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 authoritarianism and genocide — authoritarianism’s frequent offspring — 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?
I started talking about the topic with other LGBT authors. Fantasy author Olivia Helling volunteered to organize a charity auction. Over the next week or so, the idea grew into an effort that now includes three dozen writers, publishers, and other book people. We call ourselves Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens. We raise 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 royalties to charitable organizations
- an online charity auction to be held May 5–13
- letting our readers and fellow authors know how they can get involved
Scott Coatsworth, who is participating in Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens as an author and through his online book directory QueeRomance Ink, talks about his motivations for getting involved: “I first heard about what was going on in Chechnya a couple weeks ago. In Nazi Germany, they came for the gays and no one complained. I never thought I would see something like that in my lifetime, and yet here we are. As my friend SA Collins just reminded us, Silence = Death. I will not be silent this time.”
Fantasy author Xenia Melzer adds, “I got involved in the fundraiser because I wanted to do something for those men, but had no clue what or where. [The] auction is the perfect opportunity to make a difference in every little way possible.”
Ways to Get Involved
Authors, Publishers and Artists
If you’re an author or artist who would like help out, please sign up at Authors & Publishers for LGBT Chechens. There, you can also find answers to frequently asked questions, royalty donations, the charitable organizations that are helping LGBT Chechens, and more.
If you are a reader who would like to learn more about the situation in Chechnya — including news updates and how to make a direct donation to a designated charity, buy a book from a participating author, or support the auction — please visit Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens.
Please RSVP to our Facebook event and invite friends. It’s a great way to keep up-to-date. https://www.facebook.com/events/286004325144634/
Dale Cameron Lowry (Twitter: @daleclowry) is a romance and speculative fiction writer living in the Upper Midwest with a partner and three cats. Queer Mormons, immigrants and emigrants, people with disabilities, multilingual folks, and others who spend their lives navigating multiple cultures often appear in Dale’s writing.
Scott Coatsworth (Twitter: @jscoatsworth) was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were. He decided that if there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends. He runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that celebrate fiction that reflects queer reality.
Xenia Melzer is a mother of two who enjoys riding and running when she’s not writing stories. She doesn’t like beer but is easily tempted by a Virgin Mojito. Or chocolate. Truffles are especially cherished, even though she doesn’t discriminate. As a true chocoholic, she welcomes any kind of cocoa-based delight.