(I posted this on Lesbian Family on Tuesday. Honestly, I did not plan to cross post here. I, in fact, rarely post here about the fact that I posted there. I have been thinking I should do a Clare on Lesbian Family recap overhear in case anyone wants to see more of my musings. This is particularly relevant as I have been particularly missing here lately. This one, though, I decided to repost in full based on the responses I have received from several of the individuals pictured below. First, one of the local Albanian blogs posted the picture of the child at the event in their blog. Then, the cross posted the entire piece! And then translated it into Albanian and posted again!!! Finally, I received personal messages saying “Thank you Clare from my heart, you made me cry with this article” and “wow, this was so emotional, thank you sooooo much” along with invites to meet them and go out to dinner. I write for Lesbian Family because I believe in the power of visibility, I believe in equality and acceptance, I believe in something better, and I believe there are people out there who are helped when they can see themselves in another— even if it is just someone who writes on a blog. I rarely feel the actual validation I hope that I can give people– that I am sure the other writers on LesFam do give people. So I am cross posting here too).
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.
On 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!”
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.
- Check out Lesbian Family’s Facebook page for more photos I took of the event.
- Historia-Ime, an Albanian online human rights news source had an English article of the Albanian Ride.
- Historia-Ime’s coverage and photos of the tear gas thrown at the bikers after the ride.
- Huffington Post has a great article with slides from around the world!
- Global News also has a great article with photos from around the world!
* 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.