Lately, my favorite time of day is visiting all the blogs talking about saving the lives of LGBT Chechens. Back before the internet, few of us would have known about what’s going on in Chechnya. And fewer of us would have been in a position to help. Now that’s all changed. We may not be able to change government policies or social prejudices in one fell swoop. But we can provide real, tangible assistance to many of the men who’ve been swept up in Chechnya’s anti-gay purge — men who would have had no place to turn only a few years ago.
Here are a few excerpts from the blogs I visited this morning.
Sam Thorne: ‘How could humanity possibly wind back seventy years?’
From author Sam Thorne:
A few weeks ago, I started seeing dreadful news coming out of Chechnya about gay men—and men suspected of being gay—being rounded up and taken to camps, out of the general populace. That, I felt was shocking enough. And then we start hearing that these men, dragged from their homes and their lives, are being beaten and tortured with electricity. I was horrified; how could humanity possibly wind back seventy years? At the last, most reliable count (discussed in Parliament on 20th April), there had been at least 100 men wounded within this regime, and at least four killed as ‘state-sanctioned’ deaths.
… The better news is that the Russian LGBT Network has been working to evacuate people from the country, and they’ve been effective in doing so; at last count, 40 men have been removed from danger.
Petra Howard & Laura Stone: ‘We will not … let our brothers and sisters think they are alone.’
“It breaks my heart that we live in a world where people can’t be who they are, can’t love the people they love openly and freely, and where religion is the underlying reason for why this is the case,” Petra says. “There are very few people who can affect change on their own so, standing together—fusing our voices—is important. Not to say: ‘Look at me, I’m trying to make a point.’ But to say: ‘We will not stand by and let our brothers and sisters think they are alone.’”
Texas author Laura Stone, who donated a set of three signed gay romance novels to the auction, adds, “As both a queer woman and the mother of three LGBT children, gay rights have been at the forefront of my mind, especially as we live in a conservative part of the United States. But that is nothing–nothing–compared to what our LGBTQ friends are being forced to suffer and endure in regimes like Chechnya, Russia. I write stories of love and hope, always with the promise of a family who will love and accept them, and I’m committed to adding that voice to the world with the hope it can one day drown out voices of hate.”
Cecilia Tan & Meredith Bond: ‘A global fight for our rights as queer people’
Cecilia Tan and the publishing house she founded, Circlet Press, are both participating in Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens fundraisers. Tan writes: “This is the first line in the sand in a global fight for our rights as queer people that we are fighting here on US soil, too. Make no mistake: all the hysteria about the “bathroom bills” will AT BEST only lead to more Matthew Shepards and Brandon Teenas, and at worst lead to them making our very existence illegal.” …
Romance writer Meredith Bond’s characters’ often confront prejudice and societal restrictions on who they’re supposed to love. Through May 15, proceeds from her sexy adventure story Falling for a Pirate go to the Russian LGBT Network. She writes: “The reason why I wanted to be a part of this movement to help gay Chechens is simple — because everyone deserves the right to love who they want.”
EM Prazeman: ‘I had to help’
I grew up in an era when a lot of the charities that people heard about or saw on television commercials were pretty lousy at delivering the help they promised. Feed the Children, one of the most famous charitable organizations in the US, went through scandal after scandal, and is in the midst of yet another lawsuit. At first we didn’t hear about it, but as the information emerged at a slow and uneven pace, it called the idea of giving at all into question. We learned to give directly, to give locally, and to volunteer.
But everything has changed now. Now I can give globally, directly. I didn’t have to guess about an organization’s track record. I could find out. When I saw what the Russian LGBT Network was doing, I had to help.
Kate Pavelle: ‘They are refugees, just like I had once been.’
On The Novel Approach Reviews, Kate Pavelle wrote of her own refugee experience leaving Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, the joy she’s found in writing in her fourth language, and the need to pay her good fortune forward:
I was born in the communist Czechoslovakia, where homosexuality was against the law. I wanted to be a writer, but was told, “No, you can’t be a writer. You’d either be a tool of the State, or you’d end up in jail as a dissident.” Once our family defected from behind the Iron Curtain, bummed around Europe as homeless refugees, and landed here in America, I knew I could never be a writer. I’d never speak English well enough – and everybody knows that you can write only in your mother tongue.
There are many things which “everybody knows.” Many turned out to be false. …
Now that real-life men in Chechnya are being rounded up in concentration camps on mere suspicion of being gay, now that they are being beaten and tortured and killed, now that their families are being summoned to kill them to “cleanse their family’s honor by blood,” I feel duty-bound to try and help. …
They are refugees, just like I had once been.
Kaje Harper: ‘Every person we can move is one fewer lost to hate’
And finally, romance and erotica author Lucy Felthouse invited Kaje Harper, who donated her Hidden Wolves paranormal romance series to the Readers & Writer for LGBT Chechens fundraising auction, to talk about Chechnya on her blog. Here’s just a small excerpt of what Kaje shared:
This feels like the year of injustice. Not that the world hasn’t always been a place where people suffered unjustly for who they are and who they love. But now, more than ever, those who represent me on the national and international stage are betraying their responsibility to speak up for rights, for compassion, for human worth and dignity.
This is also the year of the individual. So many of us, in a thousand venues, lifting our individual voices, volunteering, contributing, protesting, speaking up, trying to fill the needs that the wealthy and powerful are abandoning.
LGBTQ Chechens are not the only folk on the rainbow spectrum in grave danger if they’re discovered, but in some ways they represent the darkest of our current fears. … We can’t save them all privately. … But every person we can move is one fewer lost to hate.
These are only snippets of some very moving and informative essays. When you get a chance, please thank the blogs for drawing attention to the treatment of gays in Chechnya:
- Dawn’s Reading Nook: Readers and Writers for Chechnya
- Sam Thorne: Supporting the Russian LGBT Network in Chechnya
- The Fringes of Reality: Readers and Writers for LGBT Chechens
- Dirty Sexy Words: PLEASE HELP & SUPPORT #ChechenRainbow
- Lucy Felthouse: Guest Post from Kaje Harper – Helping LGBT Chechens
- The Novel Approach Reviews: Why We Need to Help Gay and Bi Men in Chechnya by Kate Pavelle
As always, you can find more ways to help at Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens.
About Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens
Find answers to frequently asked questions about the situation in Chechnya and the organizations helping sexual minorities in the Russian Caucasus here: FAQ on Russian LGBT Network and gays in Chechnya.
Learn how to help at Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens.