In April, when the news started coming out of Chechnya about the organized police campaign of torture, imprisonment and murder being conducted against men perceived to be gay, it hit me hard.
Growing up in the Netherlands just a few decades after World War II, I learned to dread despotism early on in life. On school and family outings we visited houses with secret rooms where families had provided refuge to Jews as they sought to escape Occupied Europe. Every summer, we would drive through northern Germany to see my cousins, and my mom would announce the sites of former concentration camps we passed along the way.
I felt compelled to do something about the situation in Chechnya—but what? How could I possibly help from the other side of the world?
On April 14, I got an email from the blogging service Dreamwidth that mentioned the Russian LGBT Network, the main organization working to help vulnerable Chechens get to safety. Things started to click into place in my head. I figured out how I could help.
I started by setting aside some of the proceeds from my recently released anthology Falling Hard: Stories of Men in Love for the Russian LGBT Network. Then I asked other writers if they could do something similar.
Things took off when fantasy author Olivia Helling chipped in royalties from her books, and then volunteered to organize a charity auction. Over the next week or so, the idea grew into an effort that now includes more than 50 writers, publishers, and other book people. We call ourselves Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens.
We’ve been raising money for human rights organizations working with LGBT people in Chechnya and the Russian Federation (which Chechnya is a part of) in a few ways:
- donating proceeds from book sales to charitable organizations
- an online charity auction held May 5–13 that raised more than $2,500
- letting our readers and fellow authors know how they can get involved
So far, we’ve raised more than $10,000 for the Russian LGBT Network, Rainbow Railroad, and ILGA-Europe, which are all helping Chechens who have fled their homes to escape the state’s anti-gay purge.
But that’s only a fraction of what these organizations need to relocate these Chechens in countries where they will be safe. We need to continue our work, and we need your help.
- To learn more about the situation in Chechnya — including news updates and how to make a direct donation to a designated charity — visit Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens
- Write a letter to Russian officials and your country’s UN ambassador asking for an investigation. We have links to sample letters at our website.
- Buy books with royalties going to help vulnerable Chechens. Find a complete list here.
- If you’re an author or publisher who would like to donate book proceeds, please let us know at Authors & Publishers for LGBT Chechens. There, you can also find answers to frequently asked questions about royalty donations, the charitable organizations that are helping LGBT Chechens, and more.
As my colleague and Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens participant, Meredith Bond wrote, “Everyone deserves the right to love who they want. No one should be prosecuted or harmed because of it.”
Let’s help that simple truth become a reality for all our community around the globe.
Dale Cameron Lowry is a queer romance and speculative fiction author who writes about people who live in the overlapping margins of multiple cultures.