Erand Morina is a 21-year-old guy from Kosovo who moved to Canada at a very young age and is being "out and loud". After 7 years, he gives insights about his new life chapter in Canada, his affiliation with drag queen culture and how happy he felt to see his homeland celebrating the first Gay Pride.
When did you move in from Kosovo to Canada?
I grew up in Kosovo where I lived for 13 years. I come from a village near Prizren. Back then I experienced the war and I lost my dad because he was a soldier. I went to Canada in 2009 with my entire family which consists of my mother, my younger sister, and older brother.
I recall the period in Kosovo as being very isolated and I was very influenced by its mentality, therefore when I settled in Canada I used to be very homophobic, racist, sexist etc. Nevertheless, my roots are in Kosovo, I spent my childhood there and whatever I want to do with my career I want to bring it back there and try to put a change on the mentality. I have had people that say to me don’t come to Kosovo, they are going to kill you. But this isn’t preventing me from being who I want to be.
When did you "come out" to your family?
I came out a week before I turned 18, like three years ago. At first, I came out as bisexual (even though I identify as gay) to my sister, which later told to mom about my sexual orientation. It was a twisting point in my life. When I was 16 I was watching a gay TV show with my mom. She would say to me to turn it off but I would ask her "What if one of your children was gay". Then she replied to me: "I would rather kill myself". That was the worst thing I ever heard and very devastating. I was feeling very down and depressed during that period. Despite that, I was raised as a very religious person…I was telling myself If I'm still feeling gay when I turn 18 then I'm gonna kill myself.
I used to pray during these two years "Please do not make me gay". But here I am "out" and happy with myself. Eventually, my mother has embraced everything. Now I have decided to move to Vancouver. This city is full of gay people and has a well established LGBT community. A lot of Kosovo friends think that my mom kicked me out of the house because I’m gay but actually I just decided to move on my own in Vancouver.
I have heard that Vancouver Pride is one of the biggest Gay Pride in the world? Have you ever participated in it?
Yes, that’s true. I participated last year and I even had the chance to see the Canada Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. He is such a big inspiration for the LGBT community and since his mandate, Canada has been more liberal than ever.
What about your background, did you finish your studies or are you currently working?
I have studied in a one-year acting program at Vancouver Film School, which is quite prestigious. Since I was young I used to compete in acting contests in the primary school. Since then I knew that I wanted to be an actor, a performer. Now I’m doing auditions constantly. It is something that makes me free. I want to do roles in films which are not depicted, I never saw comprehensive representation on TV. I rarely see somebody like me, a feminine guy. Now I work at a “Victoria Secret” store. But before that, I used to work for another famous brand which did not allow me to put makeup at work because I was making the customer “uncomfortable”.
For this reason I had to call HR (people who protect my rights as a worker). So I told them about my concern. If a girl can wear makeup so can I.
Therefore I managed to find my way and wear make up. But everyone was giving me the “Oh you had to talk to the people” kind of look. But nevertheless, I work at "Victoria Secret" now. One of the managers of "Victoria Secret" came over at the previous workplace and I had makeup on. We chatted a bit and I explained to him my struggles to put makeup during work-time. Then he invited me to work for his brand. And here I am.
When did you cross-dress for the first time?
When I was 19 years old I started to do drag queen performances, meanwhile, my mom was in Kosovo for the summer vacations. She got so shocked when she saw the videos of my Drag Queen performances (laughs). Basically, she was OK with my sexual orientation as gay but not with the fact of me putting makeup. But eventually, she got used to that.
One of my biggest role models was Adelina Ismajli, she was so ahead of her time. She even sang a song for her gay friend, the song is titled “Shokut tim”. She is like the "Lady Gaga" of the Balkans and she was fighting for LGBT rights before many other famous singers of nowadays. She is such a big influence on my drag performances.
To me doing drag is such a beautiful art of expression, whenever I do drag I rely upon a story, I want to represent something. I don’t do it regularly because I work and beside that I want to have time to build the story behind my performance.
Now back to the Kosovo topic! Did you know that last year Kosovo had the very first Pride?
I haven't visited Kosovo for the last couple of years. I was so sad I could not take part in Kosovo Pride. I would die to be there. At first I had the feeling that Kosovo is so backward regarding LGBT rights. I have received a lot of hateful comments and messages from Kosovo people. And there was a period when I stopped talking to my entire family back home when I came out. But then a lot of people from Kosovo started to follow me on Instagram and I realized about the gay community in my homeland. But I wanna go there for the next year Pride.
Actually, some LGBT activists contacted me and asked if I can come and perform for the Pride. But I would like to come and perform because I feel like I am the only drag queen from Kosovo. Here in Canada, I am the only Albanian guy who is out in the gay community. Maybe because in Kosovo masculinity is celebrated and femininity in boys is seen as weakness.
A last request! What is a message that you would like to give to LGBT community, especially the one in Kosovo?
A lot of my trans friends face Gender Dysphoria which is basically the feeling you get when your gender identity does not fit in with your body cause media tells you what a female/male body is. But a woman can have a penis, a man can have a vagina…therefore we grew up with this idea that this is not my body... I should not have a penis, I should not have a vagina and here originates the Gender Dysphoria.
The kind of a drag that I do is very feminine and I like looking pretty but a lot of people ask me if I am transgender or if I would rather like to do the sexual reassignment surgery. So I started to question my own gender. But I am very conformable with who I am, it's society feeling uncomfortable with a man being feminine and enjoying himself. If I tell them I am a woman they are OK, but if I say I am a man who likes to put makeup they get confused. Therefore I would say be whoever you want to be and do not let society and others impose on you the sexuality.