SOFRA Movement: The Birth of Albanian LGBTQ+ Activism in America

By

Anila Duro, LGBTQ+ Ally and Partner, Adjunct Professor, Researcher & Doctoral Candidate

Valentina Djelaj, LGBTQ+ Ally and Partner, Director of Program Services at Health Emergency Lifeline Programs and Corktown Health Center, Michigan’s first LGBTQ+ health center.

Ariana Elezaj, LGBTQ+ Ally and Partner, Deputy Director at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

I have dreamed of this movement where our Albanian and LGBTQIA+ identities come together as ONE. The two headed eagle not only as a symbol of strength and courage but also a symbol for resilience and inclusion. To authentically reconnect to our Albanian roots and fully come into our true selves.” These are the heartfelt words of a rising community activist Rremida Shkoza, whose bravery and commitment towards the LGBTQ+ community has sparked a movement of breaking the stones of oppression in the Albanian-American community and the Diaspora.

Albanian-Americans’ perception towards the LGBTQ+ community is unknown; however, our lived experiences show us that our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters struggle with acceptance and at times live in isolation and/or experience abuse. Despite these challenges and the unknown, we are seeing a rise in activism and support towards the LGBTQ+ community. Activism is very important to support this marginalized group. For some of us, our activism comes through leadership, research, program development and community education. For members of the community, activism is inclusiveness and visibility, with a focus on diversity, equity, and integrity.

We see change happening right before our eyes for a group of individuals that our Albanian-American community has neglected to accept and celebrate in the past. The positive change we have observed in the past few months has been as simple as community members coming together and having open and honest conversations and new allies desiring to celebrate and collaborate on LGBTQ+ activism work. Listening, giving space, and committing to not harm but support one another are notable changes we have recently seen within our Albanian-American community and for that we are proud. Many of our friends, family members and colleagues identify as LGBTQ+ and as much as we want to intellectualize the topic, for many individuals, it is their current reality. Thus, we need to do some soul searching, to overcome our obstacles and unconscious biases to improve our loved ones lives by becoming individuals that respect human rights for all. We invite you to join this movement and liberate yourself.  Spread love, not hate.  

We will leave you with the lovely words of Rremida Shkoza, “To my beautiful and courageous Albanian LGBTQIA+ community: You are a blessing and a gift. You matter and our time to be part of the liberation is HERE. Please join the SOFRA movement to uplift our voices and have a seat at the communal TABLE.” 

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