Blogbox | LGBTI

Long days in cramped rooms

Snapshots from the isolated life of transfolk in Tirana.

By - 15.05.2020

A few days after Albania confirmed its first cases with COVID-19, Klea, like many other citizens, woke up unable to carry out her daily routine since movement was restricted as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus. She found herself isolated and in the midst of economic hardship, without the support of her family and with a heavy psychological burden regarding the future.

The pandemic has put her under lockdown in a house where she pays daily rent, which she shares with five other people.The suspension of most economic activity has piled up bills and debts around her. Amid the smoke of her nearly used up cigarettes, she worriedly talks with her housemates about the future that awaits them after the termination of their previous jobs, through which they secured their informal income.

Hanging out on the balcony is one of the few freedoms Klea can enjoy these days.

Klea practices putting makeup on.

The order to quarantine reminds Klea of the restrictions on her personal freedom, which she has suffered from for many years due to prejudice and violence from society. Only in the last few years has the transgender community in Albania received more visibility in the media and state protection in the form of a shelter for members of the community who are affected by abuse and violence. In spite of that, this progress is quite fragile for it to be considered a victory for the LGBTQ+ community yet.

Klea poses for a photo in the house she shares with five other trans friends.

Klea and one of the other housemates spending time on their phones.

A moment of closeness shared between Klea and one of her housemates.

Like many others, since the outbreak of the pandemic, Klea has spent her long hours staying inside between her phone, housework, cooking, makeup practice and conversations with housemates.

With fairly restricted movement (at the time the photos were taken, one person was allowed to go out once every two days to buy food and medication). Klea is stuck with the least preferred part of daily life — that of the daily hours, when she needs to deal with society and gender “obligations,” to dress like a man in order to go out, to deepen her voice and to behave “as manly as possible.”

The complete elimination of nightlife — the freedom, when Klea could turn into a festive “Cinderella” and be completely comfortable with herself in long dresses, high-heels and carefully applied makeup — has thrown her back to the time when, in order to protect herself and keep living, she needed to withhold this natural fluidity and metamorphosis of hers.

Klea talks with one of her housemates in one of the candlelit bedrooms of the house.

While two of the housemates prepare food, the others spend time on their phones.

A few bread buns on the kitchen table while dinner is being prepared.

The transgender community in Albania is the weakest link in the delicate chain of LGBTQ+ rights in the country. Aside from continuous discrimination, transfolk have also been at the center of physical violence due to homophobia.

Furthermore, they are often in tough economic conditions — the general unemployment rate in Albania is around 12%, and among the youth it’s twice that. While many Albanian youngsters deal with a lack of employment opportunities, LGBTQ+ people are also challenged by discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity in the formal labor market.

Many members of this community support themselves informally to secure their livelihood, but this has been made impossible by the pandemic, leaving them with unpaid bills as well as unable to help their families financially. 

Overlooking the emptied streets from her balcony, Klea can only hope that she will soon hear her heels clacking as she walks down those streets under the moonlight.

Klea imitates a common pose made by her straight friends as a joke.

An ordinary moment during quarantine for Klea and her housemates.

Unable to leave the house, Klea holds an online meeting.