Some have hope for the future, while others wish only to leave Kosovo behind.
There are striking similarities among people’s stories, however, that paint a bleak picture of the LGBT community’s existence.
Protection of LGBT individuals’ rights and efforts to encourage acceptance of their lifestyles have been mired amid family expectations, economic instability, government intransigence, and other realities of life in Kosovo.
LGBT activism has begun to find its footing, but it faces uphill battles with the Kosovar public, law enforcement, and even the LGBT community itself.
Homophobic backlash appeared on the Internet, and, according to one source, a group of football fans arrived at the club looking for trouble.
Within a few months, the club was being renovated under a new name, and the employee who had advertised Pure Pure on Gay Romeo was no longer in the country.
“We didn’t know why we were doing it, but we did it, and we liked it,” he says.
The only word his community used to describe people like him was peder, which translates loosely as “faggot.” Fejzaj told no one about his attraction to men, and even after moving to Prishtina, he feared his family and their friends would learn the truth.
“(If) you have no income yourself, you stick with your family, because where can you go? “You do what they say.” Consequently, the vast majority of LGBT people do not talk about their identities with their families.
“(In Kosovo), it really matters what people think about you,” he says. Men provide for their families and preserve their honor.
Indeed, much of the bigotry directed toward the LGBT community in Kosovo stems from the importance placed on preserving the structure and appearance of the traditional Albanian family. These stereotypes have in many ways intensified since the 1999 war that led to Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.
Deep-rooted antagonism toward people who do not fit traditional sexual and gender norms means being “out” can lead to social stigmatization and hostile encounters.
Leading a “double life” is common: People are straight in public and with their families, but reveal other orientations or behaviors with friends and partners. Instead, people meet online or quietly through friends. Some people have embraced LGBT identities or additional, unlabeled identities that fall outside conventional social parameters, while others do not want to be categorized based on their sexual behaviors or gender characteristics.
“My family found out both that I’m gay and that I initiated the party. After that, I was beaten at home,” the employee says. “How would you feel if you were alone in a park and you were surrounded by 500 foxes?