Friday, September 25, 2009

Lambda Literary Award guidelines clarification

As promised, here is the letter of clarification regarding the guidelines for the 2009 Lambda Literary Awards nominations process. Katherine Forrest is the new interim President and Tony Valenzuela the new interim Executive Director of the foundation.

Clarification of Lambda Literary Foundation Policy Guidelines of Nominations, 2009 Lambda Literary Awards, from Katherine V. Forrest, Interim President, Board of Trustees

September 25, 2009 - The Board of Lambda Literary Foundation, under the leadership of Christopher Rice, spent much of last year discussing how our literature has evolved, and the actual mission of the Foundation given the perilous place we find ourselves in with our drastically changed market conditions. We also took into consideration the despair of our own writers when a heterosexual writer, who has written a fine book about us, wins a Lambda Award, when one or more of our own LGBT writers may have as a Finalist a book that may be the only chance in a career at a Lambda Literary Award.

We discussed two essential questions: who we are, what we are here to accomplish. We discussed every single word of this, our Mission statement: The Lambda Literary Foundation is dedicated to raising the status of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

Lambda Literary Foundation is a service organization for our writers. Our LGBT family of writers. We celebrate those who support our writers, those in all the allied areas of our literature: our readers, publishers, booksellers, publicists, agents, etc. We celebrate straight allies of every kind and always have throughout our history, with the Bridge Builder Award, Small Press Award, Publishers Service Award, Editor's Choice Award, among other awards and acknowledgments, and we'll continue to do so.

Today we continue to be excluded in heterosexual society as we have been historically. Our books are taken from the shelves of libraries all over the country and even from the website of Amazon.com this year. It is more difficult to be an LGBT writer now than it has been in many decades, more difficult to make any income from our written words, much less a living. Publishers have closed, stores have closed, the markets seem to be shrinking with each passing day. It seems more urgent than ever that LLF be as active and supportive a service organization as we possibly can be for our own writers, and that's what we're working on, with a Board that could not be more passionate in our commitment. We will soon have a new, far more comprehensive website connecting all segments of our publishing world, and we're determined to restore our Writers Retreat for emerging writers, the single most important initiative we've undertaken next to the Lambda Literary Awards.

As to what defines LGBT? That is not up to anyone at Lambda Literary Foundation to decide. The writers and publishers are the ones who will be doing the self-identifying. Sexuality today is fluid and we welcome and cherish this freedom. We take the nomination of any book at face value: if the book is nominated as LGBT, then the author is self-identifying as part of our LGBT family of writers, and that is all that is required. There are many permutations of LGBT and they're all welcome as that LGBT term we've all adopted makes clear.

We hope this will clarify our policy and answer some of your questions and concerns. We welcome your comments.

Contact: Tony Valenzuela, info@lambdaliterary.org

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56 comments:

  1. "We take the nomination of any book at face value: if the book is nominated as LGBT, then the author is self-identifying as part of our LGBT family of writers, and that is all that is required."

    So... if a book is entered, you assume that the writer claims to be LGBT and you can call him or her a liar if this proves not to be the case?

    If this is what Lambda Literary considers 'clarification,' I am sorely disappointed. You are giving good het writers the choice of closeting themselves to participate, or avoiding this catch-22 definition the only way they can--by not participating.

    I think itwill be LLA's loss. It's a pity that the GLBT writers of LLA do not think their work will stand in fair competition on the basis of literary merit rather than the author's sexuality.

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  2. Thank you very much for posting Ms. Forrest's clarification. I do think it clears up a lot of questions. LLF is, I believe (not that it matters what I believe, of course! :) doing the right thing, for their particular goals and aims and mission, and they are doing it with open eyes and open hearts and trust. And I don't think there's anything more that can be asked.

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  3. Sarah, you're welcome. Thanks for offering your opinion.

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  4. So your answer to discrimination is - more discimination? How will that solve anything? How is that going to help to increase the awareness of the issue? Surely this should be about the message - not about the messenger?

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  5. Serena Yates: How does "discrimination" come in here? There is nothing discriminatory about giving awards to work by members of a certain group -- whether it be queers, Americans, women, people of color, Presbyterian ministers, retired railroad workers, children under 12, etc.

    There are few things more creepy than members of majorities (or dominant groups like men, who are not a majority in this country but think they are) complaining that they're being discriminated against.

    Discrimination comes in when someone who fits the target classification is arbitrarily excluded for other traits: if African-American writers are not counted as Americans, if American women aren't counted as Americans, and so on. But there is no reason why awards developed to honor GLBT writers should be given to a straight one. To draw that line there is not discriminatory. It doesn't mean that straight writers are no good, or that the book in question is worthless -- it may be a very good book. But if it's not written by a member of the target group of writers, it doesn't qualify.

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  6. So your answer to discrimination is - more discimination?

    No, their answer to discrimination is, "We will recognise those authors whose literary merit, because of their gender orientation/identity and/or the content of their stories, has not been recognised by the wider literary world."

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  7. Dear Promiscuous Reader,
    discrimination comes in here because a judgement (of exclusion) is being made about who *wrote* the story rather than what the story is about. It's the same as excluding a white person from marching in a protest against the oppression of African-Americans. If any minority excludes potential allies from helping them because they don't look or feel or believe the same as the minority - that is discrimination.
    Any minority that excludes people from supporting them because those people don't 'fit the picture' is just as guilty of discimination as any majority. Discrimination is not an offense that is limited to the majority. It is about exclusion and non-acceptance.

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  8. Dear Zeborah,

    and this 'reverse' discrimination is just as wrong. To exclude someone from a group because he or she doesn't fit the 'group looks' or 'group beliefs' is what is called discrimination. Exclusion and non-accepance is wrong, no matter who it originates with.

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  9. As a straight writer, I just want to say I wholeheartedly agree with Lambda's aims here. There will undoubtedly be awards which focus on content alone, and I'll enthusiastically submit my gay character stories to those, but celebrating the writers who walk the walk and endure the difficulties of being 'othered' in an unequal, unfair society, is worthy and right.

    Talk of 'reverse discrimination' is ignorant and offensive. This author wants no 'help' from people pushing that line.

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  10. Dear Ann,

    to call me 'ignorant' and 'offensive' is, I believe, unnecessarily hurtful. As someone who painfully walks the walk and endures the difficulties of being 'othered' on a daily basis I DO feel that I know what I'm taking about!

    I don't believe that it is right for you to judge me like this.

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  11. I'm sad that, as far as I can tell from these new standards, my work could never be nominated for a Lambda. Though I tend to write gay characters, I think I'm fairly considered straight (after 18 years of marriage to the same man). Another time, another life, maybe, I might be considered something different. I believe marriage and relationship and sexuality are about the people, not about labels and I met the right "man" rather than the right "woman".

    That said, I understand and respect the underlying reasons for the distinction. I don't experience the day-to-day or marketplace prejudice that homosexual writers do.

    Favorite line from this entire thing:

    Sexuality today is fluid and we welcome and cherish this freedom.

    I'll still covet that award from afar...

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  12. Serena, even if you're GLBT, I utterly disagree with you, and yes, it's offensive and ignorant to accuse an oppressed group of 'reverse discrimination'. It's offensive when a man accuses women of reverse sexism, it's offensive when whites accuse blacks of reverse racism, and this is the same.

    If you don't like what Lambda are doing, then that's your right. As a straight person, I have no right to criticise them, but as it happens, I have no wish to.

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  13. While I, at first, was not sure I liked the idea of this restriction, upon reflection, I think it's perfectly acceptable. After all, this is not saying that straight writers are not allowed to *write* GLBT literature, or win OTHER awards. LLAs are not the only awards in existence, not even the only awards for GLBT literature. Since their missions statement has said from the very beginning that they were intended to honor *GLBT authors*, I feel they are well within their rights to enforce this.

    It is, in my opinion, in the same vein as establishing a university scholarship for a certain group of people. To steal the race analogy, if there is a scholarship specifically to encourage Native American young adults to attend universities, it would be ridiculous, and furthermore unfair, to award those scholarships to non-Native American young adults.

    It's not a gesture meant to exclude our straight allies from the *community*, I don't think, but rather to specifically honor GLBT authors who do not have all the other opportunities available to straight authors.

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  14. I think that it is sad that previous winners like Mercedes Lackey would no longer be elligable for a Lambda. I used to follow the Lambda and buy the winners, now--not so much.

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  15. Dear Ann,

    How can it be offensive to look at the facts starig us right in the face? An oppressed group is just as capable of doing injustice to others as anyone else. It is a deplorable human trait to ignore the truth just because the person who states that truth doesn't fit your expectations as to what they should look like or what they should believe!
    And I do no find it offensive if a man accuses women of reverse sexism - IF they are guilty of it! - nor do I find it offensive when whites accuse blacks of reverse racism - IF they are guilty of it!.

    I guess we just need to agree to disagree onthis one.

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  16. Dear Jules,

    you say that "It's not a gesture meant to exclude our straight allies from the *community*, I don't think, but rather to specifically honor GLBT authors who do not have all the other opportunities available to straight authors."

    So - if a GLBT author wrote a 'straight' book (whatever that means) - you don't think they should be entitled to an award for their literary brilliance? HUH? What am I missing here?

    Since when is it a requirement to state your sexual preference before you can be considered for a *literary* award? Does the Nobel Prize committee ask what sexual orientation (or colour or religion) an author has before recognizing great literature? I don't think so!

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  17. Serena, sweetie, while I like you a great deal, your responses to this argument show that your concept of oppression does not match Ann's. Oppression is not just prejudice, it is prejudice plus the power to enforce it. For example, there is a true story of a white man who endangered his wife's life by not allowing her to be treated in an emergency situation by any medical personnel who were not white.

    The hospital was sued for going along with his wishes.

    It is possible, of course, that a black man could go into that same hospital and make the demand that only black nurses and doctors treat his wife, but the difference is, due to the traditional oppression of the African American race in this country, not only would his request probably not be listened to, it wouldn't be *possible.* There is greater than a 90% chance that that hospital would not have sufficient African American medical staff to even fulfill his request.

    That is the difference between prejudice and oppression. One is an individual attitude. The other is a social system with the power to reinforce that attitude.

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  18. Serena,

    Certain awards DO require the entrants to meet their criteria before being eligible for the award. The Lambda Literary Awards do not consider themselves to be the only award available for GLBT literature. They are, however, stating that they want to be an award for GLBT authors.

    If there was an award for black authors, it would be offensive for a white writer, even if they wrote about black characters, to insist on being eligible to win the award. If the award was only stipulated to be for literature that included black characters, then the author's racial identity wouldn't figure in. Lambda has chosen to be an award for *authors* who meet a certain criteria. That is their choice.

    What if someone was giving away door prizes, and they said that only someone whose birthday had been in the past week was eligible to win that prize? That's a stipulation of the contest, and everybody knows up front.

    I will caution you, no matter how hurt you may be feeling right now, consider that your GLBT friends feel the same way on a regular basis, and be careful of what you might say that will end up driving a wedge between you. After all, if you drove someone to the emergency room for a broken arm and on the way started complaining about a splinter you'd acquired in your finger, that would be considered fairly bad manners. It doesn't diminish the fact that the splinter in your finger hurts, but there are other entities whose injuries are far more serious.

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  19. Dear Jules,

    while you have no idea what I go through on a daily basis or who I identify with, the last thing I want to do is hurt or offend anyone. I am truly sorry if I caused you any pain or upset. I will shut up now.

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  20. Serena,

    It's true, I don't have any idea. But you don't have any idea about mine, or any number of strangers who might come across this blog. My only caution was to be careful about how your words will affect people. I don't want you to feel as if I am attacking you, as I'm not, but I do hope that you can at least see where I and other people are coming from on this issue, whether you choose to agree with us or not.

    And in the end, it might be helpful to ask yourself whether you need an award to validate your writing, or even the reason you write. I'm not saying that's how you view it, but I know that's the immediate emotional reaction I had, as if the LLA was trying to invalidate the writing of straight allies by including these stipulations in their criteria. On further consideration, I firstly don't believe they are attempting to do any such thing, and secondly don't believe that the opinion of any one person or organization can validate or invalidate another person's existence or art. It is what it is, and I'm glad you've chosen to walk the path of an Ally. It's a difficult, often lonely and frustrating path, but in the end we aren't Allies for our own benefit, but for the good of others, and that will always be true.

    And unless anyone has specific questions for me, that's my last statement. :)

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  21. I apologize in advance. I truly do not understand the banishment of straight authors who write G/L/B/T stories. Especially when previously, this wasn’t a problem.

    I know for a fact that Gay/Lesbian authors can (and do) get to enter their polished heterosexual stories for contest consideration and awards outside the gay community.

    BUT

    Your organization is saying that heterosexuals who write homosexual stories are NOT allowed to submit their works because they are straight?

    If I understand your definition, then childrens books should only be judged and awards given if they are written by children.

    Gay/lesbian/bi/trans and hetro authors share a beautiful, common bond: our love and understanding of writing/story telling that supersedes the sexual limits placed on us by a narrow minded society.

    It doesn’t matter if a gay man writes a bodice ripper! Just as it doesn’t matter if a married straight woman pens a m/m romance! If it’s a well told, entertaining story everyone wins! Why divide ourselves? We need to band together!

    Looking at the scope of it all, we who write great stories that are homosexual in nature are being discriminated against the status quo as they will NOT accept our "homosexual stories" for contests and awards in their heterosexual organizations.

    G/L/B/T has a wonderful place - Lambda Literary Awards to submit their well written homosexual stories for recognition. I am very thankful and appreciative of that opportunity!

    But what about the hetro authors?

    They write damn good homosexual stories (such as homosexual authors are known to write damn good heterosexual stories.)

    Yet it is my understanding from the words I read on this website, straight authors have no business entering their same sex stories against their peers of G/L/B/T authors in a bid for an award that is given for homosexual literature?

    Even though G/L/B/T authors are more than welcome to enter contests and awards with their straight peers with hetro stories equal to those written by breeder authors?

    Isn’t that like the G/L/B/T community allowing heterosexuals to show their love/support by accepting monetary donations, voting in favor of gay friendly issues and blood sweat and tears put into gay pride parades, protests, and community centers. Yet when a victory comes through, not allowing them to celebrate the success just because they are straight?

    Straight authors who write gay stories are being treated like the red-headed step child. The heterosexual organizations turn their noses up at them, refusing to accept their well written gay stories.

    Then to make matters worse...

    The homosexual Literary community has turned their backs on straight authors NOT because of their well written gay stories, but because the author admits to being heterosexual?

    The bottom line?

    There is a whole section of authors out there who are denied any awards or contests for their hard work, simply because they are straight folks writing gay stories.

    I don't know about anyone else but where I come from, a damn good novel is a damn good novel, no matter the sexual preference of the author.

    Humbly and sincerely submitted by
    Dawn Harrison/George/Abby Allwynn
    georgetalwin@gmail.com

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  22. Like sex scenes at starbucks, I'm in a heterosexual marriage, but it wasn't guaranteed to work out that way for me. I was always open to either possibility (and there were a few other woman I would have LOVED to have pursued a relationship with, had the feeling been mutual). However, since I'm living a "heterosexual lifestyle", I guess that would exclude me? (Not that I've written any books yet that would qualify).

    *shrug* I can honestly see both sides of this arguement, so I don't really have much to contribute. I do, however, have to point out to Ann that reverse racism and sexism DO exist. I've seen publishers that won't even look at stories written by men. I find that to be an example of reverse sexism. I'm a white woman who lives and works in a predominantly African American area. Do you think I don't experience reverse racism from time to time? I can tell you that I do. I don't get mad and point fingers though...I just shrug it off and get on with my life. But it does happen (rarely though, thankfully).

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  23. Taylor, from what I understand, it's your self-identity rather than your 'lifestyle' that they're asking for. So if you identify as bi, you qualify. Bi invisibility is a bit of a problem for reasons like that. In a same-sex relationship, they're considered gay; in a hetero relationship, they're considered straight. But they're still bisexual. :)

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  25. Oh boy. It's been painful to read the fallout from LLA's decision regarding the Lambda Awards, because I think what we have here are two different groups of people who have been told, over and over by society at large, that our desire is not okay, fighting over one of the very few scraps of acknowledgement available to us.

    It's easy to forget the "women" part of straight women, and fall under the illusion that a heteronormative standard that demands straight female sexual passivity and, in the case of unattractive straight women, celibacy, is somehow reflective of authentic straight female sexuality. It's not.

    If such a thing as an embodiment of the dominant cultural paradigm existed, it would be laughing with glee to see straight women who write m/m fighting with members of the LGBT community.

    As a woman in a heterosexual relationship who is _still_, at the ripe age of 45, trying to sort out my personal truth from the toxic messages about sex, gender and entitlement that surround me, I don't know much. But I do know that until I found m/m, I had no tools for dismantling the conceptual blinders that kept me ashamed of my desire. Writing across gender has been an experience of liberation that means the world to me.

    So, it really hurts to be characterized as a voyeur with a fetish for gay men, as I've seen m/m writers described more than once in other venues during the course of this conversation. And, from first-hand experience, I can tell you that a straight woman writing about men in same-sex relationships has a very narrow range of opportunities for publication.

    BUT, so do LGBT authors. And while m/m has a strategic foothold in epublishing, which may well be the dominant publishing paradigm in days to come, LGBT presses are going out of business at an alarming rate. I don't begrudge Lambda their prerogative to boost members of their own community one little bit.

    Definitely, as m/m and LGBT literature alike are intimately involved with issues of gender, the interests of straight m/m authors are allied with gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people. On the other hand, I think that straight women who write m/m will be better off owning their work as legitimate in its own right.

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  26. Wow. I don't think I've ever run across an organization who cared about who stuck what where in whom.

    Oh wait, that would be the right wing fundies. Please, what does it matter what orientation or sex an author is...as long as the story is good. It's like marriage. Who cares who marries whom as long as they love and respect that commitment.

    Piffles.

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  27. Those who forget history are condemned to relive it. I don't know all the definitions of sexual identity, but I know that Lambda was formed in a society that has consistently and does consistently discriminate against lgbt people including authors. The story is old, but the wounds are still very present. I would like to be saintly and understanding about the decision to give a Lambda award to a "heterosexual" writer, but I can't, because my feelings run too deep. If you want to argue about tolerance, do me a favor and find some other forum.

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  28. may i enquire what proof is required of gender orientation? it is not reqyired on the entry form. if i have to declare my sexual persuasion to my employer that's against the law--so if my publisher enters my book--why should i declare it to them? there are still many GLBT writers writing quietly--who may be fired or be badly treated in their communities. Think the armed forces of many countries--think countries like Jamaica--so to openly come out is still a problem. If LLF wish to deny het writers--thats their perogative, but i say again, how is it proved otherwise?

    Also does it follow that bi writers can only enter into bi catergories, gay into gay etc etc?

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  29. "may i enquire what proof is required of gender orientation? "

    Did you even read the post, Erastes?

    "We take the nomination of any book at face value: if the book is nominated as LGBT, then the author is self-identifying as part of our LGBT family of writers, and that is all that is required."

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  30. Erastes,

    Perhaps photographic proof will need to be submitted at some point. Or better yet, wearing a pink triangle on your jacket.

    I'm not trying to be flippant but oh, I am seriously so disappointed in the organization, I could easily just vomit in disgust.

    Self-identifying... suppose you don't want to come out? Isn't that a choice? Hello, I'm so and so. And I'm a closet heterosexual. :::sighs:::

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  31. I'm not getting into any discussion with you, Ann, we all know how you love it too much.

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  32. On the contrary, seeing you post anywhere or engaging you in any way, is decidedly a displeasure and one I would gladly give up.

    Did you read the post? Obviously not, as you continue to ask questions answered by it. Perhaps spend less time posting, more time reading.

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  33. Marginalised bodies often have awards expressly to serve their community:
    eg BCALA awards, the Orange awards. This is not a new thing. This is a recognition of societal discrimination and trying to create a space for the marginalised. Yes, we'd all prefer if this wasn't necessary - we'd all love it if the mainstream wasn't prejudiced. But it is and these are necessary.

    No-one is saying straight people cannot/should not/are unable to write books with GBLT themes or characters - no-one is saying anything about straight people at all (except, maybe, 'it's not about you') - but this award is about the AUTHOR not the GENRE. Just as I could write a novel about black characters but not win the BCALA award. No-one is saying white people cannot write about black people with that - but it's not the purpose of the award

    Wedschild
    You are comparing being unable to enter an award with the slaughter of homosexuals by the Nazis. Please reconsider such a grossly offensive analogy

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  34. I applaud the LLF board for taking this courageous step and for all of the hard work they are doing for our community. The LGBT community is still fighting for it's rights in this world, and if our own organizations don't stand up for us, then how can we expect anyone to give us equal treatment? It is so good to see the LLF clarifying and focusing on their mission. If all of us would do that in more areas of our lives, we would all be better people.

    Frankly I am surprised that there are any LGBT people who fail to see this.

    The purpose of the LLF is to support LGBT writers. We need more LGBT people supporting LGBT people, not less of them. And I think the self-identifying guideline is the perfect solution.

    Thank you Nicola for posting this and for all of your hard work on this issue.

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  35. Thanks, Jules. :) I would still feel very uncomfortable submitting anything with the new rules. I'd feel like saying, "Don't pay attention to husband behind the curtain..." lol

    To everyone else...I spent the last hour or so reading arguments on different blogs about this issue, as I'm still on the fence. I'm seeing good arguments and points being made on both sides. (Once you get past the vitriol). I can completely understand why straight writers feel left out after their support of the LGBT community (kind of a "hey, after all my support, this is the thanks I get?" sort of thing), but I can also see why the LGBT community would like to have something of their own.

    Unfortunately, I'm not seeing either side recognize those points. There are so many cries of "You don't understand!" and name-calling that things just aren't getting through. Everybody's dismissing everybody else's feelings, which does nothing to help the situation. It only makes things worse.

    *sigh* The whole thing is depressing me, so I'm probably just going to walk away from it all and hole myself up with my imaginary men until it blows over. ;)

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  36. Dear Sparkindarkness,

    Nazis never entered into the picture (well, in the reference anyway). Before the adoption of the rainbow flag as the "emblem" of the GLBT culture, it was a Pink Triangle and many people who were fighting society's ideas about what gay meant actually wore one on their jackets to show they were either supportive of gays or gay themselves.

    Not knowing you or how old you are, perhaps you weren't a part of that slice of society at the time or just not born yet. Either way, it is a part of "our" history as activists and fighters for acceptance and tolerance.

    As for being offensive.. I once again point to the fact that exclusionary tactics from an organization dedicated to a LITERARY agenda should not have made this submission policy. Regardless of what the author sticks in whatever orifice they have, the WRITING should matter. The STORY should matter.

    I am ashamed at the backwards steps they have taken and am saddened by the close mindedness of their supporters. It's not about being gay. It SHOULD be about being a good writer.

    It is after all, a writing award. I think they've forgotten their origins and should really take a good hard look at what they've wrought.

    And I agree Taylor, I think we're forcing people into a closet because of their sexuality, and it's wrong. It's disgusting to me and still, makes me want to vomit my stomach out like I'm a starfish. It's depressing. No one should have to hide who they love because they want to excel at something they love.

    I think I'll go look at my own imaginary men and women as well.

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  37. Thank you everyone, yes everyone, who is weighing in here. We need frank discussion. (It doesn't mean we'll change our minds overnight--we in this instance being LLF--but we do listen.) And thanks for keeping it (mostly) polite.

    I hope the discussion continues. I hope everyone will remain respectful and kind and assume good intent. This isn't always easy with issues like this--but I do expect it here on my blog, and will enforce it.

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  38. Most we ladies writing the gay are aware that the Lambda Lit Awards aren’t really about us and our m/m material. BUT Let’s be honest: our publishers do not count on gay male sales, nor do they even market to gay male readers. The most recent example of this came from Running Press, who released titles and called them ‘m/m’ for the purpose of getting those books shelved in ‘romance-general’. Why not get them shelved in ‘Gay & Lesbian’? I’m inclined to think that some publishers and creators feel that they write ‘legitimate’ romance and it should be shelved with romance, so shouldn’t you be getting miffed at the lack of recognition in the ‘romance awards arena’? I’ll come out and ask again, what’s wrong with the ‘Gay & Lesbian’ section? – my point is, there’s far greater policies to be criticized here that directly impact female-created ‘m/m romance’, than a lack of Lambda Award recognition.

    Right now most ‘Gay & Lesbian’ sections of stores are stocked with erotic anthology collections [the minor, yet primary fiction content], self-help and non-fiction titles [their studies content, takes up most of the 3 shelves dedicated to glbt books], and the occasional Bruno Gmunder illustrated collector book [because Lord Have Mercy, they can’t put real gay comics with ‘yaoi manga for girls’ over in “graphic novels” next to Superman! There’s a wealth of great glbt material out there, but with such limited shelf space, only the best of the medium-size presses can get their books into the store and categorized so the right readers find it.

    My optimistic-voodoo had convinced me that award programs like LLA want to refocus on bringing awareness to glbt creators that can offer the ‘Gay & Lesbian’ section of the book store more diverse glbt content. I don’t personally feel it’s exclusionary or discriminatory, but then I got an earful from gay male friends online. I heard the anger of their arguments as they see this move as nothing short of ‘hypocritical’ and ‘self-defeating’; they contend that very idea of awarding straight/bi women for making good gay-romance content has glbt creators scared. It’s not about sales, it’s about identity.

    I see the conflict for my friends and for Lambda, and it sucks: Times are changing in the gay community as more and more glbt people move from being presented as a fetished minority by the media, to being seen for the real people most of us know them to be: parents, friends, teachers, neighbors, readers, writers, doctors, etc - the biggest crit seems to be, “if we want to be seen as everyday people – perhaps exclusionary awards like this should be a thing of the past.” I’m inclined to nod and agree, but I realize it’s not my place to push such things – I’m a straight woman whose only connection to the gay romance community is my writing.

    So to LLA: recognizing the strong presence of straight female creators and deciding to limit their opportunity for your award could’ve been done in a ‘less traumatizing’ way. If what you say about focusing on ‘the material’ is true, how about recognizing ‘m/m’ and the impact it’s had on Gay Lit and it’s sales, with some form of award?

    As for those female creators unhappy with this, perhaps pressuring your publishers into making the ‘Gay & Lesbian’ area of the bookstore a more diverse place, instead of considering it a ‘marketing death sentence’ is something you might want refocus on, for the health of the genre and the connection the gay-male community, which you obviously desire since you want an award from it. It’s certainly better then making misandry-laden speeches claiming ‘the gay men are afraid of our female successes’. Save that crap for the straight men [and women] who shut you out because of what you write; they’re more deserving of your anger than the Lambda’s who’ve obviously decided to preserve the ‘for gay by gay’ tradition that they were founded on in the first place.

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  39. Rather than trying to get the work of GLBT authors out there in the bookshops, into the mainstream, you try to keep everything "within the family". How can you make any progress if you never leave your own comfort zone?

    Of course I accept that you exclude straight authors - but then please, don't accept their submission fees, either.

    This is your award and your rules apply. But I fear it's the wrong way to go. Books are not removed from shelves because of the gender- or sexual-orientation of the authors (at least not in the country where I live), but because of the *content*.

    Why not use the current success of straight women writing gay romance for your own advantage? The more voices, the better we'll be heard...

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  40. I really don't get the outrage.

    Are American authors pissed off that they aren't eligible for the Booker? Are British authors protesting that they are not eligible for a Pulitzer? Do Chinese people complain about being ineligible for the Black Caucus Literary Award?

    I don't think so. And if they are, no one cares.

    And the LLF does acknowledge that they "celebrate straight allies of every kind and always have throughout our history, with the Bridge Builder Award, Small Press Award, Publishers Service Award, Editor's Choice Award, among other awards and acknowledgments, and we'll continue to do so."

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  41. I think the main question should be whether the award is for 1) literature which celebrates the glbt experience or 2) glbt authors.

    In the first instance, it should not matter whether the author is straight or whatever. In the second, it should.

    The easiest resolution to all this is to have two awards which could go to the same or to different authors: the first of which celebrates the best literature which promotes glbt; the second of which celebrates glbt authors.

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  42. Ironically enough, I understand both sides being posited here. However, in the face of the following (this is a DIRECT QUOTE after being told a work wasn't "genre enough" and asking for a definition of genre), well, what side would YOU take? (and I like DianneorDi's suggestion):

    "Most genre fiction (cyberpunk, science fiction, etc.) has hetero
    protagonists and gay supporting characters. You have the opposite.
    Absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it does tend to push your books into smaller GLBT publishers (with a few exceptions). Especially now when genre publishing imprints are looking for home runs and are using any excuse (excessive word length, non-mainstream characters, cross-genre blending, etc.) to reject a manuscript."

    So YOU tell ME exactly what these awards are about, and exactly why we should *again* be supporting characters - at OUR OWN PARTY. This wasn't received two decades or even two years ago - this was two DAYS ago.

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  43. Okay...so now I'm reflecting further. If in fact any who writes about GLBTQ experience that submits is taken at face value (AND if we really think about it, and I mean really reflect)...people who write these stories - no matter how they actually live their lives - are in fact QUEER.

    Because let's face it, does anyone here honestly think that your average homophobe doesn't think there's something more than "a little fruity" about straight people writing about gay people in anything other than a pejorative manner?

    "Straights" who submit for this award are "outing" themselves as QUEER, regardless of who they may or may not actually sleep with or affectionally bond with, because they are SELF IDENTIFYING as such through their own work.

    Let's take this a step further: if LGBTQ people write about STRAIGHT people, there are PLENTY of awards they can apply for. But for "straight" people writing about LGBTQ, there are (sadly) limitations.

    Perhaps what should truly be "excluded" are stories that are merely LGBTQ in their supporting and bit characters, regardless of orientation of the writer, or only because of the author's self identity. Because truly, aren't these awards meant to celebrate LGBQT experience in the literary? Shouldn't that experience be "the main" as opposed to "the margin?" And isn't that exactly what LLF does? Provide a forum wherein this marginalized life is the celebrated main?

    Or have I completely missed the point somewhere?

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  44. Yes, JD, you've completely missed the point. But don't worry, so have a lot of people.

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  45. Anonymous, good manners are the oil that keeps the world running. Where did you put yours?

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  46. Barbara, maybe the same place where a majority comes in to tell a minority how they should think, feel and act, and cry discrimination while showing their heterosexual privilege?

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  47. Let's remember that here we are assuming good intent.

    No fighting. Civil discourse only or I will wield--as another blogger puts it--the loving mallet of correction.

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  48. I apologize, Nicola. After feeling being under fire in a community where I assumed I was safe, it's very disheartening to be accused of reverse discrimination - like once again, the 'uppity' (yes, that is a quote from elsewhere) queers are demanding more than they're entitled to.

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  49. Anonymous, here's a hug. And that disheartened feeling is pretty much why I don't enter into these kinds of discussion often. Because mostly, people don't want a conversation: they want to state their positions, and they're willing to get as shouty and aggrieved as necessary to make other people "listen." I'm sure you can do the irony math on that one.

    To be clear, I am not talking about this conversation in particular, which I actually think is amazingly civil so far in most respects.

    But the general problem in this kind of discourse is the abrupt focus pull from the specific ("the LLF is clarifying its award guidelines") to the personal ("but wait, that means I can't get that award") to the general ("well, then it must be reverse-discrimination/oppression/BAD").

    If people want to examine the possibility of error in these guidelines, it's much more helpful to do so from a perspective of social systems of privilege, oppression, theories of safe space versus theories of open space, etc. It's less helpful to do so by theorizing only from the context of personal hurt feelings. But that's where most of us start, because we're people.

    I appreciate the straight allies here and around the interweb who are willing to acknowledge that being a true ally means sometimes you don't get a cookie (or a writing award). As for those who pull out variations of "what about teh menz" or other arguments that go to unconscious privilege: well, the key word is "unconscious." People become aware -- of their own oppression, their own privilege, their own assumptions and their own participation in systems -- in their own time.

    So anyway, here's that hug again. For me, sometimes the best thing to do is just shake my head and then go off and write something really good.

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  50. I apologize, too, to Anonymous and to the blog for my highhanded mini-scolding. Unecessary and churlish. Thanks Nicola and Kelley.

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  51. You go! This heterosexual writer is perfectly fine with the decision. There are things I'm not part of, and that's okay.

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  52. Nicola, not sure who else on this thread has also been around specifically-LGBT-literature for the past 20+ years, but wasn't it originally that, say, "lesbian literature" was inherently defined by the notion that the author was part of the lesbian community?

    Once I got over my own kneejerk reaction*, I had to stop and think about time spent in feminist, gay, non-WASP literature studies classes. In every single case, it was agreed that there might be white, anglo-saxon men writing thoughtful and accurate stories... but that their stories could not, by definition, be considered 'lesbian literature' or 'feminist literature' or whatever-other literature. Others may produce complementary (or supplementary) works, but the core literature of a community is produced by the community.

    It occurs to me that LLF is in the odd position of stating explicitly what was once accepted as implicit. The accepted literary/academic grounds for 'inclusion in a type of literature' has been shoved to the side by the rising popularity of M/M fiction, and now many equate "literature" with "what sells". This conflation seems to be what's at the heart of the wank.

    Sure, "The Lone Ranger" is massively popular -- Tonto even gets his own action figure! -- but this does not render "The Lone Ranger" as Native American literature. That's pretty much what some folks appear to be arguing in re straight women writing queer fic, regardless of 'tribe': if the book has content of X type, and sells a whole lot, then it Must Be Good and thus Must Be Included as X-type Literature. "The Lone Ranger" had Native Americans and was majorly popular, but it's one of the last stories I'd give any Native American kid, if my goal was pride for/by/in one's community.

    LLF's framing and timing was poor, thus inflaming the wank-fires rather than banking them, talking about gay authors 'despairing', or that this might be an author's one shot at a Lamda (what, do LGBT writers only get one book per? why do you make it sound like we couldn't write, say, TWO good books? or even, gasp, THREE good books?). LLF lowered itself to the what's-popular-must-be-good discourse when it circled the wagons on grounds of defending authors whose works aren't commercially popular. Result? Open invite to get the "our books sell, ergo, they're good books, ergo, we're just as good at writing; your books don't sell, ergo, you're not good writers" rhetoric currently going on all over the place.

    But to compare to Native American studies, or Feminist studies, or any other core literature: the books I chose for my bookstore, the default recommendations to my LGBT teenaged customers were LLF winners -- because I knew these stories would be authentic voices, this 'core' of LGBT literature. I wanted those kids to know that they were reading a book by someone who had been through the same thing, who got them on a deeper level. To mangle Stephen Vincent Benet, 'no straight that was ever foaled could know the inwardness of it'. Until a gay kid doesn't have to fear for his life in being gay, s/he needs not just the courage of those stories. That kid needs the courage of the people writing those stories, too, and in that, a straight person's story -- no matter how popular or writerly -- will never suffice.



    *kneejerking complicated by being marginalized within LGbt community, but I figured the spitting-mad part is more appropriate to leave at home, err, post via my own journal.

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  53. kaigou, I've been doing this stuff for 25 yrs but I'm brand new to LLF (as a board member--tho' I've won 6 lammies, so in some ways LLF and I go way back...).

    I'm always happy to hear thoughts on how we can improve. Many thanks for your thoughtful input.

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  54. Honestly, I don't know why hetro folks are so upset by this. The Lambda awards exist to honor the work of LGTB writers - not characters. As a hetro woman - one who would never closet herself, who views sexuality as the medium by which we joyfully encounter and honor the face of Love - if I, for some insane reason, found myself nominated for a Lambda on the strength of one of my LGTB *characters*, I would respectfully and humbly decline the honor. Because the honor wasn't set up for me. It was set up to illuminate the work of a certain group of writers - a group to which I do not belong. And their work SHOULD be illuminated. The award has brought much needed attention to voices that have deepened beautified the literary landscape, and I am grateful for it.

    Gratitude folks. It's more attractive than whining that whining that one is eligible for a specific award. I'm also not eligible for a BET award, or a young writers award, or....well, several others. But I will always raise my glass to those who are.

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  55. Winning, I mean. Winning. Apparently, it's too early to post a comment. Sheesh! :-P

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