In 2012 I wrote a blog post about my experience of being gay and Albanian. I was 30 at the time and needed to express myself how I felt. I was angry at how the Albanian community viewed me and treated me for being gay when I came out.
Since then, I have been on an emotional, mental, and spiritual journey inward. I am also about to get a degree in psychology. My understanding of the world and people is much different from 2012.
I am 41 now and entering midlife has inspired me to reflect back on my life with a new lens and to dig deep into myself. This journey is for me to know myself and to find my inner peace and happiness. Part of that means doing some shadow work and uncovering the chaos that lies within me.
This also means not avoiding some things anymore.
I try to live a life full of gratitude for the abundance in my life instead of focusing on what I don’t have or didn’t get.
However, there is one missing thing in my life that I avoided addressing and has always been on the periphery of my mind until it recently pushed front and center:
My parents robbed me of a real parent/child relationship with them.
My family and I are Albanian. My mother and father immigrated from Kosovo and had me and my siblings in the early 1980’s. Albanian is actually my first language because they didn’t speak English when I was born.
Kosovo is a small country located in Southeast Europe, known for its conservative culture and traditional values. Despite recent progress in LGBTQ+ rights, many Albanians still hold negative attitudes towards homosexuality. Kosovo is predominately Islamic in faith.
Growing up as an LGBTQ+ Albanian can be particularly difficult due to the strong emphasis on family and community in Albanian culture. Many LGBTQ+ folks struggle with the fear of disappointing their families and being ostracized from their communities. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ people is not uncommon including violence against us and disowning us.
It is worth noting that the younger Albanian generation is way more open and accepting of LGBTQ+ community. In 2017, I made a YouTube video to talk about being gay and Albanian and to show my support of the very first Pride Parade in the capital of Kosovo, Pristina.
In my original post mentioned above, my anger was aimed at the Albanian community as a whole.
Through inner work and awareness, I learned that my real anger, while rightfully aimed at my culture, was actually at both of my parents. My experience with each one of them was unique and together they negatively impacted me. I was afraid to acknowledge it before. I felt bad to say it aloud or to think about them that way.
I have had a strained relationship with my parents my entire life.
It started with my father. My mother had told me that my father didn’t care for me as much as he did for my twin sister when we were born. He certainly treated me that way. My father and I had a terrible relationship with each other. We never spoke to each other even though we lived together and I hated being around him. Video games and friends were my escape. My father just did not like me and I never had a fighting a chance with him.
Both of my parents were physically abusive but when he hit me it felt more than just punishment for what I did or didn’t do.
He died from epilepsy when I was 16. I don’t remember what happened but the night before he died I ran away to a friend’s house to get away from him and screamed how much I hated him. When he died, I didn’t feel anything for him. I was more sad for my siblings and my father’s side of the family than I was for myself. I didn’t lose anything.
My instinct tells me that he knew that I was gay and that’s why he treated me so poorly. I knew that he knew by the way he looked at me sometimes. I believe that he figured it out when I started adolescence because that was when I started to explore with things like shaving my legs which did not land well. Albanian culture is very homophobic and I sensed his hate or disgust when I did that.
Then there is mother. I was a lot closer to my mother growing up. There was definitely a “mommy’s boy” relationship. My twin and my father had the “daddy’s girl” dynamic as well. When I dealt with asthma and other health things she always took care of me.
That all changed for me when I was 18. When we moved to Michigan after my father passed to be with my mother’s side of the family since she was a single mom to four teenagers.
I started a new high school and decided to come out of the closet since I was starting my life over and wanted to live authentically.
Someone in my family outed me to my mother and it became a nightmare that kicked off several years of fighting. She is Albanian and Catholic and those two did not work in my favor. I lived with her then and for a couple of years she tortured me by saying disgusting things to me about having sex with women so that I would be straight. She even encouraged me to get married to a woman, have kids, and have sex with men on the side.
She would also say things like “what did I do in my life to have a gay son”. She even said “don’t marry a man while I am alive” after my cousin, who is also gay, married his husband.
Eventually my sexuality became a “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of situation. Our years of fighting stopped and we actually started hanging out and doing stuff together like going on trips. I had to go back in the closet for that to happen. We never talked about anything going on in my life outside the work/house/school topics and my nephews and niece.
In March 2022 something happened where she reminded me how she felt about me being gay. That night opened the gates to over 20 years of pent up anger. Every moment I had to hide a part of myself for her and every time I let a homophobic comment slide flooded to the surface. She sent me into an emotional and mental tizzy. I started therapy to work through this.
I cut her off from my life. I stopped calling, picking up her calls, and visiting. I only go there to see my nephews and niece since they are always there.
How am I still dealing with this in my fucking 40’s?
My parents, despite being physically present, did not provide the emotional and mental support that I needed as a gay teenager and adult. Because of Albanian culture and my mother’s religion (my dad was Muslim but didn’t care for religion), they forced me to hide who I was and I had to learn how to support myself. I had to deal with how they treated me on my own because I never felt safe to do that with other people. The two adults I was supposed to lean on were not safe for me. Neither of them loved me in the way that I needed to be loved. My father didn’t love me and my mother loves her idea of me.
They both chose our culture over me. It was more important for other Albanians to not know about me being gay than it was to just love me as their son. There was never an attempt to accept me for who I am. I have only ever been met with inaccurate and hateful comments and judgments about being gay. I am disappointed that our culture still holds such a closed mind.
Albanian culture is beautiful and has a long history full of tribulations and triumphs. Unfortunately, it is also the destroyer of families for LGBTQ+ people, along with religion. I don’t really lean into my culture anymore because it took more from me than it gave.
The part that breaks my heart and made me angry is that I never had a real relationship with either one of them. They really did rob me of the opportunity to be close to them and to feel safe with them. They also robbed themselves of a relationship with me. They never got to know me and love me for me. I will never get to experience unconditional love or closeness from them.
This is the reality of my life and my time on this earth.
My mother and father are both why I struggle with vulnerability and I just recently realized how this has directly impacted my life. I am painfully independent because of a lifetime of depending on myself and cannot and do not allow others to support me. I certainly do not allow people in past a certain point. I will be delving into this in a separate blog post because there is a lot to discuss.
The hardest part of this whole thing is fighting the urge to feel guilty viewing my parents in this new way. I find myself feeling bad that my mother and I don’t talk and knowing that, unless we have a drastic change, this is how we are going end, much like my father and I.
I didn’t choose to be gay (but I am certainly grateful for it). How they both treated me was a choice and their choices had consequences for everyone. They were supposed to be responsible for building a relationship with me and they chose not to do that. That will always be on them.
To me, there is always a gift in everything. I have learned what the gifts are from my experience with my parents.
All things considering, I am fortunate that I turned as well as I did. My therapist has reaffirmed this for me numerous times and appreciates how directly I have leaned into this dynamic once I became aware of it. I am stronger because of this and better for it.
They’ve inspired me to become the person that I needed when I was younger. They’ve powered my pride for the LGBTQ+ community. I empathize with every single LGBTQ+ person with whom I share this experience and my mission is to advocate for our community to make the world a better place for all LGBTQ+ Albanians and all members of the community across the world.
I also understand why they treated me the way that they did. Albanian culture, religion, and their own family traumas trapped them in this cognotive and emotional prison of ignorance. They are a product of those things and the generational curse that was passed down to them.
Just because I understand does not mean that I excuse anything that they did. I just get why it happened. Understanding the context of their behavior tells a full story. I get that I did not do anything to them and none of this is my fault.
Understanding helped me forgive them. And I do forgive them. This forgiveness is for me though, not them. This way I can put them and this behind me and navigate the world as my authentic gay Albanian self without the weight of their ignorance. I need to do that for myself to be free.
They helped me learn the importance of chosen family and that blood is not always family and family isn’t always blood. I am now surrounded by amazing people who love and accept me for who I am.
I always thought that when people have kids that it is their responsibility to break generational curses.
It never dawned on me that sometimes it is the people without children who have to take that responsibility. I know now that this is my role in the family. I cannot and I will not allow what happened to me to happen to future generations.
Thank you for joining me on my journey.
Love and light,