Earlier this afternoon the news of the historic Supreme Court decision affirming the right to gay marriage made its way to Albania, where our group of 55 new Peace Corps volunteers was attending a training in Elbasan. The announcement generated a lot of clapping, high-fiving, hugging and some tears. But, what made the announcement even more exciting and achingly poignant (at least for me) was that, about an hour prior, we had the privilege to meet Kristi and Xheni (Jenny), two leaders of the GLBT movement here in Albania, and see their documentary, SKANDAL, which documents the less-than-surprising resistance LGBT rights have faced in this country. In just five years, these inspiring, courageous young people and their allies have created a full-on LGBT movement.
The film was incredibly intense to watch and, by the end, many of us in the room were crying. I was simultaneously so upset and so inspired by the film and I managed to find my way from tears to full-on, chest-heaving sobbing. Imagine how exciting it was, about 90 minutes later, to hear about the Supreme Court decision!
GLBT rights in Albania are probably equivalent to those in the U.S. in the 1970s post-Stonewall. But, Albania’s drive to join the EU is helping move things along because “respect for human rights” is a condition of EU membership. And, outsiders — such as a devoted, passionate group of Peace Corps Albania volunteers — are helping to support the movement. For example, many of our volunteers work with youth and they are introducing curriculum to start to sensitize young people to issues around diversity and inclusion. Given the climate here, education about GLBT issues has to be couched within larger contexts, but our volunteers are working with local GLBT activists to get the message out there.
I don’t have a link to the full documentary but if you click here you can see the trailer for the film (I don’t have a link to the full one-hour documentary)
(Side note: The significance of the documentary title, Skandal, is that the word scandal translates in Albanian to there is no stop.)