Tag Archive: LGBT

I’d like to thank Dale Cameron Lowry at https://readersandwritersforlgbtchechens.wordpress.com/ for giving me the chance to help signal-boost the terrific work of Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens and Books Save Lives. If you read my books, or my Facebook posts, or pretty much anything I write anywhere, chances are you don’t need to be told about the horrific scenes presently unfolding in Chechnya, gay men imprisoned, tortured, killed – some by the authorities, some by their own families in “honor killings.” Concentration camps, and governments – including, to my shame and outrage, my own – turning a blind eye.

So, instead of telling you that story, I’d like to start by telling you a story about a story.

I was inspired to write WOLF, BECOMING by a panel discussion at the first Rainbow Con, back in 2014. The Sochi Olympics were coming up, and the institutionalized homophobia in Russia was very much on everyone’s minds. I was a panelist on a Sunday morning panel on “religion in LGBT fiction” (It was Easter morning, it seemed appropriate), and someone proposed doing a charity anthology – all m/m stories set in Russia or the Ukraine, all featuring HEAs – gay men living and loving their truths in a regime that was beginning to indicate that it had no intention of allowing them to do either. And I got to thinking about a dear friend of mine, a gay Russian man, living in the U.S., who I’ve known for over 20 years. He had lost his partner to cancer a few years previously, and had followed his partner’s wishes and brought his body back to Moscow for burial. And by 2014, because some American embassy attaché’s kid decided to write a book about his years in Russia during the Cold War and thought it would add verisimilitude to out my friend, my friend can’t go back to visit his partner’s grave, not without risking his life.

And right after I left that panel, I discovered that the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar anthology for 2014 was going to feature Christmas stories from countries other than the U.S. Now, I’m not necessarily the brightest bulb on God’s Christmas tree, but when an idea hits me over the head hard enough, even I notice.

So WOLF, BECOMING was born, a novella-length story out of ancient Russian legend and the modern day, a wolf shapeshifter reviled by wolves for his strangeness and the third son of a powerful Russian oligarch, a wealthy man who can’t afford the disgrace of a gay son. The story pulls no punches – one reader has commented “You know, this is the first Christmas story I’ve ever read that features an attempted fratricide.” It’s dark and cold, yet it’s also warm and beautiful and the HEA I wished I could have given to my friend, and so many men like him.

I wish I could reach out and do more now, as another cancer spreads in Chechnya. I’d offer the royalties from WOLF, BECOMING, as part of the good work Dale and so many authors are doing (go check out that link at the head of the article for even more ways you can help) but Volyk and Ilya would have to hit the NYT bestseller list for me to be able to give as much as I’d like. Although I will donate royalties to Rainbow Railroad – at the end of this post is a link to WOLF’s page on QueeRomance Ink, which isn’t a sales page but has links to every place you can buy the novella. And if you hit me up on Facebook by private message, or e-mail me at Rory (dot) Ni (at) yahoo (dot) com, and attach a screenshot of your receipt, or some other proof of purchase, before the end of May, I’ll donate the royalties. But I want to do more – so every comment on this blog post before the end of May will mean another $1.00 donation from me. I’d let the comment period run even longer, but this money needs to get where it’s going, so we can get these men to safety.

So…. read, comment. And wherever you are, and whoever you speak to, speak up. Speak out. Silence is a luxury no one can afford right now.


WOLF, BECOMING’s QueeRomance Ink page:



Where do we go from here?

A New Year’s question was posed in a discussion group on Facebook which I greatly enjoy – namely, how will the fight for marriage equality change things here in the States, and where will all that energy go once we’ve achieved that goal? Well, that question immediately made my lawyer hat fly out of the closet and land on my head, and rather than subject my friends in that group to a legal brief plopped down in the Comments section, I thought I’d do a blog post. *winks*

Basically, I think the next level of the fight has to move away from challenging or passing individual laws, and concentrate on driving a sea change in the way courts look at laws which discriminate against LGBT people under the Equal Protection Clause.

All discrimination isn’t unconstitutional. Laws discriminate against classes of persons all the time – for example, a 12-year-old can’t get a driver’s license, while an 18-year-old can. This is a law that classifies on the basis of age. And when a law that allegedly discriminates is challenged in court, the court applies one of three frameworks to analyze it, depending on the group that’s being discriminated against and the interest served by the law in question.

First, there’s STRICT SCRUTINY; if this standard applies, then in order for the law to be found constitutional, the government is required to show that the challenged classification serves a compelling state interest and that the classification is necessary to serve that interest. In order for strict scrutiny to be applied, the law at issue has to either create a “suspect classification” (remember that one, it’s important and I’ll get back to it eventually) or place a burden on the exercise of a “fundamental right” (also important). The term “suspect classification” is carefully defined in law, and presently includes race, national origin, religion, and alienage; “fundamental rights” include the right to vote, interstate migration, access to the courts, and various other rights. Part of the struggle of the marriage cases that have come before the Supreme Court has been to get a judicial acknowledgement that marriage is one of these “fundamental rights”, such that any law purporting to restrict the right to marry has to pass the strict scrutiny test (serving a COMPELLING state interest, and being NECESSARY to serve that interest).

Second, there’s MIDDLE-TIER SCRUTINY, under which the government is required to show that the challenged classification serves an IMPORTANT state interest (an easier thing to show than a “compelling” interest) and that the classification is at least substantially related to (as opposed to “necessary” to – again, easier for the government to prove) serving that interest. Classifications that fall into this category are referred to as “quasi-suspect classifications”, and presently include gender and illegitimacy. In the marriage cases, specifically in Windsor, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated a willingness to include sexual orientation as a quasi-suspect classification, but most analysis has proceeded under the lowest tier of constitutional review, namely:

MINIMUM (OR RATIONAL BASIS) SCRUTINY. In this tier, all the government is required to show in order to defend a discriminatory law is that the challenged classification is rationally related to serving a legitimate state interest. This is where you get all the arguments about the necessity of restricting marriage to heterosexual couples because of the state’s interest in ensuring that accidentally conceived children will be raised by both parents. And when a court uses the rational basis test, it doesn’t even need to care whether the particular justification advanced by the state makes any sense – if there’s ANY rational basis for the law, even one the court comes up with itself, then under rational basis scrutiny, it’s okay.

Now, finally, to my point… there are plenty of arenas in which LGBT people have a long way to go to achieve equality. Taking as just one example, the right to work. In 29 states, you can still be fired for being gay. If you want to challenge the law which allows that in your state, right now all the state has to prove is that the law that lets your employer get away with it is rationally related, somehow, to a state interest the court is prepared to recognize as legitimate. In other words, good luck to you. If you live in a state that includes sexual orientation or gender identity/expression in its list of quasi-suspect classifications, at least the state has to prove that its interest in discriminating against you is important, and that the law is substantially related to that interest. But in order to hold the state to that highest standard, strict scrutiny, you have to either prove that the right burdened by the law is “fundamental” – which was the argument in the marriage cases – or that sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are suspect classifications. The right to work has not been, and is highly unlikely ever to be, classified as a fundamental right. Ditto the right to housing, medical care, or the vast majority of the other rights we’re fighting for. At the very least, we have to get LGBT status included on that list of quasi-suspect classifications; ideally, though, we need to push for the judicial recognition of LGT status as a suspect classification. Once that’s accomplished, once all the discriminatory laws can be held up to strict scrutiny, they’re going to start falling. That won’t be the end of the fight by any means (it certainly wasn’t for African-Americans), but it takes one of the biggest guns out of the fight against us.