Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens started out with a Facebook conversation between authors Dale Cameron Lowry and Olivia Helling in mid-April, after news of the targeted imprisonment, torture and executions of gay men started coming out of Chechnya. Other authors and readers became involved, and we have two main fundraisers we focus on:
· an online charity auction running through 12 noon CDT on Saturday, May 13, with all proceeds going to the Russian LGBT Network, Rainbow Railroad, and other organizations providing direct assistance
One of the participants to the auction is Liane Bennett, a quilter who donated a beautiful lap quilt that has already attracted several bids. Here, she talks about why she decided to get involved:
‘If everyone does a little, it amounts to a lot’
by Lianne Bennett
I have felt helpless on some level or another since the American Presidential election last November. To combat that feeling I've tried many things: increasing my monetary donations to charities I already support, giving regularly to my local (Muslim-friendly) food pantry, writing letters and postcards to my representatives regarding issues I feel strongly about, wearing a safety pin at work (I don't know if that's a thing or not—it's supposed to represent that I'm a safe person for anyone struggling with 'other-ness' problems), looking for volunteer opportunities with the LGBT center near me...
Nothing really feels like it's enough, but I remind myself that if everyone does a little, it amounts to a lot.
Then I started seeing the news of gay men being detained in Chechnya. I was disturbed and tried to pay attention to see what coverage there was about it (way too little, early on). A couple of articles about camps being set up, and torture happening, and I started posting links to the information on my social media. I wanted to write letters, but that helplessness returned: who do we write to when so many voices are already being raised for all of the domestic problems we're neck-deep in? I was furious when I received a response on Facebook from a family member doubting the veracity of the articles.
I've done some real soul-searching since November. I'm bisexual, and I'm in a long-term, monogamous, heterosexual relationship. It would be easy to hide that I'm queer. But I have decided that I will not do that. Whatever happens in this country or around the world, I'm not going to pretend I'm heterosexual.
So in my darkest imaginings, I see the possibility that it could be me interned, and the many queer people I love as well. The situation in Chechnya is personal to me.
I cried with gratitude when I saw former Vice-President Joe Biden speak out against what's happening. There still wasn't (and isn't) as much coverage as I thought there should be, but the news was out there, and no matter that I had a friend remind me that 'there's other things going on', this was where my heart was, and I wanted to do something!
I just still didn't know what I could possibly do.
When I received the email that Dale Cameron Lowry (and others, I soon found) had researched the groups who are actually working to help victims and was donating proceeds from their book sales, it was like a spotlight lighting my way to actively make a difference. I bought their book (again—I already owned it for myself) and gifted it to a friend, and I struggled through the language barrier and the foibles of credit cards and international transactions to donate all I could spare.
The generosity of the writers donating proceeds has snowballed into the auction, in which I couldn't contribute as a writer but still found a way to participate. I'm promoting the auction all I can, and I hope that together we'll make a much bigger impact than any of us could make on our own.
Liane Bennett is “an out-and-proud bisexual who's an avid reader but only an amateur writer of LGBTQIA fiction. Since I don't have any published work to share, I turned to a hobby of mine, quilting, to help raise funds.”
Ways to Get Involved
· 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
· Sign up to attend our Facebook event and invite friends. It’s a great way to keep up-to-date.
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 about royalty donations, the charitable organizations that are helping LGBT Chechens, and more.