Gay Shqiptar?! WHAT?!

Gay Shqiptar?! WHAT?! is an article written by Valdet Selimaj

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?

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.

You can find Valdet's blog Rebel Beard here