The Last Word?

 When Sean and Jules approached me about writing an opinion piece on the recent LLF decision to limit the majority of its awards to GBLTQ writers, and the subsequent contretemps between straight and GBLTQ authors, I was happy to give them the opportunity to use this site as a platform to present their position.  Since I and others had posted or commented here on the  issue, I thought it was only fair that they be allowed to express their opinion here as well; there are always 2 sides to every story (or 3 or 4). I hope that  bloggers, authors and readers alike, will comment on what Jules and Sean have to say, but in a non-confrontational way. I believe in freedom of expression, but being rude or vicious is not acceptable here! (BTW the captions under the photos are theirs).g

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Hi, I’m Jules.  I write books.  I’m queer.  I’m going into my senior year of university with a major in Psychology (concentration on Social Psychology) and a minor in

M. Jules Aedin, Queer Irish American Author

M. Jules Aedin, Queer Irish American Author

Peace & Social Justice Studies.  Since I owe a lot to a specific few professors with nods to Social Justice, I figured I’d include that here.

Hi.  I’m Sean.  What she said.  Except the degree in Psychology.  Teacher/librarian/watcher of too much television.

Sean Kennedy, Queer Australian Author

Sean Kennedy, Queer Australian Author

It should also be said that neither of us has ever intended to enter the Lambdas — or any other award competition, really — so it’s not like we’re trying to keep this all to ourselves.

There’s been a lot of well… kerfluffle, to put it nicely… lately over the recent announcement by the Lambda Literary Foundation that only self-identified members of the GLBTQ community would be eligible as authors to win the Lambda Literary Award.  In the beginning, there was a lot of silly misdirection and what we can only assume to be misreading or misunderstanding about how this was going to play out, along with cries of “they have no right!”  Fortunately, most of that has already been cleared up, so we’re going to take the liberty of skipping past that and going on to other issues.  (For the record, there are no bed checks; they’re not saying that you can only write books in the specific category of GLBTQ that you identify yourself as, and they are a private organization with every right in the world to determine their eligibility criteria for awards.)

There are two main issues that we want to address here.  The first is whether Lambda’s decision has any social importance, and the second is whether it’s worth getting this upset about.

There has been a lot of vitriol directed at LLF and a war cry of “reverse discrimination.”  If you’ve ever had a class on social oppression, you’ll know why Jules, with a concentration in the area, bristles at the term, so we’re not going to use it here.  Furthermore, in our opinion, we don’t believe that this is even the crux of why their announcement was important.  It needs to be said that we are not speaking on behalf of LLF.  We’ve written them a letter asking for clarification, but as of yet haven’t received a response. Considering the amount of e-mail they must be getting right now, that’s  not surprising.  All we know of their decision is what the rest of you know.  There have been conflicting accounts of whether this was LLF’s original policy, then they changed to include straight authors and are now changing back; whether it has always been that the awards were meant for GLBTQ authors; or whether it was simply unclear up until now. 

And that last bit is the important part.  Why is it important to give visibility to GLBTQ authors? Aren’t we trying to strive for equality?  Isn’t this equivalent to asking for “special rights”?  That’s pretty much the same thing as asking why we need to have language in anti-hate-crimes laws in order to protect people on the basis of sexual and gender identity.  I mean, after all, shouldn’t all crimes be treated the same?  Shouldn’t all hate crimes be punished?  Why do we have to specify exactly who is protected?  Shouldn’t it be everybody?  In a perfect world, yes.  In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need specific language to protect us or give us visibility.  In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be invisible to start with.

James Baldwin - A Gay African American Author

James Baldwin - A Gay African American Author

Let us give you an example.  In her book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Beverly Daniel Tatum relates the story of two students in a literature class.  One student raised her hand in class one day to ask why they never learned about Black authors.  Another student responded to this in his class response journal by saying, “It’s not my fault Black people don’t write books.”

Of course, that’s ridiculous.  Plenty of Black people write books.  But honestly, until I’m told otherwise, I (Jules) generally assume the author of any given book — even books on racial equality and discrimination — is White.  Because White people are in the majority.  Minorities are invisible, unless we make them visible.

In the beginning, you could pretty much guess that anyone writing GLBTQ literature was, themselves, GLBTQ.  If they weren’t, they themselves were in a minority as a straight author who actually gave a damn about us and about what we go through.  There wasn’t any real need to specifically shine a spotlight on GLBTQ authors of GLBTQ fiction; it could just be on the fiction in general.  Recently, though, there’s been an explosion in the interest in GLBTQ fiction — specifically m/m, really. In fact, we could even call it a fad.  Not that we mind — we enjoy it ourselves.  Obviously, we write it and we read it.  We read a LOT, too.  And in all our reading, we’ve found out that it is pretty much a novelty to discover that the author of an m/m book is part of the GLBTQ community.  That’s fine.  We don’t mind.  But it does mean that GLBTQ authors are becoming the invisible minority in their own genre. 

Imagine attending an awards ceremony for accomplishments in African American literature, and almost every single nominee or winner was White.  Wouldn’t you start to think something was wrong?  Not necessarily with the authors, Black or White, but with the system?  Wouldn’t you want to encourage African American kids to become writers somehow?

Elizabeth Bowen - A Bisexual Irish author

Elizabeth Bowen - A Bisexual Irish author

It’s important for the world, especially for kids who are confused about their own identity, to know that there are GLBTQ people accomplishing things.  This is why Harvey Milk and others were and are great proponents of being “out” as being the most effective form of activism.  We have to be visible.  If no one knows who we are, then why are they going to care about what happens to us?  You could make an argument for GLBTQ fiction, even m/m in general, as being a form of this.  Sure.  We won’t say it isn’t.  But it is fantasy.  The real world needs to know about real people.  Maybe LLF’s decision wasn’t enacted as smoothly as it could have been, but it is actually important as a means of shining a spotlight on a group of invisible authors.

Now that that’s taken care of, we’d like to address some of the main issues of the fallout from this decision, and that is the reaction of authors both straight and queer.  It has been, to steal a phrase from the part of the United States Jules is from, A Great Unpleasantness.  (For those of you not up on that particular part of US-history, it’s a reference to the Civil War.)

There’s been mud slung — from both sides of the fence, really — and it’s been extremely ugly. 

Here are some of the things we’re hearing:

 • Unnecessary call backs to racism/segregation – e.g. drinking from separate watercoolers, lynchings. (Google “lynching parties” if you want to know why this is horribly offensive, not just to GLBTQ but to Black folks.)
• Comparing LLF’s decision to the Nazis’ war crimes of murdering swaths of GLBTQ folks along with the intellectuals, Jews, etc.  Because not being eligible for an award is just like being killed by starvation, incinerators, gassing chambers, firing squads, etc.
• “They’re just mad because straight people are writing better gay fiction than gays are!”  Thanks, guys.
• That the decision is an elaborate plot against certain popular m/m authors to prevent them from “sweeping.”  (For the record, they also put a rule in place to prevent sweeping, so this is irrelevant.)
• “After all we’ve done for you, this is the thanks we get!”  Being an ally is not about getting cookies.  If the only reason you do nice things is to get recognition, you’re not actually being all that nice.
• “LAMBDA is now as bad as the Westboro Baptist Church!” Which, among their many heinous crimes, wanted to erect a memorial to the murderers of Matthew Shepard that basically said, “The kid got what was coming to him; he shouldn’t have been a fag in the first place.” Not kidding. Wiki it. We think this is a grossly unjust comparison.
• “We’ll just set up our own awards then!” Okay, fine, if you feel like you need an award, go for it. All the best to you, and we mean that sincerely.
• “Maybe we should just stop writing gay fiction!” If the only reason you’re writing gay fiction is to win awards… Well.
• “Any minority should not be able to limit their own awards to protect or celebrate their minority!”  Those minorities may not agree with you. 
• “Not ready for mainstream assimilation yet, guys, or just unwilling to give up your special victim status?” (Direct quote. Not kidding.)
• “Well, so and so reckons it’s wrong, and S/HE’S gay!”  That may be so, but no person is the spokesperson for their whole social group.  If a gay person then thinks that the decision is just fine, do the two opinions cancel out, or do you just not want to acknowledge their feeling because it doesn’t coincide with yours?
• “Whoever wins this year should know that they won without competition.” What you’re saying is that a gay person can’t win this award on their own merits, or that gay people cannot write books that are worthy competition.

Irshad Manji, A Lesbian Egyptian-Indian Author

Irshad Manji, A Lesbian Egyptian-Indian Author

There’s also been some hurt and offense taken by the straight authors who are not happy that someone called straight-written m/m books “prurient fetishizations.”  We respect that this is probably very hurtful to people who do not consider themselves to be fetishizing gay people in their fiction. 

Well, firstly, let me just say that all erotica involves fetishization of some kind, so let’s not go claiming that it doesn’t exist.  Secondly, this is coming out of the fact that we ARE sometimes fetishized.  Maybe not by you, specifically, and maybe not in your books, but there are some m/m fans who treat Pride celebrations as their own private peep shows.  Same-sex couples at fandom conventions are asked to make out in order to give some yaoi and yuri fans a cheap thrill.  On a recent board, I (Sean) heard someone wish that the first couple to be legally wed in South Africa had been “more photogenic.” As if our struggle for equality takes a back seat to them having something pretty to look at.

And honestly, besides this, sometimes we aren’t portrayed realistically in GLBTQ books and media.  Sometimes our lives are caricatured, or our struggles simplified or overlooked.  Let’s be honest; it’s not all gay bashing and getting thrown out of our parents’ homes.  There are subtler forms of homophobia and oppression that often don’t get portrayed in the genre, many of them from people who consider themselves to be helping.

Tim Conigrave, A Gay Australian Author (with his partner John)

Tim Conigrave, A Gay Australian Author (with his partner John)

This brings us to another important point: Dear Allies, sometimes, it’s not about YOU.  We’re glad you’re on our side, really.  A lot of people aren’t.  But sometimes being an ally means that you have to let us have certain things that you can’t, and it means taking a step back and not taking something personally.  For you folks who came up in Christian Sunday School, remember the parable of the man who had a hundred sheep stealing his neighbor’s only lamb and remember that you have things, through no fault of your own, that the current system ensures GLBTQ people will never have. 
 
The past week has brought us much controversy about the Lambda Awards and their recent ruling – and yes, things could have been done better on their end as well.  But regardless, there has been a lot of vitriol, and strangely enough, a lot of silencing of the voices of those who have already been marginalised by those who purport to be standing up for them in the first place.  Ironic, yes?
 
 
The question now is, in the words of the Buffy cast, “Where do we go from here?”  The Lambdas are setting aside awards for allies.  They want to reward those writing about queers who actually aren’t queer themselves.  We should all celebrate each other.  But we should also respect the measures that minorities sometimes have to take to protect themselves.  In the end, the issue here really isn’t whether or not you agree with Lambda’s decision.  The issue is that we should not be using such a petty thing to attack the people we care about — the people whose lives we write about, who make our careers possible.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

65 comments

  • Hi everyone
    I’m closing off the comments on this post because I think we all had enough time to make our views known. I respect every one’s right to their views in this and every instance, which is why I gave Jules and Sean equal time on the site to post their opinion on this matter.

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    Thanks everyone for your insightful comments and impassioned arguments, pro and con, and isn’t it great to live in a part of the world where opinions can be expressed freely and are not stifled?

    **

    I appreciate everyone who logged on to this post and, in particular, those who commented.

    Reply
  • Batboy:
    I think the only people who should apologize for Lambda’s decisions and their shotty implementation of those decisions, is Lambda.
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    It all comes down to one question. Does the end justify the means?
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    In the end, Lambda created a space where self identified LGBTQ…can celebrate their own. I think you’ll find that if Lambda had broached this issue and asked if everyone thought splitting the awards or creating a new space just for gays or straights (one or the other or both) would be a good idea, I think it would have been well received. I know I’d be on board. And then Lambda could have gone about the business of creating a new division of awards or splitting them. That’s not what happened.
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    The means in which they went about achieving their desired result was sloppy and near sighted. People that were previously welcome and awarded for their participation, were told to get lost and by the way don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Oh, and one last thing…be happy for us. And no, you have no right to feel upset about being no longer welcome where you once were.
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    Lambda invited these people in, gave them awards, and when they become inconvenient or too numerous, kicked them to the curb. “She said the views of outsiders have no weight when members of a community make decisions about their own identity, purpose, or way of presenting themselves.” That’d be true if those decisions didn’t affect anyone else outside of the community. This one did.
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    Lamdba’s decision took people who were once included and turned them into “outsiders”. These weren’t people always standing outside of the glass, looking in. These were people who were at one time sharing a table and then told they were no longer welcome. Lambda created this mess, and the new “outsiders” were caught in the crossfire. Many of whom would probably agree with the need to create a separate space where the community can celebrate their own. Though I think they would have preferred to not have been stepped on in the process and they have a right to that viewpoint.
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    Kaigou, and most people here, are talking about why the end result is important and/or valid. I actually agree with a lot of the points made, but what is missing is much discussion over the means and its consequences. That’s been all but swept under the rug. A few grumblings about how Lambda was sloppy and then it’s right back to why the end justifies the means.
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    It’s become clear that many people feel the end does justify the means. That it’s okay to push people aside, away, or down to get what they want. To tell them that they have no right to their feelings, and any thoughts they have on the issue will automatically be faulty due to their “otherness”. The irony of that alone is stunning.
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    So yeah, I guess we are at an impasse cause to me, the end doesn’t justify the means. It’s not okay to ignore and belittle people that have been rejected and then tell them they have no right to their hurt feelings. Lambda stepped in it, big time. But I can see why this turned ugly when people are excusing or glossing over their bad management because they liked the end result, damn the consequences and people’s feelings. No apologies were needed from anyone but Lambda but a little sympathy and support might have been nice.
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    This could have gone down so differently. It could have been a giant group effort to bring about the necessary changes in a way in which few felt slighted or excluded. Or it could have been a joint effort between gays and straights against Lambda’s shotty management. But what I’m sensing is that there is a lot more tension in the community between supporters and members than anyone had any idea about, including me.

    Reply
    • But once again, that comes back down to “Hey, wait a minute! OUR feelings are hurt, so let us tell you what you should do!” When this started, there were few people coming from the side of those who felt that a ‘safe space’ should be preserved – they were all people who were not of this specific minority feeling slighted and then turning the tables on them. This was why we wrote this article, because we felt, ironically, we were being silenced all over again. Yes, feelings were hurt, but allies would say, Okay, it’s NOT about us. I understand this time.
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      Looking at some of the comments that have been made by supposed ‘allies’ over the past week has, in my darkest moments, made me feel like certain people respect their fake gays more than real ones.

      Reply
  • OK, I was not going to post here about Lambda award, but the picture of Irshad Manji made me say something – she could be gay, but she is also a tool of USA imperialism and racism against Muslims, and she is supported by people who really are NOT friends to gay people (i.e. white racists)ONLY because she uses her background to smear Muslims, while knowning next to nothing about Islam and the ME and knowing no Arabic (I know it from such REAL scholar as Angry Arab (http://angryarab.blogspot.com )
    But she is called “scholar” even though she got NO DPh and so on.

    And no, I am not a Muslim, I am an Atheist,but I was a bit surprised to meet a well-known reactionary’s picture here as an illustration to the actricle about human rights.

    Reply
  • A lot of important things have been said in response to this essay and I am not sure I can think up something as profound as much of what has been said.
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    I wanted to applaud Jules and Kennedy for writing such a thought-provoking essay and doing it in a respectful way, that invites more conversation. The vitriol that can flare so quickly online is scary. It’s easy to be rude to someone you can’t see. (I worked part time as a switchboard operator for a while and I can vouch for that.)
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    It’s shocking to see how quickly fear can fuel anger; fear of being left out of an award contest, fear of losing something, even if you don’t know what it is. I don’t want to rehash the arguments but I would like to say that you have created a forum for reasoned arguments, rather than attacks; for exchange of ideas rather than name-calling, and where people can consider their reactions to this announcement from GLBT.
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    Ally Blue, you have my undying admiration for the honesty and vulnerability with which you revealed your thoughts.
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    Jules and Kennedy, you have demonstrated what courage is, the balls to stand up for what you believe in, even if people throw tomatoes at you; doing what you must to measure up to your standards of what kind of person you should be.
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    I agree with Josh Lanyon on the power of storytelling. There is a certain amount of voyeurism and titillation in writing about the sex lives of other people for sure, but in the end, writing stories where it is okay and normal for two men or two women to love each other DOES make a difference in the world. If only one kid who is unsure reads Two Steps Up (a stellar story by Sean Kennedy) and finds the courage to embrace himself, then you HAVE the changed the world for the better.
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    I’ll pass on an award in the name of recognition and encouragement for gay authors anyday.

    Reply
  • I think the thing that most people seem to be missing or glossing over is that when Lambda previously didn’t exclude straight authors, and then suddenly they did, people’s feelings were justifiably hurt. Yes, I do believe that hurt is justifiable. Lambda didn’t just welcome these authors, they gave them awards. So to turn around as say, “You’re no longer welcome.” It’s going to sting.
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    Anytime a group that was once inclusive is suddenly exclusive, the newly minted “outsiders” are going to feel hurt, betrayed, and set aside. This is true for any group that kicks formerly welcome people out. Again Lambda made this welcome very clear when they gave people they knew weren’t “members” the awards they felt were only due members. I have no idea why they did this, but it was a massive mistake on their part. However, that’s the past; let’s fast forward to the present.
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    What made the situation far worse, and is evident in this post and articles this post has linked to, is that people defending Lambda or even taking them to task, still are not giving any validity to these hurt feelings.
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    You ever get an “I’m sorry, but…” apology? It never sounds sincere. The reason is that everything following the “but” is going to be excuses/reasons that the person hurt, has no right to feel that way. It completely tries to invalidate their feelings. But as we all know, that never makes those feelings go away. It only serves to anger the person further. Cause now not only do they have the initial slight, but now they feel as if their feelings mean nothing to the person “apologizing” because all they are being given is reasons they shouldn’t feel hurt in the first place.
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    In some cases, like that Dreamwidth article, there is no mention of the hurt feelings at all, much less admitting to their validity. In fact it goes far enough to advocate telling the “outsiders” to go somewhere else and also suggests taking away the awards previously given. Oh, and here’s this insight, “However, my disagreements with the wider LGBTIQ† community — of which I am a part — does not in any way validate a non-member’s disagreements. My complaints do not constitute giving you, the non-member, a right to use me as example or justification for your conclusions — ones which, I can pretty much guarantee, I won’t agree with. Why? Your premise will be faulty: you are not a member. Simple as that.”
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    Yes, simple as that. That blatantly states that what I may think or feel is of no merit because I’m an “outsider”. It’s no wonder this blew up to the massive kerfluffle that it turned into when people are touting that as a good representation of how they feel. And the fact that people seem blinded to the irony of the situation only fueled the hurt as well.
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    The sad thing is that I don’t disagree with a great many of these “reasons”. If Lambda had gone about this as “Hey, let’s make something new, just for gay or straight ally authors!” I don’t think anyone would have batted an eye. But to kick people out is something else entirley, no matter how noble or full of merit their reasons are. As long as “members” fail to acknowledge that the newly minted “outisders” have every right to feel what they feel, this rift will never fully heal.

    Reply
    • Sharvie:
      If you’ve read the entire Dreamwidth post and still think what’s missing is a proper apology for hurt feelings, I don’t know what to say to you.
      .
      Kaigou didn’t say your opinions were worthless. She said the views of outsiders have no weight when members of a community make decisions about their own identity, purpose, or way of presenting themselves. Do you really feel the need, for example, to apologize to men who disagree with the way you, and women in general, conduct yourselves? How seriously would you take the hurt feelings of men who were excluded from a women-only event, whether a feminist caucus or a gynecological health discussion? Would you give the excluded men a sincere apology for leaving them out?
      .
      Straight people comprise a large majority. In terms of literary awards, they will typically win about 90% of awards open to the general public; and 90% of awards granted to most other specific groups; and under current conditions, might well also receive 90% of the awards given for queer fiction. If the LLF decides that’s not acceptable, or is no longer acceptable, it leaves straight writers with access to 90% of *everything else except* the Lambda award. And this is seen as a hostile act?
      .
      As Sean said earlier, “Can’t there be ONE space where they can recognise and celebrate their own without it being seen as OMG DISCRIMINATION?” Apparently there can’t; at least, not without a lot of heartfelt apologies.

      Reply
  • Justacat,
    I don’t actually believe the LLF made the change for the purpose of blocking M/M Romance; my intention was to push the conversation along to the next step, to say, ‘suppose they *did* intend to do that; is it all that unreasonable?’
    .
    Justacat quote: “I for one couldn’t actually tell you whether the authors of a purportedly “fetishizing” m/m romance I’m reading is a straight, bisexual, or lesbian woman … So does that mean the LLF thinks it’s okay for a queer woman (or of course a gay man) to fetishize gay men, but not for a straight woman to do so?”
    .
    Tricky question. We would normally ‘fetishize’ something which is considered exotic, foreign, outside ourselves, not something familiar and domestic, unless special purposes or rituals are attached to it. Consider the way a lot of white men regard Asian women. Can an Asian man brought up in an Asian community with 3 sisters and 4 aunts really ‘fetishize’ Asian women? Not in the same, often objectifying, way, at least.
    .
    I have to suggest that writing M/M romances may not be a genuinely helpful way of supporting the community, however good the intentions were. And I acknowledge that they usually are good — not always, but usually.
    I apologize for bringing up yet another jarring racial metaphor, but the whole situation reminds me of minstrel shows. They also presented black men to the general audience in a way they could accept; and many of the performers were actually black men themselves. They still weren’t the voice of African Americans, but white people speaking through black ‘masks.’
    .
    I’m not expressing this well. The best and clearest explanation I’ve read of why queer literature written by queers is *different*, and why it’s important, came from the Dreamwidth post linked above. Here it is again:

    http://kaigou.dreamwidth.org/314949.html?view=3324229
    .

    Reply
    • Batboy,
      This is going further than I want to in this forum – and truthfully, further than I feel entirely competent and confident going in a web-based exchange with people I don’t know, especially off the top of my head, into issues like fetishization, the social psychology of minorities, etc. I wouldn’t mind discussing them more, but in a context in which I could explore and learn and accidentally say dumb things, because I don’t actually have the knowledge I’d need to speak authoritatively…
      *
      So just a few things. I do understand the distinction you’re making – insiders in a group have license to say things to each other that would not be acceptable from outsiders. I’m not going to attempt to get into the issue of whether a gay male author could “fetishize” gay men – I think in the sense we’re using the word it’s possible (see Sean’s comment above), but I guess I’m not that concerned about it either way.
      *
      The only thing I do want to address is the implication in your comment that women-written m/m romances are analogous in some way (not literally, I know) to minstrel shows as a genre. Is this what you’re suggesting? That women-written romance about gay men is by definition “fetishizing” (in the most negative sense possible)? That’s something I feel strongly is not the case – though I guess my debating it would require me to, after all, talk about what I think “fetishization” means to me.
      *
      I’ve done a bit of poking around about the meaning of fetishization and the use of the term, and I’m pretty sure that though it’s indisputable that I love reading m/m romance, I at least am someone who is much more guilty of “idealizing” gay relationships and sex than I am of fetishizing them. I can’t be alone in this. There can be many reasons that women might want to write or read stories involving romantic relationships between men. The blanket generalization that for every woman one of these reasons is that she “fetishizes” gay men is inaccurate and, like any generalization, harmful and alienating. It’s no more true than generalizations such as “all gay men are obsessed with sex.”
      *
      Which isn’t to say anything, really, about LLF, or the Lambdas, since LLF didn’t actually say anything about women writing m/m romance, or fetishizing. It’s more a response to the commentators on the issue who are making this sort of statement.
      *
      As for whether writing m/m fiction is a way of supporting the GLBT community… I think what was in my mind originally when I wrote this was that many *authors* of such fiction are supporters of the GLBT community, rather than that the books themselves constitute support. The books…well, I don’t know. It depends, perhaps; there’s such a wide range. I’ve seen some m/m romances, especially paranormals and mysteries, written by women on the readings lists of local gay book clubs, whereas others are, perhaps, at least a bit more akin to the minstrel shows, as you posit.
      *
      I guess one thing that can fairly be said is that many of them constitute entertainment and escape to at least some gay men, as well as to women! That’s not really the kind of support I was thinking about; still, it’s a good thing, and one thing for all of us to remember is that the LLF’s decision doesn’t affect at all any of our abilities to write or read anything we want, and to get enjoyment and pleasure out of it! 🙂

      Reply
      • Justacat:
        You’re quite right; this is getting well beyond the scope of the discussion. I probably shouldn’t have taken this direction in the first place.

        Reply
  • Sean wrote: “Can’t there be ONE space where they can recognise and celebrate their own without it being seen as OMG DISCRIMINATION?”
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    Of course there must be such a space and its natural place is the Lammies – and I think I said so but perhaps I wasn’t clear enough.
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    I do wonder, though, if the LLF’s failure to adequately quantify exactly what GLBT (they missed off the Q but allowed ‘fluid’) means will bite them in the arse either later this year or in some future year’s competition.
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    It appears to me that the lack of clarity is what I would call in my professional career advising people of that kind of thing “a hostage to fortune”. They are a risky business, and were LLF paying for my advice before going public on their rule change, I’d have suggested they hold it over until they’ve decided exactly what they mean by “the GLBT family”.
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    My concern stems from the experiences I’ve had – and I know others have had – that not all GL people are as accepting of BT people as one would hope, let alone accepting of the wider range of queer/questioning/intersex/asexual folk.
    *

    Reply
  • As a two-time Lambda finalist, I have to say I’m really divided on this issue — which is why I’ve spoken (relatively) little on it.
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    It’s hard to argue with people Like Dean and Victor and so many others who were there at the barricades. I respect them more than I can say. It’s not my place to contradict them.
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    And personally and professionally it is my belief that the most qualified person — regardless of race, religion, gender, orientation — gets the job/award/cookie. This is the directive by which I’ve operated all my life — particularly back when I had a day job and made decisions that did indeed affect peoples pay, jobs, lives.
    *
    However, as much as I believe all this, I also believe that the Lamdas are not — not these days, anyway — simply awards given for literary merit. These awards do have a social and philosophical and politcal significance. Certainly within the GLBT community. What do they mean to the larger literary landscape? I don’t know. I don’t know that it matters.
    *
    If the current direction of the Lambdas mean that a writer like myself who openly uses a pen name, doesn’t use a photo, never discusses my personal or private life or sexual history with anyone but the closest of friends is out of the running then I’M OKAY WITH THAT.
    *
    Really.
    *
    I was honored — deeply honored — by both of my shortlistings, and I will continue to submit books and works to the Lambdas because politically and philosophically *my* belief is that it is no one’s fucking business who or what I am. Or who or what YOU are. But I also respect the Lambda committee’s position, and I feel they’ve got a right to give the award to whoever they like, whoever — by whatever criteria they choose to use — whichever book they feel is most deserving.
    *
    And if that sounds like a contradiction, well, life and people are complicated and these are complex issues.
    *
    I think the mission of “Advocacy, Celebration, and Education” is a lot more important than me. Than you. Than any of us as individuals.
    *
    It’s ironic that we’re all writing these stories about love and tolerance and acceptance, and there’s so much anger and self-righteousness and divisiveness in our small writing community. I’m sure this WON’T be the last word on the subject, but it’s certainly mine. This has been my personal philosophy for most of my life — and continues to be — and you can take the word “brothers” to mean whatever you want it to; I don’t believe MacLeish was leaving womankind out of the equation:
    *
    To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold – brothers who know now they are truly brothers.
    Archibald MacLeish

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  • To come back to something Justacat said earlier: “But the “homophobic,” “fetishizing,” “demeaning” labels being thrown at women writers of m/m romance (and by extension their readers) as a group – I find those nasty, insulting, hugely over-generalizing. Not necessarily never accurate, but certainly not accurate as descriptions of an entire large genre”
    *
    This doesn’t seem to have been addressed by any of the subsequent commentators and I wonder why? Because it’s this aspect of the ‘LLF are right’ group’s argument which gives me pause.
    *
    I do think that the LLF have a distinct point, albeit they went about it in a way one might term ‘hamfisted’, but it also feels (to me) that it’s women in particular whose contribution specifically to gay male literature is not wanted.
    *
    I also wonder, for all their (LLF’s)words about sexuality being fluid, how it would play out if (for example) a bisexual author currently in a relationghip with someone of the opposite sex won, or an asexual author (asexuals being the invisible A). Some commentors in the various discussions are of the opinion everything in the garden would be rosy, but I’m concerned that there would be a wankstorm which would make this one look like a wankstorm in a teacup.

    Reply
    • But Lexin, the truth is there ARE some works that fetishise gay men and their sexual acts – we all know they’re out there – the ones where the men are cartoonish stock characters who indulge in over the top and quite frankly, ludicrous sexual situations in which barely little plot and even less reality connects them. And I’m not going to lie here – some of these books are done by gay men. It is unfair that the worst ones written by women get singled out – but lets face it, they get singled out more merely because of the sheer number of them – more women are writing than men in this genre, therefore they are more ‘visible’. See, it comes back to the whole visibility thing again.

      I can’t speak on behalf of anyone else, but I don’t give a fig if the person is bisexual but in a relationship with the same sex – it is all about self-identification. Virginia Woolf wrote eloquently about loving women, yet she was married to her husband and madly in love with him for decades – that doesn’t discount what she wrote a bit.

      And once again, it is not about ‘not wanting’ fiction by women – it’s about trying to return to the recognition of LGBTQ fiction by LGBTQ people themselves, who are becoming marginalised in their own genre. Can’t there be ONE space where they can recognise and celebrate their own without it being seen as OMG DISCRIMINATION?

      Reply
  • “But this is exactly why you should be able to understand where LLF is coming from…”
    *
    I have to hope the “you” here isn’t actually me, (even though I’m responding anyway), because I think I’ve said about twenty times that I *do* understand where LLF is coming from. I don’t agree that they’re decision is going to advance their interests best in the long run, but that’s something about which minds can differ.
    *
    And the fact that I can understand why some authors, those who have been in the running all along but aren’t anymore, feel bad about this doesn’t mean I personally feel hurt or slapped in the face – I know I’ve been pretty clear about that by this point; once again I have to assume the “you” in your comment isn’t actually “me”! What I do think is that LLF handled this very clumsily – saying, “you should understand because you’re a minority too” works both ways, it seems to me.
    *
    But – clumsiness is not “discrimination” or “lynching” (LLF’s actions are like white people lynching black people?! I missed that, and I’m glad to have…) Disagreeing with LLF’s decision, even feeling hurt about it, isn’t the same as (unapologetically!) flinging ridiculous, harmful, divisive accusations (I think even a “true” ally can disagree, civilly; there’s disagreement within minority communities, after all). You clearly are right that obviously there are people in this community who aren’t truly concerned at all about the interests of the people they ostensibly are writing about, which is, to me, the saddest thing about all of this.

    Reply

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