gay under Hoxja’s communist dictatorship was like and what the oppression was like in the 1990s and early 2000s. They spoke of violence, fear, isolation, and longing. Then, they talked about change, about creating connections, about collective action, about finding a voice.  That night, they came into their voice. They came out in their own voice, without hidden faces – brave and empowered.

Before the screening, I stood outside, wondering who would show up. The street filled. I saw not just the gay community arriving but supporters, friends, coworkers, and representatives of the Albanian government. The movie theater filled. In fact, it overflowed. The show was standing room only!

Part III:

The after party was at some bar nearby – not a gay bar, just a bar.

I sat sipping some sour mixed drink that had been ordered for me and chatted with an American friend. She and her then partner had been instrumental in helping to kick start the movement, encouraging queer Albanians to unite, take action, and build their space.  She had been away for the last three years and was basking in the positive change all around.

Sometime later, she and another friend were listing all the bars they had been ejected from, bars that didn’t want gay clientele.  Bars that didn’t want to be associated with a movement. They were listing bars all over the city. Behind them, slightly to the left, a lesbian couple was making out.

1280px-Female_kissing_other_female

PHOTO CREDIT: WIKIMEDIA

“Oh my god! That is happening, that is happening,” my friend squealed.  And it was. Two people who love each other and were attracted to each other were out celebrating with kisses and no one cared.

Aftermath:

Albania is not perfect. There is still a lot of hatred and ignorance here but it is changing. Someday, it will be on the right side of history. For now, I am just so proud to be watching these amazing individuals who are changing a country and creating a place for themselves and their growing families.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) 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. IDAHOT 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.

FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT: DAY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA

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One Comment

  1. This is a true and sincere experiencing of some amazing events we had in Tirana 🙂 thank you Clare

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