From: Entenela Ndrevataj
Comment: In Tirana, Acceptance Comes through Education

We were going down the stairs, from the fifth floor to the second floor of the building, and my son said to me, ‘Mom, I’m gay.’”

The above-mentioned episode, which happened many years ago, comes to Ersilda’s mind as I ask her about the moment when she understood her son’s sexual orientation.  Although this was the first moment that Bledi* said that loudly, at the time less than ten years old, other indicators had made her realize that her son might not be heterosexual.

As she describes this, Ersilda recalls that, at that moment the whole world stopped for her.

“I remember feeling like there was an earthquake, just like the entire building fell on my head. “I could not walk, I was shocked”, she claims, as she continues telling the story.

Mom“, he asked, “what’s wrong?” “I know you do not feel well, but this is how I am”.   That’s when made up my mind and I told myself:    “You are my child and I will support you as long as I live.”

In the timbre of her voice there is as unique longing, pride and strength as she talks about Bledi.  She confesses how she came out against everyone and everything to protect her son, who not only was not accepted by the family members but even by his father.

“My relatives set boundaries to me, saying that my son could not set foot in their houses.   “Where my son does not go, I do not go either!”, Ersilda quotes confidently.

Episodes of violence have been numerous, while even her husband blamed her of being “guilty” for her son being a gay.  Apart from domestic violence, Bledi has experienced bullying and physical violence from his peers, leading him to three suicide attempts.

“I recall his father taking us out of the house in the middle of the night, pointing a knife at us.   He was drunk and his friends had said to him “Why does your son talk like that?” We called the police, but they did not offer any help, they asked us to go to the police station.  “We were hiding at the stairs of the building. My son must have been 7-8 years old at that time.”

Apart from domestic violence, Bledi has experienced bullying and physical violence from his peers, leading him to three suicide attempts. Ersilda says that, due to the great trauma, she does not remember many of these situations. This violent environment has caused depression for several years to her.

“I was depressed. I have attended therapists and it has been the most valuable investment I have made. “If the world were to realize that behind a gay man there is a suffering mother, it would be different”. 

Grown up in a highly patriarchal and gender-segregated society, Ersilda claims that she still works with herself.  “I set myself the task of ignoring everything else and work with myself to help my son”.

She thinks that other parents can do the same in this regard and be a pillar of support to their children.

“I am ready to do everything for this community because every child is my child. I feel pain when they mistreat their parents, when they do not have their support.  It is a human task to accept them, they will feel better”, – Ersilda concludes, as she claims that acceptance comes through education.

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Entenela Ndrevataj, journalist.  She is an activist of the civil society, focusing mainly on gender equality and the rights of disadvantaged communities.  

Published with permission from the Vicinity online portal. Vicinity is an open platform, available to all those from the region, or the Western Balkans, whose voice needs amplifying, and who are eager to express their critical perspective, fresh ideas, and points of view on current affairs. Vicinity is a common initiative of the European Fund for Balkans and the European Fund in Serbia.