Albania: How I became an LGBT activist in one of the most homophobic European countries — and why I had to leave

Kristi Pinderi is a journalist, a spokesperson for gay rights and co-founder of the two major LGBT organizations in his native country, Albania, where he also co-founded a residential shelter for homeless LGBT young people.

“If there is a sudden decrease in cabin pressure, your oxygen mask will drop down automatically in front of you. Pull the mask towards you to start the flow of oxygen,” a female voice instructs as our flight prepares for takeoff in Frankfurt, Germany, on May 30, 2017.

My partner Erjon and I are about to fly overseas with Velo, our three-year-old Shih Tzu. I can sense that Velo is feeling hopeless inside this giant Boeing. His cage, in a pressurized area of the cargo department, has enough space for him to turn around and lie down, but I still feel helpless and worried for him.

Erjon is smiling while trying to help other passengers find their seats. He helps an old man carry his heavy handbag, and assists the woman with him with reading the seat numbers. Erjon is taking this so seriously that I think the old couple might already consider him their flight attendant.

This is what makes Erjon, Velo and I a family: we are three different beings, flying towards a common future after fleeing Albania, one of the most homophobic countries in Europe, where Erjon and I have been fighting for LGBT rights for the last eight years.

Being openly gay activists and a couple as well, our lives were in danger. By the time we left, we were receiving dozens of death threats on social media every day — threats we couldn’t ignore. The false sense of security we had built around us suddenly started to crumble.

After years as an LGBT activist in Albania, I realized I had done all I could to change myself and my country, and there was nothing more I could do without putting myself and my family at serious risk. It was time for a change.

After getting a Canadian visa and consulting with a close friend in Vancouver, we decided to start a new chapter of our lives far from our country. It felt beyond far; it felt like we were heading towards the end of the world. Read more via Daily Xtra