As some of you may have noticed, I now and then tend to broach the subject of the perception of homosexuality in Albania, also because me and some of my friends are confronted with whatever society thinks of us on a regular basis. Recently I was shown an episode of the popular talkshow Zonë e Lirë, hosted by the charismatic journalist Arian Çani, who has a particularly predatory way of interviewing his guests — irony, sarcasm, metaphor, it’s all there (like Piranha brother Doug). I generally like his style; he has an infallible nose for bullshit and disingenuousness, and is ready to go on a full frontal, personal attack whenever he senses a weak spot — or better, whenever he senses a fundamental lack of character or basic amounts of self-respect. In a sense, this post will be equally nasty.
One of the guests in this particular episode was Leonard Kika, “Albania’s only male bellydancer.” I have seen Leo dancing on several occasions on the bar, vying for prominence with the other transvestite “bellydancers” of Albania and Kosova (there are more than one, see below). Now he was on national television, dancing his ass off. Not a good idea when you don’t know what you’re saying, and he clearly didn’t.
The interview (I’m paraphrasing) already starts out with Çani announcing Leo’s real age, 32 — everyone knows he’s around 30.
– “No, no, I’m 24 years old.”
– “What a liar…”
– “No, I’m 24 years old” (laughter, Arian-Leo 1-0)
– “And so you were on this show on TOP Channel…”
– “Yes, Albania’s Got Talent, where I was performing as bellydancer, but unfortunately because of prejudices I didn’t win…”
– “A man who does bellydancing…”
– “So, why, because you’re gay?”
– “No, no, absolutely no” (6’41″)
(Painful exchange continues, Arian-Leo 47923947-0)
– “So which of the girls in the studio do you like, Leo?”
– “I like her” (points to uncomfortable but well-behaved girl on th other side of the table)
(Shots of the other guests (actors from a dark comedy I had seen that very evening) — feeling shameful for the entire conversation, facepalms, nail biting, restless fingers, and so on)
– “Ok ok, Leo is not gay, even if it seems so. Appearances are deceiving!”
– “But I can have friendships with whomever, gay, normal woman, a normal man, I have no problem with that.” (wtf?!?!?! “normal” men and women?)
(Çani takes out his mobile, reading text messages from viewers)
– “So this viewer asks, what is your relation with Titi?”
– “Well we were on Albania’s Got Talent, I like him, I don’t have any prejudices against who he is.” (Thus effectively outing Titi Plasa in front of national television, he must be very thankful, Leo)
– “And so, another message, it says that you were dancing in a gay club in Kosovë on the 28th.” (17’25″)
– “No, no, on 28-29-30 I was in Elbasan.” (facepalm, general laughter, music — in popular language, “to come from Elbasan” suggests being gay.)
– “So what about PINK and Aleanca?” (the two main LGBT rights organizations in Albania)
– “I have friends in both.”
The rest of the show is simply too painful to watch (Çani: “Let’s talk about love…”). In any case, Arian had succeeded in portraying Leo as a lying, insincere, closeted gay bellydancer, who not only (accidentally) outed one of his colleagues on a mediocre talent show, but also once again raised the already soaringly high expectations of the general Albanian public about their homosexual compatriots to new levels of disgust. Bravo!
After seeing the show, I asked some friends why on earth Leo thought it was a good idea to appear on Çani’s show; he was a sitting duck, reenforcing a certain image of homosexuality or gay-lifestyle or whatever the fuck else you want to call it that’s definitely not mine, or for that matter, anyone else’s. It’s not even that Çani is extremely homophobic. I have seen another show in which he interviews a boy representing PINK Embassy, a boy who was clearheaded and felt more or less secure in his own skin. Çani allowed him more airtime to talk about gay rights issues than I thought possible on Albanian television. It was actually a sensible interview! The problem was that in a sense, Leo, an Albanian queen if there ever was one, was covering one lie with another, turning himself basically into a sarcastic goldmine. One of my friends told me: “These people go on Çani’s show because he makes them famous.” Yes, famous because they show that they lack every sense of self-respect. Unfortunately, this reflects on the community as a whole, and this should be addressed without mercy.
Leo was kind enough (but what was he expecting?) to post the whole shameful shabang on the Aleanca LGBT Facebook group: “Check it out, I called you my friends!” One of my friends reacted more or less in the same way as I did, and asked him why he denied to be gay, while everything about his appearance was screaming ”I suck cock.” His answer was basically: “It was all scripted, and I was there to talk about bellydancing, not about homosexuality.”
Of course, Leo. After your performance in the first minutes of the show, it was indeed very unreasonable of Çani to bring up your sexuality in a popular talkshow that’s all about revealing juicy details about people’s private lives. It’s a private matter after all! That’s why you, at the same time, go online as Kleandra hunting for male clients. Perhaps you may use your appearance on national television as a selling point? Kleandra, as seen on Zonë e Lirë! I’m so intensely tired of this particularly damaging type of hypocrisy, that I’m glad to post some proof below. Most probably you won’t like me after posting this, Leo, but then again, I don’t think you ever did and I actually really don’t care. I’m sure that if Çani would have showed your GayRomeo profile during the interview, you would have still denied it was you. The thing is: who actually cares? (Well — I do, but mainly for rhetorical purposes)
And yes, you have probably fucked a reasonable amount of Albanian so-called straight men that at the same time publicly exhibit a terrible homophobia. Most probably whole neighborhoods of raki-drinking football-watching slim-cigarette-smoking butch jeans-wearing bubble-butted faux-leather-jacketed Albanian boys have thought of picking you up behind Pallati i Kulturës… But can we now please move on and fuck and love whomever we like and avoid these shameful media appearances in the future?