Before, I was engaged in underground activism with a small group of gay men. I was fascinated by the idea but didn't know the exact challenges. It was an entirely underground initiative during 2004-2005 and it felt like an illegal gathering — like those that the Communist Party used to organise before the Second World War. But it failed: we needed to work more with community building and empowerment. Then in 2009 I came to know though Facebook a very passionate lesbian activist, Xheni Karaj. I wrote to her and we met. That was my second entry into activism and this time it worked.
The routine of an activist is never the same and sometimes that is the beauty of this work. It can include an open lecture at a university, a protest on the streets, a conference in a hotel hall or a meeting with politicians. It can mean travelling to reach new people, a lot of beers in the evenings, writing articles, debating on live TV.
Changing people’s mind is the ultimate challenge, which takes time. Until recently we fought to change the laws, but now we need to change minds. When it comes to the legal situation, Albania seems to be in a positive position. But it is the implementation of those laws that is the real issue. At LGBT Alliance, we lobby and advocate, and often it seems as though we have run ahead of society and found ourselves far away, alone, since not everyone can run with us. We need to calm down a bit and reflect on what might be the best ways to help people join us.
I remember my personal inner fights, and I know how painful that period of self-discovery can be for young people. But it should be neither painful, nor a drama that changes you forever. When people can undergo that process of knowing and discovering their inner selves as something natural, something to celebrate and take pride in; then, I think, we will be in the “winning” phase of human history.