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Regarding Gay Romance

Lambda Literary Awards have redefined its focus:

The Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) seeks to elevate the status of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

As such, it should be noted that the Lambda Literary Awards are based principally on the LGBT content, the gender orientation/identity of the author, and the literary merit of the work.

Essentially Lambda Literary is requiring that only GLBT authors will qualify for the LGBT awards.   I thought that this might be a good opportunity to discuss the issue of LLA and the concept of m/m fiction as a whole. I invited Dr. Sarah (aka Joan) to discuss the issue with me.

Jane: I think this is a direct response to the rise of straight women  writing m/m fiction.   We review m/m romances here at Dear Author  without thought to the gender of the author.   I did bring up the issue regarding  gender of an author in a post I did regarding authenticity.   The  comments  exploded. At least one person accused me of being a zipper sniffer.

It’s obvious that the gender of an author, as well as his or her  sexuality, is a hot button issue for LGBT books.

Sarah: First of all, is LLF going to require a dick check (or the female equivalent)? How are they going to do that? How are they going to prove, for example, that Josh Lanyon is a man and/or how is he going to prove it? I know of authors (and no, just to curtail debate, I’m not talking about Lanyon here) whose entire online personae are masculine, without a single slip ever, but who are female. Where’s the affidavit requirement?

Second, physical biology aside, how carefully do authorial identity and literary subject matter have to match up? I know of (at least) two FTM transgendered authors who write exclusively m/m romance. Their subject matter is gay male romance, and they themselves identify as transgendered, so it would seem that they qualify (literary merit aside) for the Lambda, but do they really? Or do they have to write only about the experience of being transgendered? Is biology destiny here? Surely that mindset is counter to what the Lambdas are all about? What about the gender-queer authors? I know many more of those: authors who are biologically female, identify as gender-queer (but not transgendered), and are usually bisexual, but again, they write m/m romance. Do their books count? Technically, it seems like they should, but I bet they don’t.

There are Lambda categories for both Gay Romance and Lesbian Romance, which is wonderfully forward-thinking of the LLF. (I also find it incredibly ironic, considering this whole post, that they quote the RWA’s definition of romance to define the category.) And I agree with Jane that this is a direct response to the rise of straight women writing m/m fiction, but I think this is deeper and in a way more pernicious than that, because I think it’s actually a direct response to the extremely high quality of fiction produced by straight women writing m/m romance. If the quality of books by people like Laura Baumbach and James Buchanan and Alex Beecroft weren’t so high, this wouldn’t be an issue. And if I were being bitchy and pessimistic, I’d say that they’re specifically trying to cut Alex Beecroft’s brilliant False Colors out of the running, because I can’t imagine that any other book would win the gay romance category if “False Colors” were entered (and boy, isn’t FC having a fascinating life, because it looked at the time like Amazon Fail was a direct response to the success of FC). I think that the real matter for concern here, therefore, is that LLF is specifically shutting out brilliant books that have something awesome to say about being gay because they’re not written by the “right” person.

However, I think this choice is more deeply problematic, because in cutting out Alex Beecroft from the Gay Romance category, they’re compromising other categories. There’s two categories for Memoir/Biography (gay and lesbian), and categories for LGBT Non-Fiction and LGBT Studies, and surely (SURELY!) NON-LGBT writers are capable of writing ground-breaking biographies about LGBT people, non-fiction work about LGBT issues (“Books and subjects for the general reader, e.g. histories, politics, community organizations, humor, parenting, religion, spirituality, relationships, psychology, travel, etc.”), and academic studies of LGBT issues (“Scholarly work oriented toward academia, libraries, cultural professionals, and the more academic reader”) that “elevate the status of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people throughout society” without the authors having to be LGBT themselves?

Jane: I have very conflicted emotions about m/m romances that have developed overtime. On the one hand, I don’t think that you need to live an experience to write about it. On the other, I don’t think that you can compare writing about vampires and werewolves as analogous to writing m/m fiction. Vampires and werewolves are about myths and legends and so long as you are consistent, you can pretty much write those characters however you want.

Sarah: No, I also don’t think that comparison works. The analogy I’ve heard the most, though, is writing mysteries. One doesn’t have to be a murderer to get into the mind and write from the perspective of a murderer. I find this analogy a problem, too, because, well, I’m not comfortable comparing LGBT people to murderers. :) So let’s, instead, compare it to BDSM, which I consider a sexual identity, as much as LGBT (which I know is a controversial declaration, but let’s go with it for now). I know of at least two authors who are not BDSM-identified or BDSM-practicing (as far as I know), who manage to capture the psychology as well as the physicality of the BDSM experience perfectly (Victoria Dahl’s “The Wicked West” and Ann Somerville’s The Remastering of Jerna). How or why is that different from a straight-identified person being able to write LGBT characters realistically and with sympathy and imagination?

Jane: Individuals who are gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual can live under a specter of hatred and prejudice. I have my doubts as to whether a straight person can fully understand the concept.

Sarah: Agreed. And this is how LGBT is different from BDSM, because it is possible to hide or camouflage a BDSM identity in an apparently heterosexual, monogamous marriage. LGBT people can’t hide their choices if they wish to live “in the sunlight,” as Suzanne Brockmann (a straight woman with a gay son) writes about her gay character Jules Cassidy. So someone who is LGBT-identified will live with discrimination and threats, hatred and prejudice that someone who is BDSM-identified usually won’t have to deal with. And there’s no way to get around that point, I don’t think.

Jane: I remember the discussion over at Karen Scott’s blog in response to the Beautiful Cocksucker title (BC II has been released). The title is provocative and at least one gay man tried to explain why he found this title offensive. The author and the editor disagreed. Both were (straight) women. Jill Noble, editor and publisher of the book explained that while she did not intend to offend anyone or have a sensational title, it just fit the book perfectly. (It must have been a great title because it apparently fits the title of the follow up book perfectly too).     I had a live book chat with a couple of my friends, both gay, regarding the book, Custom Ride by K.A. Mitchell.   Mitchell had received a very positive review from Dr. Sarah here at Dear Author and I thought it would be a good read for my gay friends.   In the livechat, my friends noted that the book didn’t really accurately portray gay men.   Commenters noted that the audience for these books aren’t gay men but straight women. It seemed the argument was then that authenticity didn’t matter.

Sarah: That argument about authenticity is just wrong, to my mind. Unconscionably, inexcusably wrong. Totally misses the point. Because making an argument like that DOES devalue everything that LGBT people go through every day of their lives to live with honor and integrity. Saying that their experience doesn’t matter is tantamount to a form of homophobia.

Jane: So is the question whether a well written book that doesn’t authentically portray the gay man’s experience be allowed to win a LGBT writing award? Of course you can argue that one man’s gay experience may be entirely different from another man’s gay experience and therefore the authenticity issue is all relative.

Sarah: Eh. I still think the question is whether a well-written book with “literary merit” that DOES authentically portray a gay man’s experience should be allowed to win. Because what if, horror of horrors, one of those straight women gets it RIGHT? Yes, there might be writers and/or readers who think that authenticity of the gay male experience doesn’t matter, but those aren’t the books that are going to final in the Lambdas. But books like Laura Baumbach and Josh Lanyon’s “Mexican Heat” DO final (in 2008) and whatever we know or don’t know about Lanyon, I’ve met Baumbach and she’s all woman. I’ve heard feedback from gay men about James Buchanan’s “Hard Fall,” calling it incredibly authentic. How to deal with THESE books?

Jane: The Essence Awards were established in 2008 to highlight and elevate African American authors.   There are non black authors who likely write beautiful and arguably authentic African American fiction but the Essence Awards have chosen to specifically reward authors of a particular racial identity.   Is the LLA anything substantially different?

Sarah: What would the Essence Awards do with an African American author who writes about white folks, I wonder?

Jane: My biggest discomfort comes down to this.   With m/m  romance written by women for women, you  have ostensibly one power  group writing for the, as someone else  put it, “consumption and excitement” of the power  group but not for  the benefit of the oppressed group.   I.e., I think I would be offended  if white women were writing about African American romance but for  white women and making money off of it.   This is not to say that white  women can’t write about characters of other races but that when you  write your work to the exclusion of the minorities, it seems  exploitative.   I know that I would be offended if there was an entire genre of romance books about Asian people written by non Asian people for other non Asian people. I mean, why would there be such a genre if not to feed into some kind of strange Asian erotic fetish? Then again I read erotic romances that contain sexual scenes and stories about sexual lifestyles that I have no experience with. Am I engaging in the fetishization of a culture as well?

Sarah: And this is the really interesting question, because I think this gets beyond the Lambda issue and into the much broader question of the problematics of straight women writing m/m romance for other straight women. I think this gets to issues of what the purpose of this fiction is. Because for some authors, yes, the purpose is to present a realistic depiction of the gay male lived experience. But for other authors and readers, I believe it’s a hyper-focus on the experience of the hero and two heroes are better than one. Because, after all, what right do women in general have to write a heterosexual man falling in love? What can we know about that, besides what we can imagine and glean through observation and conversation with those strange creatures?

Then again, what right did, oh, Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson have to found the entire genre of the novel on representations of the lived experience of women (Moll Flanders and Roxana by Defoe and Pamela and Clarissa by Richardson)? Or Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter)?

Isn’t the romance genre, at its heart, all about the female construction of masculinity? What does it matter if that masculinity is straight or gay?

Yes, I know I’m being flippant here. I know there’s a difference, precisely because of the dangers of the lived experience of being gay and the honest need to highlight texts by LGBT authors. But what if an LGBT author chooses to write a straight romance? Shouldn’t their novel be celebrated too, or are they being traitorous to the cause?

I have no answers here, besides my (I believe) sincere understanding of LLF is trying to do but my visceral disagreement with it, because good gay romance is good gay romance no matter who wrote it.

Jane: Please feel free to carry on the discussion in the comments.   I know that feelings can be heated around these issues so I will be vigilant in axing comments that I find step over the boundaries.   I’m having a root canal today so I can tell you that my patience will be very short.   In sum, if you want your opinion to be heard, be courteous. Otherwise, the opinion, no matter how important of a point you are making, will be deleted.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

195 Comments

  1. Edie
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 04:21:03

    Edited comment, as I think I worded it poorly, will attempt to reword it later, when not time constricted.

    Sorry!

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  2. Mireya
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 04:47:07

    Frankly, I don’t blame them for wanting to impose that restriction. From where I am standing, the publishers of m/m are mostly catering to a female hetero audience, not a gay audience, that is number 1. The other thing I see, is that they want the award to recognize authors of romance within the gay community. I don’t see anything wrong in that, to be perfectly honest, as long as the organizers/sponsors express that. Otherwise, I think it’s hypocritical.

    One thing I see missing here is that what is good gay romance for a hetero female may not be considered as such by a gay person, and this happens particularly if the writer is a hetero female writing for hetero females (which as everyone knows, is the blunt of the m/m fiction fan base).

    I agree that good gay romance is good gay romance irrespective of who wrote it. The problem here is how broad that spectrum is and all the variables involved.

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  3. Fallon
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 04:51:22

    This is so interesting and I’ll be waiting to see how others respond. There are so many gray areas here. I do think a lot of m/m romances are specifically targeted to straight women rather than written for authenticity. M/M romance doesn’t corner the market on that though. In the end you’ll have books written for entertainment and based on what sells along with those written for literary meritt. I think it’s the bane of all authors, no matter the subject, – balancing authenticity with what will publish and sell.

    While I do believe authors should write what they know, I don’t believe they should be limited to that. Part of what makes a writer a good storyteller is being able to accurately portray something they haven’t experienced.

    As for LLF, they have the right to restrict of the LGBT Awards however they see fit. I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. I do think it’s sad they won’t be recognizing some really amazing work written by straight authors, but they still have a lot of great fiction to chose from.

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  4. Marianne McA
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 05:30:40

    If the idea of the prize is to bring to public attention the best LGBT writers, then it seems sensible that only those writers can enter.
    Only women can enter the Orange Prize for fiction: I don’t think that suggests that the organisers believe that men can’t, or shouldn’t, write female characters.

    Knowing nothing about the prize, other that what you’ve quoted, it does seem a pity if only “LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives” – qualify.

    (I’m thinking that if the Orange prize was only for women who used their work to explore women’s lives it might miss out some great book.)

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  5. joanne
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 05:58:44

    Real short to make way for those that are in the life and/or in the biz but my 60s mind-set screams foul at any award that is based, even in part, by “the gender orientation/identity” of the nominees.

    That the LLF awards bring GLBT writing to the forefront is great but the bias is a big question mark.

    @Jane: chocolate, maid service, a new handbag all will make your day better.

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  6. Maili
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 06:07:04

    Sarah:

    First of all, is LLF going to require a dick check (or the female equivalent)? How are they going to do that? How are they going to prove, for example, that Josh Lanyon is a man and/or how is he going to prove it?

    I may be dense, but didn’t LLF already address that? See here:

    The Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) seeks to elevate the status of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people

    (The bold is mine.) Therefore:

    As such, it should be noted that the Lambda Literary Awards are based principally on the LGBT content, the gender orientation/identity of the author, and the literary merit of the work.

    (Again, the bold is mine.)

    So, LLF doesn’t need to do a dick check or the female equivalent. When an author submits his or her work to their contest, it’s fair to assume the author certainly qualifies. In other words, LLF is operating on trust.

    If Josh Lanyon, for instance, submitted an entry and is found to be female (edit: straight female), she would be violating LLF’s criteria and trust.

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  7. Sparky
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 06:57:10

    I think many who complain about this are missing the point when they argue that straight people can write good gay fiction

    This ISN’T about who can and cannot write great gay themed work. No-one is disputing straight people can write good gay works.

    But what we have is an awards that sought to celebrate a marginalised group’s work – that sought to gain attention and recognition for homosexual authors. Basically, in a world that is 99% heterosexual, they sought to have a corner that was for gay people.

    And then they got swamped by the far more numerous heterosexual submissions. And that’s not a bad thing and that doesn’t mean the work by heterosexuals isn’t great – but it means an award for marginalised groups became about the dominant again. It wasn’t about gay people any more – it was about gay subjects but not gay people and it wasn’t a gay space any more.

    It’s not like gay people are the first people to have awards for a marginalised group. I would hazard to say, however, that there are probably more, say, striaght women wanting to write about gay people than there are white people wanting to write about black people (for whatever reason). Regardless, the idea that minorities may want to create our own space where the dominance of the prevalent group isn’t overwhelming is not new or radical.

    Now, i do think they should have a category for allies and other straight people writing gay fiction and gay works – because I think that needs recognising – but I also think that having an award for marginalised groups being primarily ABOUT that marginalised group isn’t a bad thing.

    Jane raised a very good point about the nature of m/m romance written by women for women… to me it depends on the nature of it. If it’s a genuine plot that someone has put work in to make authentic, sympathetic and not insulting then I have no problem with it (UNLESS the author is pretending to be gay and isn’t. Because that enrages me) because it’s a story with genuine characters who happen to be gay. Now, if it’s heavily erotic stroke work (to excuse the term) then it leaves me with the same feeling as the “lesbian” sex in pornography aimed at men.

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  8. Christine M.
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 07:16:50

    …errr based in Maili’s comment, then, a lesbian who writes about transgender or gay men would qualify for the awards, despite the fact they don’t have a clue what they’re writing about, the same way (I assume) straight women “don’t know” what they’re talking about when they write m/m romance? (Am just thinking aloud here, cos I’ve been writing m/m for 7 years, more or less, fanfic and original. Also, disclaimer: I know Alex Beecroft, I’ve known her from my fanfic days, about 5-7 years ago. And I’m bi. So there.)
    ETA: ok, ok, coffee just sank in and I realised that my point seems moot. I read comment #7 and if the point of the awards is to celebrate the GLBT community then it’s fine with me but then again the topic of the nominated authors books shouldn’t matter, right?

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  9. Kate
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 07:22:34

    Sure, women can’t write about gay men’s romances. And men shouldn’t write about women’s romances (Nicholas Sparks is proof of that!). And women shouldn’t write about men in romance because they’re never accurate. Roarke is so terribly realistic, isn’t he? (I love him, but come on…)

    That whole “need for authenticity” argument is bullshit (as is bringing in the charged word homophobe, an incredibly cheap shot with nothing to support that). In romance and erotic fantasy, you’re not writing with reality being the be all end all goal, but rather a prurient fantasy for the reader. If offense is allowed, then every male on the planet should be offended by standard romance novels, because genuine males in them are few and far between. And most women embrace that.

    I read romance, straight and m/m, for the fantasy. I don’t care if the men in either reflect the true male experience. I care about whether they fulfill my fantasy needs. Gosh I’m such a man-hater. ::rolls eyes::

    The LLF has every right to choose whatever criteria for their awards they wish to. They want to honor LGTB authors writing about the genuine LGTB experience. I doubt they’ll cut hairs as Sarah above opines. Nor do I think it’s a conspiracy driven by a particular title. I think they simply want to sharpen focus, as is their prerogative.

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  10. Evecho
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 07:30:50

    Jane/Joan,
    Thanks for creating a space for this discussion and leading it off. I’ll be reading the comments as they’re posted and I’m glad to see a variety of arguments already. There are, of course, some I agree with and others I don’t. That’s the thing with the LLF guidelines, they step into so many holes that taking one stand almost guarantees you’ll bump up against another of your own.
    One question I have about women who write gay fiction, do they read stories written by gay men, or does the book circle revolve around women who write gay fiction (sorry, I refuse to use the term m/m or f/f as I feel they objectify gay men and women, not to mention the fanfic reference which makes it hard to take the genre seriously) for female readers? I mean, is there a special style about these writings that I’m not getting?
    Thanks.

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  11. Sherry Thomas
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 07:43:14

    Isn’t Brokeback Mountain written by a woman?

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  12. Alex Beecroft
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 07:43:52

    While I’m chuffed to bits at the thought that False Colors might have been a contender for the Gay Romance Lambda (thank you so much for saying so!) I’m very much in agreement with Sparky.

    Female writers of m/m romance have a hard time of it. The heterosexual romance world has been known to react with homophobia towards m/m romance, and the gblt world is clearly not happy with us either. But while I’m all for storming the bastions of mainstream romance and doing everything possible to force them to acknowledge that m/m and f/f love is as worthy of inclusion in the romance world as m/f, I don’t think it goes the other way.

    In a world which is still prejudiced against LGBT people, it must be their right to have some safe places which are not going to be invaded and taken over by straights, and clearly that’s what the Lambda awards are aiming to be. It seems to me that I’d want to see GBLT people treated equally in society overall before I dreamed of going into their places and demanding that they treated me equally.

    I don’t see myself as writing m/m romance “for women”. I see myself as writing it for anyone of any gender or orientation who cares to read it, and I’ve had some fan mail from gay men saying “I’m a gay man and I don’t know how you get it so right, given that you’re a straight woman.” (And some saying “I’m a gay man and I can tell you that no gay man would react that way”.) But the fact remains that my voice is not the voice of someone from a currently persecuted minority.

    The chances are that if Lambda throws its gates open to writers who are not LGBT themselves, then before long the actual LGBT writers they aim to serve will be swamped by the huge and increasing numbers of straight women writing in the genre. I can really see how they wouldn’t want that to happen.

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  13. Christine M.
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 07:47:53

    @Evecho:
    I can’t speak on behalf of anyone else, but I personnaly have read gay fiction written by gay men (and here again I see a difference between gay men and someone who wasn’t biologically born with male DNA but now consider themselves men/have taken steps into becoming men). Some I enjoyed and some I didn’t, the same way I enjoy some stories/characters written by women, and some yaoi mangas (in this case about 99% of which is written by women for women). What matters most to me, I’d say, is the characters and how they are built. When the men pictured in those books remind me of females on which someone glued a penis, *not matter* who wrote it, I’m out. (And that’s just an example among others.)

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  14. Edie
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 07:55:42

    Ok, finally finished one job, and came back to find several people had worded my arguments on the awards much better than I could. So I will just go “what they said” @Mireya and Sparky.

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  15. Hydecat
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:15:04

    Wow, this is an interesting topic.

    I think it would be great if the LLF could diversify their prizes a little more. That way they could have prizes to acknowledge LGBT authors who write outstanding books, and a separate category for books that portray LGBT characters and themes. When it comes down to it, celebrating representations of LGBT people and celebrating the people themselves are two different things and combining them will always cause conflict.

    As for the fear that straight writers will take over the representation category — I would be interested to see a prize where the books were read and reviewed blindly by a panel of LGBT readers, not knowing author’s sex, gender identity, or orientation. I think that’s the only way to make sure that the books that do the best job of representing LGBT people would win, and would shed interesting light on the question of whether or not straight authors can write books that do outstanding work in that area.

    The problem of authenticity in writing is something that I can never settle my mind about. As a white scholar who studies race, I am well aware that there are people who would accuse me of inauthenticity or even appropriation because I write about African American novels. I know that people might not hire me because my skin color doesn’t match my scholarship, and I also understand the importance of having diversity in university faculty so I have a hard time faulting that. It’s a problem that I’ve negotiated by combining studies of white and non-white fiction – one category I’m “biologically appropriate” for and one I’m not – so that I’m writing about a category that I “know” (dead white men from 200 years ago) but still trying to look beyond it to other categories. Because even though we tend to put boundaries around identities, like race, gender, and sexuality, those boundaries are constantly being permeated in life and in literature. Neglecting that overlap in favor of insularity isn’t right — though I won’t argue that it’s as wrong as blatantly appropriating another group’s experiences for any kind of dehumanizing gain that disrespects their lifestyles, opinions, and identities. I guess what I’m saying is that if we bury ourselves too far in authenticity, we lose an important perspective on the interconnections that shape our world.

    Also, this conversation is great because it reminded me that I want to read False Colors.

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  16. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:18:52

    @Marianne McA: I think you get at the heart of the matter:

    Knowing nothing about the prize, other that what you've quoted, it does seem a pity if only “LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives” – qualify.

    Because there ARE lesbian and bisexual women who write m/m romance, and I’m still wondering if LLF is going to think they qualify if they submit their m/m romances for the Lambda. That’s one part that bothers me.

    And I seriously think that I’m most bothered by the restrictions placed on academic books and biographies, because I think there’s many good academic books out there about LGBT issues and many biographies about LGBT people and/or written by LGBT people about non-LGBT people that will be cut out of the awards–including some former winners, BTW.

    @Sparky: I think you’ve hit on a perfect solution, Sparky:

    Now, i do think they should have a category for allies and other straight people writing gay fiction and gay works – because I think that needs recognising.

    I think that’s a perfect idea and would solve a whole bunch of problems.

    @Evecho: Part of my issue in trying to find gay romances written by men is that I either don’t like the writing (Scott and Scott of the Romentics comes to mind for me), or they don’t have happy endings, which is a requirement for me. And I do look. I’d love to read some genre romance about gay men. But that’s the issue, I think — it’s women (mainly) who created the genre and you have to be pretty steeped in it to write it and that’s not really a tradition gay men find themselves in. :) I think the interactions of genre, gender, and reader expectations are fascinating in this discussion, personally.

    FWIW, I totally get what Sparky and Alex Beecroft say here about the LLF’s aims and goals with the Lambda. As I said in the piece, I believe I understand what LLF is doing. But…

    And I guess I don’t have @Kate‘s trust that hairs won’t be split about this. Because I could see it getting there, behind the scenes. But maybe I’m just being pessimistic.

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  17. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:23:37

    @Hydecat: Yay for reading False Colors! :)

    I guess it comes down to LLF’s purpose: Are they supporting the best representations of LGBT experiences? Are they supporting the best work by LGBT authors? Or are they combining those two things and ONLY supporting the best representations of LGBT experiences by LGBT authors?

    And I still think the question then MUST be asked of whether authorial identity has to match subject matter, because that seems to be what LLF is requiring, because if it’s NOT what they’re requiring, then I think the whole rules clarification is vaguely hypocritical, and if it IS what they’re requiring, well, that sucks for LGBT authors with the imagination to explore what differently-identified LGBT people go through.

    And yes, they’re completely free to do whatever they want. Their award, their rules. But it’s the Internetz: we’re allowed to have an opinion about it. :)

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  18. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:33:22

    Okay, hold on just a minute….reading LLF’s rules clarification again (thank you, @Evecho for your post that made me think about it one more time), LLF isn’t considering the SEXUAL orientation of the author. No, they specify that they’re considering the GENDER identity/orientation of the author. WTH does that mean? Can a straight man write a gay romance and be nominated/win, but a gay woman can’t? Why GENDER orientation? What about FTM/MTF? And as Evecho points out, what about intersexed?

    And as Evecho points out even more, what about e-books?

    Look, I support LLF’s right to do whatever the hell they choose, but they seem as backward about e-books are RWA and as tied up in knots about the difference between gender and sexual orientation as any straight homophobe. Which I find both amusing and sad.

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  19. SB Sarah
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:34:10

    What I find troublesome is the Lambda definitions attempt to deliniate a boundary of identification that is exclusive to questions of gender and sexuality. For example: I’m a white chick who is Jewish. I do not struggle in a similar way to GLBT individuals with a self-identification that really, I’m Asian. Or Filipino. Or Latina. Sure there are folks that do, but it’s not as subject to hatred, discrimination and political discourse in the same way that affect GLBT individuals.

    Many men and women who are heterosexual and homosexual who struggle with their sexuality, and their gender. Individuals who are XY chromosome identify as female, and vice versa. Some, as has been discussed in the media, are both. So who gets to choose? Who gets to assign? Some choose to go through gender reassignment. Some don’t. But they define their gender, and their sexuality. So, what, to enter a book in this competition there’s a psychological evaluation that you’re indeed a female who self-identifies as a gay male in the appropriate manner?

    What turns my stomach about the Lambda awards definitions is that they are assigning value and defining something that is the exclusive province of the individual struggling with the self identification AND determining who is an appropriately published author in their genre. Speaks volumes that literary merit is listed third, doesn’t it?

    In short: HEAD. Meet DESK. Repeat.

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  20. Edie
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:36:32

    @ Sarah Frantz, but is it really authorial identity matching subject matter, or the fact that it is an award for LGBT authors regardless of content per se?
    And can straight women writing gay romance for a straight audience be something to be celebrated by the LGBT community when one could argue it is just mainstreaming the fantasy for female readers, like the straight male lesbian fantasies have been for years?

    I have tried to reword the gist of that last bit of comment so many times it is ridiculous, but I am just going to leave it out there, as while part of me goes bring on people writing what they want and reading what they want, that part wars with the other part of me that goes ick. (I am prejudiced as a lesbian BTW and the fetishism of Lesbianism in popular culture gives me the shits.. so)

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  21. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:47:50

    @Edie: Ah, but what is the fantasy? The fantasy for (some) romance readers (I would argue) is watching a man fall in love. So gay male romance is watching TWO men fall in love–not fetishizing the gay, so much as the man-falling-in-love part.

    And I would disagree with your reading of the rules, if the mission statement is:

    The Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) seeks to elevate the status of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

    That’s not regardless of content.

    I get what you’re saying about fetishizing, or at least I think I do. Gay For You stories, are, I think fetishizing the gay man (although I still think it’s more to do with genre-specific barriers to overcome being set higher and higher) in ways very similar to “lesbian” porn for straight men. But but but……

    Ah! What about gay men (I know of a few) who publish gay male romance for….straight women, in the same presses that straight women publish gay male romance, because that’s the only place they can get published? What’s up with that? LLF would accept it, I assume, but how does that fit into the debate?

    The more I think about it, though, the more the e-press rule makes me the most mad! :)

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  22. Ros
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:49:18

    I agree with the other commenter who made the comparison to the Orange Prize for fiction. There is a legitimate precedent for literary contests in which restrictions are placed on the eligibility of authors, before any discussions of literary merit are held. If the concern is that the LGBT community is not, for whatever reason, producing great fiction, or that the fiction it is producing is not being recognised and celebrated, then perhaps there is a need for a contest restricted to that community. The issues of how that will be policed are inevitably complex and fraught (as indeed are the issues of gender, cf. Caster Semanya).

    I am not, however, completely convinced of the need for either the Orange prize, or this new competition, partly because I think it reinforces the feeling that this is an inferior kind of fiction which couldn’t stand up in a mainstream competition, and would only be of interest to those within the community. I would prefer to see more of the mainstream literary competitions taking this kind of fiction seriously. Sarah Waters, for instance, has been nominated for the Booker prize and other major literary awards for her stories which almost always include lesbian themes.

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  23. Evecho
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 08:56:58

    I think the fact that we’re attempting permutations of the eligibility statement to mean something that isn’t (too) exclusionary clearly shows that the statement needs clarification from LLF.

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  24. Evecho
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:05:07

    @ Sarah F
    “Part of my issue in trying to find gay romances written by men is that I either don't like the writing (Scott and Scott of the Romentics comes to mind for me), or they don't have happy endings, which is a requirement for me. And I do look. I'd love to read some genre romance about gay men. But that's the issue, I think -’ it's women (mainly) who created the genre and you have to be pretty steeped in it to write it and that's not really a tradition gay men find themselves in. :) I think the interactions of genre, gender, and reader expectations are fascinating in this discussion, personally.”

    This got me thinking about the effect of the market. Say the LLF is hoping that by narrowing eligibility, only true LGBT writers writing positive books about LGBT issues will eventually be sieved through. We know this will probably be a niche group. At the same time, the market for gay fiction written by and for women (primarily), also a niche group, grows – it’s been growing well enough that we can say there is a market for it. In the long term, which has a better chance of surviving or being marketable?

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  25. V. Greene
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:09:09

    Funny, my last LJ post linked to Banis’ webpage, and he appears to have written about bloody nearly everything. Presumably only his works on gay men would be eligible?

    I’m still working on what to think of all these issues, and the above post did help refine the muddle a little. First thought on the genre of the novel being shaped and refined by men writing about women: Madame Bovary. (“C’est moi.”) Some of those male-written novels produced excellent work; some of the “silly novels by lady novelists” of the time were exactly that. Luckily, history has a way of burying the bad.

    On some level, I hope that it’s enough to be writing authentically about people, and that while we may have to think harder and research longer for certain subcategories, it’s never quite safe to assume that because we’ve had an experience, that’s “authentic” to others in our own category or “inauthentic” to someone in a different category. At some level, we all wake up, eat, do stuff, go back to sleep… Not much of a novel, generally, but shared experience nonetheless.

    The “catering to an audience” does bother me a little. I came to m/m writing largely on a dare, doubted anyone would like the results, and was astonished to discover that yes, several people did. And since that experiment was in fanfiction and people get touchy about their personal favorite characters, several reviewers offered me physical harm and firebombings of my house — is that an “authentic” experience? And if so, what kind of authenticity? But first and foremost I was writing about people doing the sorts of things people do: fall in love, sneak a bit to hide it from potentially-disapproving friends, enjoy a little physical contact (or a lot), worry after the fact, get on each other’s nerves….

    It’s LLA’s prize, though, and I suppose they can do what they like with it. Aren’t there other awards for non-het romance, erotica, general plotlines, and so on? (And if not — anybody here rich?)

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  26. Caligi
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:09:13

    I admit to a dislike of all awards like this, whether they’re for women, black people or the GLBT community. Since I don’t know of a single award explicitly given only to white men – and feel free to set me straight here – I’ve always felt these sort of specific awards made us into fragile novelties, like we need the recognition because we’d never cut it in the mainstream.

    I know they mean well, but I think these sorts of things only reinforce the boundaries between us. I’m not sure what effect they’re going for with them.

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  27. Edie
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:18:32

    @Sarah, I am struggling with wording today, I kind of meant that maybe while the LGBT content being a prime part, that recognising LGBT authors who struggle in a very small niche is as important. So it is not necessarily the women authors getting it wrong that is in question… And I still think I have managed to word that wrong.

    Another thing I stuffed up before is I think I used fetishism wrongly, maybe exploitation was more along the lines that I meant. And the gay blokes are doing it too. :P
    I guess I am thinking mainly in terms of the erotic romances by EC LI etc, and in some ways I am struggling to differentiate the similarities it has for me with straight man lesbian porn.

    ed* I seriously can’t word things properly this evening, but hopefully the intended meaning is in there somewhere.

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  28. Elise Logan
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:24:06

    So many excellent comments. I’ll try to break down my thoughts on this in some coherent way.

    I think it’s actually kind of insulting to insinuate that gay men or lesbian women are uniform in any way. No group is completely homogeneous in their preferences and tastes, so to suggest that what women writing m/m are providing will not appeal to any gay men, or what men writing f/f provide won’t appeal to lesbians, is a patent misrepresentation of what it is to be human. Some gay men will like m/m written by women, some won’t. Some women will like m/m written by gay men, some won’t.

    As to the Lamdas, it is their choice, but I think they are doing themselves a disservice. Rather than excluding non-LGBT authors (and, btw, I think Dr. Sarah has a fantastic point about the problem of determining eligibility on this point), why not allow the works to stand on their own merits. Those which don’t represent what the judges deem to be an authentic view of the LGBT culture would be washed from the competition. The more authors see what works, the more they learn and so forth. The process would, thereby, actually educate and improve the efforts of non-LGBT authors. That is, of course, assuming they are aiming to reward the end product of a LGBT-appropriate story.

    If, on the other hand, they are aiming to elevate and reward the work of LGBT authors, that’s something else entirely. If that is the goal, then the new guidelines are perfectly appropriate for accomplishing that goal. If that is their purpose, I suggest they consider instituting more awards for development of nascent talent. At this point, they have awards for debut in gay and lesbian categories. There are no development awards for unpublished authors in the manner of the Golden Heart, for example. If the goal is to increase the profile of and reward the talent of LGBT authors, then do that. I’m all for that.

    It seems to me, generally, that the LLA needs most of all to figure out what the goal of the awards is and tailor the awards to create incentives to accomplish that goal.

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  29. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:29:15

    Darn, apparently my comment got eaten by the spam filter. Oh well. I think the sense of entitlement here is mind-boggling. Bottom line is, marginalized groups create awards for themselves because they’ve been excluded from mainstream awards. It would seem to me that the problem here is not that Lambda has chosen to try to create an award for themselves or that they have beef with straight women writing m/m fiction. The problem here is that gay fiction is routinely excluded from mainstream awards. We’ve seen that with RWA.

    I know that for myself if suddenly a bunch of white women started writing black romances and then complained because they couldn’t win an Emma I’d be more than a bit salty about it. This reminds me so much of the people who complain about the presence of magazines like Ebony and Black Enterprise. Never mind that those magazines, and prizes like the Emma were created due to exclusionary practices by the mainstream. It would seem to me that if straight women who write m/m want an award, perhaps they should create one. That’s what we marginalized groups do. Welcome aboard.

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  30. Gina
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:34:58

    A good book is a good book, period. It should be recognized as such despite who wrote it. It should be recognized despite the authors race, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs or favorite ice cream flavor. When I walk into a book store to buy a romance or mystery or urban fantasy, I do not want to see those sections further seperated by the race or sexual preference of the author. If someone asked me who my favorite author is I am not going to clarify my answer by picking my favorite black, white, male, female, straight and gay authors.

    But I ask… Should every murder mystery writer have first hand experience as a murderer? Should every historical writer be a time traveler so they can have first hand experience of the period they write about? Paranormal writers who build worlds with vampires and werewolves… where will they get their first hand experience from? Is the validity of their story in question because they have to rely on exhaustive research and imagination?

    I read for the love of reading and in my fantasy world it comes without such segregations.

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  31. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:46:29

    I read for the love of reading and in my fantasy world it comes without such segregations.

    Unfortunately the rest of us aren’t so privileged as to reside in this fantasy world. Book segregation is real and isn’t going away anytime soon. Straight women have decided to write about a marginalized group. Fine, I think everybody should write whatever they want, but it seems to me that there’s a certain arrogance in believing that somehow those groups have to play by your rules. It doesn’t work that way in the mainstream, as we’ve discussed repeatedly, yet you feel that you have the right to force your way into a group to which you don’t belong. As I said, it smacks of privilege. If you are in fact a friend of gays as I see so many of these writers claim, then why do you feel that you have the right to tell them how to set up their award? If you want to be a part of the struggle then you have to let the people who actually belong to the marginalized group take the lead. After all, you’re not gay. It’s not your reality.

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  32. katiebabs
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:51:53

    Does that mean when you send in your submission, there will be a form where you have to check off your sexual preference?

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  33. V. Greene
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:54:23

    @roslynholcomb: “If you are in fact a friend of gays as I see so many of these writers claim, then why do you feel that you have the right to tell them how to set up their award?”

    Anyone can set up any award they like, including the Annual Literary Narrowminded White Guy Billion-Dollar Blowout. However, we do all have the right to a public opinion about it once it’s set up, including the right to wonder what happens if in fact the winning work turns out to be written by a black woman with an awesome choice of pen name and a wicked sense of humor.

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  34. Edie
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:56:20

    Ok now I am definitely bowing out, as the brain is too addled, objectifying (not fetishism or exploitation) was the word I was looking for, now I am just going to stick to reading the comments with interest.

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  35. GrowlyCub
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 09:57:10

    I can see why a group representing a smaller segment of the population with a different experience of life would want to have an award for members of that group, especially if they feel that the members of that group are excluded from recognition by the larger group(s) around them.

    However, I always end up thinking that the (smaller) groups doing so are marginalizing themselves (marking themselves as ‘other’) and making themselves less accessible to the larger group(s).

    And if the ultimate goal is to be accepted by the larger group(s) and to be recognized for – in this case – the quality of writing, then limiting eligibility of representations of the group to members of it, is not furthering that goal. ‘Cause if members outside that group who write good or ‘authentic’ representations of the group are allowed to participate they bring with them many members of the larger group(s) and thereby introduce those members of the larger group to the issues of the smaller group. One would hope that such exposure would lead to a lessening of the feeling of ‘other’ that both the members of the larger group(s) and those of the smaller group experience.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I think they are going to have a heck of time explaining to members of their own group who is and is not eligible, because gender identity is such an ephemeral category to hang eligibility on.

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  36. Fae Sutherland
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:02:13

    I think I agree most with comment 25, Caligi. I don’t like awards that separate based on things we’re not supposed to take into consideration anywhere else. In modern society it’s pounded into us not to discriminate based on race, gender, orientation, religion etc etc…it’s supposed to be a non-issue anywhere else and we’re not meant to take it into any kind of consideration in any way.

    So why give awards based on those very criteria? Why is the world supposed to disregard those criteria in all these other situations or risk being considered impolite at best and bigoted at worst, and yet the same parties who want those things to be non-issues then make them issues themselves, by using something like race or gender or sexual orientation as a criteria for winning an award?

    And let me say, I might technically qualify based on my being bisexual, but I don’t have any idea how what goes down in my bedroom has to do with what goes on in the pages of my fictional books.

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  37. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:04:17

    However, I always end up thinking that the (smaller) groups doing so are marginalizing themselves (marking themselves as ‘other') and making themselves less accessible to the larger group(s).

    It’s interesting that this always comes up. I can’t speak from the gay point of view, but from the black point of view the larger group has made their lack of interest known, and how. I wonder what happens when gay romances are no longer ‘hot?’ Presumably all these authors will have moved on to whatever the next ‘hot’ genre is. It actually makes me rather glad that so many find black romances so repulsive, at least I don’t have to worry about others coming in and turning my life into an exercise in voyeurism.

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  38. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:05:57

    @roslynholcomb: I do agree with that. Although I disagree with their choices, it’s their award, let them do as they please. But I think they need to clarify and specify.

    @katiebabs: No, no, your gender. However you might define that. Sexual preference apparently doesn’t matter. And what’s sexual preference without gender, anyway?

    @Edie: I think fetishization, exploitation, and objectification all cross over each other. Musing: is the difference between gay male fiction written by women and “lesbian” porn produced by men the attempt at authenticity? What about gay-for-you, then?

    I don’t think there’s answers here, besides LLF can do what it wants. But I still think we have the right to question and discuss their choices.

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  39. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:07:05

    Why is the world supposed to disregard those criteria in all these other situations or risk being considered impolite at best and bigoted at worst, and yet the same parties who want those things to be non-issues then make them issues themselves, by using something like race or gender or sexual orientation as a criteria for winning an award?

    Uh, because the world doesn’t. Sure they pay lip service to doing so, but I’ve been in enough of these discussions about black romances to know that it so isn’t happening. I just think it’s bizarre that rather than address the much larger problem we have people complaining over becoming essentially what these groups are born as: marginalized. Straight women who write m/m romances have CHOSEN to do so. Those of us in minority groups are born that way. If you don’t like how it feels to be marginalized you can always move on to the next, but certainly it’s incredibly arrogant to think we have to include you just because you chose to go slumming.

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  40. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:09:04

    I don't know what the solution is, but I think they are going to have a heck of time explaining to members of their own group who is and is not eligible, because gender identity is such an ephemeral category to hang eligibility on.

    Presumably the LGBT community has been dealing with these issues for a while and are best equipped to handle such. Frankly, I think this is a bit of a straw man argument to me as it’s clear (at least to me) that they are deliberately excluding heterosexual women who choose to write m/m.

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  41. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:17:47

    @roslynholcomb:

    Presumably the LGBT community has been dealing with these issues for a while and are best equipped to handle such.

    You’d think so, but sometimes, not so much. :)

    They are deliberately excluding heterosexual women who choose to write m/m.

    No, it seems to me they’re deliberately excluding ALL women, no matter their sexual orientation, because inclusion/exclusion seems to be based on gender identification, not sexual orientation.

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  42. Hydecat
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:20:11

    @roslynholcomb I agree with you that it is a problem that LGBT books are excluded from mainstream awards. I’m not overly familiar with the RWA, but if they’re awarding books by category (like “historical”) then all historical books should be on the table, no matter the historical subject matter of the book or the identity of the author. Since there is a history of discrimination against romance novels featuring LGBT romances, I don’t have a problem with the Lambdas organizing their own awards to promote and encourage LGBT content within books and LGBT authors. I just think that creating separate awards focusing on content and authorship might untangle some of the issues that will always arise when a complex thing like sexual/gender identity is involved.

    It’s a new feature of an old dilemma. Should an author (female, African American, gay, etc.) hide their identity under a pen name that will allow their book to be judged under the standards of the norm (like Charlotte Bronte did when she published Jane Eyre under a male name) or celebrate their identity, knowing that they risk being judged under different, and possibly unfair, standards? What is the most effective way to bring down the gender-race-biased norms of our literature, surprising them from the inside, or challenging them from the outside? And if you openly celebrate a separate category, like LGBT authors, how do you make sure you aren’t perpetuating marginalization? How can you move forward to change the norm?

    I’m a straight woman, so I can’t answer these questions for the Lambdas or anyone else, but I can ask the questions, because I think it’s a serious topic that more people should consider.

    Edited to add: while I wrote this long post, other people jumped in with similar ideas. *sigh*

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  43. anon
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:20:18

    Thank you for such a well considered and beautifully expressed post regarding this issue.

    I’ve written and published gay romance novels with no particular intended audience in mind. I simply write what I like to read, and hope someone else will like reading it, too.

    I am a woman who has had intimate relationships with both men and women and who feels physically and emotionally attracted to both men and women in equal measure. I am, however, married to a member of the opposite sex. I guess that disqualifies me.

    Really, I can understand why they’re doing this. But it’s like any affirmative action. It takes value away from the award if the only way you win it is by getting special privileges because of something about yourself you can’t change. I’d much rather be judged on what I’ve created, and that alone. Even if my chances of winning are not as good. If I’ve won something because I’m bi or I’m a woman or I’m left-handed or whatever–that would make it meaningless to me. I’ve suffered discrimination in other ways, but I don’t think I’d care to be eligible for an award because of them. Maybe that’s just me?

    It’s funny how just as the romance community slowly begins to become more inclusive toward all types of romance (and thank you, Dear Author, for making a difference), Lambda pulls away from that and takes a step back. Who’s discriminating now?

    Thanks for such an interesting post.

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  44. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:26:15

    @Joan/SarahF:

    You'd think so, but sometimes, not so much. :)

    Perhaps not, but certainly they more about it than straight people.

    it seems to me they're deliberately excluding ALL women, no matter their sexual orientation, because inclusion/exclusion seems to be based on gender identification, not sexual orientation.

    Hard to say since they don’t say WHICH gender. :D I doubt there are very many lesbian women writing books about gay males. It seems that we’ve been inundated by straight women writing about gay males. From what little I’ve read it seems that many of them see it as fetishistic, much like straight males and lesbians. Presumably lesbian women writing about lesbians would be eligible for the award, though I agree that a little clarity on this issue is in order, I trust that the community itself is capable of making that call.

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  45. Caligi
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:33:23

    That othering keeps me from buying AA romance. Since I’ve always lived in the city I probably have more in common with AA characters than I do with the suburbanite white women of mainstream contemporary romance, but the separateness of those romances – that Blaze characters are always white, Kimani characters black – scares me off, like I’m not invited. It’s like how white families in my neighborhood went to Flynn’s Market while the Latinos went to Delicias Paisas, not because the spanish store was beneath us or that Latinos were unwelcome in Flynn’s, but because we had our sphere and they had theirs and that was that.

    That’s what this LLA does. It tells me I’m not invited. Maybe that’s what they want? Maybe they prefer GLBT authors writing GLBT material read by GLBT readers?

    I’d rather AA and GLBT romances wrangle their way into the mainstream so I don’t always have to read about a straight white girl from the burbs or small town falling in love with the straight white guy. But maybe what I want and what the GLBT or AA community wants is completely different. Maybe they like being outside the mainstream.

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  46. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:40:12

    Maybe they like being outside the mainstream.

    I don’t think they LIKE being outside the mainstream, I think they decided that they were damned tired of begging to be included in the mainstream and decided to create their own. I know for myself, it’s beneath my dignity to beg people who’ve ignored my books based on my race. It’s my job to create the absolute best book I can and make sure I let people far and wide know about it. If they choose to ignore it because the notion of black sex gives them horrors, or worse, return it to the store because they were somehow ‘tricked’ into buying it, then that’s on them.

    I don’t understand why we, the marginalized groups are supposed to kiss the mainstream’s ass to be included. You’ve chosen not to read black books or go to a Latin grocery store simply because you weren’t ‘invited.’ Imagine how it feels to not only not be ‘invited,’ but to be DELIBERATELY excluded.

    I’ve been in plenty of Latin grocery stores and interestingly enough, no alarm bells went off. There are no signs that say ‘Browns Only.’ Picking up a Kimani book won’t bring out a drop squad to remove it from your hand, but because you’re not ‘invited’ you choose to not participate. Marginalized groups are not only not invited, we’re told in oh so many ways we’re not welcome, but we’re supposed to keep begging and beseeching because it makes you more comfortable.

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  47. Alisa
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:54:48

    I’ve read through this a few times, trying to sort my thoughts into some kind of coherent order and keep coming back to…

    “Yeah, and…so what?”

    The Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) seeks to elevate the status of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives. seems pretty clear to me.

    The gender orientation/identity part kind of has me scratching my head a bit and wondering if it is meant as gay males can only write about gay males, lesbians about lesbians and transgender about transgender in the works nominated. or do transgender writers go into the category they identify as– gay or lesbian. (and what about transgender who identify as straight if that is the case?) That’s a bit headtilty, not my concern, I’m straight and unpublished. Even if I was published, still not my concern despite the fact I write m/m as well as m/f. The GLBT writers who do qualify for this might want to be asking for a bit more clarity…

    But I’m still back to “yeah and so what?” Where’s the issue other than the slight head tilty on the orientation/identity bit.

    Now, the RWA ignoring/not recognizing GLBT within the romance genre, *that* is an issue. Any Writers association (Mystery, Sci-Fi etc) marginalizing GLBT or deliberately excluding, denying membership etc. *That* is an issue.

    If (making groups up here) Writers Association of New York didn’t allow entries for their award from New Jersey. It doesn’t mean the New Jersey writer’s can’t write, they’re just not eligible for that award. Same difference as this award being only for GLBT writers to me. It’s a defined group who wishes to recognize excellence within that group. So what? Where is the problem or issue? Why try to make it an issue?

    It’s an award for a specific group of writers, not a specific type of fiction despite the qualification of it being GLBT fiction by a GLBT author (at least how I’m looking at this). Maybe not the clearest on what that particular group can enter in what category to me but that’s beside the point. If that particular group want to argue amongst themselves over what categories they are limited in entering, so be it, they have a point with that wording on qualification for category. But that the award exists? Yeah, and so? Good for them.

    And if anyone is so bothered by only GLBT writers being eligible for a GLBT award, because there are awesome gay and lesbian fiction writers, m/m and f/f romance writers (which yeah to me the dif between chick lit and romance too there, split that not to get anyone’s panties in a bunch dumping it all together) then someone start an award for excellent m/m& f/f romance and GLBT fiction regardless of author orientation. Though that would probably start some other brouhaha over noms/winners & authenticity of voice.

    Awards are nice (in theory, someone will always find something wrong with the qualifications, noms, winners etc) shiny, something to brag about, always a good ego-boost to get in the final noms and especially to win, but for me, I just want to write the best story I can (and hopefully sell it). Awards seem to turn into a reason to bitch about who is getting screwed or left out than what efforts were recognized–no matter what kind of awards.

    ~shrugs~ maybe I’m just too stupid to get this one. I read m/m and m/f, on occasion f/f. Well honestly, I read anything I get my hands on that holds my attention regardless of genre. A good story is a good story, doesn’t matter who wrote it.

    If a specific group of writers/literary association want to have an award for their group…all I can say is “good for them…and so? This bothers anyone why?”

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  48. Alex Beecroft
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 10:56:21

    @roslynholcomb: There are plenty of lesbians writing m/m romance, including Mary Renault, the author of The Persian Boy and Annie Proulx, the author of Brokeback Mountain, both of which are absolute classics of the genre.

    There’s an enormous range of gender identification and sexuality amongst women who write m/m fiction, and much of the heat in this debate comes from the fact that many of us worry that we’re not being excluded because we’re straight, but that we’re being excluded because we’re women.

    If that’s the case – if they’re going to discriminate against LGBT women as well as straight ones, then that is no longer an innocent case of having an LGBT award for LGBT people, it’s a case of misogyny, which is a pretty entrenched oppression in itself.

    I personally very much hope that that’s just bad wording on the LLA notice, and that when they clarify it it will become obvious that it’s an LGBT award for LGBT people of any gender, rather than one which is all about gender segregation.

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  49. Caligi
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 11:02:28

    When I moved to Boston from the smaller city I grew up in I found it much easier to shop in Spanish markets, I guess because there wasn’t a behavior pattern set up already and because they fit my college student budget in a way that Whole Foods didn’t. I don’t want to derail this conversation too much, but part of the reason we didn’t shop in in various ethnic markets was because we thought we weren’t welcome, like they wanted their space. It was based in respect, actually. Not that I think discrimination is made up, I’m well aware that it’s alive and well, even up here in royal blue MA.

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  50. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 11:03:20

    I personally very much hope that that's just bad wording on the LLA notice, and that when they clarify it it will become obvious that it's an LGBT award for LGBT people of any gender, rather than one which is all about gender segregation.

    Presumably the lesbians who write m/m will address the issue to Lambda, I doubt they intended to exclude women period. After all, they didn’t say which gender. I still think it’s a bit of a straw man argument, and that clarification will be coming in short order.

    There's an enormous range of gender identification and sexuality amongst women who write m/m fiction, and much of the heat in this debate comes from the fact that many of us worry that we're not being excluded because we're straight, but that we're being excluded because we're women.

    From what little I’ve read on the issue there seems to be a good deal of annoyance and perception that straight women are writing m/m books from a voyeuristic/fetishistic viewpoint. Obviously, there’s not a helluva lot Lambda can do about that, but it would appear that they’ve decided that they don’t want to reward it, either.

    I’m quite sure there’s a range of gender identification amongst female writers of m/m fiction, but my guess would be that the overwhelming majority is straight. It would make no sense for Lambda to exclude women period, after all, presumably books about lesbians would be eligible. So, like I said, I think the argument that they’re excluding women, period is at best premature.

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  51. Alex Beecroft
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 11:14:57

    @roslynholcomb: I think so too, to be honest. It’s just some of the “can women really understand what it’s like to be a man?” comments which make me worry. But I’m sure LLA are more canny than to get into that kind of territory deliberately.

    I also agree with you about the perception that straight women are writing exploitatively and fetishistically about gay men. I hate to admit it, but I think in some cases that’s true, and IMO that’s as ugly a thing as straight men creating lesbian porn, or men objectifying women or any power group objectifying and exploiting people who are not in power.

    In other cases, of course, it isn’t true, and many straight women are writing m/m romance because they think of themselves as GBLT allies, who want to show to a (very unwelcoming, in the large) romance establishment that gay love stories are as much romance as het ones are.

    It would be nice if there was some way of separating out the two different types. But I don’t know that there is, without individually reading each book, and that’s a lot of time and effort which LLA is quite entitled to spare itself.

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  52. Diana
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 11:25:05

    My question about the award is whether the intended audience matters.

    Is the target audience for M/M books written by straight women the LGBT community, or is it really for other straight women? Does that target audience influence how the men in the book are portrayed? Is the book really about the M/M experience, or are the men in the book just a vehicle for a love story, easily swapped out with a more traditional couple?

    I wonder whether the situation could be compared to the current craze in Inspirationals and Inspirational Romance novels set in Amish country. Not that the Amish would likely give an award for how the Amish are portrayed in fiction, but I think it is generally accepted that those books are not written for an Amish audience, but an evangelical Christian audience. Many Amish who have read them argue that Amish life and Amish values are inaccurately portrayed to serve as a conduit for evangelical Christian beliefs.

    Is the Lambda’s concern that a non GLBT writer will write a book with GLBT characters at the expense of the GLBT lifestyle?

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  53. Jane
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 11:26:41

    I think there is some common ground.

    1. A good book is good regardless of the gender or sexuality of an author writing it.

    2. Organizations are free to define their awards to best suit their mission.

    3. Groups with power writing about marginalized groups present thorny issues.

    Let me address No. 2.

    First (which would be 2.1) What I see here with straight women writing gay romance is that they are being excluded on both sides. RWA won’t accept them because it’s definition of romance is one man/one woman. LLA wants to exclude them because they are straight writing about a sexual identity that they only have second hand knowledge of.

    Second (2.2) does the exclusion of straight women further the mission of Lambda Literary? I.e., is Lambda Literary about the advancement of authors based on their sexual identity as the Essence Awards are about elevating African American authors writing about African American themes? or is Lambda Literary about elevating LGBT fiction?

    Third (2.3) What is the excluded group trying to achieve in being recognized and can recognition be gained other places?

    Moving on to 3

    3.1 I think my tension with gay romance is whether the literature serves to feed merely prurient interests. As Sparky noted up thread, there is a whole spectrum of gay romance written by women. My understanding of the Beecroft and Erastes’ publications that the sex scenes were very mild.

    3.2 As Dr. Sarah said, ” whether authorial identity has to match subject matter” is a difficult question. Taken to its extremes, people are right in arguing that this would be incredibly limiting (taking out the paranormal). Some have argued that women are fetishizing men in romances. To men, this is a power issue. This is a largely patriarchal society so a marginalized group writing about a group that is not marginalized gives me much less pause. More problematic is when one marginalized group is appropriating another marginalized group’s culture. Do we then define whether authorial identity has to match subject matter based on the equitable power relationships between the marginalized groups?

    Finally, I want to address the “other” thing raised by Caligi. When a book is marketed solely to a subset of population there is the implication that those outside that subet is not the intended audience. By having a Kimani line rather than incorporating those books into SIM, SD or HP, the suggestion is that Kimani is somehow different from what you would read in those other lines. This may not be how it should be but I definitely think that is the result.

    I urged people to buy The Husband She Couldn’t Forget by Carmen Green because it was an AA couple in the SSE line. The more that people buy these books, the more that Harlequin and other publishers will see that separating out books by race (or gender or sexuality) isn’t necessary for a book to find its audience. I did hear that Jade Lee’s The Concubine didn’t sell well so we might not see more historical Asian set books in the Harlequin Blaze historicals.

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  54. Ciar Cullen
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 11:31:06

    Roslyn, I don’t mean this sarcastically in any way. I am genuinely interested in your answer, and am asking this sincerely:

    How do you know people have ignored your books because of your race? Has anyone told you that? Or is that your assumption based on bookstore shelving, etc. I would assume that many(most) black women might ignore my extensive catalog (*joke there) based on my covers, which feature white characters. Is that what you mean?

    I’m interested, because this has come up of course before, and when I asked for any AA authors to please submit a work for me to review (I said I would purchase them), I had one taker. And this was in a very public forum, perhaps this one, or maybe it was Romancing the Blog. The one taker said she spread the word, whatever that meant.

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  55. Diana
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 11:37:17

    When a book is marketed solely to a subset of population there is the implication that those outside that subet is not the intended audience. By having a Kimani line rather than incorporating those books into SIM, SD or HP, the suggestion is that Kimani is somehow different from what you would read in those other lines. This may not be how it should be but I definitely think that is the result.

    This is very true. I live in a small town that is predominantly white. Our local bookstore owner has told me that she gave up ordering books from these lines because our local population believes these books are not really for them. The handful of African American women in town won’t read them because they don’t want to be seen as AAs who only read AA books. However, the bookstore sells plenty of books whose main characters are minorities when those books sit on the regular shelves.

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  56. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 11:58:42

    @Jane:

    (2.3) What is the excluded group trying to achieve in being recognized and can recognition be gained other places?

    I’m pretty sure the Rainbow Romance Writers, a new RWA chapter of which I’m a member, is in the process of setting up awards, similar to the Passionate Plume Awards, I guess.

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  57. kirsten saell
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:22:18

    Would we be having this debate if the Lambdas had been inundated with a buttload of f/f (not calling it lesbian, because IMO not all f/f IS lesbian even when it’s written by women, TYVM) written by straight men and that’s why they were changing their rules? Would anyone here think angry straight guy writers had a leg to stand on?

    Gay men and straight women have historically been allies in ways that lesbians (and bi women, please, let’s not forget the bi women!) and straight men have never been. I think that has a lot to do with gender/orientation privilege, with gay men and straight women on a more equal footing than the top rung straight guy and the bottom rung 1) homo/bisexual 2) female. And I think it contributes to a greater sense of responsibility among straight women writers not to objectify or exploit male homo/bisexuality, and to treat it in a sensitive manner.

    But. But but but, in a lot of ways, it is fetishization (if it wasn’t, there would be no need to label it to make it easy for women to find it. And I’m not saying fetishization is necessarily evil or anything–we do it all the time with alpha heroes and vampires and BDSM and all kinds of other things). Just because the fetishization of gay men for a female readership is more sensitive and less exploitative than the way f/f has been treated by straight men for, oh, forever, doesn’t mean it’s not fetishization. I see it in the way perfectly sane women will get as excited over the mere possibility of a gay kiss on Torchwood as straight guys do over girl-on-girl jello wrestling. The only difference really (again, IMO) is that women want to know (and like, and relate to) the characters involved, while straight men don’t need that.

    But, again. We’re all entitled to our own fantasies and to have forms of entertainment created that indulge those fantasies. As for writing TO women, all romance is, for the most part, written to women. And last time I checked, you can’t control your readership. There’s a huge market overlap between gay and m/m (defining “gay” as written by and largely for gay men, and “m/m” as written by and for women) that will never, ever exist between lesbian (or even f/f written for women) and “lesbo” porn, because there are enough commonalities in how gay men and women treat the subject.

    I’m not sure what my point is, or even what my opinion is on this matter. Still mulling it over. I’m guessing that the rules were not so rigid in the past because for the most part, the only writers who used to want to explore GLBT themes were GLBT writers. It’s gotta be annoying to have straight writers monopolizing the genre and therefore the awards. When it was just a few women writing totally blammo books about gay dudes, they were welcomed as allies. But when the allies move in and take over something that was created for GLBT writers, it’s harder to see them as such.

    **ETA: Just want to make clear, I don’t necessarily think all female m/m writers are fetishizing gay men–but I do think readers often do, and again, you can’t control your readership.

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  58. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:27:45

    How do you know people have ignored your books because of your race? Has anyone told you that?

    I don’t think you’re being sarcastic at all. Yes, I’ve had people tell me that and certainly there have been plenty of posters on oh so many of these threads who said they don’t read black romances. It seems that most of them feel they couldn’t relate or there would be too much ‘race stuff’ in them. I’m really not sure why people feel that they can’t relate to black people, but like I said, it’s not a fight I’m interested in fighting anymore.

    I’ve also been told by the marketing folks at a large publishing house that black books have to have black people on the cover because when they don’t whites have bought them accidentally and then returned them because they were ‘tricked.’

    As for black readers ignoring books with white characters, that less likely to happen, though I suppose it could. Black romances have only been around for about twenty years now, prior to that it was white romances or none.

    I haven’t seen any requests from you to read romances. I generally notify everyone with a pulse when one of my books are being released. I had one in July, I’ve got one coming up next week and another in December. I’ll be more than happy to send you one or all three. Or any other book from my backlist for that matter.

    The more that people buy these books, the more that Harlequin and other publishers will see that separating out books by race (or gender or sexuality) isn't necessary for a book to find its audience.

    We’ve discussed this at length, and of course, I bought Carmen’s book, but I tend to buy all black books from a mainstream publisher when money permits. I think having a Kimani line serves the same purpose as having Essence, Ebony or Black Enterprise magazines. There’s a segment of the black population that has had enough of begging for inclusion. That group would rather we just have our own and keep it moving. Not excluding whites, no ‘Black’s Only’ signs, after all anyone is free to buy Kimani if they like. I think they see this as empowering as we have decided to remove ourselves as opposed to being ignored.

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  59. kaigou
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:40:32

    I’m with anon @42. Except I go further and add: I really, really, really hate it when LLA et al pulls crap like this. If you’re bisexual, you’re always the marginalized minority within this minority. Just how am I supposed to take something like this?

    The Lambda Literary Foundation (LLF) seeks to elevate the status of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people

    That word ‘openly’ rings every bell I have: if I marry mainstream am I not living ‘openly’? Do I need to tattoo this on my forehead to make up for the fact that, being monogamous, I just don’t feel the inclination to chase skirts (or jeans!) anymore? Bisexuality, by its very fluidity, is harder to qualify — and the upshot is always that we bisexuals end up disqualified.

    …rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

    Perhaps I’m just the contrarian gumming up the works, but I prefer to write (and read!) bisexual characters. Even m/m and f/f relationships I’ve written, in every case at least one-half of the couple is bi (if not both). There’s no definitive answer, but IMO/IME I can relate to a bisexual man in ways that a gay man can’t: does gender trump sexuality, or vice versa? Can either of us claim authority for writing that bisexual-male-character — or are we both merely blind men groping the elephant?

    Color me cynical after twenty years of watching the LLAs trip past, but for any shocked that LLA would do this… don’t be. LLA’s been doing it to some of their own since the beginning; hell, it took fourteen years of the bi-community protesting before LLA could be bothered to create a ‘bisexual’ category… so the issue of bisexual characters in love is probably moot, anyway. Yep, nothing like being marginalized within your own minority.

    LLA’s stripes haven’t changed in the least. All they’ve done is expand their mission statement — to be even more exclusive.

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  60. dark
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:45:16

    Aha the old slash isn’t gay circular debate. This has been going on for donkey’s years in fandom, never really went anywhere. Pops up every now and again – all the new people get involved with arguing, the old timers just go about their business waiting for it to blow over. I’m not surprised that it has popped up in the mainstream as it were seeing as a whole bunch of slash writers have gone legitimate.

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  61. Ciar Cullen
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:45:26

    @roslynholcomb:
    “I think they see this as empowering as we have decided to remove ourselves as opposed to being ignored.”

    Um, that statement troubles me, deep down. I can understand it, but it’s troubling, nevertheless. There’s no reason you should have heard of me or my blog or reviews, but I do all kinds of books there, just whatever catches my fancy. And I try to be inclusive, just to stretch my own boundaries.

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  62. Christine M.
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:48:28

    @dark:
    Amen. Been in various fandoms for 7 years (not a rookie, but not an old-timer either) and while some are scarier than others, you’re right these debates always come back once in a while.

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  63. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:56:18

    @Ciar Cullen:

    Troubles me too, but I definitely understand the source. It gets old after a while. It gets really, really old. Check out my website at roslynhardyholcomb.com. I’ve got excerpts there and on my blog. Let me know if you’re interested in reading any of my books and I’ll send them to you. My latest is called Pussycat Death Squad, it’s about a Muslim woman who leads a troupe of deadly bodyguards. She falls in love with an American Marine.

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  64. roslynholcomb
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 12:57:22

    @kirsten saell:

    What Kirsten said, and said much more effectively than I did in a dozen posts. I’m out.

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  65. kirsten saell
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:08:39

    @kaigou:

    Bisexuality, by its very fluidity, is just that much harder to qualify -’ and the upshot is always that we bisexuals get just plain disqualified.

    Well, we ARE traitors to the cause, don’t you know. :P

    I have to say, I feel as strongly in favor of the term “f/f romance” as many lesbians do about the term “lesbian romance”. I think lesbian romance and f/f romance are different things, with completely different tropes and intended readerships (I’m a bi woman and I don’t tend to read lesbian romance because it doesn’t appeal to me, but I write f/f and f/f/m, and read what little I can find that’s decent).

    I suppose we could have a term like “bisexual/bicurious-female-oriented fiction” or whatever, but that’s kind of a mouthful. I mean, if neither female character is lesbian and the story doesn’t encompass or explore lesbian issues, it’s not only misleading to label it lesbian–it marginalizes me (and bi women in general).

    Perhaps I'm just the contrarian gumming up the works, but I prefer to write (and read!) bisexual characters. Even those m/m and f/f relationships I've written, in every case at least one-half of the couple is bi (if not both).

    Oh hell yes. Apparently I’m a contrarian too, but I feel exactly the same way, whether I’m reading f/f, f/f/m, m/m, m/m/f or what have you. Which is why I hate applying the label “lesbian” to every f/f story.

    But maybe it’s not contrarian. Maybe it’s the most egalitarian form of romance out there, where gender doesn’t matter at all because there’s no preferance, just the possibility of falling in love with anyone… Or maybe I’m talking out my ass. Because, if half the GLBT community is to be believed, I’m either delusional and just hot for chicks to turn on my boyfriend, or a lesbian who’s only half out of the closet.

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  66. Christine M.
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:12:41

    @kirsten saell:

    But maybe it's not contrarian. Maybe it's the most egalitarian form of romance out there, where gender doesn't matter at all because there's no preferance, just the possibility of falling in love with anyone… Or maybe I'm talking out my ass. Because, if half the GLBT community is to be believed, I'm either delusional and just hot for chicks to turn on my boyfriend, or a lesbian who's only half out of the closet.

    Then I guess that makes two of us. ;)

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  67. Chicklet
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:15:23

    3.1 I think my tension with gay romance is whether the literature serves to feed merely prurient interests.

    Just to put it out there, Jane, I’m going to change one word in your statement:

    3.1 I think my tension with heterosexual romance is whether the literature serves to feed merely prurient interests.

    I can’t count the number of times DA (and Smart Bitches, et al.) have reiterated that romance is not porn/prurient. In fact, I think that’s the major point of contention with the Ravenous Romance titles that have been reviewed here, right? That the RR books are not romance because they’re overly prurient and don’t contain many of the characterization or emotional elements that readers expect from romance.

    So is your tension with gay romance that some of the books/authors/readers are in it for prurient reasons? Or do you think that every book in the m/m genre is prurient, just because many of them are written by women?

    What I noticed about the LLF’s statement is that they haven’t made a distinction between depictions of LGBT characters and depictions of LGBT characters by LGBT authors. The GLAAD Awards (for media like TV, movies, and TV news) are for depictions of the LGBT community, and therefore have been awarded to straight people, too.

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  68. Ally Blue
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:33:16

    Lambda: I think they are being a tad exclusionary, but that’s their right. I know a couple of gay (male) authors who could give you an earful about Lambda from way back, and none of it pretty. Having had no personal experience with them myself, I’ll just leave it at that.

    Straight women writing gay romance: well, I’m one. Like Alex, I don’t write with a particular audience in mind. I do my level best to write the most fully realized people I can. I’m not writing about the gay experience, I’m writing about the experiences of two particular people. Hopefully readers will enjoy their journey, and come out on the other side satisfied. That’s all I want.

    Authenticity: I think Elise said it best, somewhere waaaay on up the comment stream. And I am totally paraphrasing here, but basically she said that everyone is different; no one person, gay or straight, is going to have the same life experience as someone else. Some gay men will love my books and think they’re dead-on, some won’t. Indeed, the vast majority of the fan mail I get is from gay men. As long as they keep telling me how well my writing reflects their experiences, then I figure I must be doing something right *g* On the other hand, I know there are also gay men out there who read my stuff and go “wow, did SHE ever get it wrong”; I’ve seen a couple of those comments in Amazon reviews.
    So, yeah, one person’s experience is not the same as another’s. The universal “gay experience” does not exist, anymore than the universal “female experience” does.

    Thanks to Jane and Sarah, and all the commenters, for this very interesting debate!

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  69. Karen Scott
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:43:26

    I totally agree with Roslyn. My perspective on these debates tend to be skewed by my own experiences as a black woman.

    Marginalised groups create their own awards/events because they’re usually excluded from the mainstream ones. Look at Hollywood for instance. How many directors in Hollywood are black? How many black people have won major acting accolades?
    The reason why it was such a big deal when Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won those oscars a few years ago, was because it was such an unusual occurrence.

    Since I don't know of a single award explicitly given only to white men – and feel free to set me straight here – I've always felt these sort of specific awards made us into fragile novelties, like we need the recognition because we'd never cut it in the mainstream.

    This has less to do with being able to cut it in the mainstream, and everything to do with not even being given an opportunity to compete.

    In an ideal world, everything and everybody would be treated equally, but we know that that’s not the case, don’t we?

    I know they mean well, but I think these sorts of things only reinforce the boundaries between us. I'm not sure what effect they're going for with them.

    Are you kidding? You don’t think that those boundaries are there already?

    However, I always end up thinking that the (smaller) groups doing so are marginalizing themselves (marking themselves as ‘other') and making themselves less accessible to the larger group(s).

    The point is, they’re marginalised already. All they’re doing is looking for a way of having something just for themselves that the mainstream can’t take over. I understand that.

    That othering keeps me from buying AA romance. Since I've always lived in the city I probably have more in common with AA characters than I do with the suburbanite white women of mainstream contemporary romance, but the separateness of those romances – that Blaze characters are always white, Kimani characters black – scares me off, like I'm not invited.

    Can I ask how many AA romance books you read prior to Kimani? Honestly?
    I think it’s extraordinary that you make the distinction of feeling scared off by black characters being in front of a book cover. What’s the difference between seeing black folks on a Kimani book, and seeing black folks on any other romance novel? I’m a black woman who reads books with lots and lots of white people on the front covers. I’m not automatically put off by all those faces that are different to mine, so I find it hard to understand why you would feel that way about AA books.

    In modern society it's pounded into us not to discriminate based on race, gender, orientation, religion etc etc…it's supposed to be a non-issue anywhere else and we're not meant to take it into any kind of consideration in any way.

    So why give awards based on those very criteria?

    In modern society people are still discriminated against every day. For God’s sake, African American romance is still shelved separately to white mainstream romance.
    The majority of white romance readers wont even pick up a book with black characters on the front. This is a fact, not just conjecture.
    So how are those authors supposed to make a living, if they can’t get a piece of the White Reader pie? They concentrate their efforts on the relatively small group of black readers who are interested in their stories, that’s what they do.

    I live in a small town that is predominantly white. Our local bookstore owner has told me that she gave up ordering books from these lines because our local population believes these books are not really for them.

    I can pretty much guarantee that those books wouldn’t have sold no matter what. The people on the cover would have had to change colour first methinks.

    How do you know people have ignored your books because of your race?

    I’d say the books were ignored because they probably had at least one black person on the cover. After all, not everybody knows what race an author is, unless they have a picture on the book.

    You've chosen not to read black books or go to a Latin grocery store simply because you weren't ‘invited.' Imagine how it feels to not only not be ‘invited,' but to be DELIBERATELY excluded.

    What Roslyn said.

    I say let the LLF have the awards the way they wish to.

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  70. anon
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:45:12

    Maybe it's the most egalitarian form of romance out there, where gender doesn't matter at all because there's no preferance, just the possibility of falling in love with anyone… Or maybe I'm talking out my ass. Because, if half the GLBT community is to be believed, I'm either delusional and just hot for chicks to turn on my boyfriend, or a lesbian who's only half out of the closet.

    I’m with you there. That reaction–that you must be either/or and that you’re lying to yourself and everyone else if you don’t pick one side or the other–has always bewildered me. Why are completely straight/completely gay people so bothered (intimidated?) by those to whom body parts are entirely irrelevant?

    I’m still struggling to understand why not everyone finds people of either sex desirable, when it seems like the most natural thing in the world to me. =)
    But I do try to avoid labeling straights and gays delusional just because their sexuality may not be as fluid as mine.

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  71. Annie Mullin
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:47:59

    @Mireya:

    From where I am standing, the publishers of m/m are mostly catering to a female hetero audience, not a gay audience

    What makes you say that? (That’s an honest question on my part, not a flippant comment.) I can’t speak for any other publisher (electronic or print), but that’s not our intent. We just want to publish good stories for anybody who wants to read them, regardless of the gender/topic/genre/race/whatever, and the feedback we’ve received seems to indicate that our readers are of all kinds, not just straight women reading m/m.

    With regards to the LLA–totally their call. Ultimately it’s their award and their group and their choice. I know nothing about the organization, so I can’t honestly say I have any idea what they’re trying to do. But it is really frustrating to me that most of the current awards (not just the LLA) and writing organizations are ignoring many good writers who don’t fit the very narrow categories that’ve been carved out already. I’m getting closer and closer to wanting to start an organization that doesn’t have many of the restrictions like RWA, MWA, SFWA, and the like do, because there is a lot of really good fiction being published that is ineligible for recognition by a wider audience because of ridiculous imaginary boundaries–largely to do with payment structure, of all things, and absolutely nothing to do with the stories themselves.

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  72. K. Z. Snow
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:57:36

    Why are awards, of any ilk, so important? Why can’t artists — all artists, regardless of field — let their audiences be the final arbiters of worth?

    I’m mystified by the fuss. So let LLF engage in gender and orientation discrimination. It’s their award. Same is true of RWA . . . or any organization that establishes guidelines for, ostensibly, the recognition of excellence. Let each award-bestowing entity establish whatever criteria it wants, and if you find those criteria unfair or exclusionary or offensive, ignore that entity and let only those people who believe in it support it.

    Why don’t the Girl Scouts admit boys? Why don’t the Boy Scouts admit girls? Why can’t the Roman Catholic Church set up confessionals in Al-Aqsa mosque?

    Let it go already. Ours has always been and will continue to be a factionalized species. Not everybody will always be welcomed everywhere.

    It’s brutal, quality-of-life-altering prejudice that needs to be conquered. Let’s save our energy for those battles.

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  73. GrowlyCub
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:58:01

    The point is, they're marginalised already.

    Indeed but I actually thought the point overall (not necessarily with this award) was for these smaller groups to be accepted as parts of the larger group(s) with equal rights and for discrimination to stop. So that it’s not a huge deal to be homosexual and want to get married to the person you love, so it’s not a major issue to be a woman and to want a piece of the mega buck jobs that seem only available to men, or that it’s not an automatic given that you are labeled a ‘traitor’ if you identify bisexual and refuse to ‘choose sides’.

    I understand why Lambda might want to have their own award specifically for folks who are part of the group. My point is that if the overarching goal is acceptance into the mainstream with equal rights, segregating yourself and marking yourself as ‘other’ is not helpful, especially if you are doing it in such a way that leaves members of your group scratching their heads or outright annoyed at you.

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  74. kaigou
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 14:00:47

    @kirsten saell:

    Because, if half the GLBT community is to be believed, I'm either delusional and just hot for chicks to turn on my boyfriend, or a lesbian who's only half out of the closet.

    …compared to the other half, who goes for the allegedly diplomatic label of ‘indecisive’.

    (Tangentially, I’ve always found it more than a bit problematic that the LGTQ community, like its cousin the het community, figures that a woman attracted to other woman who’s currently with a man is really just ‘hot for chicks to turn on [her] boyfriend’ — as though a woman’s sexuality, and her exploration of it, exists only within scope of her boyfriend’s interests. I mean, obviously, if my spouse didn’t dig two chicks together, then I wouldn’t find women attractive! Because my sexuality exists only to please him. Of course, if I were to say that to him, he’d die laughing, and I’m not sure what kind of life insurance he has. I should check first, and then let him know. Righto! A plan! I feel so much better now.)

    …but getting back to the main point: I suppose it’s somewhat rendered moot by the fact that LLA wants to define writers by their gender and not their sexuality. Still seems murky to me. I have to ask: which characters? Is there some kind of percentage, or a quota we have to pass?

    And my brain says: If I have three bisexual female characters in a story, have I racked up enough same-gender-same-sexuality points to be allowed a freebie of a bisexual-couple that’s same-sex-but-not-my-sex, or must any romance in the story contain at least one person who’s the same gender as me? Or just sex scenes? What if only the bi-female character gets the sexxors on-page? Or does this mean just no sex scenes from a guy’s POV? Can I write a bisexual guy’s POV? Wait, what if I write a story about a lesbian? I’m not a lesbian. Did I just disqualify myself? What about two bisexual characters… who happen to opp-gender — is that a het-romance, or does it qualify because I’m a bi female (check!) writing a relationship I have experience with (check!) and it has bi characters (check!) …even if it’s a het couple?

    Hahahaha, yeah, I could go on all day coming up with tarbabies like this*. I said I was an contrarian. Yes, my university professors did hate me, why do you ask?

    @anon:

    …if the overarching goal is acceptance into the mainstream with equal rights, segregating yourself and marking yourself as ‘other' is not helpful, especially if you are doing it in such a way that leaves members of your group scratching their heads or outright annoyed at you.

    The head-scratching is a real danger sign, to me. If the basic definition says I’m in the group, then it’s a badly-written mission statement, IMO, if it’s got me (and possibly the other bi-writers/readers here) baffled as to whether we’re in, or out, all over again.

    If anyone were asking me, LLA’s concept of inclusive is sitting at fail and heading for epic.

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  75. Janine
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 14:17:01

    @Jane

    I know that I would be offended if there was an entire genre of romance books about Asian people written by non Asian people for other non Asian people. I mean, why would there be such a genre if not to feed into some kind of strange Asian erotic fetish?

    But don’t you think this is already happening with certain ethnicities and nationalities in mainstream romance? I’m referring to the popularity of Native American, Latin, Italian, Greek and Arab men in books written mainly by white North American women? Isn’t that feeding into an ethnic erotic fetish?

    And IMO the almost total absence of other ethnicities, such as Asian and Jewish characters, is indicative of a problem as well.

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  76. kirsten saell
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 14:17:33

    Why are completely straight/completely gay people so bothered (intimidated?) by those to whom body parts are entirely irrelevant?

    Well, people are always more comfortable when everyone stays put in their individual little boxes–I mean, biracial people get shit on from both sides as well, don’t they?

    And for what it’s worth, I think gay men are a lot more comfortable with bisexual men than lesbians are with bi women–and again, I think that speaks to the allies/privilege issue.

    But hey, it’s not just GLBT people who get offended by bisexuals. Dude, we’re like “stealth gays” who can masquerade as straight! Now the homophobe redneck not only has to worry about the wrist-flapping, eyeliner-wearing guy across the bar hitting on him–he has to worry about that normal-looking guy sitting with his girlfriend! And that straight chick is stuck wondering if that happily married woman is looking at her tits because she’s envious of them, or wants to get her hands on them! Horrors!

    And the fact that we can (if we choose to) masquerade as straight has to piss off those who can’t.

    And I do think the straight guy assumption of female bisexuality as just another thing to co-opt and turn into porn is a huge part of the lesbian bias against us. But just like I can’t control who’s reading and wanking to my books, I can’t control the condescension I get from straight men, or the fact that they’ve been at the top of the food chain for centuries.

    All those militant lesbians and political lesbians (bis who eschew men because OMG men suck or whatever) have GOT to figure we’re chumps for liking guys. And I can see how some of them might think we’re setting everything back a billion years because we refuse to “cast off the shackles of patriarchy”. I do know that lesbian issues are largely also feminist issues, and I don’t begrudge lesbians a certain resentment over the traditional male treatment of their sexuality–which is why I don’t tell lesbians how to write their stories.

    Female bisexuality invites straight men back in–if not into the bedroom, at least into the house. When you’ve spent decades trying to boot them out, I can see where “one of your own” sticking bubble gum in the lock so they can sneak back in might be seen as…traitorous.

    And I’m not saying all (or even most) gays and lesbians are biphobic–just that it’s more noticeable within a community that’s supposed to serve us all, and easier to take personally.

    In other words, why can’t we all just get along?

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  77. kaigou
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 14:26:05

    @kirsten:

    In other words, why can't we all just get along?

    Well, we can — it’s just that some of us have a broader definition of the ‘all’ we’re able to get along with.

    /snark

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  78. kirsten saell
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 14:31:15

    @kaigou:

    Hahahaha, yeah, I could go on all day coming up with tarbabies like this*. I said I was an contrarian, after all, and besides, gotta do something to amuse myself when I'm not busy waffling over whether I'm straight, gay, or just going through a really long phase. Like, going on twenty-something years now phase, but hey! I'm just REALLY indecisive.

    OMG, I think I’m in love with you. I don’t know if I’ve laughed that hard in weeks. Whew!

    Yeah, I’ve been waffling since my pre-teens, when I’d have “mean Barbie” make “nice Barbie” do all kinds of questionable things, all while Ken watched and called instructions from the sidelines. Only ten years old, and already the girl ain’t right. :P

    Is it weird that I was much more surprised by a straight (religious) woman acquaintance’s assessment of my bisexuality as “a cop-out” than I am of the same assessment from the GLBT community? Because the former brought me up short and pissed me right the fuck off, but the latter is just pretty much par for the course…

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  79. silvia
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 14:54:20

    As a “queer American” and also a fan of gay & lesbian fiction written by both straight men and women, this has always been a conundrum for me. I think you hit my feeling right on the head with this comment:

    My biggest discomfort comes down to this. With m/m romance written by women for women, you have ostensibly one power group writing for the, as someone else put it, “consumption and excitement” of the power group but not for the benefit of the oppressed group. … I know that I would be offended if there was an entire genre of romance books about Asian people written by non Asian people for other non Asian people. I mean, why would there be such a genre if not to feed into some kind of strange Asian erotic fetish? … Am I engaging in the fetishization of a culture as well?

    While I support this practice financially by purchasing some of the work, and I admittedly enjoy much of it, I’ve also at times been made to feel very uneasy by what sometimes comes across as fetishization of a socially and politically oppressed minority. This doesn’t only occur in the written form – - some female comedians publically and repetitively adopt “the gays” as adorable accessories, for their amusement and entertainment (which can come across as patronizing and objectifying); gay characters are also often included as bit characters in movies and tv and are present only for comedic value or canon fodder– this can be done in positive ways, neutral ways, and also negative ways (the question is, are they just there to be murdered or ridiculed, or is the gay community let in on the joke?)

    I don’t believe you have to belong to a minority group or different culture in order to write about it. On the other hand, I personally feel that if the creator is not a part of the group than they should perform research and attempt to portray the group as accurately as possible. And the goal should not be exploitatation — this should be a question that they pose to themselves, and actively consider.

    This may not be “fair”, as one would say that artists should be able to create any kind of art that they enjoy… but I feel that The Majority should be aware of the privileges they were born into and be willing to accomodate The Minority whenever feasible. [ For an excellent article on the "The Daily Effects of Straight Priviledge", see: http://www.cs.earlham.edu/~hyrax/personal/files/student_res/straightprivilege.htm ]

    I guess… I think LGBT fiction should be celebrated along with all other works of fiction, and should be applicable for literary prizes in many areas. And in all of those other arenas, who the author is shouldn’t matter. However, I think that if the minority community wants an awards program for gay art, produced by gay artists… that’s not something that should be too objectionable. I think the community has a right to keep this for themselves, to celebrate their achievements, just like ethnic minorities should feel free to celebrate pride in their community without including work (even great work) produced by members outside their group. And if straight women feel that there is no venue to celebrate their work, they should mobilize their social and political power to create space for their work within the larger literary community — make their voices and buying power heard, and force change so that their work is visible and included in general Romance circles. Gay fiction should not be cloistered off in the corner, like something irregular and dirty.

    I think I would feel much better about the whole thing if I felt that the straight audience and writers were honestly & seriously considering these issues and trying their best to treat the gay community with dignity while producing and enjoying their art.

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  80. GrowlyCub
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 14:55:08

    But don't you think this is already happening with certain ethnicities and nationalities in mainstream romance? I'm referring to the popularity of Native American, Latin, Italian, Greek and Arab men in books written mainly by white North American women? Isn't that feeding into an ethnic erotic fetish?

    Excellent point, Janine. I totally agree. In the end I think this all comes down again to ‘authenticity’ and the question of whether authors can only write well about something they have experienced themselves.

    For literature and most other genres there are no such requirements and it baffles me that there are for romance and alternate sexuality writing.

    While reading the comments I envisioned how a contest would work in which the judges did not know anything about the gender, orientation and living situation of the author and I bet you, just as several people pointed out that there is no one ‘gay experience’, there would be numerous judges rejecting books as inauthentic to the gay lifestyle just to find out that they were written by gay men and just as many books touted as authentic that were written by straight women.

    It’s not the envelope it’s what’s inside…

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  81. silvia
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 15:08:19

    @ Karen Scott:
    [Marginalised groups create their own awards/events because they're usually excluded from the mainstream ones. Look at Hollywood for instance. How many directors in Hollywood are black? How many black people have won major acting accolades?]

    You make some excellent points! I think the challenge is for people to think outside their comfort zone and their own experience, and try to consider why certain groups who have been excluded from larger society would have to create their own private organizations. Proposing that marginalization no longer exists doesn’t help anyone. [See "White Privilege", "Straight Privilege" - Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack I and II] And it’s not saying there’s anything wrong with white straight women – it’s not their fault they were born into privilege, and it’s not an attempt to punish them, or say in any way that their fiction is inferior to the fiction written by LGBT writers.

    And it may be that the way the awards organization is going about their regulations is kind of short-sighted and poorly organized.. But that doesn’t mean that a minority group is wrong to want to create that “safe space” and keep the awards within the community. Even if they are doing it ineffeciently, the idea has merit.

    @ Jane:
    What I see here with straight women writing gay romance is that they are being excluded on both sides. RWA won't accept them because it's definition of romance is one man/one woman. LLA wants to exclude them because they are straight writing about a sexual identity that they only have second hand knowledge of.

    My issue with this is why straight women aren’t mad as hell and deeply offended with the RWA about this, and fighting to change this practice. That’s where I’d put MY fury as a woman scorned. ;) Don’t blame the victim, who’s been excluded and are awkwardly & imperfectly trying to set up their own space.

    If there IS actually already some movement for change going on there, my apologies.

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  82. Ally Blue
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 15:37:04

    Actually RWA doesn’t have the one man/one woman definition of romance. I’m a member of RWA, I joined PAN, I signed books at the conference booksigning, I participated in the librarian and bookseller’s networking (and in fact every single one of my books got picked up, which was WAY cool), and in fact RWA has been surprisingly supportive. Of course I have no idea how the RITAs would react to receiving one of my books. Nor am I likely to find out, since I’m small press published (and therefore not inclined to enter), but that’s a whole other debate right there…

    Romantic Times (RT) has always excluded gay romance, no matter who writes it. I guess they still have that unofficial rule. Maybe that’s what everyone’s thinking of?

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  83. Sharron McClellan
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 15:41:03

    Interesting conversation!

    BUT fact-check…Here’s the RWA definition of romance:
    http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre

    There is nothing about one woman/one man.

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  84. Tasha
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 16:01:34

    Where, exactly, does it say that these awards are restricted to LGBT authors? I have seen nothing, anywhere, to indicate that.

    There are three factors in judging. One is literary merit, one is content, one is the LGBT identity of the author (and “gender identity” in this context refers specifically to the T in the alphabet soup). The main problem I see here is that people are taking it completely out of that context.

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  85. silvia
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 16:02:34

    @ Ally Blue :
    I’m glad to hear that’s not in the definition! I have to wonder though (maybe I’m wrong..), if there’s not some unofficial, implicit rule going on there. How many m/m and f/f romance novels have been publically recognized, nominated for awards, and won awards compared to m/f?

    I’d look at it like I do for recognition and inclusion of ethnic miniorities — does it reflect the volume produced? If you look at how many quality m/f romances came out that year, and how many quality m/m and f/f came out, are an equivilant percent recieving their due? Is 1% of the quality 20% getting included by the RWA? Or 15% of the 20% or 100%?

    I’m not saying I know the answers to these questions, and maybe I should. Just.. I think it’s important that the questions should be asked — by female and male m/m writers & readers, by female and male m/f writers & readers, by the RWA.

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  86. GrowlyCub
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 16:11:21

    Silvia,

    the fact that m/m and f/f are not represented in the RWA awards seems to be mostly due to the fact that RWA has a definition for publisher that excludes most e-pubs. Most m/m and f/f books are still found at small e-presses, so they don’t get to enter.

    Big discussion not too long ago about what the motivation behind RWA’s exclusion of e-presses is…

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  87. Jessica
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 16:16:28

    I think there are many interesting issues here and I thank Jane and Sarah for discussing them, and also the many commentators for exploring them.

    However, I do not understand why anyone has a problem with an oppressed minority group giving awards to recognize excellence among their group. There are awards for women writers, black writers, etc. As I read it, it’s not an award to recognize excellence in GLBT literature, which can be written by anyone, but to recognize GLBT writers.

    I also have no idea why anyone would think this is a direct attack on straight women writing m/m (as opposed to straight men writing it, for example). Is there a history of which I am unaware?

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  88. Ally Blue
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 16:18:43

    It’s a good thing to ask, Silvia :) For the RWA awards, though (the RITAs for published authors and the Golden Heart for unpublished authors, and no, I’m not getting into any debates over those! LOL), books aren’t nominated, the authors themselves (or the publishers? y’all help me out here, I’m not sure) have to pay to have the books entered into the awards. So, IMHO, it’s a little skewed from the get-go. I have no idea if any GLBT books have ever been entered into any RWA awards contests, or if they have, if they have ever made it to the final rounds. I’m thinking probably “no” to the last question, at least, but again, I’m not sure. I’ve never really been interested in entering myself, so I haven’t followed them like I ought to.

    There is, of course, the fact that GLBT books also have not so far been published by NY, and of course NY published books tend to be the ones that final in the RITAs, and I think they are always the one that win. Someone correct me if I’m wrong; again, I don’t follow that closely. This may be one reason not many — if any — have been entered in the past. Maybe that will change in the future. We’re on a cusp now, I think, for reasons that are too complex and too numerous to go into in one little post here. But I guess we’ll see :)

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  89. Ally Blue
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 16:21:28

    In other words, what GrowlyCub said! *g*
    Small press books DO get to enter now, but we have to wait until the larger presses have had a chance to enter first. It’s a step forward, I guess, but, but, but… yeah. A little irritating, and does not make me want to enter.

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  90. Alex Beecroft
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 16:22:54

    @silvia: My issue with this is why straight women aren't mad as hell and deeply offended with the RWA about this, and fighting to change this practice. That's where I'd put MY fury as a woman scorned. ;) Don't blame the victim, who's been excluded and are awkwardly & imperfectly trying to set up their own space.

    If there IS actually already some movement for change going on there, my apologies.

    *g* There is already some movement for change going on there, powered by people like Laura Baumbach, who’s been working tirelessly to get m/m romance accepted in both the mainstream romance community, and the GBLT community. The m/m romance community is fighting its corner pretty hard – and normally we’re fighting for acceptance and inclusion of GBLT fiction in the mainstream. Not just for the sake of straight women either, but also for the many GBLT women and men who also read and write m/m romance. The change in the RWA’s definition of romance away from ‘one man/one woman’ occurred only this year as a result of pressure from m/m romance writers. Nevertheless, I think Silvia is right and the unacknowledged prejudices in the romantic mainstream are very far from gone away.

    We are a much more mixed community of writers than it looks like from the outside. Take, for example, the series of m/m romances of which False Colors forms one book – Transgressions is by a bisexual women who is currently single, Tangled Web is by a bisexual woman who moved to Canada in order to be married to her wife, False Colors is by a straight woman who has some gender issues and Lovers Knot is by a gay man. That’s a fairly accurate microcosm of the m/m romance world. And I would not dream of entering any award that I thought was just for straight female writers of m/m fiction, because the community that I am part of, and the community that I want to be part of, is gloriously and wonderfully mixed.

    It’s not my business to muscle in on GBLT awards, and if LLA wants to exclude me, I think it’s their call to make. But in the case of Romantic Times, or the people in the romantic mainstream who make sure m/m romance gets shelved in the GBLT section instead of the romance section, I don’t think it is their call to keep GBLT people or literature out – so that’s where I’m putting my fury too :)

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  91. Annie Mullin
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 16:58:30

    @Ally Blue:

    books aren't nominated, the authors themselves (or the publishers? y'all help me out here, I'm not sure) have to pay to have the books entered into the awards. So, IMHO, it's a little skewed from the get-go.

    Many awards programs require an administrative/handling/whatever fee to go along with the writer- or publisher-submitted application. Including the Pulitzers.

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  92. Ally Blue
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 17:26:45

    @Annie Mullin:

    Many awards programs require an administrative/handling/whatever fee to go along with the writer- or publisher-submitted application. Including the Pulitzers.

    Yes indeed, but I was replying to Silvia’s comment:

    I'd look at it like I do for recognition and inclusion of ethnic miniorities -’ does it reflect the volume produced? If you look at how many quality m/f romances came out that year, and how many quality m/m and f/f came out, are an equivilant percent recieving their due? Is 1% of the quality 20% getting included by the RWA? Or 15% of the 20% or 100%?

    What I was trying to say was that since authors/publishers put themselves up for the award rather than RWA nominating them, I didn’t think it reflected the volume of GLBT romance produced. Sorry, I should have been more clear!

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  93. Annie Mullin
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 18:10:01

    @Ally Blue: No, your comment was clear. *g* (Sorry, my brain’s tired from coding all day.) I’ve just seen similar comments (here and elsewhere) about how various awards are set up and figured I’d point out that many are set up similarly. :)

    What I was trying to say was that since authors/publishers put themselves up for the award rather than RWA nominating them, I didn't think it reflected the volume of GLBT romance produced.

    Of course it doesn’t, but no award could possibly do so anyway, simply because everyone who could or would nominate stories for an award couldn’t possibly read every romance (not just GLBT) produced every year and even-handedly nominate a percentage that would accurately reflect the number of het or GLBT romances published. *g*

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  94. anon...
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 18:11:18

    I’m a gay male writer who has been pubbed by all the gay presses. I’m in a few Lambda winning books, too. And they aren’t my own personal favorites. Actually, I’m shocked they won.

    First, I do believe in this case it’s about being openly LGBT when it comes to these awards. A key word here is “openly.” This is for the LGBT community. It’s simple and I don’t think anyone should get upset about it. Least of all, the talented women out there writing m/m fiction.

    Now, with that said, I know for a fact that there are straight women out there who write m/m fiction just as well as any gay man. Some are so good I’m jealous (Alex Beecroft, that talented little sneak:) She goes one for one with me all the time. But I love her and I think her books rock.

    Do fans care about Lambda or the LLF? The fan mail I receive is divided equally between gay men and straight women, and I never try to target anyone in particular when I’m writing. I think most writers write this way.

    But this issue can go both ways. I recently had a straight pg rated romance pubbed. I didn’t want to use a pen name but we all decided it would be best if I did. I wanted this book to be evaluated on its own, and not by the m/m fiction I’ve written in the past. I was afraid gay readers would turn on me, and I was afraid that straight readers would hold my other work against me because this was my first shot at writing a straight romance. And pg at that. The best way was to let it stand alone, for better or worse.

    So, if I were a straight woman writing m/m fiction that is selling, I wouldn’t be worried about Lambda. Most of the Lambda winning books rarely make any money in the end. And most people never even heard of the books that won.

    I’d also like to say that I’m absolutely amazed at how many wonderful straight women writers there are now writing m/m fiction. I think this is a positive turn for the writing community in general and I can’t even begin to describe how thrilled I am to see this happening. And as a gay male writer, the doors that have opened for me because of this are unbelievable.

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  95. kaigou
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 19:17:02

    @anon…:

    Most of the Lambda winning books rarely make any money in the end. And most people never even heard of the books that won.

    Except among books with GLBT-themes, Lambda-awarded books are the most likely to be purchased and put on bookshelves or library shelves. Not because they’re good or because they’re sure sellers, but because the LLA work as a kind of recommendation list for otherwise uncertain booksellers. “Oh, these all won awards, so we’ll get those…” and if there’s a brisk trade at the bookstore in GLBT works, the bookseller might expand — and if not, the list of this year’s LLA might be considered ‘the bare necessities’ for that category.

    Same way some booksellers who don’t know/read a genre might automatically pick up copies of the latest Hugo or Nebula or Newberry or Caldecott — because failing first-hand knowledge, these awards speak of a certain literary distinction for the work. I couldn’t read every genre and know every author or even track every review, but I did make a habit, as a bookstore owner, of tracking the best-known awards related to each genre, and ordering the year’s winners as a default.

    The LLA have been around long enough that there’s a fair bit of name-recognition associated with them. It might be true that most “…Lambda winning books rarely make any money…” but I’d be willing to bet the winners are still making more money than those books with similar content that do not win.

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  96. Sparky
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 19:39:30

    I have to repeat again because I am seeing a lot of people who seem to be really missing the point

    Look, it’s not about you. Really. It isn’t about straight people at all. That’s the whole point. They’re not doing this to exclude you or hurt you or put you out. They’re doing this to makes this NOT be about you. And there's a lot of pouting and passive aggression going on here (“maybe you don't want to be mainstream!” – yeah because we ENJOY being marginalised. Tell me that's just poorly written and NOT implying we're to blame for our non-mainstream nature. “I'm not invited!” “You don't want me!” My work is good enough, how dare you!” It’s NOT about you) that is giving me a headache.

    And yes, in a perfect world we’d need no affirmative action and select awards and every book and author would be judged on its own merit. This is indeed true and I fervently wish for it.

    But we’re not in that world. And we’re not going to be in that world in our lifetimes. In fact, I doubt very much we’re going to be in that world in the lifetime of our grandchildren. We may be “trained” not to discriminate but we still do it – a hell of a lot. Until the perfect world arises – we have to deal with what we have. And part of that is spaces for marginalised group (places where it’s about us) that live in a world that is so-very-much about the dominant group.

    (And in answer to “why isn’t there X for straight white men?” there is. It’s called ALMOST EVERYTHING)

    @Joan/SarahF: @41

    I think you’re reading far too much into this language – it's not uncommon. This is the sort of language I'd expect in any modern GBLT organisation that is making a point of reaching out to trans people. This has become more and more important because, frankly the GBLT movements have often left trans people behind or de-emphasised them

    The reason they mentioned Sexual orientation AND gender orientation is because sexual orientation alone is exclusionary to trans people. A trans person can be heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. This language isn’t designed to exclude women, it’s meant to INCLUDE trans people.

    The emphasis on Gender Identity is to expressly include trans people, IMO – because, frankly, some of the GBLT movement is GBLt and needs to work on that as well.

    I don't think they're going to say “gay men for m/m only, lesbians for f/f only” etc because this isn't about “authentic” work per se (because there are straight people who can right authentic) it's about showcasing the work of GBLT people. As Alisa said – it's not about the content or that certain people are only qualified to write on certain topics – it's about the marginalised group

    I also wonder at this idea that a Bisexual in a monogamous relationship with someone of the opposite gender won't be allowed to submit. Why not? You just openly described yourself as bisexual. That's openly bisexual. I don't understand why you'd think they'd want more “proof” than that

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  97. Joan/SarahF
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 19:50:50

    @Sparky: I get what you’re saying. I really do (or at least I think I do). And I even mostly agree. But I’m arguing (among many other things) that LLF is being sloppy in its wording. Because, yanno, they DON’T mention sexual orientation. I understand that they’re probably trying to include Transgendered people in their choice of wording. But that’s not what it says:

    As such, it should be noted that the Lambda Literary Awards are based principally on the LGBT content, the gender orientation/identity of the author, and the literary merit of the work.

    . The LGBT content, the GENDER orientation/identity of author, and the merit. Nothing about the SEXUAL orientation. And I’ve done a lot of work in the field and I’m sorry, but I’ve never heard gender orientation to mean sexuality. I guess my point is that even if LLF isn’t working hard to exclude, but rather to include, they’re being appallingly sloppy about it. Because according to their current guidelines, I STILL think it’s legitimate to question whether a bisexual woman writing a gay male romance will be “acceptable” to the judges. Maybe that’s me being too pessimistic and cynical, but I still think it’s a legitimate question that LLF should clarify. If you can say that we don’t live in a world where people aren’t discriminated against (and you’re right, of course), I can say that I’ve lived through enough internal, organizational “rules changes” like this to believe that both ways of viewing the situation — the optimistic way you see it and the cynical way I see it — are equally valid readings until LLF steps up and clarifies their position.

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  98. hapax
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 19:58:58

    This is interesting to me, because I just finished reading a wonderful pair of books that were written by a team of lesbian writers, which prominently feature bisexual characters in a m/m romance in the plot. (To further muddy the waters, the books are mystery/fantasies set in a matriarchal culture). The books were either Lambda-nominees or winners, I don’t recall.

    The only reason I was even aware of these books is because I had been using the Lambda awards to retroactively strengthen my library’s collection of LGBT fiction.

    I won’t say that this “clarification” of LLF eligibility means that I will no longer use the awards to assist in collection development (I have literally dozens of awards that I track for this purpose, some with much weirder restrictions.) It does make me wonder if these books, if published today, would have been eligible. And I would respectfully submit that it is librarians like me who are major targets of such awards, and among the most effective in using them to promote marginalized subject matter AND authors to the general public.

    (Oh, if anyone is curious, the titles are POINT OF HOPES and POINT OF DREAMS by Lisa Scott and Melissa Barnett. )

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  99. kirsten saell
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 20:15:31

    I STILL think it's legitimate to question whether a bisexual woman writing a gay male romance will be “acceptable” to the judges. Maybe that's me being too pessimistic and cynical, but I still think it's a legitimate question that LLF should clarify.

    I don’t think it’s pessimistic or cynical. Contest rules, like contract terms, that can be interpreted in various ways depending on the situation are a BAD idea.

    I do think Sparky’s assertion that:

    I also wonder at this idea that a Bisexual in a monogamous relationship with someone of the opposite gender won't be allowed to submit. Why not? You just openly described yourself as bisexual. That's openly bisexual.

    …is kind of…optimistic, really. Considering the fact that people tend to want to define others by their current relationship configuration (witness Susan on Seinfeld–America was more willing to believe she could be straight, then a lesbian, then straight again, as easy as changing her underpants, than to believe she could be both bi and monogamous). Not to mention the fact that a fairly large segment of the GLBT community doesn’t believe sincere, really and for true bisexuality even exists. I know I’ve been told often enough I’m just kidding myself.

    I don’t know that the LLA would disqualify a bi-woman author living in a monogamous m/f relationship, but I do see plenty of people questioning whether she should have been allowed in. Especially if “she’s not even writing about bi-women!”

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  100. Lee Rowan
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 20:38:45

    I do think the quality m/m being written by women is the reason for the stated change in the LLA rules. And I think False Colors would deserve to get (at least) to the finals; it’s the sort of book I’d expect to see from Patrick O’Brian if he’d been gay. It’s “tougher” writing than I see from many male writers.

    But as far as the discrimination goes… go look at the winners, and the finalists, over the past several years. This rule is simply putting into print something that has been going on for a long time.

    As far as f/f goes — the Lambdas have ten gay categories, and they have ten lesbian categories–mirrors of each other. But I sincerely doubt that you’ll see any gay men winning in the L category, or lesbians winning in the G. The BT segment of the community is seriously under-represented–of the 22 categories, there is one award each for bi and trans…

    My impression of the Lambdas is that they are very much like romance awards–set up by a group for the promotion and benefit of the people who are at the top of the food chain in the group. Just as the Ladies of Romance started moving the goalposts as soon as a few small press m/m romances met all their requirements, Lambda is resetting the rules to make sure the “right” people win.

    As a female writer of m/m romance who has been with my lawfully wedded wife for almost ten years now… I’d just like to say yes, we do exist. Probably more of us than you think, if you bear in mind that we are writing stories that we would like to read. When I’ve taken ‘are you male or female’ quizzes, I tend to hit smack in the middle. Am I lesbian? Bi? Psychologically trans but not interested in swapping a healthy female body for a reconfigured male one? And whose business is it? I’m a writer, not a frakkin’ reality show.

    I don’t have the faintest idea if my being “out” would qualify me for consideration in the gay romance category, but it’s irrelevant. When an award lists three criteria and the author’s gender comes before the literary merit, I don’t want any part of it. The book that first introduced me to glbt fiction was written by a woman, and I cannot imagine anyone having the gall to take girl-cootie points off Patricia Nell Warren for The Front Runner.

    No offense intended, but I’m not going to follow this discussion; I’m trying to write.

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  101. Sparky
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 20:54:43

    @Joan/SarahF:

    It’s sloppy but I wouldn’t worry about it. Orientation will refer to sexuality and identity will relate to trans folk. It’s poorly chosen but pretty much following the same patterns

    I really don’t think the gender of the writers is going to be an issue – just basically saying that the authors have to be under the GBLT umbrella

    @kirsten

    Partly optimistic and partly practical I feel. I mean, if a single gay man sends in a submission they’ve only got his word that he’s gay. They’re not exactly going to do a relationship check, are they? What are they going to do? Ask for a relationship history? Turn up on his doorstep and perform an arousal test? I think it will rely on self-identity simply because there is no other realistic way to identify and open GBLT person

    Gah, media depictions of GBLT people fail on an epic level that give me headaches beyond compare

    Sadly, there will be people questioning. Because people are very very silly, unfortunately. But I don’t think they will ban bisexuals from contributing because they are not currently in a same-sex relationship and/or they don’t have multiple partners, regardless of prejudice

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  102. Jessica Freely
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 21:05:37

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Lambda Awards focusing on LGBT writers. That makes sense to me, for many of the reasons others have already cited. The fact that this is difficult for some people to understands points to the confusion caused by conflating m/m with LGBT literature. They are different things, and valuing one does not devalue the other.

    One thing I’ve noticed in these discussions is that women are positioned as a mainstream group exploiting a minority group. First of all, this erases the many, many lesbian and bi women who write and read M/M. M/M is far from being a “straight woman thing.” It is a “woman thing” though.

    The analogy of white women writing about African American women for other white women is often used, but I find it flawed. When female is the baseline, there can be no doubt that caucasian women occupy a position of privilege in comparison with African American women. I see the situation between women and gay men being much more nuanced than that.

    These discussions always seem to ignore the impact of our male-dominant power structure on women’s lives. Being born female puts a person at increased risk for domestic violence and poverty. And it’s easy enough to confuse the cultural wallpaper of straight male sexual fantasy that surrounds us on all sides with straight sexuality in general (straight women’s included) but that’s a distortion.

    Women’s sexuality, even straight women’s sexuality, is far from privileged in our society. For a woman to own her sexuality, to claim sexual agency and express herself as a sexual being is very dangerous. A woman caught looking the wrong (ie sexual) way at the wrong guy in the wrong place faces violent reprisal quite similar to the violence gay men face. But then, nice girls don’t do that, right?

    So, I think that the power relationship between straight women and gay men is a lateral, not hierarchical one, and that m/m is an expression of female sexuality that comes out of our experience of repression and reflects, not gay men’s lives, no, but our own efforts at divesting ourselves of gender role baggage and heteronormative power dynamics.

    I think LGBT literature and M/M are both worthy of a place in this world, and I think they can coexist, and even ally with one another. Lambda reserving their award for LGBT authors doesn’t harm this prospect in any way, but disregarding M/M as a legitimate genre in its own right does.

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  103. Seressia
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 21:32:40

    Did anyone ask Lambda what they intend?

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  104. Jess
    Sep 22, 2009 @ 22:09:49

    A good books a good book and i dont give a shit on the gender of the author.

    If they are going to do an award for gay authors writing m/m
    why cant they do an award for non gay authors writing m/m

    ????????????????

    would save so much arguing and the non gay authors get a chance to have thier work showcased just as much as the gay authors :)

    damn im a genius :)

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  105. Robin
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 00:29:48

    From what little I've read on the issue there seems to be a good deal of annoyance and perception that straight women are writing m/m books from a voyeuristic/fetishistic viewpoint. Obviously, there's not a helluva lot Lambda can do about that, but it would appear that they've decided that they don't want to reward it, either.

    This was my very first reaction to Lambda’s change, actually. And like rape in m/f Romance, I do think there is a certain segment of books that may come across as belittling to certain folks because they turn loaded identity/social questions into ‘tales of hawwwtness.’ And quite honestly, the BC disaster blew that door right open for me, when before I hadn’t even known there was a door. So the part of me that’s put off by what I see as an attempt to completely annihilate the integrity of gay individuals for the sake of hawtness and for the profit of straight white women finds Lambda’s response persuasive, even though the intellectual part of me recognizes how incredibly problematic it is. Especially if it’s ultimate intent is to exclude women altogether.

    And because that seems a valid question at this point, I agree with Sarah F.’s characterization of Lambda’s redefinition as “sloppy,” even past all the problems inherent in an award that tries to celebrate artistic excellence while circumscribing its recognition by an essentialized definition of sexual or gender identity. At best this is a treacherous path to take, because of all the questions raised around authenticity, representation, inclusion, marginalization, etc. To some degree these are unresolvable questions that give rise to unresolved debates, but the personal and political stakes ensure that the discussions will continue and that they will be passionate, even divisive. And, IMO, important.

    Still, I see nothing wrong with literary awards that celebrate GLBT fiction written by GLBT authors (exclusive of the numerous problems determining how those categories are to be defined and matched to entries). Especially if the awards are aimed at the GLBT community. I don’t think the current language serves the awards as well as it could, and I totally get Sarah’s objections.

    Ultimately, though, all awards are exclusive, which it what makes them valuable to those who enter and win — they affirm the value of something that the people who participate want valued. Balancing inclusive and exclusive components is key, I think, and one of the big question marks here seems to be whether the Lambdas are going in the wrong direction by increasing exclusivity on the author identity side at the expense of the artistic side. And is there any award purported to be based on excellence that gains widespread respect by explicitly privileging the identity of the creator over the character of the work? If Lambda really wants to celebrate the authors, then perhaps the awards should be focused on the people instead of the works. And if they want to celebrate the works, then perhaps they need to clarify their requirements to better reflect that.

    If the current iteration of the awards is not properly representative for the group it purports to represent (i.e. if they claim to be inclusive of men and women and it turns out they only intend to recognize men), that’s something that needs to be challenged, IMO. And ultimately, the award recognition will have a value commensurate with the coherence, integrity, and clarity of its process, IMO.

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  106. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 02:38:41

    Frankly, I don't blame them for wanting to impose that restriction. From where I am standing, the publishers of m/m are mostly catering to a female hetero audience, not a gay audience, that is number 1. The other thing I see, is that they want the award to recognize authors of romance within the gay community. I don't see anything wrong in that, to be perfectly honest, as long as the organizers/sponsors express that. Otherwise, I think it's hypocritical.

    @Mireya:

    I’m cool with this, too. I’m also cool with heterosexual authors of GLBT romance forming their own organizations to recognize them.

    As long as both are permitted without being subject to censure or “hate group” labeling, I find it perfectly acceptable. However, if Group A is legally forbidden to exclude Group B, it’s hardly fair for it to be the other way around.

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  107. Hazel
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 03:01:25

    Lambda Literary Foundation: Celebrating & Serving LGBT Writers. It’s right there in the title. This is not a new development, that Lambdas have always been about elevating queer books by queer authors for queer readers, unlike for example the GLAAD Media Awards, which consistently jump at the slightest hint of representation, no matter how cliched, stereotyped, or outright damaging.

    Of course, straight authors could always pretend to be queer to submit their novels to the LLF.

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  108. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 04:08:49

    Of course, straight authors could always pretend to be queer to submit their novels to the LLF.

    This could actually be quite funny.

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  109. Maggie
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 05:12:30

    I personally very much hope that that's just bad wording on the LLA notice, and that when they clarify it it will become obvious that it's an LGBT award for LGBT people of any gender, rather than one which is all about gender segregation.

    I don’t think it’s bad wording at all. They’re not insisting that it’s only gender that matters and not sexual orientation. SarahF and others think the wording “Gender identity/orientation” is ambiguous, but it’s perfectly clear to me and I suspect it’s also clear to other people who belong to the LGBTI community.

    Orientation is just that, your sexual orientation.

    Gender identity is pretty fluid, and has nothing to do with your sex (which is entirely physical). It’s not just a strict binary system. There are people who identify themselves as the opposite of their physical sex, and there are people who identify with neither male nor female. There are genderqueer people, and there are individuals who are intersex (the “I” part of LGBTI). Gender identity is a much more sensitive topic than orientation, which is relatively more clear cut.

    I think from this, it’s obvious that straight people cannot understand ALL aspects of LGBT life, and that’s fine. I suspect that’s the case for a lot of straight people. No one’s an expert on everything. But demanding inclusion when you don’t even understand one of the bedrocks and basic principles of what LGBT is about just strikes me as funny.

    I share Sparky and Roslyn Holcomb’s views. This isn’t about authenticity at all. It’s about celebrating the LGBT community. It’s great that straight women love to write m/m, but the issue is not about whether or not they can be faithful to the gay male voice. I’m not a wordsmith and I’m pretty bad with explanations, so I’m going to quote Sparky:

    What we have is an awards that sought to celebrate a marginalised group's work – that sought to gain attention and recognition for homosexual authors. Basically, in a world that is 99% heterosexual, they sought to have a corner that was for gay people.

    I’ve seen posts by other gay men who don’t like the new restrictions, and that’s fine, too. There’s hardly ever a topic where everyone agrees. But straight women should understand that it’s up to the LGBT community to define what they want for THEIR awards. Making demands to include them in the LGBT community is pointless, because it’s not their decision, and it’s not their opinions that matter.

    That’s not to say this discussion is meaningless. I think it’s fine to have your own opinions about the LLA. I just don’t approve of the authors that make demands that LLA recognize their work or change the “heterophobia” apparent in their submission guidelines.

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  110. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 06:24:57

    @Maggie: Look, as a member of the LGBT community (and I’m sorry, but LLF doesn’t include the “I” yet), I’m confused by the rules. Please don’t assume my sexuality (or, for that matter, my gender orientation). *You* might READ “gender identity and sexuality/sexual orientation” in the rules clarification, but that’s not what it SAYS. It SAYS “gender orientation/identity”, which, if you and Sparky are right, is…not a misplaced modifier, so much as a misplaced modified? Adding the slash before “identity” means that it’s modified by “gender” which still seems to me to include all discussions of the writer’s gender (not sex–thanks for the lesson, I do know the difference), and nothing about the writer’s own *sexuality*, which is really the issue, no? If, as you say,

    Orientation is just that, your sexual orientation.

    , then it should be listed the other way around and say “orientation/gender identity” because the way it’s listed, orientation is modified by gender. You might assume you understand exactly what LLF is saying, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I think it’s confusing (whether or not I’m a member of the community they’re serving)–and I’m obviously not alone.

    I really and truly agree with everything else you say. It *IS* LLF’s right to do whatever the hell they want when it comes to their own rules and their own award. I might disagree with their choices, but I feel that I understand and even sympathize with their reasons for making those choices. I’m just asking for a bunch of writers to be more precise in their word choice. And if they can’t be more precise because they’re worried about excluding or pissing off one group or another, why bother to make the clarification in the first place, and just let the chips fall where they may?

    AND (not to belabor the point, she says, belaboring the point), I still think their clarification opens up the question of if or how sexual orientation, gender identity, and the content of the work have to/should/must line up.

    I think the point I’m trying to make is that while other people might feel that the clarifications are obvious, some people don’t. Look, they’re the ones who “clarified” the rules, which usually opens up more questions than it clarifies.

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  111. DS
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 06:28:37

    @hapax: Iit is Melissa Scott (who has written some great sf over the years including one book where she never mentions the gender of her narrator who is involved romantically with male and female characters. She has been openly gay ) and Lisa Barnett (who I am sorry to say is deceased). I just wanted to make sure if you look for other books by Melissa Scott that you get it right. She won the John W. Campbell Award in 1986 and has been an autobuy since then for me. I have been disappointed that there has not been anything new by her in a long time.

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  112. Maggie
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 07:03:56

    writer's gender (not sex-thanks for the lesson, I do know the difference)

    @Sarah Frantz: Look, I don’t know why you’re being so sensitive to my comment. When I was clearing up gender identity and orientation, I was only trying explain, like you’re doing with misplaced modifiers. I was not trying to get up on a high horse, so no need to get sarcastic and snippy.

    I don’t give a flip about literary awards or reader awards or any kind of awards. I went with YOUR wording. In comment 18, you said they were basing it on “GENDER identity/orientation”. I didn’t know LLA’s exact wording, and I went by yours. Now you changed it to “gender orientation/identity” which I just now checked at LLA’s website, and that appears to be what they have up. Obviously “gender orientation/identity” is not the same as “gender identity/orientation” because they can be taken in different ways. Since this is also a discussion about clarity, maybe it would’ve been better if the wording right.

    I’m aware that either way, “gender” would or could be modifying both “identity” and “orientation”. But if it was ordered like you wrote it in 18, then I was just pointing out that LLA only counting gender and not sexual orientation at all was not true. Because “orientation” could very easily be separate from “gender identity” (there’s really no point for them to be redundant and say identity OR orientation).

    I do apologize about blindly assuming you are straight.

    After going to their site and reading their “eligibility” section, I agree that they need to be more specific. But details aside, I think it’s clear to everyone what they’re trying to do.

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  113. Sparky
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 07:36:09

    @Anonymous:

    Aw c’mon now, we’d made all the way down this comment stream without someone having to fill in this bingo square. Any discrimination law and rational thought on discrimination can acknowledge WHY certain exclusion is problematic. Please don’t ask me to explain this, surely we don’t need to?

    @Maggie

    SarahF and others think the wording “Gender identity/orientation” is ambiguous, but it's perfectly clear to me and I suspect it's also clear to other people who belong to the LGBTI community.

    This. I really think people are worried about some rather standard (if not well put together) language here. Yes it would be better written as Gender Identity and/or Sexual Orientation – but “Orientation” as a shortcut for sexual orientation isn’t new. I do think they wouldn’t be that limited or silly. Or I hope not anyway

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  114. Maili
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 07:55:35

    @SarahF

    I think the point I'm trying to make is that while other people might feel that the clarifications are obvious, some people don't. Look, they're the ones who “clarified” the rules, which usually opens up more questions than it clarifies.

    This is interesting, because there was a similar dispute over the wording of the guidelines for an international Deaf film festival. I hope you don’t mind me sharing an anecdote. (Sorry if you did mind. :D)

    A few years ago, a hearing film-maker submitted his film which was quickly rejected because it didn’t meet their guidelines.

    This prompted him to dispute that decision by citing his lead actor who was deafened and that the storyline revolved around his character’s deafness, which he felt met the guidelines (I don’t have a copy with me right now, so excuse my possibly flawed memory):

    Open to CODA or Deaf film-makers and/or films that feature Deaf characters and/or Deaf actors.

    But he obviously didn’t realise the cultural significance of the capital letter D in Deaf because if he had, he would know that D represents a specific group who are culturally Deaf and sign language users.

    However, he argued the guidelines should be more explicit and blah blah, which eventually forced the organisers to accept his submission.

    This inclusion paved a way for other hearing film-makers to submit theirs (I suspect because the festival was officially sponsored by a few major film names and had guest patrons like Mike Leigh, Takeshi Kitano and a few other international directors).

    The international Deaf community’s reaction to the inclusion of these film-makers’ submissions – which rarely exhibited any cultural awareness – forced the organisers to modify the guidelines.

    The explicitness of the modified guidelines now openly discriminates against hearing (non-CODA) film-makers and deaf actors (e.g. oralists).

    It’s frustrating, because the festival DID welcome submissions from non-CODA film-makers in the past. Usually those from under-represented countries, such as China, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and so on. These film-makers are now not qualified, thanks to the explicitness of the modified guidelines.

    While it’s frustrating, I can understand why they had to do it. It was obviously done to protect the core purpose of the festival, which is to celebrate, recognise and preserve the Deaf culture within the international Deaf community as well as to showcase the Deaf-related works by Deaf or CODA film-makers.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is, your comment here:

    I'm just asking for a bunch of writers to be more precise in their word choice. And if they can't be more precise because they're worried about excluding or pissing off one group or another, why bother to make the clarification in the first place, and just let the chips fall where they may?

    Your questions – with the painfully long-winded anecdote of mine above in mind – should tell us why the LLF may be forced to make the clarification now.

    If they don’t do this now when the m/m romance sub-genre is growing at such a fast rate, they will have to deal with a flood of non-LGBT authors’ submissions that may skew the purpose of having the awards in the first place. IMO, they did it to protect the purpose of the awards.

    IMO, the purpose isn’t about acknowledging the authenticity in a non-LGBT or LGBT author’s portrayal of a LGBT character in fiction (edit: and the literary merit of it).

    It may be about recognising and highlighting an LGBT author’s role in creating a LGBT-related story and its literary merit as well as to showcase LGBT authors’ LGBT-related works. If my guess is right, then I fully support LLA’s modification. (I think you already understood and accepted the purpose, though, so sorry if you feel I was insulting your I.Q.)

    I do hope the LLF will one day create a new and separate contest that is open to all, though.

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  115. Jane
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 08:24:48

    I wonder if this would be an issue for straight authors writing romance if RWA was more accepting of it? I.e., if there was already a place established where romance authors writing gay romance or lesbian romance could achieve recognition would whether LLF accepts these books to promote through their awards program be an issue?

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  116. Mfred
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 10:13:40

    I wonder if this would be an issue for straight authors writing romance if RWA was more accepting of it? I.e., if there was already a place established where romance authors writing gay romance or lesbian romance could achieve recognition would whether LLF accepts these books to promote through their awards program be an issue?

    I don’t think this would be as much of an issue if it didn’t come across as somehow doubly unfair — people being excluded from RWA because of gay content are now being excluded from the Lambdas because of not being gay enough.

    I think the fight people should be having here is with RWA, publishers, and yes, even readers, who exclude gay (or any minority) content. Not LLA for trying to create a for-gay, by-gay space in the world.

    LLA may be shooting itself in the foot by excluding a whole section of great books written by straight women. But, to me, it appears that the point of the Lambdas is to celebrate LGBTQ authors who write LGBTQ content. Its to give these authors and their books, who are otherwise quite often marginalized or ignored by the wider literary world, a place to be recognized and celebrated.

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  117. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 10:25:19

    @Maggie: Sorry for the confusion on the ordering of the words. I think I was getting the wording from two different places. Sorry!

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  118. Ally Blue
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 10:27:06

    @Jane:

    I wonder if this would be an issue for straight authors writing romance if RWA was more accepting of it? I.e., if there was already a place established where romance authors writing gay romance or lesbian romance could achieve recognition would whether LLF accepts these books to promote through their awards program be an issue?

    For me personally, the LLAs aren’t even on the radar. From what I understand of them historically, even if I were a gay author I wouldn’t stand much of a chance because my fiction is popular, not literary. I have no personal beef with the organization, and will keep my opinions to myself since they are irrelevant.

    I agree with your point about RWA. I’m not trying to make any social statements with my books. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just writing romance. That’s all. I happen to think that gay and lesbian (and every other type of queer-themed) romance is every bit as good, every bit as deserving of recognition, as straight romance. IMHO, it should be considered equally with straight romance. I don’t want my work to be segregated. I want to compete — if I’m going to compete at all — on an equal playing field. That is my goal, one I’ll continue to work toward. It doesn’t hurt my feelings any if the LLA doesn’t want me. I’ve enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from the GLBT community, from readers, and that’s worth more to me than I can ever say. That’s what’s important.

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  119. Josh Lanyon
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 11:02:41

    I was initially dismayed by my first reading of the Lambda committee’s deliberate decision to reword the award guidelines — it seemed pointed. On further reflection, it still seems pointed, but…

    While it would be lovely to think that awards — any awards — are based solely on the merit of the work, there are always other factors in play, and I think it’s important to remember that the Lambdas do have a specific political, social and philosophical agenda. It’s not just about the work — and I’m not convinced it should be, really. “Advocacy, Celebration, Education” — that’s what the Lambdas are about. These are good things.

    Some excellent (subjective) arguments can be made on both sides about the value and contribution to the GLBT literary landscape by non-gay authors.

    I think gender orientation/identity has always played a role in picking winners in the Lambdas, and so I think it’s a step in the right direction to simply make it official. It’s actually more fair to everyone this way.

    (Also, the guidelines do not forbid a heterosexual author from submitting genre fiction, just that the heterosexual author submits knowing that gender identity may be a factor in the judging.)

    One of the positives of the new award guidelines is that an openly gay writer is now technically eligible to submit, for example, a non-gay themed fantasy or mystery novel for consideration. So the new guidelines may not be solely about keeping people out; in theory they may also work toward allowing more work in.

    What continues to dismay me about the new guidelines is the emphasis on “openly gay.” This moves into a more political realm where an organization will define what is an acceptable sexual identity/orientation — and that to count one must be out and networked. I find that humans and human sexuality are a little more complicated than that.

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  120. Anah Crow
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 11:17:03

    @Josh Lanyon:

    What continues to dismay me about the new guidelines is the emphasis on “openly gay.” This moves into a more political realm where an organization will define what is an acceptable sexual identity/orientation -’ and that to count one must be out and networked. I find that humans and human sexuality are a little more complicated than that.

    See, you said it without all the foam that I keep getting on my keyboard. How DO you do that?

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  121. kirsten saell
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 11:34:30

    I think a lot of the confusion and annoyance right now derives from the fact that (fairly well-known) straight writers have won in the past.

    So while LLF has always been an organization advocating for and spotlighting LGBT writers, they were obviously open to non-LGBT writers.

    But in the past, straight writers didn’t tend to bother much with GLBT main characters, and when they did it was something to celebrate and reward and welcome. Now, a bajillion straight writers have come to crash the party, and although LLF may like them and admire them–and appreciate their efforts as allies–there’s really only so much cake to go around.

    I have my own issues with the awards (14 categories for gay and lesbian, and only ONE for bisexual, where novels, short story collections, anthologies, poetry, memoirs, cultural studies, public policy, law, history, spirituality and gender studies, all compete against each other? Srsly?), but narrowing their focus to represent LGBT writers isn’t one of them.

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  122. kaigou
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 11:42:25

    @Maggie:

    but it's perfectly clear to me and I suspect it's also clear to other people who belong to the LGBTI community…

    …except for when it’s not, as would be apparent to anyone reading the comments from myself, anon #1, kirsten, and a few others. We’re in that community, and our initial — the ‘B’ — has been in there since the beginning, and we’re baffled. I think that says something, and not a good something.

    @Maili:

    …the core purpose of the festival, which is to celebrate, recognise and preserve the Deaf culture within the international Deaf community as well as to showcase the Deaf-related works by Deaf or CODA film-makers.

    Great example, but what it’s lacking to really fit about half this thread’s discussion is if a chunk of that Deaf community, itself, was left confused about who’s on the bus and who’s not on the bus. This isn’t standard nor clear to me:

    the gender orientation/identity of the author

    …because I’ve never heard it put like that. If ‘gender orientation’ is the NewSpeak for ‘who I find attractive’ then it’s pretty inane, because it seems to be somewhat settled that ‘sex’ is one’s physical state, while gender is far more fluid and sometimes even self-defined. Thus, bisexual = ‘I am attracted to this sex and that sex’. Gender, not so much, being potentially unmeasurable in the first stages of ‘what gets my attention and orients me to someone’.

    Unless this means I’m to consider myself ‘omni-oriented’ from now on, and wow, that just sounds wierd. Like, pointing in all directions at once! See, now I suddenly do feel indecisive. I’m omni-oriented! [Stay tuned for next weeks' episode, "Make up your mind!"]

    @Jane:
    Absolutely: if RWA had/allowed/recognized MM, FF work as qualifying romance and/or added new categories for MM & FF (and, I’d argue, menage), then LLA would probably slip back into general obscurity except for as it pertains to the winners, the winners’ families, booksellers, and librarians.

    Except IMO, the LLF are being short-sighted morons. They’re willing to walk away from the popularity of MM fiction — instead of capitalizing on it, and turning it into a gateway drug. Split the awards into two groups — one for “recognize literary excellence in works WITH LGBT content” — and another for “recognize literary excellence in works BY LGBT authors” — then we’d have no issue here, AND the LLA could capitalize upon this growing trend.

    So, maybe a straight woman wins an award for “excellent gay romance”. The hope/goal is that this author’s readers then say to themselves, “wow, I wonder who these other authors are, I think I’d like to read their stories, too.” It could be a bridge for the LLA: welcome mainstream readers into a non-mainstream genre, and increase exposure for non-mainstream authors at the same time. (Plus it also removes the stress for those of us who live cross-category: are trans and bis doomed to duke it out in their own teeny sub-ghettoes regardless of content, or what?)

    But conflating the two — content and authorship — risks creating a loaded message that good writing (read: deserves awards) is defined solely by what the author is. My gut reaction boils down to: wow, so basically “straight people should only write straight stuff, and gay people should only write gay stuff”? I find that annoying in all directions, for all parties. Or maybe that attitude’s just thanks to being one of those who stand with a foot in each camp.

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  123. mistry89
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 12:11:54

    @Anonymous 106 I hope that when/if an awards structure is set up for m/m and f/f, that the gender and orientation of the author is not taken into account at all.
    and I’m not even sure if I can adequately express why I read m/m (or gay!) fiction/romance – it is not for the pr0n, as many of the books I buy are heavy on plot, like a murder-mystery .. which means I read m/m m/m? Mmm …

    Oh and I think that gender/orientation/race/religion/cultural identification have little to do with the ability to tell a story (although the potential audience may differ), it is whether a reader can find (and want to read) the story that cinches it. Awards are a good way of drawing attention.

    Cheers!

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  124. kirsten saell
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 14:50:18

    are trans and bis doomed to duke it out in their own teeny sub-ghettoes regardless of content, or what?

    I think bi and trans lit face completely different problems in having our subgenres recognized for what they are. It’s almost a given that a book with one trans main character will be considered a trans book–trans-lit’s problem is that those characters are simply underrepresented overall. And I can see having one, catch-all category for trans fiction and non-fiction FOR NOW, because at this point there simply isn’t enough of it out there to have separate categories for trans romance, trans general fiction, etc.

    Bis have the opposite problem, in that they’re probably very present in LGBT (and other) fiction–it’s just that you don’t see them. If you have a m/m romance where one hero is gay and the other bi, where do you enter it? In gay romance, or in the bisexual fiction/non-fiction/everything-but-the-kitchen sink category?

    If you have a m/f romance where the heroine is bi and the hero straight, you’re stuck competing in that bisexual catch-all category (plus SFF/horror, if it fits), but is the fact that the romance is between a man and a woman going to count against you?

    Likewise, if you have a f/f/m or m/m/f erotic novel, of which there are a buttload out there. If your characters are all het or bi, you can’t enter it in gay or lesbian erotica, even if there’s lots of m/m and f/f content. Likewise, you can’t enter it in any of the LGBT categories unless it’s SFF or horror.

    Books like Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint are considered to be “gay” books–despite one MC’s history of bisexuality–simply because the relationship is between two men. If there were a corresponding category for bi romance, bi general fiction, bi erotica–that is, if bisexual books were given ACTUAL CATEGORIES, would we see more of them? Would a book like Swordspoint be entered in the bisexual romance category instead of gay romance or LGBT SFF/horror?

    Because I know, given the categories as they stand, I’d rather have my lesbian/bi-woman f/f romance (if I had one) compete under the lesbian romance banner than be judged alongside every piece of bisexual lit, fiction or non, that was entered…

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  125. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 15:22:31

    @Sparky:

    Aw c'mon now, we'd made all the way down this comment stream without someone having to fill in this bingo square. Any discrimination law and rational thought on discrimination can acknowledge WHY certain exclusion is problematic. Please don't ask me to explain this, surely we don't need to?

    I’m a “bottom line” type, and I believe in equality. If my books aren’t “allowed” consideration for an award because of who I sleep with or who I do not sleep with…I don’t have a problem with that. But I should also have the right to exclude others in a group of my own choosing.

    For the record, I have no issues with groups practicing exclusion. I have issues with FAIRNESS. If exclusions is acceptable in one group, it ought to be acceptable somewhere else. I’m sure the folks in this group are nice people, but I bet they’d get a tad hot around the collar if they found themselves unwelcome due to their “queerness” in some other group.

    I’m uninterested in discussing folderol about “minority oppression” and why SOME discrimination “is okay.” Either it’s all okay, or none of it’s okay.

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  126. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 15:31:54

    @mistry89:

    @Anonymous 106 I hope that when/if an awards structure is set up for m/m and f/f, that the gender and orientation of the author is not taken into account at all.

    That’s because you’re a sensible person.

    I can honestly say I’ve NEVER sat down, read a book — ANY book — and wondered about the “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” of the author.

    With that said, if Group “A” thinks it’s important, and Group “B” decides it’s important too, by all means, let them carry on with it. People who make entertainment out of themselves are amusing.

    and I'm not even sure if I can adequately express why I read m/m (or gay!) fiction/romance – it is not for the pr0n, as many of the books I buy are heavy on plot, like a murder-mystery .. which means I read m/m m/m? Mmm …

    Oh come on. Everybody always says s/he isn’t “into” the erotica…and yet, somehow, erotica continues to sell so very well. That said, there are some wonderfully well-written romances involving much more than erotica.

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  127. Mfred
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 15:45:10

    I'm uninterested in discussing folderol about “minority oppression” and why SOME discrimination “is okay.” Either it's all okay, or none of it's okay.

    Let’s make a deal:

    All you straights give me the right to marry my partner, and I will let straight women who write m/m fiction win a Lambda. I’ll just walk up to those Lambda’s and whip out my gay identify card and DEMAND JUSTICE. They will listen to me because I am gay and they are gay and we all agree on the same gay things.

    But only after I can legally marry my partner. Uh, and maybe after we file our first joint tax return, just in case. Deal?

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  128. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 16:03:39

    @Mfred:

    All you straights

    What do you mean? I make no claim to representing “all straights” or even “straight-ness.”

    By the way…I’m straight, it’s wonderful, *girly squeal* and I REALLY LOVE it.*end girly squeal* But that’s not really the point, is it? I thought the point was that Lambda views my “straight-ness” as a disqualifier…to submit my work in a writing contest?

    *sighs, makes airy hand gesture* Whatever.

    I’ve no problem with this. I fully support Lambda’s right to their decision. As long as public tax funds are not used to support any aspects of Lambda’s functions, they have the right to limit the field according to their choosing.

    But don’t expect me to speak AGAINST alternative organizations who might chose to limit the field as well.

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  129. Maggie
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 17:04:04

    @Sarah Frantz: That’s all right. There seems to be plenty of confusion to go around… And I apologize for my assumptions as well.

    For the record, I have no issues with groups practicing exclusion. I have issues with FAIRNESS. If exclusions is acceptable in one group, it ought to be acceptable somewhere else. I'm sure the folks in this group are nice people, but I bet they'd get a tad hot around the collar if they found themselves unwelcome due to their “queerness” in some other group.

    @Anonymous: That’s funny, because LGBT people are already unwelcome in most groups due to their “queerness” and more than a “tad hot around the collar” because of it. The case is not gay people rejecting straight people, so they shouldn’t be upset if straight people start their own little award. The case is that straight people are rejecting gay people, so THEY shouldn’t be upset if gay people want their own little award.

    And for the record, I have issues with fairness, too.

    Here is what I see happening. LGBTI people are STILL excluded in a lot of spheres. That’s the definition of a marginalized group. And now that there is an award for that marginalized group, suddenly there is a whole influx of straight writers writing gay fiction, way more than there are gay writers writing gay fiction. So they are being even FURTHER marginalized (in their own community)!

    I’m just going to bring up gay fiction for example, because that seems the most obvious. Gay fiction (not talking about just romance) isn’t the height of popularity to begin with. And over the last couple of years, exclusively LGBTI publishers or imprints have disappeared: Gay Men’s Press, Carroll & Graf, Haworth, etc. There was even word a while ago that Alyson is now having trouble, and this publisher has been around since 1980. And over the last couple of years, there are a lot of new presses springing up that publish gay romance: MLR, Dreamspinner, etc. I think it’s great that gay romance is getting so much exposure, but these presses were started by straight women and the majority (not all) of their authors are straight women. Gay fiction (that is not strictly romance) doesn’t have a lot of venues left. The market is just saturated with m/m romance written by straight women. And that’s the problem LLA is addressing.

    If LLA wants to change the eligibility rules for this year, I can see where they’re coming from. In 2009 alone, there are WAAAY more gay romance books written by straight women than there are gay fiction coming from within the LGBT community. So where’s the fairness in that? The LGBT community starts their own award because they find they are being marginalized in mainstream awards, and now they are being marginalized AGAIN within their own awards.

    If people want to insist on fairness, they have to recognize that they don’t have the right to dictate to a minority group how to run things in their community. If they as a group decide to nurture the talent in their own community, that’s their decision. And if they decide to return to how they did it before, that’s also their decision-’to be made without the input or demands of straight authors with their sense of entitlement, because straight people have already rejected and locked LGBTs out of many of their activities.

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  130. Sparky
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 18:03:19

    @Anonymous:

    Fairness. Yes straight people can’t enter a single award crerated to raise up awareness of a marginalised group. This is to REDRESS unfairness.

    When society behaves in a manner that is even remotely fair to us then maybe we won’t HAVE to have awards like this.

    But hey, I’m with Mfred and Sarah, I will totally accept the horrific unfairness of exclusion from a book award if I can do without the the rest of the unfairness gay people have to deal with.

    If society didn’t throw us out onto the fringes, we wouldn’t feel the need to build our own structures on the outskirts

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  131. kirsten saell
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 18:17:21

    This whole “discrimination/fairness” thing reminds me of a Judge Judy I once saw where two guys were suing a night club for holding a ladies’ night. They insisted it was unfair to let the women in without a cover charge (and early, no less!), and give them half-priced drinks, while charging men regular price.

    It also reminds me of the guy in Vancouver (I think) who sued for the right to join a local women’s health club where women could work out without having men there to watch them jiggle or ogle them in the hot tub. He was suing the health club only a few months after a judge ordered an all-male lounge/smoking room/game room at a local country club to start admitting women members. Everyone knew he was just trying to prove a point.

    IIRC, both cases got laughed out of court. Men have inborn gender privilege, women do not. So the powers that be seek ways to even things up, and when they do, the ones with privilege are always the ones to lose. Just a fact of life. The only reason this one is causing such a stink is because women and gay men share a similar amount of privilege (and disprivilege, if that’s a word).

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  132. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 19:17:40

    Fairness. Yes straight people can't enter a single award crerated to raise up awareness of a marginalised group. This is to REDRESS unfairness.

    @Sparky:

    So unfairness to Group B = redress to unfairness to Group A?

    Look at it this hypothetical sitch:

    Samantha Featherhead, an award-winning, popular, world-class author of popular contemporary romances in “traditional” style (traditional = monogamous heterosexual couple) reveals he is actually Sam Butterfluff, a charming bisexual male happily ensconced with his wife and his husband in Smalltown, U.S.A..

    Questions:

    1) Should Ms. Featherhead be ineligible for awards designated specifically for traditional romance written by “traditional” authors?

    2) Should Ms. Featherhead be eligible for Lambda awards? His sexual orientation qualifies him although his genre choice might not.

    3) If Ms. Featherhead’s prejudiced and disappointed readers return his books and demand refunds, citing that Ms. Featherhead’s preferences make it impossible for him to “really connect” with a “real straight audience” (whatever that is) is Ms. Featherhead and/or his publishers obligated to refund the irate readers?

    4) If Ms. Featherhead’s publishers decline to publish future contracted manuscripts due to this conflict of interest, is Ms. Featherhead allowed to sue?

    5) Is Ms. Featherhead suffering discrimination? If so, is it fair?

    I’d like to remind everyone we are discussing authors, books, and the publishing industry. How dare anyone suggest that one’s sexual interests create impact upon one’s competencies as an author?

    If a “straight” person writes a sound book that “lifts up the gay community,” but has never touched a person of the same sex…I’m sorry but I’m missing the WHY’s behind the “straight’s” disqualification.

    But once again, as long as Lambda is a privately funded organization, Lambda may make its own rules. I respect Lambda’s right to discriminate according to what they perceive as being in their best interest. Note: I am not saying that I LIKE it, nor am I saying I APPROVE of it. I am saying I respect their rights to autonomy.

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  133. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 19:45:38

    @Mfred:

    I think the fight people should be having here is with RWA, publishers, and yes, even readers, who exclude gay (or any minority) content. Not LLA for trying to create a for-gay, by-gay space in the world.

    This is going too far. You do not have the right to dictate upon what criteria I may or may not opt to purchase or read a book. Sorry. And by the way, I fully endorse and support YOUR right to purchase, read, and write in all genres most pleasing to you.

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  134. kirsten saell
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 20:47:24

    reveals he is actually Sam Butterfluff, a charming bisexual male happily ensconced with his wife and his husband in Smalltown, U.S.A..

    We aren’t assuming that in order to be bisexual Mr. Butterfluff can’t possibly monogamous, are we?

    1) Should Ms. Featherhead be ineligible for awards designated specifically for traditional romance written by “traditional” authors?

    Um, if we’re talking the RITA’s, which are designated for “traditional” romances but make no mention of the author’s race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, or status as a cat person or dog person (or ability to love canines and felines, hehe, or ambivalence to pets altogether), then yes. Ms. Featherhead writes traditional romances.

    If, however, Ms. Featherhead is, say, white, but wrote traditional m/f romances featuring black characters while masquerading as a black author, he should not be allowed to enter contests created for black authors writing AA fiction. Likewise, if the contest is specifically for women authors, he should be disqualified. I’m sure you aren’t arguing that a man should be allowed to compete in a contest created specifically for women authors, or a white author enter a contest for black ones, because that would be silly.

    I’m unaware of any contest specifically for straight, white, female authors. If you know of one, you can fill me in, I’m sure.

    2) Should Ms. Featherhead be eligible for Lambda awards? His sexual orientation qualifies him although his genre choice might not.

    No. Unless, of course, Ms. Featherhead, under the second pen name Samara Needleshins, writes bawdy, lesbian historical romances as well.

    3) If Ms. Featherhead's prejudiced and disappointed readers return his books and demand refunds, citing that Ms. Featherhead's preferences make it impossible for him to “really connect” with a “real straight audience” (whatever that is) is Ms. Featherhead and/or his publishers obligated to refund the irate readers?

    No. A good book is a good book. Neither should prejudiced readers return m/m books they’ve enjoyed once they discover they were written by straight women.

    4) If Ms. Featherhead's publishers decline to publish future contracted manuscripts due to this conflict of interest, is Ms. Featherhead allowed to sue?

    Yup. Although I don’t quite see a conflict of interest inherent in Ms. Featherhead’s gender/orientation/polyamorous lifestyle. If Ms. Featherhead’s sales were to plummet due to the “scandal”–in other words, if there’s an actual, really and for true reason to drop him–then the publisher can go ahead and do it. That would make me sad, but people are dumb sometimes.

    5) Is Ms. Featherhead suffering discrimination? If so, is it fair?

    I always enjoy how so many people yell and scream about unfairness when stuff like this doesn’t go their way, but are silent when routine, everyday things are unfair in their favor. But I digress.

    This debate isn’t about authenticity or anyone’s right to write and be successful in the genre of their choice–if the contest was open to straight female penned m/m romance, and said romance was lame and porny and exploitative and inauthentic, it won’t win. And guess what? LLF will be laughing all the way to the bank, under the weight of the entry fees. Wahoo!

    But honestly, where’s the argument? The LLF’s mission statement is as follows:

    The Lambda Literary Foundation is dedicated to raising the status of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers [emphasis mine] who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

    From that statement alone, I would assume that het books by LGBT authors would not be eligible. I would assume that LGBT books by straight authors would not be ineligible. And I would expect that books that seek to lower the status of LGBT people, even if they’re written by LGBT authors–like THIS dude here–wouldn’t qualify either.

    So why are we arguing again?

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  135. Seressia
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 20:55:03

    RWA doesn’t discriminate against m/m, f/f, AA or whatever combination of the alphabet you’d like to use. The definition for the awards is a satisfying love story. The publishing house has to be eligible/recognized/whatever verb they’re using these days.

    People need to remember that RWA’s awards are peer judged. Which means random members are deciding, based on their subjective tastes, whether an entry possesses a satisfying love story to them.

    I judged a lesbian romance for the Ritas before. I’ve judged several small press novels as well. And I’ve judged some NY mass market romance books in which, in my opinion, the satisfying love story was between the heroine and her shoe collection.

    Why an erotic/GLBT/AA romance hasn’t finaled is anyone’s guess. Some would say it’s because those books aren’t entered. The authors say why should they if they don’t make it past the 1st round or get rejected as “not romance”?

    I do think it’s ironic that some want a Rita category for GLBT or erotic romance but this whole discussion centers around LLF wanting a “for us, by us” contest. We all want our version of fair.

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  136. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 21:19:22

    @kirsten saell:

    We aren't assuming that in order to be bisexual Mr. Butterfluff can't possibly monogamous, are we?

    “We” assume nothing. I offered a hypothetical example, a bisexual male author happily commited to a polyamorous marriage. What’s wrong, are you prejudiced against bisexual male authors happily commited to a polyamorous marriage?

    If so, by all means offer an alternative example.

    I'm unaware of any contest specifically for straight, white, female authors.

    If there was one, I’m sure we’d all hear plenty about it and how discriminatory and racist it is.

    No. A good book is a good book.

    WORD!

    I always enjoy how so many people yell and scream about unfairness when stuff like this doesn't go their way, but are silent when routine, everyday things are unfair in their favor.

    Excuse me? Who’s yelling and screaming unfairness? Lambda can exclude non-GLBT writers and non-GBLT books. I’ve no problem with that, but I don’t expect to hear comments like this:

    (per MFred)I think the fight people should be having here is with RWA, publishers, and yes, even readers, who exclude gay (or any minority) content.

    The bottom line: it’s your pool, you decide who to invite. On whatever criteria you chose. If it’s my pool, I decide who to invite. On whatever criteria I chose. End of story.

    The LLF's mission statement is as follows:

    The Lambda Literary Foundation is dedicated to raising the status of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers [emphasis mine] who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

    As I said in my original post, I am cool with that so long as non-LGBT writers would not be subject to criticism or accusation of prejudice should they opt to create an award organization supporting “straight only” LGBT writers and books. Do you believe the LGBT community would not have at least a few less than nice things to say about such an arrangement?

    I would expect that books that seek to lower the status of LGBT people, even if they're written by LGBT authors-like THIS dude here-wouldn't qualify either.

    Oh. Kay. *clears throat* Well I support the individual’s right to express himself and his ideas. Agree with them or no.

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  137. kirsten saell
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 21:24:05

    I would assume that LGBT books by straight authors would not be ineligible.

    Eligible! Eligible! Damn edit function screws me over every time!

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  138. kirsten saell
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 21:42:13

    “We” assume nothing. I offered a hypothetical example, a bisexual male author happily commited to a polyamorous marriage. What's wrong, are you prejudiced against bisexual male authors happily commited to a polyamorous marriage?

    If so, by all means offer an alternative example.

    LOL Just figuring that since there were at least two of us bisexuals on this very thread whining about how everyone assumes we’re either straight and pretending, or gay and still half in the closet, because we choose to be OMG monogamous, I figured you might come up with something like:

    “Sam Butterfluff, a bisexual man happily married to a man he adores and shags nightly, but who also masturbates to het porn to relive the crazy girl-on-guy-on-girl jello-wrestling party days of his youth a couple times a week.” Or something.

    I am cool with that so long as non-LGBT writers would not be subject to criticism or accusation of prejudice should they opt to create an award organization supporting “straight only” LGBT writers and books. Do you believe the LGBT community would not have at least a few less than nice things to say about such an arrangement?

    Okay, now we’re getting into weird territory. I mean, we don’t have awards for black fiction specifically written by white authors, do we? We don’t have contests for women’s fiction that are male-author only, right? I think the LGBT community would rightly have something to say about a straight author only contest for LGBT literature. Unless…

    Unless it was a specific category within the larger framework of the Lambdas, let’s call it the “Ally Award” for best work of LGBT literature by a non-LGBT author. THAT would be cool. Actually, that would be very cool.

    But since they can’t even come up with some decent categories for bisexual lit, let’s not start holding our breath, shall we? All things considered, I’d rather die having sex.

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  139. Maggie
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 21:57:53

    @Anonymous: Your attitude and obliviousness to LGBTI people’s struggles are painting your “solution” in a really negative light. You realize what you are saying is that if LGBT people want to exclude heterosexuals from their “pool” because it’s gotten crowded, then they shouldn’t get angry at privileged straight people for excluding them from THEIR pool, which they were already excluded from to begin with. You’re just rubbing salt in the wound. You realize that, right? Please tell me you do.

    “We” assume nothing. I offered a hypothetical example, a bisexual male author happily commited to a polyamorous marriage. What's wrong, are you prejudiced against bisexual male authors happily commited to a polyamorous marriage?

    I suspect you don’t know anything you’re talking about. It’s a common misperception that because bisexual people are attracted to both males and females, that they can’t be happy unless they are in a relationship with both a man and a woman. This is a really damaging stereotype because it brings up issues of faithfulness and whether or not bisexual people can be happily settled in a monogamous marriage. The reality is that very VERY few bisexuals need to have that second partner, and a great majority of them are happy in monogamous relationships.

    The fact that you bring up an example of a bisexual man not just in a marriage, but in a polygamous marriage, and not just any polyamorous marriage, but a marriage with both a man and a woman, shows that you clearly subscribe to this stereotype (subconsciously or not). Your example is not reality. It’s how the world views bisexual people through lens of biphobia.

    Your gall at asking Kirsten if SHE is prejudiced against bisexual men in happy polyamorous relationships… Kirsten even outlined the stereotype in your example:

    We aren't assuming that in order to be bisexual Mr. Butterfluff can't possibly monogamous, are we?

    You just brushed it aside. You didn’t even pick up a hint.

    And none of your assumptions regarding LGBT people cast them in a good light. Every time you make your point, you assume that LGBT people would be needlessly bitter with straight people and that they are committing hypocritical acts.

    You don’t realize just how discriminatory your arguments are. A few suggestions about an “ally” catagory has been thrown around. But no one else in this thread is making the point like you are that should straight people start up their own award for gay fiction to the exclusion of gay authors, that these gay authors would be throwing a tantrum and crying foul play.

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  140. kaigou
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 22:52:43

    @Anonymous:

    I offered a hypothetical example, a bisexual male author happily commited to a polyamorous marriage.

    Just color we bisexuals more than a little tired of this kind of thing. Bluntly, your assumption — and the tone of your reply upon being called on it — is as offensive to us as it would be to, say, a black woman if you were to say “a hypothetical example, of a black woman with three kids out of wedlock, all by different fathers”. Sure, there are women who fit that description, as I’m sure there are bisexuals who fit yours, but it’s not the default state. Being bisexual does not automatically equal non-monogamous, any more than being black and female automatically equals multiple-kids-multiple-fathers.

    (It doesn’t help that a lot of the recent ebook-erotica boom uses assumptions like yours as springboards into threesomes, as though two bisexual adults couldn’t possibly be monogamous, but would obviously feel themselves lacking without a third: and thus this demeaning assumption gets reinforced, even entrenched, into its own sub-genre.)

    The vast majority of bisexuals I’ve known have all been happily monogamous, but we’ve had to put up with the rest of the population assuming we’re polyamorous, promiscuous, (or just plain unfaithful) over-sexed creatures who can’t be happy with just one person or just one sex. I doubt many black women would be any more amused and/or tolerant of my comparative example than I am by your hypothetical: we’ve had to swallow that BS one too many times. Some of us just can’t pretend the pill’s sugary-sweet any more. It’s not, and truth is that it never was.

    Your statement was not just incredibly offensive, it was also doubly insulting given the thread’s otherwise open-minded and civil dialogue up to this point. If this is your idea of trying to help by making bisexuals more visible on this thread, please, don’t do me any more favors.

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  141. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 22:55:33

    @ Kirsten

    everyone assumes we're either straight and pretending, or gay and still half in the closet, because we choose to be OMG monogamous,

    I assume nothing about your or anyone else’s bisexuality, “straight-ness,” or “gay-ness.”

    “Sam Butterfluff, a bisexual man happily married to a man he adores and shags nightly, but who also masturbates to het porn to relive the crazy girl-on-guy-on-girl jello-wrestling party days of his youth a couple times a week.” Or something.

    That works. I suspect Menage Butterfluff is having more fun sans porn and recollected jello-wrestling, however.

    Okay, now we're getting into weird territory.

    Let’s not kid ourselves. This entire discussion is of the weirdness. We are talking about associations limiting the field on a writing contest based upon sexual preference/orientation and/or gender identity. That’s weird, and it’s certainly not indicative of progress in the “us versus them” attitudes I’m reading about concerning this question.

    I mean, we don't have awards for black fiction specifically written by white authors, do we?

    The issue is not what we do or not have. The issue is If Group A practices exclusivity, cannot Group B practice comparable exclusivity without legal, moral, or social repercussion?”

    I’ve stated my opinion, that if “A” can have it and “B” can have it, that is reasonable and fair. But as Serresia said in post #135:

    I do think it's ironic that some want a Rita category for GLBT or erotic romance but this whole discussion centers around LLF wanting a “for us, by us” contest. We all want our version of fair.

    I think the LGBT community would rightly have something to say about a straight author only contest for LGBT literature.

    Everyone has the right to say anything they please about anything. I have already said I support Lambda’s right to limit the field of its participants based upon the criteria they deem suitable. I would also support a comparable non-LGBT author’s association of LGBT books as having comparable rights. If I say, “Well, yes, gay people have the right to practice prejudice, but non-gay people do not…” How is that fair?

    But since they can't even come up with some decent categories for bisexual lit, let's not start holding our breath, shall we? All things considered, I'd rather die having sex.

    I agree, the limitation on the bisexual literature categories are troubling. Perishing of sex sounds a lot more fun than perishing of jello-wrestling.

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  142. Maggie
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 23:18:06

    Let's not kid ourselves. This entire discussion is of the weirdness. We are talking about associations limiting the field on a writing contest based upon sexual preference/orientation and/or gender identity. That's weird, and it's certainly not indicative of progress in the “us versus them” attitudes I'm reading about concerning this question.

    It’s not as weird as you think it is.

    There are lots of organizations whose memberships and/or participations are focused on marginalized groups. LLA is not breaking new ground here.

    Women do it, people of color do it.

    The only reason this became an issue at all is because straight authors started making demands and telling LLA what’s fair and what’s not fair (as if LGBT people wouldn’t have a clue about fairness).

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  143. Robin
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 23:18:18

    Several comments here, especially Maili’s and kaigou’s, remind me that so much of this is probably about the inherent difference between being a rule maker and a rule follower.

    The rule makers want the most flexibility and ambiguity possible on certain fronts so that they have the most freedom to do what they feel they need to do in judging. As Maili pointed out, clarifying something in the rules made the Deaf film festival more exclusive. Not only in terms of who can enter, but also in terms of how/why/if certain things can be accepted and validated through the entry process.

    By contrast, the rule followers want the most clarity possible. They want fairness, they want transparency. They want a balance between inclusion and exclusivity that reflects their own sense of what is an isn’t valuable/worthy of celebration.

    There is always what I think of as a necessary conflict between the rule makers and the rule followers, and I suspect that we’re seeing the upshot of that with the LLA rules/terms.

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  144. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 23:43:45

    @Maggie:

    you are saying is that if LGBT people want to exclude heterosexuals from their “pool” because it's gotten crowded, then they shouldn't get angry at privileged straight people for excluding them from THEIR pool, which they were already excluded from to begin with.

    This is not what I said. I said I am supportive of private organizations establishing whatever criteria that organization deems most suitable in its contest, membership, etc..

    You're just rubbing salt in the wound. You realize that, right?

    I’m not disqualifying people from memberships and contests.

    It's a common misperception that because bisexual people are attracted to both males and females, that they can't be happy unless they are in a relationship with both a man and a woman. This is a really damaging stereotype because it brings up issues of faithfulness and whether or not bisexual people can be happily settled in a monogamous marriage.

    I am aware bisexual people are capable of monogamous marriage. Please don’t scold me over fictional characters drawn for a blog discussion. When I start harping nonsense like, “Bisexual people are all confused, bad, morally deficient, sexually degenerate, inconstant people incapable of monogamous, comitted relationships,” and you express offense, I will take you seriously. Since I do not think those things, much less say them, such confrontation is not forthcoming.

    The fact that you bring up an example of a bisexual man not just in a marriage, but in a polygamous marriage, and not just any polyamorous marriage, but a marriage with both a man and a woman, shows that you clearly subscribe to this stereotype (subconsciously or not).

    Er…No. I am aware menage relationships occur in reality, though. My awareness has nothing to do with embracing a stereotype.

    Your gall at asking Kirsten if SHE is prejudiced against bisexual men in happy polyamorous relationships…

    Okay, let’s see. So far, I am not “allowed” to champion the rights of straight authors LGBT books to have their own club and awards, or depict polyamory, or ask bisexual people questions about their own prejudices. Your tolerance and inclusion are a marvel to behold. They inspire everyone.

    Every time you make your point, you assume that LGBT people would be needlessly bitter with straight people and that they are committing hypocritical acts.

    I disagree. If Lambda wants to recognize LGBT authors of LGBT books, they have the right to do that. I don’t view it as bitterness or hypocrisy, I view it as a private organization’s right to autonomy. It’s hard luck on non-LGBT authors of LGBT books, but if non-LGBT authors organize themselves and build their own awards system specialized for their group, it’s a win-win. As Kristen pointed out earlier, more recognition and competition draws potential reader interest.

    It’s a good idea.

    You don't realize just how discriminatory your arguments are.

    I am not arguing, I am supporting the rights of private organizations to discriminate. What part are you missing? If discriminatory practice and policy offend you, complain to Lambda. Unlike Lambda, my opinion posted in this blog is not depriving human beings of opportunity based upon their sexual orientation.

    But no one else in this thread is making the point like you are that should straight people start up their own award for gay fiction to the exclusion of gay authors, that these gay authors would be throwing a tantrum and crying foul play.

    Who cares if gay authors throw tantrums or not? If they sue, citing discrimination, that’s another matter.

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  145. kirsten saell
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 23:47:13

    That works. I suspect Menage Butterfluff is having more fun sans porn and recollected jello-wrestling, however.

    Hah! Not necessarily. Polyamory is a lot of work. Oh wait, you were talking about the sex. Well, that makes sense then, since sex is the most important thing to a bisexual. We’re all voracious sex-fiends who never ever ever get bedtime “headaches” and only put our clothes on long enough to run out and buy more condoms, lube and bottled water, after all.

    The issue is not what we do or not have. The issue is If Group A practices exclusivity, cannot Group B practice comparable exclusivity without legal, moral, or social repercussion?”

    GLBT authors aren’t insisting there be a GLBT-author only award for fiction about straight people, are they? Didn’t think so.

    I would say if you’re going to have a white-author only contest, it better not be for books about blacks. If you’re going to have a contest for male authors only, it better not be for women’s fiction–although I think a contest for best male romance authors might be a cool idea since romance isn’t just about women.

    Likewise, if you’re going to have a contest for black fiction, GLBT fiction, women’s fiction, Asian fiction, etc, you’d damn well better not exclude authors who belong to the group represented in that fiction. It’s not just wrong, it’s dumb.

    Fact is, blacks, Asians, gays, lesbians, bis, trans, women, Jews, Muslims, and any other identifiable group–regardless of their level of marginalisation–should have a say when giving recognition to fiction, movies, TV shows and other media that represent that group. They’re the ones being depicted. They get to say whether the author got it right or got it wrong. And when it’s their contest, and their very clear mission statement, it’s their rules.

    If you want to tell a panel of GLBT contest judges that they’re only allowed to look at m/m written by straight women and f/f written by straight men, go ahead. See what kind of reaction you get.

    And if the judges aren’t GLBT, that’s a whole ‘nother thing right there. Imagine it. We bring in teams of straight guys to judge GLBT literature! Every f/f/m menage would get a perfect score!

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  146. Anonymous
    Sep 23, 2009 @ 23:54:53

    @Maggie:

    The only reason this became an issue at all is because straight authors started making demands and telling LLA what's fair and what's not fair (as if LGBT people wouldn't have a clue about fairness).

    More marvelous tolerance!

    How dare those naughty straight authors “start making demands”??? Don’t they realized they’re not LGBT people and therefore should not be given the same rights and considerations?

    *smh*

    You’re unfit to criticize my comments.

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  147. Maggie
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 00:37:27

    Anonymous,

    You seem to be taking everything anyone is saying and twisting it around. Frankly, it’s making me dizzy.

    Okay, let's see. So far, I am not “allowed” to … ask bisexual people questions about their own prejudices.

    You KNOW that is not what I said, and you KNOW that you’re the one that made the stereotypical and offensive statement, not Kirsten. So there was really no need to “question” her about her own prejudice. She was pointing out YOURS, and she wasn’t alone in pointing it out. You’re the one with your head stuck in the sand.

    Look, it’s no skin off my back if you are incapable of apologizing for your offensive example of a bisexual individual or even of at least ACKNOWLEDGING that you are pandering to a stereotype. Kirsten has pointed it out, I’ve pointed it out, kaigou has pointed it out. I’m done. If you’re blind, you’re blind. Nothing I can do about it.

    If discriminatory practice and policy offend you, complain to Lambda. Unlike Lambda, my opinion posted in this blog is not depriving human beings of opportunity based upon their sexual orientation. … Who cares if gay authors throw tantrums or not? If they sue, citing discrimination, that's another matter.

    I think it’s pretty clear by now that what I consider discriminatory and what you consider discriminatory are completely different.

    Here’s what you are repeatedly saying:

    As I said in my original post, I am cool with that so long as non-LGBT writers would not be subject to criticism or accusation of prejudice should they opt to create an award organization supporting “straight only” LGBT writers and books. Do you believe the LGBT community would not have at least a few less than nice things to say about such an arrangement?

    And here’s the problem with it (quoting Kirsten because my explanations don’t seem to be doing the job):

    GLBT authors aren't insisting there be a GLBT-author only award for fiction about straight people, are they? Didn't think so.

    If you're going to have a contest for black fiction, GLBT fiction, women's fiction, Asian fiction, etc, you'd damn well better not exclude authors who belong to the group represented in that fiction. It's not just wrong, it's dumb.

    They're the ones being depicted. … And when it's their contest, and their very clear mission statement, it's their rules.

    Maybe the LLA will make a category like “Allies” and maybe not. That doesn’t negate the fact that straight people establishing an award like excellence in LGBT fiction written by heterosexuals for heterosexuals is completely and undoubtedly bizarre.

    How dare those naughty straight authors “start making demands”??? Don't they realized they're not LGBT people and therefore should not be given the same rights and considerations?

    You’re absolutely right. They are not part of the marginalized group, so they don’t get to tell the marginalized group how to do things. Their demands don’t hold the same weight.

    You’re a woman, and part of a marginalized group also. Can you not empathize at all?

    You're unfit to criticize my comments.

    Your maturity just shines through.

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  148. Anonymous
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 00:38:19

    @kirsten saell:

    Hah! Not necessarily. Polyamory is a lot of work.

    All relationships require work. Your point?

    Oh wait, you were talking about the sex.

    Let’s see…Choice “A”: sex with live person/s one really loves and for whom one feels significant attraction and spiritual commitment versus “B” self-manipulation and recollection of a gelatinous three-way.

    I know what I’d pick. *eg*

    sex is the most important thing to a bisexual.

    Sex is important to everybody.

    We're (bisexuals?) all voracious sex-fiends who never ever ever get bedtime “headaches” and only put our clothes on long enough to run out and buy more condoms, lube and bottled water, after all.

    If that were true, shouldn’t you be in bed, now? Get a Brita filter pitcher, and you won’t need bottled water.

    I said earlier:

    The issue is not what we do or not have. The issue is If Group A practices exclusivity, cannot Group B practice comparable exclusivity without legal, moral, or social repercussion?”

    Your present response:

    GLBT authors aren't insisting there be a GLBT-author only award for fiction about straight people, are they? Didn't think so.

    I’d like to ask how is this relevant to the present dilemna of this blog’s topic? That dilemna, namely, is that non-LGBT authors of LGBT books are excluded from a contest designated for LGBT authors. So, where do the non-LGBT authors go now? Should they just stop writing LGBT work? They claim LGBT work is traditionally unwelcome (NOT excluded, just unwelcome) from more “mainstream” avenues. So what is left to do that is fair to the excluded authors?

    I would say if you're going to have a white-author only contest, it better not be for books about blacks. If you're going to have a contest for male authors only, it better not be for women's fiction-although I think a contest for best male romance authors might be a cool idea since romance isn't just about women.

    So far as I’m concerned, if an individual or a group of individuals go through the trouble to organize and establish a contest, the group may restrict entry based on whatever criteria is pertinent to that group. That is fair.

    I’m biracial, although my appearance is generally “White” and I am designated as “White” on my identifying documents. Can I not write “real” White people or “real” non-White people since I’m “not really either one?”

    Likewise, if you're going to have a contest for black fiction, GLBT fiction, women's fiction, Asian fiction, etc, you'd damn well better not exclude authors who belong to the group represented in that fiction. It's not just wrong, it's dumb.

    “Wrong” and “dumb” don’t qualify as reasons why an individual or a group of like-minded individuals can or cannot do something. If I wanted to read Black fiction penned only by White people and judge it for an award, that’s my business regardless of how “wrong” and “dumb” others may think it.

    Fact is, blacks, Asians, gays, lesbians, bis, trans, women, Jews, Muslims, and any other identifiable group-regardless of their level of marginalisation-should have a say when giving recognition to fiction, movies, TV shows and other media that represent that group. They're the ones being depicted. They get to say whether the author got it right or got it wrong. And when it's their contest, and their very clear mission statement, it's their rules.

    This isn’t “fact.” This is your opinion, and I am not disrespecting your opinion. If you organize a contest involving specific ethnic fiction, you make the rules based on your opinion of what constitutes value.

    If you want to tell a panel of GLBT contest judges that they're only allowed to look at m/m written by straight women and f/f written by straight men, go ahead. See what kind of reaction you get.

    *shrugs* If the judges consider the contest unworthy of their time, they needn’t participate. If they are employed by the contest, however, they need to be professional and do their jobs.

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  149. kirsten saell
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 00:49:22

    How dare those naughty straight authors “start making demands”??? Don't they realized they're not LGBT people and therefore should not be given the same rights and considerations?

    Okay. Okay. This is getting ridiculous. I think the concern over fetishization of m/m by women is a valid one. If not fetishization by authors, then at least by the market. And no, it’s not as rampant as the fetishization of lesbians (oh, wait, not actual lesbians–hot lesbo babes) by straight men, but it’s catching up.

    The fact that women tend to want to read (and write) characters that are more than blow-up dolls with ginormous equipment is nice. The fact that so many of them try to get it right–and succeed–is nice. It is. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s an appropration of one marginalised group for the entertainment of others. And even if gay and bi men enjoy it, the people writing it are not gay or bi men, and authors write first and foremost what they’d like to read. They’re largely writing for people like themselves. A market that may or may not include gay and bi men, but that certainly includes women.

    And I’m not saying that straight women (or women in general) should not have entertainment (whether porn or romance or general fiction or whatever) produced that indulges those fantasies. It’s natural to like what you like and want to write it. And I’ll repeat that creating a new, more inclusive contest is a good idea. Creating an award within the Lambdas for allies is a good idea. But if you want to be responsible as an author and a freaking human being, and you aren’t a member of the group you’re writing about, you make some damn concessions.

    And one of those concessions is accepting with grace when you aren’t allowed into a contest run by a foundation for GLBT authors of GLBT literature. And another is allowing members of the GLBT community to have their works judged alongside your own if they wish. An Asian author who writes about blacks isn’t allowed to horn in on a contest for black authors of black fiction. He’s not. And he’s not allowed to prevent those black authors to compete with him in more inclusive contests–not if they’re for fiction about black people. Not without looking like a dick. He’s just…not.

    And if he’s not Asian but white? Now that’s a shitstorm of epic proportions right there.

    When you’re on the top of the heap, yeah, you’ve gotta eat some shit once in a while. Straight people are on top. They are. They will be for a good long while. Having a straight-only contest for GLBT lit is a holy-crapping-damn-wtf-are-you-thinking baaaaad idea. It just is. It’s appropriation on an epic scale. Only straights get to enter. Straights get to decide whether it’s good or not. No GLBT input required or permitted. Now that’s some gooooood appropriation right there. I honestly think if you can’t see that, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

    Have fun setting up that contest.

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  150. kirsten saell
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 00:54:03

    I'd like to ask how is this relevant to the present dilemna of this blog's topic? That dilemna, namely, is that non-LGBT authors of LGBT books are excluded from a contest designated for LGBT authors. So, where do the non-LGBT authors go now? Should they just stop writing LGBT work? They claim LGBT work is traditionally unwelcome (NOT excluded, just unwelcome) from more “mainstream” avenues. So what is left to do that is fair to the excluded authors?

    Dude, start your own foundation for GLBT lit. Invite a buttload of straight authors to join. Hold a contest. But if you hang a “fags not welcome” sign on the door, well, I guess you know what would happen. You are commenting anonymously. Very proactive…

    I'm biracial, although my appearance is generally “White” and I am designated as “White” on my identifying documents. Can I not write “real” White people or “real” non-White people since I'm “not really either one?”

    Some contests aren’t only about how good or authentic or spectacularly accurate a work is. They’re not.

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  151. Maggie
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 01:04:03

    @kirsten saell‘s entire post: Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I am in total agreement.

    Some contests aren't only about how good or authentic or spectacularly accurate a work is. They're not.

    It’s already been established waaay early on that straight authors have won Lambda awards in the past. So it’s not a case of LLA doubting the ability of straight authors to authentically portray the LGBT experience. It’s a response to the further marginalization of LGBT work by LGBT authors with the enormous influx of straight female authors writing gay fiction. That’s it in a nutshell.

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  152. kirsten saell
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 01:18:57

    It's already been established waaay early on that straight authors have won Lambda awards in the past. So it's not a case of LLA doubting the ability of straight authors to authentically portray the LGBT experience.

    I’m starting to think letting those authors enter was their first mistake. One of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” things. I mean, who knew straight chicks would end up dominating the market, both as writers and consumers?

    They do need to set up an Ally Award. But only one. Because dammit, if m/m by straight women gets more categories than bisexual literature does, I’m gonna be sooooooo pissed. :P

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  153. Anonymous
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 01:27:09

    @kirsten saell:

    Dude, start your own foundation for GLBT lit. Invite a buttload of straight authors to join.

    I don’t have a dog in this hunt, so to speak. I’ve stated my opinion based on my concept of the fair thing to do, so that everyone (Lambda and the “disinherited” non-LGBT authors) gets a fair shake.

    But if you hang a “fags not welcome” sign on the door, well, I guess you know what would happen.

    This is degrading and uncalled for. Sadly, from some of the hypersensitive, hair-trigger responses in this thread, I doubt the “^&*s not welcome” sign is required to create controversy over such a contest.

    Some contests aren't only about how good or authentic or spectacularly accurate a work is. They're not.

    I agree. The trouble, to my perspective, is that I am willing to extend this understanding toward all groups, and some other individuals think the understanding must be owed to a select few.

    Here is what you said:

    When you're on the top of the heap, yeah, you've gotta eat some shit once in a while. Straight people are on top.

    Here is what Maggie said:

    They(straight writers) are not part of the marginalized group, so they don't get to tell the (LGBT writers) marginalized group how to do things. Their demands don't hold the same weight.

    This is a funny sort of “top” position where one is expected to “eat shit” and accept one’s invalidation compared to alleged “bottom” folks (your language, not mine.)

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  154. Maggie
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 01:32:12

    They do need to set up an Ally Award. But only one. Because dammit, if m/m by straight women gets more categories than bisexual literature does, I'm gonna be sooooooo pissed. :P

    I didn’t pay attention to this award until this controversy, but looking at their set up now, there do seem to be some flaws…

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  155. Anonymous
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 03:47:24

    @kirsten saell: @kirsten saell:

    I'm starting to think letting those authors enter was their first mistake. One of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” things. I mean, who knew straight chicks would end up dominating the market, both as writers and consumers?

    It’s obvious we don’t see eye to eye on this issue, but I am telling you right now, reading this opinion from you breaks my heart, and I’m not overdramatizing that emotion. Your words echo of the same diseased and misplaced brand of hatred expressed in the mid-twentieth century U.S. when Black atheletes were “desegregated.” “Oh, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Who knew Blacks would end up dominating professional basketball, football, etc.?”

    It’s all well and good for “those authors” to be accepted and to participate as equals, until, suddenly, they’re “dominating the market.”

    edited by Jane for being inappropriate.

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  156. Alex Beecroft
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 04:12:48

    So far, I am not “allowed” to champion the rights of straight authors LGBT books to have their own club and awards,

    Anon: As far as I’m aware, not one straight female author of gblt fiction wants this. If it happened, there would be outrage amongst the straight female writers of GBLT fiction, because we are – or we damn well should be – totally committed to the inclusion of GBLT people in every aspect of society from which they are now banned. I wouldn’t be seen dead anywhere near a ‘straights only’ organisation, and, I believe, neither would any other straight author of LBGT fiction.

    This is entirely hypothetical and never going to happen. (And if it did happen, I’d be amongst the crowd with pitchforks outside demanding for it to be shut down.)

    As to why GLBT organisations can exclude straights, but straight organisations cannot exclude GBLT people without being immoral and oppressive, it’s because the world as it is at present is not a level playing field. Currently GBLT people have less rights than straight ones, so it is fair that they be allowed to redress the balance when they can. Currently straight people have more rights than GBLT ones, so it is fair for them to occasionally give up something in order to redress the balance.

    As almost everyone has said, the day to argue for straight inclusion in GBTL organizations is the day when GBLT people are being treated equally in society over all. Unfortunately that day hasn’t come yet. And it’s much more important to focus on getting that day to come sooner than it is to focus on straight people’s rights. We’ve already got 99% of everything, we really need to be working on sharing some of that, rather than demanding the last 1% as well.

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  157. Anonymous
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 04:41:36

    This is entirely hypothetical and never going to happen. (And if it did happen, I'd be amongst the crowd with pitchforks outside demanding for it to be shut down.)</blockquote>

    Attempting to suppress or intimidate another group because you are not happy with their rules is hatred. It is amoral. It is illegal. It does not matter if you “feel” the group is “wrong” or the group’s values clash with your values. You don’t have the right to demand people who disagree with you not get any say.

    As to why GLBT organisations can exclude straights, but straight organisations cannot exclude GBLT people without being immoral and oppressive, it's because the world as it is at present is not a level playing field. Currently GBLT people have less rights than straight ones, so it is fair that they be allowed to redress the balance when they can. Currently straight people have more rights than GBLT ones, so it is fair for them to occasionally give up something in order to redress the balance.

    1. GBLT organizations are welcome to include or exclude whoever they choose. I support ALL privately funded organizations and their right to autonomy and my policy is all-inclusive, not just for GBLT organizations. I can’t be anymore open-minded than that, ma’am. It is just and right.

    2. I don’t recall permitting anyone to make this kind of decision on my behalf. Maybe you could provide me with some legal codes indicating what rights I must relinquish, in what circumstances, etc. I refuse to relinquish any of my rights.

    3. I DO agree there are tremendous issues concerning the legitimizing law and public policy so GBLT citizens may enjoy the exact same rights. Lots of work to be done there. But I am unwilling to part with my own rights merely because I’ve never gone to bed with a woman. That is every bit as unreasonable as the reverse condition.

    And it's much more important to focus on getting that day to come sooner than it is to focus on straight people's rights.

    I do not agree. My rights are important to me. They are not going to take second fiddle to someone else’s rights. How can I fight for someone else’s rights if I lack the courage and conviction to defend my own?

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  158. Alex Beecroft
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 05:05:04

    You don't have the right to demand people who disagree with you not get any say.

    This is very true. Fine, set your award up, and I will agree that the pitchforks were a bit excessive and not attempt to stop you. I honestly don’t see any of us (straight female authors of GBLT fiction) entering for the award. But some may, who knows? If you want to spend your time on it, go ahead.

    I’m not quite sure who’s threatening my rights as a straight woman here. When I see them being threatened, I will stand up for them. But I don’t see that happening at the moment.

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree.

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  159. Anonymous
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 06:07:29

    @Alex Beecroft:

    Fine, set your award up,

    What are you talking about? I never expressed any interest in or made any commitment to setting up “my” award. I DID say that non-GBLT writers, presently disqualified from participating in Lambda, ought to be permitted to organize their own award minus harrassment and prejudice (you know, pitchfork kind of stuff?) I have no dog in this hunt beyond personal indignation.

    Until reading this article I’d never heard of Lambda. I’d think a “straights only” group equally ridiculous, but what I, you, and everybody else thinks is not important. What’s important is that people’s rights are respected. If non-GBLT writers are unwelcome in Lambda, a “sister group” or a separate group entirely, may be the best solution. That way, everybody who wants to can participate and have their GBLT works recognized.

    I honestly don't see any of us (straight female authors of GBLT fiction) entering for the award. But some may, who knows? If you want to spend your time on it, go ahead.

    No can do. No time, and no real interest. I’m unclear on why you keep tacking this onto me, since I never stated I was interested in initiating any kind of club or award. I’m sure you have your reasons. The whole subject’s an uncomfortable one.

    I am not a simple-minded P.C. type. I don’t believe in taking crap. I don’t take it from uber-conservative types who’d like to see various minorities ahniliated and every woman barefoot, pregnant, without voting rights. And I don’t take it from the opposite extreme where somone dares to tell me I am somehow less — and should be willing to be less — than a minority race/gender preference/whatever “just because minorities have it so bad.”

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s different sides of one filthy coin. Each has the same agenda, and that agenda is to degrade me or marginalize me in some kind of way to further another’s advantage. Neither behavior is acceptable, nor ought it be accepted and countenanced by rational human beings analyzing the facts.

    I'm not quite sure who's threatening my rights as a straight woman here. When I see them being threatened, I will stand up for them. But I don't see that happening at the moment.

    And since you don’t see it, it must not be happening.

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  160. Sparky
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 06:38:14

    This is a pretty stunning blindness to privilege here.

    Gay people are being so mean and unfair to the poor straight folks? It's so unfair on the straight folks! We need to protect and uphold the rights of straight folks against the discrimination of gay people!

    Ye gods, look at that and tell me it doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth!

    Gay people are already discriminated against. Severely. The reason we create these little islands of “gay only” space is because there is so little space for us elsewhere. And we're not unique on that. You have awards and groups that serve just POC or women or any number of marginalised bodies.

    These don't exist because we all want to persecute the poor, beaten down privileged people. They exist because we have to make some room for ourselves in a world that would silence, overwhelm and generally want nothing to do with us.

    No, this doesn't mean that straight people need to go out and create an award that specifically excludes GBLT people (what would it be called? The “That’ll teach ‘em?” because the privileged world already favours straight people. If it didn't we wouldn't want or need a GBLT award.

    Throw in some insulting stereotypes of bisexuals (and an added prize for telling them not to be offended by the offensive – and tell them when they may be offended instead. Have a look out for those criteria my bi brothers and sisters – you have PERMISSION to be angry about them) and there's a whole load of fugly here

    Now I have to go to the printers. I've filled all these bingo cards.

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  161. Sparky
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 06:43:17

    @Anonymous:

    It's obvious we don't see eye to eye on this issue, but I am telling you right now, reading this opinion from you breaks my heart, and I'm not overdramatizing that emotion. Your words echo of the same diseased and misplaced brand of hatred expressed in the mid-twentieth century U.S. when Black atheletes were “desegregated.” “Oh, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Who knew Blacks would end up dominating professional basketball, football, etc.?”

    Oh you are KIDDING me.

    You are NOT comparing the attempt for a marginalised, persecuted group to have some space of their own without being cast in the shadow of the privileged to racist segregation? Tell me you aren’t?

    You are actually equating a marginalised group trying to find some space in a world that is opposed to them to the systematic and dominant oppression of black people during segregation?

    You are actually comparing gay people working to create something that is about gay people in a world that is 99% about straight people to racists and hateful bigots?

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  162. Ally Blue
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 08:06:59

    My half a cent, for whatever it’s worth (probably not much, considering):
    As a straight person in society, I realize and am thankful for my own privilege every day, and I try to do what I can to redress the inequalities in this world. As a woman in society, I know that I am marginalized to some degree, though that has improved in my lifetime and will (I hope) continue to improve.

    As a female author of gay romance (I refuse to use the term “m/m” which I associate with fanfic), I’m not truly accepted in either camp. [Professionally, that is; as I've said before, readers don't really make this distinction, for which I'm profoundly grateful. I adore my readers more than I can say.] LLF doesn’t want me, not that they would have anyway (not literary enough, doncha know). RWA does not openly protest or discriminate, but just ask the folks who’ve entered gay or lesbian romance in the RITAs how often they’ve been marked off for it being “not a romance”. This is, of course, not the fault of the national organization or the chapters, but a pervasive attitude at the membership level. But either way, it means exclusion.

    I agree with Alex 100%. I would never, ever even consider entering a “straights only” award contest for GLBT literature. The idea is ridiculous. Though I would not say no to an “Ally” award (heh, Kirsten, you doll *g*). But maybe a brand-new contest where all authors of GLBT fiction (and non-fiction?) are welcome would be a good idea. I don’t know. Maybe via the Rainbow Romance Writers RWA chapter; I know we’ve discussed the possibility.

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  163. Maili
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 08:07:26

    @Anonymous

    Until reading this article I'd never heard of Lambda. I'd think a “straights only” group equally ridiculous, but what I, you, and everybody else thinks is not important. What's important is that people's rights are respected. If non-GBLT writers are unwelcome in Lambda, a “sister group” or a separate group entirely, may be the best solution. That way, everybody who wants to can participate and have their GBLT works recognized.

    I really do admire your passion for fairness and true equality, but I feel your ire is directed at the wrong group. I hope you won’t mind me explaining what I meant by that.

    The ‘unfairness’ problem lies with the mainstream society, not with minority-oriented organisations or groups.

    Because if the mainstream society wasn’t so set on marginalising people who didn’t conform to the “norm”, there wouldn’t be any minorities in the first place.

    Since we are talking books — comparing with the Lambda, the RWA is a mainstream organisation, which makes them part of the mainstream society a.k.a. The Problem. :D

    I feel it’s the RWA that we should need to encourage to open up and encourage authors of gay (or any other minority) romances to submit their entries.

    From what I read here, the RWA has its LGBT chapter, which is excellent. The next step is to encourage the RWA to make it clear to authors of LGBT romances that they are welcome to submit their novels to one of RWA’s awards, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, etc. Just as long as their books have a focus on romance and that it ends with the HEA.

    However – let’s face it – there are deep bias among some RWA members (and readers) who don’t feel gay romance and/or m/m romance should be filed under Romance. We need to open a discourse on this.

    To me, the RWA – and the Romance industry as well as certain Romance publishers – is an organisation dominated by Caucasian and/or Christian Women. It’s a wrong perspective, of course, but that’s how it appears to me.

    So I feel it’s important for the RWA (and Romance publishers) to change the general perspective by, for instance, not separating minorities from the mainstream through its categories, representations, awards, mass communication and so on.

    People say, “It’s business. It’s the sales that count. We only supply what readers demand”… well yeah, no wonder when the mainstream society has the control over its visual representation through the mass media. :P

    Most of us are so conditioned that we treat the mainstream and the minorities differently. We need to put a stop to that. And we can start by working with mainstream organisations like the RWA.

    I don’t mean criticising the RWA and blah blah. I mean provide frequent discourses, solid support and resources to make it happen. It’s our responsibility – as readers, authors, editors, or publishers. Idealistic? Naive? Probably, but I feel it has to be done. No more passing the buck crap.

    Not just the RWA, but other mainstream organisations, competitions and contests as well. Once it’s all balanced, there wouldn’t be a need for the minority-oriented award contests any more.

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  164. Alex Beecroft
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 08:47:23

    @Ally Blue:

    maybe a brand-new contest where all authors of GLBT fiction (and non-fiction?) are welcome would be a good idea.

    I’m all for that :) And up for doing at least something to help organize it. Judges could read the books without knowing authors’ names or anything about them – to make sure there was no bias either way – and just choose stuff on what they believed was literary merit.

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  165. Anonymous
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 10:33:37

    @Sparky:

    Gay people are being so mean and unfair to the poor straight folks? It's so unfair on the straight folks! We need to protect and uphold the rights of straight folks against the discrimination of gay people!

    Well, since you brought it up… Yes, at times, we do. Being gay does not equate with being free of prejudice, discrimination, and hatred. I have personally experienced and observed GBLT people express hatred and intolerance toward others. I don’t excuse their behavior because they’re GBLT.

    Or do you claim I am lying and that, in fact, the entire GBLT community is free of prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance? If so, what evidence supports your claim?

    Gay people are already discriminated against. Severely.

    I know, and I think and say it is immoral. Come on. Let’s tell truth and shame the Devil. Discriminating against a writer because the writer is gay is wrong.

    So is discriminating against a writer because the writer is NOT gay.

    If I disbelieve the latter, how do I support the former?

    They exist because we have to make some room for ourselves in a world that would silence, overwhelm and generally want nothing to do with us.

    I hear and I respect you. I understand the purpose of Lambda. I do no condemn Lambda’s policies. If you followed this thread, I have repeatedly stated that. My question is what about non-gay writers who write gay?

    No, this doesn't mean that straight people need to go out and create an award that specifically excludes GBLT people (what would it be called? The “That’ll teach ‘em?” because the privileged world already favours straight people. If it didn't we wouldn't want or need a GBLT award.

    But my understanding of the situation is that non-GBLT authors of GLBT books are now the “orphans” of the industry. What about their needs for validation and recognition of their work? (NOTE — I am not saying GLBT authors dont share this need, just that we now have a disenfranchised “group within a group.”)_

    you have PERMISSION to be angry about them

    Not to mention inciting anger removes the focus from the pertinent issues mentioned above.

    You are actually comparing gay people working to create something that is about gay people in a world that is 99% about straight people to racists and hateful bigots?

    I claim hateful language as hateful language. Period. Do you claim this statement unhateful if a straight writer objects to inclusion of GBLT writers in a competition with this statement: ” Letting those authors enter was a mistake. One of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” things. I mean, who knew gay dudes would end up dominating the market, both as writers and consumers?”

    It reminds me of an old saying Creoles had about the Anglos: “Every Anglo objects to Creoles owning property, racing, or wearing fashionable clothes. Particularly if the Creole has a bigger house, a faster horse, or a prettier daughter than the Anglo.”

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  166. Anonymous
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 10:50:46

    @Maili:

    Maili, I agree discourse and communication are very important. But I don’t think “blaming” any institution or group of people is the answer. I’m more focussed on solutions than handing out the blame. The problem as I understand it is that non-GBLT authors of GLTB work are ostracized, to at least some extent, by the “straight” and the GBLT communities. What to do?

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  167. Jane
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 10:51:28

    @Anonymous You seem unwilling to recognize or acknowledge that GLBT group suffer greater marginalization than straight people. Because you are unwilling to accept this premise, your position, viewpoint and arguments cannot be reconciled with those individuals who view GLBT group as a marginalized group.

    Your last quote regarding Anglos works only because the Anglos are the power group. The reverse of the quote doesn’t have the same effect because Creoles are the marginalized group. Failure to recognize power groups can create institutional bias against marginalized groups results in arguments such as yours.

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  168. Jane
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 10:57:16

    @Anonymous I think you have the problem incorrect. The problem is that GLBT is working to support and promote those individuals who live an openly GLBT lifestyle and write fiction. The by product is that those who do not live the open GLBT lifestyle are not eligible for these awards not unlike Asian Americans not being eligible for the Essence awards which are designed to elevate, support, and promote African American authors.

    The consequence or by product of those straight authors writing gay literature being shut out of the awards does not mean that these authors are being ostracized by the GLBT community because I don’t think anyone would argue that LLF speaks for the GLBT community as a whole. Neither can it be said that the LLF’s support and elevation of openly GLBT authors in any way serves to ostracize authors from the GLBT community let alone “further” ostracization.

    It seems recognition for individuals, regardless of gender or sexuality, writing romance is with the RWA and not an organization that intends to promote the apparently dying culture of GLBT authors writing about the GLBT life.

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  169. kaigou
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 11:16:20

    @Jane:

    It seems recognition for individuals, regardless of gender or sexuality, writing romance is with the RWA and not an organization that intends to promote the apparently dying culture of GLBT authors writing about the GLBT life.

    *blinks* The what culture?

    If anything, I’d argue the literary culture of GLBT content & authors is growing exponentially, not dying, although that might rest on how you define ‘culture’. Although I suppose purists — by which I mean “those who would define gay literature as being solely the arena of living-it-openly gay authors” — might agree with you, in the sense that “the days of only gay authors writing authentically gay characters” are passing us by.

    But I’m not a purist by any stretch, and I believe it’s a good thing when all writers are encouraged to include a large diversity of characters in their work, and strive for authenticity among them all: straight, gay, black, white, Christian, Asian, Danish, atheist, Native, transgendered, married, widowed, polyamorous, monogamous, cross-dressing, rich, working class, educated, Buddhist, self-employed, and so on and so on. I’ve never gotten the impression that any of you Ja(y)nes would be happy with anti-diversity, which is why (I’m betting) I’m confused.

    Do you mean “dying culture” as in “dying sub-ghetto in which gay culture is wholly separate and we should be thumbs-up about leaving that behind” or “dying culture” as in “the pristine original that is no longer solely the purview of its denizens and this is a cause for mourning”?

    (It could also be obvious and I’m just kinda dense right now.)

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  170. Jane
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 11:18:14

    @kaigouI was referencing up thread comments about gay fiction presses closing. The publishing culture of gay fiction. I am not well read or knowledgeable about the vitality of gay fiction or GLBT writers so that is why I said “apparently” (and I probably should have included the link to the previous commenter).

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  171. kirsten saell
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 11:26:37

    @Anonymous:

    The bottom line: it's your pool, you decide who to invite. On whatever criteria you chose. If it's my pool, I decide who to invite. On whatever criteria I chose. End of story.

    This has been bugging me a bit. Because really, by definition, LGBT literature is ALWAYS LGBT people’s “pool”. If straights want to have a straight lit contest and only invite straights, that’s fine. Because that IS their pool. If whites want to have a contest for white lit and only include white authors, they’re gonna look like dicks, but I’m not going to stop them.

    But the very act of a straight person writing LGBT fiction means they’re already “playing in someone else’s pool”.

    Or do you claim I am lying and that, in fact, the entire GBLT community is free of prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance? If so, what evidence supports your claim?

    Pretty sure no one here is suggesting that. In fact, as a bi woman, I get more intolerance from the GLBT community than I do from the straight community. Sure, the tolerance of the straight community is frequently laced with condescension and a sense of straight entitlement over my sexuality (“I’ve got a friend I can set you up with. The bonus is, I get to watch! *eyebrowwaggle*). But hey, at least they acknowledge that I exist.

    Do you claim this statement unhateful if a straight writer objects to inclusion of GBLT writers in a competition with this statement: ” Letting those authors enter was a mistake. One of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” things. I mean, who knew gay dudes would end up dominating the market, both as writers and consumers?”

    Those authors=those people, I get it. And yeah, it was poorly worded. By those authors, I meant specifically Annie Proulx and Mercedes Lackey (the two I’ve heard of who’ve won).

    But for the record, I use the term dudes, guys, chicks (variously modified), all the time (I also use girl-on-girl, f/f, m/m, guy-on-guy, and other terms that some people think are stupid. Whatever. I’m bisexual, and calling every f/f romance a lesbian romance, and every m/m romance a gay one is just another way to make me invisible). This is, however, the first time someone has taken umbrage on behalf of dudes, guys and chicks the world over.

    I reiterate the party-crashing metaphor. There’s only so much cake to go around, and when you have a couple people show up that you didn’t invite, but like and get along with, it’s easy to say, “Hey, c’mon in! The more the merrier!” But when the party crashers outnumber the invited guests, even if you like and get along with them and think they’re great people, you end up with no cake for yourselves.

    So instead of being angry that years ago, the LLF welcomed a very few straight authors into the party and even gave them a piece of cake intended for an invited guest (yay, cake!), but now they’ve posted bouncers at the door because LGBT authors are in danger of not getting any of their own damn cake, maybe the better idea is to advocate for more parties with bigger cakes.

    I do think straight authors deserve a place where their LGBT work is recognized. But when the LGBT community contributes the vital ingredients used to bake the cake (i.e, their freaking lives and sexuality and struggles), saying they can’t have a crack at a piece if they want is selfish in the extreme.

    Go ahead and kick LGBT people out of their own pool if that’s what you want to do. It’s a free country. But understand it’s gonna make you look like a dick.

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  172. kaigou
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 12:35:21

    @kirsten saell:

    …it's gonna make you look like a dick.

    Useful advice, but wasted when the audience has already demonstrated a severe lack of the listening. I think it’s time to stop feeding the troll. Anything at all, but especially no more cake.

    So instead of being angry that years ago, the LLF welcomed a very few straight authors into the party and even gave them a piece of cake intended for an invited guest (yay, cake!), but now they've posted bouncers at the door because LGBT authors are in danger of not getting any of their own damn cake, maybe the better idea is to advocate for more parties with bigger cakes.

    You win this week’s Best Damn Analogy prize. Have some cake!

    I may be in the minority for this (hah) but I’m all for bigger parties, if there’s a way to make it potluck. Like, say: do it joint, where RWA and LLF share the cost of cake and invite all authors in the cross-group spheres.

    I don’t really have an issue with dividing out romance genres based on pairings & quantities (M/M, M/F, F/F, M/F/F, M/M/F, and so on), because I do consider them sort of like apples and oranges, or apples and oranges and bunches-of-grapes if you throw in the menages. Separating them out isn’t discrimination, it’s putting like-with-like for easiest contrast. Different expectations, different dynamics, different artistry, complicate any attempt at a quantifiable ‘value’ for comparison.

    (It becomes discrimination in a situation like, hrmm, LLF’s, where one group gets loads of categories and attention, while another is sidelined. RWA goes in the opposite direction, from what I can tell, where ‘anyone is welcome’ in the main category, but I’d say this thread’s already covered at length the reasons this is a bad idea.)

    That said, I see no reason to ask authors to justify or verify their sexuality or gender — I would, instead, ask the judges to do so. Have a wealth of judges that cover as diverse a gamut as possible: authors who are gay, bi, lesbian, trans, even bi-racial or Asian or dual citizenship or bilingual! Seek out judges who are non-mainstream in some way, themselves.

    And then, cake! But not by the standards of “authors whose writing is focused solely on what the writer has experienced”, but to award writing that transcends, that resonates with this wide and diverse group of judges. It’s true there will always be some element of popularity — but when the judges are (hopefully) so completely running the gamut, there’s less likelihood of all of them having the same taste and thus considering the same work ‘popular’.

    Plus, cake! And next, pie!

    (And I really am just a hopeless idealist, aren’t I.)

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  173. kirsten saell
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 13:09:16

    I may be in the minority for this (hah) but I'm all for bigger parties, if there's a way to make it potluck. Like, say: do it joint, where RWA and LLF share the cost of cake and invite all authors in the cross-group spheres.

    Hell, yeah. That would be pretty damn cool. And I even think the LLF should do this on its own–set up a specific award for non-LGBT authors who are awesome and great and get it right. Because they frequently are and do.

    And non-LGBT authors deserve some validation (beyond sales), some appreciation for their getting it right, because we want them to keep doing it. We want them to keep writing it, and keep getting it right.

    I don't really have an issue with dividing out romance genres based on pairings & quantities (M/M, M/F, F/F, M/F/F, M/M/F, and so on), because I do consider them sort of like apples and oranges, or apples and oranges and bunches-of-grapes if you throw in the menages.

    I prefer the slash-tags, myself. There’s nothing more simple and broad in scope than saying a romance is a love story between two women or two men, or what have you. I’ve never been a part of any slash fanfic community, so I don’t have the baggage that those tags carry for a lot of people. I do, however, have a LOT of bisexual baggage that makes calling all m/m gay and all f/f lesbian give me hives.

    The LLF seems happy with the way things are–bisexuals invisible as always. I’d like to either see a corresponding bi category for each gay and lesbian one OR a gay/bi-male category and a lesbian/bi-female one.

    Because if I have an m/m with one gay MC and one bi-male MC, where do you think I’m going to enter my book? In Gay Romance. If I have an f/f with two bi-female characters, I’m screwed up the wazoo. They say bisexual lit is “underpublished” but I don’t really think it is. It’s just frequently called gay lit or lesbian lit because publishers and literary organizations don’t provide any other feasible option!

    By not accommodating bi-lit equally with gay and lesbian, they're forcing a lot of books with bi main characters to either disregard the bisexuality of those characters by entering the gay or lesbian category, or forcing them to compete with every other bi book out there, fiction or non. In practical terms, they're forcing every m/m or f/f to label itself gay or lesbian just to get a fair shake, because the only bi alternative they offer is ridiculous.

    Couple that with the standard assumtion by society that every m/m relationship in fiction (and in real life) involves gay men, every f/f involves lesbians, and every m/f involves straights, and where does that leave us bis? Invisible. Again.

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  174. Karen Scott
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 14:08:49

    I'm not quite sure who's threatening my rights as a straight woman here.

    I don't see anybody threatening my rights as a straight woman. This is about a marginalised group trying to have something for themselves. It really isn't about me.

    Anons arguments echo the same ones made by some of ‘the privileged' re affirmative action. They don't understand that aa wouldn't be necessary in the first place if all people were treated equally. Anon seems to be having difficulty in understanding why a marginalised group would try to do something to promote their own particular interests. When you're treated differently to the majority of the children in the playground, the inclination is to find other kids that are just like you, and make up your own games.

    I think Anne Somerville mentions ‘white women's tears' on her blog. That's exactly how I see some of the bitching and whining going on here.

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  175. Alex Beecroft
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 14:33:57

    @Karen Scott:

    by Karen Scott September 24th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I'm not quite sure who's threatening my rights as a straight woman here.

    I don't see anybody threatening my rights as a straight woman. This is about a marginalised group trying to have something for themselves. It really isn't about me.

    Sorry, Karen, that was me using inappropriate British understatement. What I actually meant was “I don’t see anyone threatening my rights as a straight woman here.” I should have been clearer. Sorry!

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  176. Anonymous
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 17:50:53

    @Karen Scott:

    I don't see anybody threatening my rights as a straight woman. This is about a marginalised group trying to have something for themselves. It really isn't about me.

    Exactly! This is what I have said from my original post, that private organizations have the right do what they want so long as they break no laws or violate public policy. My opinion remains consistent. Private organizations have the right to do what they wish.

    ALL private organizations.

    I think Anne Somerville mentions ‘white women's tears' on her blog. That's exactly how I see some of the bitching and whining going on here.

    You mean like this?

    #113 Sparky = Aw c'mon now, we'd made all the way down this comment stream without someone having to fill in this bingo square. Any discrimination law and rational thought on discrimination can acknowledge WHY certain exclusion is problematic.

    # 116 Mfred = I think the fight people should be having here is with RWA, publishers, and yes, even readers, who exclude gay (or any minority) content. Not LLA for trying to create a for-gay, by-gay space in the world.
    (Me: This qualifies as the ULTIMATE in bitchery to me. Since when do writers and/or fans of specific genres entitled to “fight” readers for not reading those genres? Phew!)

    #127 Mfred = Let's make a deal:
    All you straights give me the right to marry my partner, and I will let straight women who write m/m fiction win a Lambda. I'll just walk up to those Lambda's and whip out my gay identify card and DEMAND JUSTICE. They will listen to me because I am gay and they are gay and we all agree on the same gay things.
    But only after I can legally marry my partner. Uh, and maybe after we file our first joint tax return, just in case. Deal?

    # 129 Maggie = If people want to insist on fairness, they have to recognize that they don't have the right to dictate to a minority group how to run things in their community. If they as a group decide to nurture the talent in their own community, that's their decision. And if they decide to return to how they did it before, that's also their decision-’to be made without the input or demands of straight authors with their sense of entitlement, because straight people have already rejected and locked LGBTs out of many of their activities.

    #130 Sparky = If society didn't throw us out onto the fringes, we wouldn't feel the need to build our own structures on the outskirts

    # 139 Maggie = Your attitude and obliviousness to LGBTI people's struggles are painting your “solution” in a really negative light. You realize what you are saying is that if LGBT people want to exclude heterosexuals from their “pool” because it's gotten crowded, then they shouldn't get angry at privileged straight people for excluding them from THEIR pool, which they were already excluded from to begin with. You're just rubbing salt in the wound. You realize that, right? Please tell me you do.
    (self-victimization, personal attack and criticism for the “wrong attitude” and “saying the wrong things.” I missed the policy on this blog indicating I must word all my statements very carefully so as not to offend this lady.)# 142 Maggie = The only reason this became an issue at all is because straight authors started making demands and telling LLA what's fair and what's not fair (as if LGBT people wouldn't have a clue about fairness).

    (Maggie is obviously very active in Lambda, she has the scoop. No doubt she can identify names, dates, times of all the alleged “demanding” of alleged straight authors. I'm unclear how she determined the demanding authors were straight, but since she's not straight herself I'm sure her word's good.)

    #145 kirsten saell = If you want to tell a panel of GLBT contest judges that they're only allowed to look at m/m written by straight women and f/f written by straight men, go ahead. See what kind of reaction you get.
    (This was a doozy! I mean, really, do the judges really require “authentication of orientation?” Or do they read and judge books?

    #147 Maggie = You seem to be taking everything anyone is saying and twisting it around. Frankly, it's making me dizzy.
    (Now I'm to blame for the poster's defective analytical skills and their physical impact upon her person. Wow.)I think it's pretty clear by now that what I consider discriminatory and what you consider discriminatory are completely different.
    (Another doozy! Now discrimination is subject to individual consideration?)Your maturity just shines through.
    (Pure comedy, considering the source.)

    # 149 kirsten saell = But if you want to be responsible as an author and a freaking human being, and you aren't a member of the group you're writing about, you make some damn concessions…When you're on the top of the heap, yeah, you've gotta eat some shit once in a while.
    #150 kirsten saell = But if you hang a “*anti-gay hate word*s not welcome” sign on the door, well, I guess you know what would happen.

    (So now, unless I pander to minorities, I'm not only an “irresponsible author,” I'm non-human or sub-human. It also sounds like I'm being warned or threatened. Someone broke out the brown shirts and I wasn't even looking. This would frighten me if I had less confidence and personal integrity, but I appreciate the honesty.)

    #156 Alex Beecroft = I'd be amongst the crowd with pitchforks outside demanding for it to be shut down.
    (more threats against my doing…what? Having an opinion unpopular with the majority? In all fairness this poster did retract the comment later, but only after I responded to the comment.)Currently straight people have more rights than GBLT ones, so it is fair for them to occasionally give up something in order to redress the balance.
    (Alex's statement, outright, that straight people losing “something” is “fair.” Since my response several people have commented about MY response (as in being unwilling to relinquish my rights and even asking outright for codes and statutes indicating what rights straight citizens should “fairly” relinquish and received no response, other than for Alex to comment (#158 = “I'm not quite sure who's threatening my rights as a straight woman here. When I see them being threatened, I will stand up for them. But I don't see that happening at the moment.” Then goes on to advise me to “set up ‘my' award,” implying I am creating an award when in fact I never gave such indication. This is deliberate dishonesty and subterfuge, or perhaps Alex has better things to do than pay close attention to this blog and is speaking in error )

    I am done. I wish you all well, and I wish Lambda the best.

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  177. Sparky
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 19:55:08

    @Anon
    This is hard because these are really major and important concepts when it comes to marginalised groups and I don't know how to get them across to you if you haven't got them yet. Worse, as this progresses your analogies are crossing the line from “inaccurate” to “severely disrespectful” to put it mildly.

    Well, since you brought it up… Yes, at times, we do. Being gay does not equate with being free of prejudice, discrimination, and hatred. I have personally experienced and observed GBLT people express hatred and intolerance toward others. I don't excuse their behavior because they're GBLT.

    Of course GBLT people can have all the same prejudices as any other person would have. Why would you think ANYONE is free from prejudice? A GBLT person can still be sexist, racist, ableist, any number of prejudices – they can even be homophobic

    However, the implication that GBLT people are even in a POSITION to discriminate against and oppress straight people is ludicrous. We simply don't have the power to oppress the poor straight folks FOR THEIR STRAIGHTNESS. That is the joy of straight privilege and the sadness of being a marginalised group.

    Straight people overwhelm us. A combination of sheer numbers coupled with hatred, prejudice and oppression means the straight people are stronger than us, are more dominant than us and have created a world that largely ignores us or actively pushes us aside, forces us to hide or actively tries to harm us. This is simple reality.

    These awards – and the many institutions like them both for GBLT people and for other marginalised groups – are an attempt to create an oasis in a world that is hostile. In a world that is ALL about straight people, this is a corner that is, for once, about us.

    And, frankly, straight people flouncing because there is a part of the world that ISN'T about them (for once) is a mark of extreme privilege. And equating seeking a sanctuary like this with bigotry and oppression is ludicrous and deeply clueless.

    You CANNOT divorce ideas of prejudice and exclusion from the realities of power, privilege and dominance in the world.

    I know, and I think and say it is immoral. Come on. Let's tell truth and shame the Devil. Discriminating against a writer because the writer is gay is wrong.

    So is discriminating against a writer because the writer is NOT gay.

    Again, you are not looking at this in the context of the way the world is. You're speaking as if straight and gay people are on an equal footing in terms of power.

    This isn't two equal teams say “if you don't let me play in your half then I won't let you play in mine.” This is the straight team saying “Everything is ours. Everything is about us. Everything will support us” and the GBLT saying “well, that sucks. We're going to make this corner over here for us. It's not much, but until the rest of the world let's us in we need places like this.” But straight team is right there growling angrily “THAT needs to be about us too!”

    I hear and I respect you. I understand the purpose of Lambda. I do no condemn Lambda's policies. If you followed this thread, I have repeatedly stated that. My question is what about non-gay writers who write gay?

    See, I don't think you DO hear me. Because you've been running past it not getting it repeatedly. You see unable to deal with straight privilege. You've dismissed actual offence from actual bisexuals. You referred to offended GBLT people as “hypersensitive” a loaded, disrespectful silencing team used against marginalised people again and again. “Self-victimisation” a term used to belittle prejudice faced as fancily or even fantasy. “Pandering to minorities” yeah, like that's not loaded, tired and overused. You've used analogies comparing an attempt for gay empowerment to hatred, segregation and bigotry – which, apart from being hyperbolic, is extremely disrespectful and insulting. You have made comments that reduce being GBL to being just about who we have sex with.

    You do not condemn Lambda's policies but you compare it to racial segregation in the US in the mid 20th century? You call it the same kind of hatred? (And that's AFTER Jane's edits to make it appropriate so gods alone know what it was like before!)

    There are INNUMERABLE literary awards out there. Some of them are also selective – some for certain races, certain areas, some for women etc. But most are not. Straight people (like any privileged group) are hardly left in the cold by the GBLT Lambda Awards being about GBLT people.

    I'd ALSO question priorities here. The Lambda awards are to try and elevate, protect and serve a marginalised group in the face of generalised and pervasive oppression. To counter that with “but I want an award to put on my book's blurb!” seems… inadequate.

    But my understanding of the situation is that non-GBLT authors of GLBT books are now the “orphans” of the industry. What about their needs for validation and recognition of their work? (NOTE -’ I am not saying GLBT authors dont share this need, just that we now have a disenfranchised “group within a group.”)_

    Disenfranchised group within a group? Which group? Straight people. That is the group that is disenfranchising the genre. The GBLT people aren't disenfranchising you. You weren't excluded from the GBLT author's group because you were never part of it.

    You think the genre doesn't get enough attention? Great. I agree. Let us make the genre more prominent. Let us make more “mainstream” folks stand up and pay attention.

    But the Lambda awards aren't about the genre. They're not about straight authors. They're (and I say again as plainly as I can) not about you. They're about GBLT authors.

    Straight authors want validation? Good, long may they seek it and I hope they get it. But why does a GBLT award has to give you that validation? Why does the GBLT award have to be about straight people or about what straight people want it to be about? Why is the straight person's need for validation even considered on par with a marginalised group's attempt at redressing societal prejudice, let alone considered more important than it?

    Here is an organisation saying “this is about GBLT authors. This is about us” and we have some privileged straight folks saying “but I want validation. I want cookies. Make it about me! Make it about what I want it to be about.”

    Not to mention inciting anger removes the focus from the pertinent issues mentioned above.

    And in a discussion that at least tangentially touches on gay people as a marginalised group, the need for gay spaces and discrimination against gay people, you think you can tell gay people what is pertinent?

    You said something offensive that made people understandably angry and rather than apologise you dismissed the anger and the offence, insulted the offended as hypersensitive and instructed them when their offence would be acceptable. In a discussion that, by its very nature, is very bout straight privilege I would call this text book example most expressly pertinent.

    I claim hateful language as hateful language. Period. Do you claim this statement unhateful if a straight writer objects to inclusion of GBLT writers in a competition with this statement: ” Letting those authors enter was a mistake. One of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” things. I mean, who knew gay dudes would end up dominating the market, both as writers and consumers?”

    And I call ignorance ignorance. Again you are refusing to own your privilege. Again you are blind to the marginalisation of gay people. Again, you refuse to acknowledge the power difference between gay and straight people. Again you are acting like gays are the dominant power and straights are the marginalised groups.

    I think this is a waste of time and keystrokes, but can't you see how grossly inaccurate, inappropriate and downright offensive your analogy is?

    Segregation came about out of hatred and prejudice. A belief that black people were inferior and a determination to deny them basic rights and respect. An attempt to push them out of as much of life as was possible to do so. Segregation was about oppression and hatred.

    The Lambda awards are about protection and empowerment. They aren't trying to beat down straight authors (like they have that kind of power!) they're trying to reverse a system that is already beating down GBLT people. They aren't trying to keep straight people out of literary awards, they're trying to create a space for GBLT people in a world that would try to keep us out.

    It reminds me of an old saying Creoles had about the Anglos: “Every Anglo objects to Creoles owning property, racing, or wearing fashionable clothes. Particularly if the Creole has a bigger house, a faster horse, or a prettier daughter than the Anglo.”

    Yes that saying is appropriate. You're objecting to the GBLT people having something that is for them. Despite the fact that the straight people (like the Anglos in the saying) have 90% of everything and are grossly privileged compared to GBLT people, you're still complaining because the GBLT people have this.

    You can claim to bear what I'm saying. You can claim that you respect me – us. But when you paint straight people as the victims and gay people as the oppressors? I'm not believing it

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  178. Lee Rowan
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 21:30:28

    by Seressia September 23rd, 2009 at 8:55 pm
    RWA doesn't discriminate against m/m, f/f, AA or whatever combination of the alphabet you'd like to use.

    ROTFLMAO. With a hierarchy of Ladies who have been fighting erotic het romance since it showed up, and who can kick a glbt romance out of the running with the tag “Not Romance?” Sure, you can enter, send in your money and many copies… but there’s not a snowball’s chance of a same-sex romance winning.

    They discriminate, and a lot of them are actually proud of doing so. They are Protecting the Purity of Traditional Romance. And the only reason one-man/one-woman isn’t in their rules is because there are enough progressive members to have shouted it down.

    Re the Lambda awards…

    People are quoting Lambda’s stated purpose here. I want to thank TeddyPig
    http://www.teddypig.com/2009/09/shame-on-me-shame-on-you/comment-page-1/#comment-2733

    for posting Lambda’s ORIGINAL STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: “to recognize excellence in the field of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender literature.”

    That makes it pretty clear. It looks to me as though the purpose has changed to protect a bunch of writers who don’t feel that their writing is good enough to compete AS WRITING. This ‘queer only’ bar suggests that they think het women can write gay men better than gay men.

    That is just sad. I think more awards in Bi/Trans would be a better idea than what they’ve done. They could at least separate fiction and nonfiction. But the funny thing about a bi-romance with an opposite-sex partner.. is it would read much like a het romance. Heaven forfend!

    Maybe it’s time for someone else to resurrect the concept of awards “to recognize excellence in the field of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender literature.”

    As for all the ‘anon’ comments… it’s hard to give much credibility to somebody who’s hasn’t even got the cojones to use a pen name.

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  179. Robin
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 23:06:55

    There are INNUMERABLE literary awards out there. Some of them are also selective – some for certain races, certain areas, some for women etc. But most are not. Straight people (like any privileged group) are hardly left in the cold by the GBLT Lambda Awards being about GBLT people.

    And apparently it doesn’t go without saying that there are no inherent rights to enter any award contest. In fact, the more I’ve been thinking about this, the more I believe that the whole vocabulary of “discrimination” is inaccurate (as well as unintentionally distracting). That is, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to see the LLF as doing exactly what you say — affirming the legitimacy of GLBT work by GLBT authors. They’re self-validating and self-authenticating. ALL awards are exclusive, but no one complains, for example, because the Pulitzer doesn’t have a Romance category. I understand that the LLF framing the issue in terms of personal identity alters the context, but I’m not sure it transforms the terms from exclusivity to discrimination.

    Also, I find unsettling the suggestion that the LLF doesn’t think GLBT writers can stand up quality-wise to non-GLBT authors writing GLBT work. Just as I doubt that anyone who believes such a thing would want to be perceived as chewing on sour grapes or abetting the majority privilege.

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  180. kirsten saell
    Sep 24, 2009 @ 23:26:45

    @Anonymous:

    Okay, this is getting amusing…

    (This was a doozy! I mean, really, do the judges really require “authentication of orientation?” Or do they read and judge books?

    Um, we were talking about a hypothetical straight-author-only contest for GLBT lit. I think the judges would probably know they were reading straight authors’ work. And yes, entering a contest that’s open to straight people only would be in itself an authentication of your straightness. Like when you click the button that says “by clicking this, you are verifying you are eighteen or older”.

    And this:

    (So now, unless I pander to minorities, I'm not only an “irresponsible author,” I'm non-human or sub-human.

    Uh, no. What I said was, “if you want to be responsible as an author and a freaking human being.” That is: if you want to be responsible as an author and responsible as a freaking human being. Although I suppose I could have burdened that sentence with two more commas, but honestly, it never occured to me that anyone on their worst day would have taken it the way you did. But you seem to have a knack of putting the worst possible spin on anything anyone says–when they disagree with you. Or maybe you simply measure others on by the yardstick of your own behavior. You’ve certainly gone out of your way to splatter your prejudices and stereotypes about LGBT people all over this thread.

    It also sounds like I'm being warned or threatened. Someone broke out the brown shirts and I wasn't even looking. This would frighten me if I had less confidence and personal integrity, but I appreciate the honesty.)

    Seriously? If I’d threatened you, there wouldn’t be any possible question of it. It wouldn’t sound like you were being threatened. You and everyone else on this thread would know it, until Jane edited it out, that is, because I can really let fly with that kind of thing when I get going. Thus far, you haven’t even made me mad enough to start dropping f-bombs all over the place–though you seem to be trying very hard at it.

    You know what, anon? If there was a contest for general fiction that was only open to LGBT authors, I might be inclined to agree with you.

    But dude, this is LGBT lit. Implying–heck, not implying, coming right out and explicitly saying–that not only are LGBT authors bigoted, heterophobic oppressors for wanting to have a contest just for their community of authors who write literature that explores their lives, but that it should be A-okay for straight people to hold a contest just for their community of authors for literature that explores the lives of the very people excluded from entering the contest? That’s a level of entitlement I haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing for a while.

    I try to see straight authors and readers as not simply objectifying gay men and co-opting their sexuality for their own titillation the way straight men do with lesbo porn. I try, though after some of the reader discussions I’ve looked at it’s not always easy. Because it’s perfectly possible to looooove reading m/m and still be a homophobe. Shocking, I know.

    But your attitude is giving me the squicks. Your sense of entitlement is…staggering. Your willingness to offend (and then add insult to injury) while at the same time crying foul over any and every perceived slight is so hypocritical I can only laugh.

    You’re a piece of work. I only wish you weren’t anonymous. You give all those other anonymi a bad name…

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  181. Maggie
    Sep 25, 2009 @ 00:35:01

    @Anonymous:

    I’m not going to even try to argue with your opinion of me because my opinion of you is the same.

    Maggie is obviously very active in Lambda, she has the scoop. No doubt she can identify names, dates, times of all the alleged “demanding” of alleged straight authors. I'm unclear how she determined the demanding authors were straight, but since she's not straight herself I'm sure her word's good.

    Uh, no. I said that I never paid attention to LLA’s website until this whole debate. Where have you been?

    I don’t have to be active in Lambda. I’m a reader. I follow blogs, I follow publishers, I follow authors. And I read about some of the authors who I used to admire and whose works I used to enjoy bitch and moan about how LLA’s policy is unfair to them.

    I’m not decided on how I feel about this new direction in LLA’s focus, but I can see where they’re coming from. These authors bitching about unfairness only see this from one point of view: theirs. They insist that straight women have proven time and again that they can pen beautiful stories that are authentic to the gay experience. And I’m not going to argue with that because it’s true.

    But they fail to see this from any other perspective but their own. They don’t try to evaluate why this new change might be in place. They’re just concerned about their award. And that’s why I say these authors are just making demands. I’m just calling it like I see it.

    This is going to sound preachy, but a lot of grief could be avoided if everyone could just TRY to understand where someone else might be coming from. We live in a community. Your opinion is not the only one.

    I definitely do think an Ally category would be great for everyone.

    @Ally Blue:

    LLF doesn't want me, not that they would have anyway (not literary enough, doncha know)

    I don’t think that should stop you (or anyone else) from entering, if they ever do open up an Ally category. From what I see on your publisher’s page (MLR Press), a lot of the authors have been finalists. Laura Baumbach’s works are about as literary as Twilight, and Victor Banis writes pulp fiction. Off the top of my head, I can only remember one winner: Nicole Kimberling, who writes SF and fantasy. And on LLA’s front page, they have a huge announcement saying Richard Labonte will be administering the awards. I’m not sure what that means, but he edits erotica anthologies. So I don’t think you have to worry about your work being seen as not literary enough.

    A lot of genre fiction authors seem to think the literary folk look down on them, but I’m not sure if that’s even true.

    @Robin:

    Also, I find unsettling the suggestion that the LLF doesn't think GLBT writers can stand up quality-wise to non-GLBT authors writing GLBT work.

    I do, too. But it feels more to me like they can’t reason out LLA’s decision, so they’re just making up excuses and grasping at straws.

    @kirsten saell:

    Because it's perfectly possible to looooove reading m/m and still be a homophobe.

    If you want to see a fine example of this, hang out on the yaoi manga forums. They have things like eye candy threads, and you will not believe some of comments that crop up. A lot of manga images are posted up, but occasionally some people will post up pictures of Asian rock stars, or actual gay men. And some of the comments towards the pictures of effeminate gay men are just nauseating. They’ll say things like, “Why does he look like a girl?” or “Too girly for me.” or “Ew. The dress kinda looks wrong on him.” What’s ironic is that yaoi is FULL of effeminate men, but I guess it’s okay if it’s just drawings on paper. That’s hot. But real life gay men? That’s squicky.

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    It doesn’t happen that often though, and those kinds of posters are very few. Thank god.

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  182. Ally Blue
    Sep 25, 2009 @ 13:25:30

    From what I see on your publisher's page (MLR Press), a lot of the authors have been finalists. Laura Baumbach's works are about as literary as Twilight, and Victor Banis writes pulp fiction.

    Maybe I’m mistaken. I’d be happy to be mistaken, actually. I have no direct experience with them, after all, only what I’ve heard from those who have. If you ask Victor Banis, you’ll get an earful about the LLF and their attitude toward works on the popular end of the spectrum (and their treatment of the true pioneers of gay literature, for that matter), and none of it will be very nice.

    An Ally category would be really flattering *ggg* If they ever came up with something like that, I might even enter, who knows. But probably not. Honestly? I feel that RWA and the RITAs are where my work belongs. It’s romance, and dammit, the mainstream romance world OUGHT to accept it as such. I feel like that’s where my energy should be concentrated.

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  183. Maggie
    Sep 25, 2009 @ 15:54:39

    @Ally Blue:

    Maybe I'm mistaken. I'd be happy to be mistaken, actually. I have no direct experience with them, after all, only what I've heard from those who have. If you ask Victor Banis, you'll get an earful about the LLF and their attitude toward works on the popular end of the spectrum (and their treatment of the true pioneers of gay literature, for that matter), and none of it will be very nice.

    Is it because of the judges? I don’t read Laura Baumbach, but Victor J. Banis’s stuff is wonderful. It’s almost a crime he hasn’t won. I remember reading his story about a man whose face was scarred from an accident in Best Gay Romance 2008, and I had to hunt down all his other works. There’s something very soulful about his books and it’s obviously what made him popular. Add that to the fact that he’s like the pioneer of gay pulp fiction, so it does make me wonder now.

    Well, it doesn’t matter any. With or without an award, he’s still the best!

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  184. Nicola Griffith
    Sep 25, 2009 @ 16:24:04

    Katherine V. Forrest, the new interim President of the LLF board, has written a letter of clarification for the 2009 Lambda Literary Award guidelines, which I’ve posted here.

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  185. Ally Blue
    Sep 25, 2009 @ 17:22:19

    @Maggie:

    Is it because of the judges? I don't read Laura Baumbach, but Victor J. Banis's stuff is wonderful. It's almost a crime he hasn't won.

    I honestly am not sure. I believe Victor’s preparing a blog on the subject, so you might keep an eye out and see what he has to say :)

    I totally agree with you, though. His writing is absolutely lovely, and he is one of the sweetest, most delightful human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

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  186. kaigou
    Sep 25, 2009 @ 17:31:17

    @Maggie:

    But they fail to see this from any other perspective but their own. They don't try to evaluate why this new change might be in place. They're just concerned about their award. And that's why I say these authors are just making demands. I'm just calling it like I see it.

    I’ve been thinking about this, and the truth is that I can’t recall anyone on this thread* who was bitching about being excluded — except, that is, ME. (And a few of my compatriots.)

    But I/we weren’t bitching about exclusion as straight women who want in, but as bisexuals who have been pretty much perpetually shut out from LLF for all but the obligatory lipservice. Except for the trolling Anon, I recall remarkably little standing on privilege by any self-identified straight authors on this thread. Just so we’re clear, because it doesn’t seem right to be tarring the thread’s straight authors with a brush that — at least in this time around — doesn’t seem to be deserved.

    *unless you’re talking about elsewhere on the ‘tarweebs, OR that I missed a whole chunk of straight-girl-privilege replies in the middle somewhere… in which case, carry on!

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  187. Anonymous
    Sep 25, 2009 @ 20:36:23

    @Sparky:

    @Anon
    This is hard because these are really major and important concepts when it comes to marginalised groups and I don't know how to get them across to you if you haven't got them yet. Worse, as this progresses your analogies are crossing the line from “inaccurate” to “severely disrespectful” to put it mildly.

    Sparky, thank you for your civil respsonse. I had to think about your words and analyze my own attitudes concerning this conversation.

    I have identified the communication barrier occuring in my discourses in this thread. I have determined I am at fault.

    You are correct, I am not identifying the GLBT community as a separate community nor do I want to. I’m not comfortable with the GLBT community being “separate” from myself, I’d rather we were all just people.

    Once I understood this, I had to question why I feel this way so strongly that I would fight and quarrel tooth and nail like a rabid dog over the issues in this thread.

    I’m not going to overdose you with TMI, but please believe me when I tell you I have experienced first hand and very young how destructive anti-GBLT hatred (whether true hatred or the result of miseducation) can be. It can inflict irreparable harm upon entire families, and the consequences do not end with the GBLT person. Hatred and prejudice are so evil: they hurt everyone.

    I thought I was observing this issue dispassionately; I understand now I was not. The Lambda award limitations pushed my “freak out” buttons, knocked me backward to a very dificult and damaging family crisis.

    A friend and family member of GBLT individuals, I’m uncomfortable with “separating” them from myself, “recategorizing” them to someone/something “other.” So it’s inconvenient for me to perceive and accept the GBLT community as a seperate community of which I, a “straight” woman, am an outsider. Part of my reasons are practical — I think functional society requires proper boundaries, but we can all use fewer barriers and classifications, not more. But part of it’s purely personal. I grew up estranged from one parent for half my childhood and most of my teens due to legal intervention of well-intentioned homophobic relatives, I feel like I’ve endured enough separation. I understand it’s not really about me; I’m only human.

    I think you and others on this thread are perceiving me as deliberately snubbing or insulting the GBLT community while I perceive myself as not acknowledging it to protect myself.

    I sincerely apologize for my sarcasm and insensitivity and general bull-headedness. I do not hate or fear the GLBT community, and if that community feels the need to make something of itself for itself I have no right to question or criticize that.

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  188. Maggie
    Sep 25, 2009 @ 20:49:44

    @kaigou:

    But I/we weren't bitching about exclusion as straight women who want in, but as bisexuals who have been pretty much perpetually shut out from LLF for all but the obligatory lipservice. Except for the trolling Anon, I recall remarkably little standing on privilege by any self-identified straight authors on this thread. Just so we're clear, because it doesn't seem right to be tarring the thread's straight authors with a brush that -’ at least in this time around -’ doesn't seem to be deserved.

    Oh, no, no. No one on this thread. I was just saying I happen to follow a lot of author blogs, so I meant elsewhere on the web. No authors on this thread bitching/moaning. Sorry if it looked like I was talking about anyone here.

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  189. Sparky
    Sep 26, 2009 @ 05:24:17

    @anonymous

    Thank you for this.

    I, as a gay man, also do not want to be seperated from the rest of society. I really don’t. I’ve had very unpleasant hospital visits in the past as a consequence of this othering. I have lost friends, family and relationships because of it.

    But, the thing is, we’re not trying to seperate ourselves – but we have been othered by the mainstream. Yes, it’s awful, it’s wrong and it has horrific consequences but it has been done to us and while we work every day in every way to try and push that back, we can’t ignore it.

    I would prefer if these barriers were removed, I really would. But we didn’t put them there and we’re not the ones maintaining them. And if we have to live behind them we have to work to a) pull them down and b) create safe spaces for our own survival, mental health and sense of wellbeing and worth.

    I think awards like LLF are very important for the latter purpose, in a world that tells us we have little or no worth, that we are lesser, that we are a sickness, unworthy, a threat then an organisation that seeks to promote us, celebrate us and empower us is valuable

    ReplyReply

  190. Stella
    Sep 26, 2009 @ 20:16:26

    @Caligi:

    I don't want to derail this conversation too much, but part of the reason we didn't shop in in various ethnic markets was because we thought we weren't welcome, like they wanted their space. It was based in respect, actually.

    Are you sure about that?

    You say that you’ve changed that habit of avoidance, so I’d like to challenge you to think carefully and honestly;

    Were you positive, back at that time, that an ethnic shop-owner would rather not take your money in exchange for their goods?
    Really?

    Why then is this particular gay space different, and why are you saying that you resent being kept out– do you not ‘respect’ this particular minority enough?
    And also;

    Let’s say that you can truthfully say you stayed out of Hispanic spaces out of respect.
    How then did you label the rest of the space, the parts these other ethnicities didn’t get to claim?

    I am asking this because you say you’ve never heard of an award given to straight white men specifically…

    ReplyReply

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