It's been seven months to the day since The New York Times published an alarming report about state-sanctioned violence targeting queer men in Chechnya.

The Times, citing Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, had reported men believed to be gay or bisexual were being arrested and killed en masse by Chechen officials. At least 100 people — but likely many, many more — have been swept up in the region's "gay purge."

Russia police arrest an LGBTQ activist in 2015. Photo by Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images.


The situation, it seems, hasn't improved.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied any wrongdoing, claiming, incredulously, the region doesn't even have any LGBTQ people. Human rights groups in and around Chechnya have said the arrests, torturing, and killings have continued throughout the summer and early fall. Last week, reports surfaced that Russian singer Zelimkhan Bakayev — who'd visited Chechnya for a wedding in August — went missing; some have speculated he may be dead.

Finally, Congress is speaking up.

On Oct. 30, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution slamming Chechnya for allowing its gay purge to continue.

The measure follows a nearly identical and unanimously approved resolution passed in the House in June, calling on Chechen officials to stop targeting queer men and bring those accountable to justice. Admittedly, these measures are largely symbolic, but they're important nonetheless: They help keep the issue on the world's radar and legitimize the claims that the violence is actually happening — despite Chechen and Russian officials deflecting responsibility.

Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts (foreground), who, along with Sen. Pat Toomey, introduced the resolution on Chechnya to his colleagues. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Calling for officials to end the purge immediately, the Senate's resolution puts pressure on Russia (which oversees semi-independent Chechnya) to protect the rights of all of its citizens, while also demanding the U.S. continues to condemn the abuses until justice is served.

It's that last part that's particularly noteworthy.

While both chambers of Congress have spoken out on Chechnya, Trump has remained silent.

Many other world leaders — including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — have strongly condemned Chechnya's gay purge and taken concrete steps to help Chechens in need.

So why — seven months after we first learned this abuse is taking place — is Trump still remaining silent?

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

There's no good answer, really.

The president hasn't been an ally to gay Americans, of course, but the Congressional resolutions gained support from even the staunchest anti-LGBTQ legislators in the House and Senate. Some have pointed to the president's cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, speculating that Trump is hesitant to rock the boat with the Russian president by confronting him on Chechnya. Whatever the reason, his indifference on the matter is sending a clear message.

"If Chechnya has indeed begun persecuting gay men, as international reports suggest, it is precisely because the government recognizes that the U.S. won’t organize any opposition," Samar Habib wrote for The Washington Post in May.

Here's how you can help.

Share stories like this with family and friends. Let your reps know you appreciate them taking action and demand that they put pressure on the president to do the same. Support LGBTQ advocacy groups pressuring Trump to speak up. Tweet at Trump. Write and call his White House. Force him to confront this issue.

Trump's silence may be overwhelming, but so are the voices demanding he act.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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