Albert Maghbouleh was born in Tehran on August 20, 1958, to an Iranian-Jewish family surrounded by a tight-knit community. At age 16, he moved to Eugene, Oregon by himself to live with a cousin. The idea was to learn English, attend university, and thereby improve his job prospects in Iran. In Eugene, he also found the vocabulary for the attraction he’d always had to men.
Much to Albert’s surprise, just three years after arriving in Eugene, the Iranian Revolution broke out. In Eugene, a progressive and politically active small town, Albert became invested in Iranian politics. He watched from afar as his family fled Iran to escape anti-semitism and violence.
After completing his degree in 1981, Albert moved to Los Angeles for work. He came across Beth Chayim Chadashim, the first LGBTQ+ affirming synagogue in LA, in a Frontiers magazine ad. There, he found sermons that often moved him to tears, and met his first partner of seven years. His friends and extended family all met his then-partner, without ever knowing their relationship. In 1984, Albert’s parents came to LA with the intention to get him married. Albert went on one date with a woman, but felt so uncomfortable that he adamantly refused to continue. That same year, Albert’s sister passed away. Her passing served as a wake up call for Albert to realize the shortness of life. One year later, he came out to his brother, his sisters, and then his close friends, all of whom supported him. Although Albert’s parents stopped pushing him to get married, Albert never came out to them.
In the early 1980s, Albert attended an Arab LGBTQ+ gathering in LA. There, he met two other Iranian gay men. As the men continued meeting and bringing in mutual friends, they soon formed a supportive community to talk Farsi and relax together. Albert reached out to an established Iranian LGBTQ+ group based in Sweden, called Homan, and together with a group of Iranian friends launched Homan Los Angeles. Homan Los Angeles co-produced a Farsi and English magazine with Homan Sweden, featuring articles on Iranian LGBTQ+ issues. Homan Los Angeles also interviewed on Iranian TV and radio stations, hosted public panel discussions, ran a phone hotline, and collaborated with San Francisco-based Iranian lesbian organization HASHA to march in Pride together.
With the rise of the internet to coordinate community activities and circulate information, however, both Homans faded away by the mid 2000s. Around the same time, Albert met his current partner, Miles. The couple traveled to Guatemala in 2013, where, at the tail end of the trip, they unexpectedly encountered an Iranian woman living in the Jaibalito. They learned from her that Jaibalito lacked an education system. Miles then wrote a program to open a preschool and kindergarten in the village. Soon, the pair expanded the Amigos de Jaibalito organization to provide a meal program for students, distribute university scholarships, and host community volunteering projects.
Albert remains busy with Amigos de Jaibalito to this day. Outside of work, he splits his time between living in Cooperstown, NY, Jaibalito, and Los Angeles, and travels as much as possible with Miles.