Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Lambda Awards - disagree if you must, but put the privilege and homophobia away

LLF made their awards for GBLT authors only. They did this because GBLT people are a marginalised group. GBLT people face discrimination, silencing and prejudice with depressing frequency. We are also frequently turned into fetishes or gross parodies - or rendered completely invisible.

In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be necessary. In a perfect world GBLT authors would have exactly the same chance in all things as straight, cis people would. This is not a perfect world. It is not a perfect world for us and many other marginalised bodies. This is why safe spaces were created. This is why we have places where we can be without having to hide, without having to apologise, without having to adapt - and where we are not the minority, where we are not other.

And so we have the Lambda awards - for GBLT authors to present their work and have it celebrated in a place where straightness is not the norm, where GBLT people are not ‘other’ and something we can be part of without the constant poking and needling that the world loves to throw

We aren’t the only marginalised body that has created an award for ourselves. We have the Orange Awards, the BCALA, the Coretta Scott King Awards. If white people tried to enter an award for black authors or men started whining about not being able to enter the Orange awards we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion - or the people talking about it wouldn’t. Because we’d recognise the whiner as silly and prejudiced.(not to say that there aren't ridiculous people protesting these awards - because there are. Sadly there is no shortage of crazy in the world)

That said, I can understand that some people disagree. I don’t agree with their disagreement but I respect that they do. And it is easily (and has been easily) possible to express disagreement without being an arsehole. No, really.

So why are so many people - so many supposed ALLIES! - resorting to homophobia and extreme privilege? Let me lay it down as I see it:

If you are implying that GBLT authors aren’t as good as straight authors then that’s homophobic and transphobic. Straight and cis authors will dominate because of societal prejudice and because you OUTNUMBER US. Many many many times over.

If you are denying, oblivious or dismissive of the very real societal prejudice GBLT people face or are trying to look at this in isolation to the very real prejudice GBLT people face then that’s homophobic and transphobic and grossly privileged.

If you are comparing these awards being kept for GBLT people to any real life prejudice GBLT people or ANY marginalised group face then you are diminishing us and them - and are being homophobic and transphobic (and likely racist/etc as well) and grossly privileged.

If you even consider using extreme hyperbole - including pink triangles, comparing LLF to the Westboro Baptist church, comparing this to segregation, lynching or mentioning straight authors closeting themselves - then you are being inexcusably and extremely homophobic, transphobic and privileged

If you are discussing any kind of “retaliation” whether it’s “I will never write GBLT again!” or “We’ll make our own awards and exclude GBLT people!” then you are homophobic, transphobic - and a spoiled brat having a temper tantrum.

Now, if you consider yourself an ALLY and have expressed your disagreement in any of these terms then I ask you to relook and rethink. I’m not saying don’t disagree - disagreement is fair enough and can be done respectfully and sensibly (though you may still look clueless and privileged, well, everyone not part of a group can be that) and not resorting to the offensive bilge we have seen smeared around the place.

If you identify as GBLT and are even thinking of cracking your teeth saying these things then PLEASE wake up. You may be deeply involved in the m/m genre, you may have a lot of straight, cis friends, fans and favoured authors in the genre. It may be instinctive to defend them - but, in the name of all that’s holy, THINK. Look at what is being said - LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. You are giving credence to this thinking! You are SUPPORTING the fool memes of “gay special rights” and dismissing homophobia, overlooking transphobia and dismissing societal prejudice. You are not only handing weapons to the our common enemies but you’re sharpening them first!

Yes, disagree - most certainly disagree. But if the disagreement falls into screeching privilege and gross homophobia and/or transphobia then you have crossed a line. And if a friend of yours does it or someone does it in your space you need to slap that down - because no matter how big a friend they are, no matter how big a fan, no matter how much you admire them or how integral you consider them to your genre and community - if you tolerate and accept prejudice, if you let gross straight or cis privilege go unchallenged then it WILL come back and bite us on the arse. It WILL be used against us.

Disagree if you must, by all means. But don’t be a tool of straight and/or cis privilege. Don’t hand weapons to the phobes. And don’t let your spaces be places where such vileness can grow.

ETA To note, as pointed out by Krynn in the comments, there is a steady transphobia here in the sense that there's an assumption that there will be no heterosexuals in the awards - completely ignoring heterosexual trans writers

I admit that I am very lazy with my language too often, and use "straight" as a general term for "heterosexual and cisgendered" which is neither an ideal descriptor nor a common one nor a good one since our trans brothers and sisters do deserve more recognition than that, and I'll reword things to be more appropriate