In image after image, the faces possessed an otherworldly quality.That’s as close as I can come to it: Their eyes seemed to look steadily, unabashedly at the camera—or up at the sky, as if they might float away. Today these sworn virgins live on, but their numbers have dwindled. What happens when the society that created you no longer needs you? They were color portraits, shot recently, seemingly of old men who’d lived a little.
Haki’s father consented, as a good Albanian and Muslim.
And before the dervish was killed eleven days later, he predicted that Haki, while born female, would live like a male. Haki had mastered the gestures and stance of manhood until all of it was muscle memory, or rather, just who he was.
Meanwhile, Albanian society is distinctly conservative, made up of 30 percent Christians and 70 percent Muslims, with a historical disregard for women’s rights, among others’.
In response to the first gay-pride parade held in Tirana this past spring, Ekrem Spahiu, the deputy minister of defense, was quoted as saying of the celebrants: "What remains to be done is to beat them up with a stick.
Today possibly only a few dozen posed and gazed dreamily, disappeared behind clouds of cigarette smoke or sat erect in a chair, surrounded by family, smiling beneficently. And it occurred to me that perhaps I was looking upon the rarest thing of all, complete actualization. He possessed a gray mop of hair, and his eyes resembled those of Charles Bronson.
Even though he was 71 years old, he seemed boyish and lithe, if a little humped.But there was something in the eyes, and sometimes the hands, even the carriage of bones—a softness that made me wonder.The more I gazed upon the photographs, the more I noticed something else.By this declaration, the secured the family estate—and honor. His parents had thirteen children, he said, and he came third in line.It was, as one observer told me, "a choice of force, not happiness," a social construct and selfless act to protect the family. When his mother was pregnant with him, an old traveling dervish from Kosovo had passed through the village, and knowing his head was being sought in a blood feud, he asked for a plot on the family land to be buried in.It borders Montenegro and Kosovo to the north, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south. They speak Albanian, an Indo-European language with traces of Greek and Latin—and the lek is their monetary denomination, which trades at one hundred to one on the dollar.