The psychologist at the LGBT youth shelter waited for me in a small side street in the city center of Tirana, Albania’s capital. “No one knows our exact address, we want to avoid arson and havoc,” she told me.
She knocked on a discrete door. Once inside, she showed me the two bedrooms with bunk beds and invited me to the living room to meet with some of the residents at the STREHA shelter.
A young man, Rajan, barely 18 years old, shared the story of being expelled from his family home. “When I told my parents last year I was gay, my father beat me up. My mom took a plastic bag, stuffed it with food and clothes and then I was kicked out. I did not have anywhere to go, didn’t have any money. I did not dare to go back to school because of all the bullying that was going on. I ended up doing sex work to survive. Through an acquaintance I learnt about this shelter.”
Rajan has found some peace of mind at the shelter, where he has made friends while he recovers from his trauma. In Albania, an anti-discrimination law has been introduced, gay pride parades are being held, yet there is a virulent homophobia.