In Chechnya, part of the Russian Federation, police are kidnapping gay men (and those they perceive to be gay) and taking them to camps for torture. Several state-sanctioned murders have also been reported.
Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens is a group of people raising money for organizations working directly with gay men and other persecuted LGBT people in Chechnya and the northern Caucasus. We do this through direct donations, donating royalties to these charitable organizations, and an online auction being held May 5–12.
Why We Need to Help Gay and Bi Men in Chechnya
by Kate Pavelle, aka Olivette Devaux
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.
- Same-sex relationships are legal in the Czech Republic now, and so is same-sex marriage
- They have freedom of speech now
- I did become a writer
- Yes, I can write in English even though it’s the 4th language I came across those many years ago
People ask why I write gay romance. Partly, I love romance, because it’s a feel-good literature of hope, and it speaks to the commonalities that make us human, that bring us together. Likewise, I can’t stand the “woman gets rescued by a man” tropes present in M/F romance. They aren’t my life. I have worked so hard on not needing a rescue by anyone, the attitude is ingrained in my stubborn bones. Being a refugee in my early teens had shown me that, ultimately, we are on our own. People may help us along the way, but in the end, we are responsible for our own destiny. Some have it easier than others, true, but the attitude of self-reliance that I have been trying to foster in myself all these years – decades – is incompatible with “rescue and love” tropes of straight genre romance.
A same-sex relationship offers a theoretically level playing field. Two guys (or gals,) similar societal expectations, no worries about getting pregnant. This oversimplified model is where I’d started few years ago, and it has evolved into a better understanding of how people work. The itch was scratched, and just when we got the landmark SCOTUS decision, marriage equality, and I’d thought I could move on to writing crime suspense, the Pulse shooting happened.
Ducking out of a genre that had given me a good start, and a ton of support, would’ve been ungrateful. People were suffering, so I stayed.
One year and few books later, we have Chechnya, and Putin, and Trump, and… and I just can’t leave. As long as writing same-sex romance is a political statement against a hateful, bigoted, religiously motivated governmental policy, I’ll keep writing it. I’ll keep making by boys happy in fiction in order to inspire those who are still closeted, or lonely, or scared that they, too, can have their happy ending. They, too, will have to work hard for it, (because my characters seldom have it easy), but there is that special someone for them at the end of the rainbow.
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. These are not fictional characters. They are real, they bleed red, they run scared. For those lucky ones who were able to escape, we can help finance rescue operations so that they can find a home somewhere else.
They are refugees, just like I had once been.
I’m just paying it forward.
Please join me.
Kate Pavelle‘s novel Swordfall made the USA TODAY’s “must-read romance of 2015” list. She writes suspense, romance, and fantasy. She started publishing LGBT titles under her Olivette Devaux pen name.
If you’re an author who would like to get involved, please sign up at Authors & Publishers for LGBT Chechens. There, you can also find answers to frequently asked questions about donating a percentage of royalties, educating readers, the charitable organizations that are helping out LGBT Chechens, and more.
If you are a reader who would like to learn more about the situation in Chechnya and how to help — including 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. You’ll find more information, as well as links and graphics you can add to your own blog, social media, or your website.