Monday, August 29, 2011

It's time for the Lambda Literary Foundation to stand up

The Lambda Literary Foundation released its new award eligibility criteria today:

  • LGBT authors will be recognized with three awards marking stages of a writer’s career: the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one gay man and one lesbian), the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize (to one male-identified and one female-identified author), and the Pioneer Award (to one male-identified and one female-identified individual or group)
  • Awards for the remaining Lambda Literary Award categories will be based on literary merit and significant content relevant to LGBT lives. These awards will be open to all authors regardless of their sexual identity
  • All book award judges will be self-identified LGBT

I approve of the second and third points. (Not everyone does. For an opposing viewpoint, see Sassafras Lowrey.) Here's my reasoning. One, if you can't substantiate (check, prove, police, ensure) eligibility, it's pointless. Two, if a panel of self-identified lesbians (or trans, bi, or gay folk) think that a lesbian (or trans, bi, or gay) novel speaks to them, represents their lives, then it does; it's worthy.

As to the first point, the eligibility criteria for the named awards: they're just plain wrong. Go read this response from Cheryl Morgan--and be sure to read Roz Kaveny's comment. They're angry. They're right.

It's time for a full and frank discussion of these issues. The Lambda Literary Foundation needs to address trans and bi visibility, equality, and accessibility. Or it should bill itself not as an LGBT organisation but LG(bt).

One small point in LLF's defence: named awards criteria can't be changed without the consent of the sponsor who funds the award. Hopefully that consent will be forthcoming soon. Meanwhile, it's simply not a good enough excuse for publishing these exclusionary rules.

The Lambda Literary Foundation is the world's foremost LGBT literary organisation. It must live up to that responsibility. It must champion every member of its community equally--no exceptions, no excuses. These are difficult financial times, but if an award's sponsoring body refuses to offer equal access, that award should no longer be administered by LLF.

It's time for LLF to stand up.

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