Saturday, September 19, 2009

Discrimination at the Lambda Awards

The Lambda Foundation has recently published an enhanced set of guidelines for the upcoming Lambda Literary Awards contest, where gay and lesbian themed published works are judged. These new guidelines have a number of gay, lesbian, and straight authors in a tizzy. The organizers are taking steps to exclude lgbt themed books written by straight writers. It seems that they want to keep the awards "in the family."

It is still not clear to me whether they are not accepting works from straight writers, or whether they are simply giving more weight to gay and lesbian writers. The wording is rather confusing. What's perfectly clear, however, is that the organizers are discriminating against a group of writers based on sexual orientation. You would think they would know better...

In my efforts to review lgbt literature for my column and this blog, I have read a number of gay books written by straight women, and admittedly, many of these writers didn't have a clue as to what gay men are about. Thus, their books were ordinary at best, and some I tossed after reading only a few dozen pages. On the other hand, a number of truly great gay stories were, and continue to be, written by straight women. If the Lambda committee snubs the works of these writers, then works such as The Persian Boy, The Front Runner, and Brokeback Mountain would be excluded.

I doubt that I will be eligible to enter this year's contest, since my novel that was due out now is behind schedule and without a publication date in sight. So if it doesn't materialize soon it will have to wait until next year's contest. That means this new ruling will not affect me. Still, I think it's a sad state of affairs to exclude writers who support the gay experience. Discrimination by any group is ugly.

The following is what my friend, Victor Banis, had to say on the subject:
My honest opinion? The Lambda Foundation is run by and for a bunch of old queens in NYC who'd like to keep it a private party. The same editors publishing the same books by the same writers for the same dwindling pool of readers and then handing out the same awards to one another over and over. And occasionally they get together to sip sherry and wring their hands and wonder why gay books don't sell. Can we say boring, ladies?


Cat Grant said...

It's unclear to me how the LLF plans to enforce this new rule. I downloaded the entry form for the 2009 contest, and it doesn't ask authors to identify their orientation. So how are they going to find out who's straight and who's queer?

I was considering entering my bisexual-themed novella collection, but now I'm not so sure. I don't like the idea of an author's sexual orientation being factored into an award that's supposedly based on literary merit.

Eric Arvin said...

I love what Victor had to say. Fantastic!

Unknown said...

This post has been included in a Linkspam roundup.

Naraht said...

Actually Mary Renault, the author of "The Persian Boy," was a lesbian.

(Here via the linkspam.)