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Saturday, 26 September 2009

This? This is my not amused face. The Lambda Awards

The Lambda Awards by the Lambda Literary Foundation are book awards for GBLT authors. In the past they have allowed straight people to submit entries. They have now decided to limit the awards to GBLT authors since an award designed to elevate, protect and showcase GBLT talent became swamped by oodles of straight authors of both gay fiction and m/m romance.

To note: I would have linked as friend’s post who admirably summed this up, but since his entry is private I won’t foist the debate, controversy etc onto his space. It’d be rude. But I will say that I don’t claim originality for all of the ideas expressed here. The snark and slap downs are mine though.

Now, personally I don’t generally care overmuch. Mainly because I don’t pick or choose the books I read based on awards and I have no earthly chance of ever winning any literary award anyway, but I do approve because, as I’ve touched on before (and will likely post more on later), it’s vitally important for marginalised groups to have their own space. In a world that is 99% about straight people, it’s necessary for mental well being, awareness and confidence to have a few corners that are about us. It’s nice to have a place where you aren’t an “other” where you aren’t the odd one, the exception, the anomaly.

The Lambda Awards are one of these spaces and they have taken steps to make sure it stays that way.

Thankfully, most authors - including straight authors of GBLT fiction and m/m romance - have been sensible, respectful and understood fully. I am glad to see that the vast majority of people have brains, decency and grace.

And some people are not happy. In fact, there is a wailing and a gnashing of teeth. And a lot of very ugly straight privilege being waved around that is giving me a headache. Some of the comments are obvious in their stupidity. Since I’ve spent a very unproductive couple of days trying to educate the clueless and venting my spleen on twitter (sorry for falling off the map - I had my righteous anger on) I may as well knock up an LJ post out of it, so let’s look at some whines

1) It’s not about you
This is an award for GBLT authors. That doesn’t mean LLF is saying straight people shouldn’t/cannot/are incapable of writing books with GBLT characters or themes. It’s not saying anything about what straight people can/cannot write - because it’s not about straight people. I can’t emphasis this enough. LLF is not doing this to stop a popular title from winning (seriously, did you buy performance enhancing drugs for your ego?) nor is it doing it to exclude good straight writers because the GBLT writers can’t compete (yeah, see this is when ‘selfish, privileged whining’ crosses the line to active homophobia). LLF is a GBLT award for GBLT authors. it’s not about straight people. Get over yourselves already

2)Unfairness
“It’s Unfair!” Unfair... Seriously? You’re whining at a group of people who are fighting tooth and nail to get basic rights recognised, who are pilloried by major religions and political leaders and who are afraid of openly declaring who we are for fear of physical assault about FAIRNESS because of a BOOK AWARD? How about this? When the straight world gives GBLT people the same rights, privileges and respect as straightness gets THEN you can come and talk about how unfair this book award is.

“It discriminates.” The world discriminates - sadly very much against GBLT people - and that includes GBLT authors. We don’t WANT gay awards. We very much want awards like this NOT to be necessary. We’d love it if the world was equal and we didn’t have to make our own spaces. But it isn’t - and that’s why these awards (and awards that celebrate women authors and POC authors) are so extremely necessary.

3) Prejudice
“The genre I write is marginalised.” This is true - gay romance, m/m fiction, f/f fiction et al is a marginalised genre. Undisputed and we all agree that’s wrong. But why is this LLF’s responsibility to address? It’s about GBLT people not genres (not about you, remember?) This is an attempt to redress very real prejudice against people - and I think I’m not alone in saying that prejudice against GBLT is a wee bit more serious than the marginalisation of a genre.

But yes, it is wrong. But it wasn’t GBLT people who disenfranchised the genre. It is the mainstream (straight) that keeps the genre down - why are you attacking a GBLT organisation and not the mainstream literary awards?

“I’m a woman, so I also face prejudice” agreed. And? The fact you’re a woman doesn’t mean you can’t have straight and cis privilege any more than my being gay means I don’t have male privilege. Arguing you should be able to enter a GBLT award because you face sexism is as foolish as me saying I should be able to enter a woman’s award because I face homophobia.

4)Petulant Flouncing
“This is anti-straight bigotry! You’re oppressing us.” I’m not even going to dignify that with an intelligent response.

“Well we’ll make our own award for straight authors only!” Ummm, why? To prove to the world you’re homophobic? You don’t need to go to all that effort. Believe me. If the award is about the GENRE then there will be no need to exclude authors. If it is about the AUTHORS then you are implying that straight authors are somehow oppressed or discriminated against and need a safe space. Or it could be that you’re stamping your foot and having a tantrum.

“Fine, I won’t WRITE GBLT EVAH AGAIN!” are you saying that you only wrote GBLT in the hope of winning an LLF award? Really? Well, don’t let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.

“Then I’ll have to CLOSET myself to enter the award.” You didn’t. You did NOT say that. Really. You did not compare the horrible reality of gay people having to lie and act and hide to desperately survive in the face of homophobia and internalised self hate with you PRETENDING TO BE GAY TO WIN AN AWARD?! You did NOT make that comparison?

“This is like segregation!” Aw c’mon there’s no justification for that amount of ignorance. You cannot seriously compare the attempt to create a GBLT award for MARGINALISED people with the systematic oppression of black people by racist white society. There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin.

"pink triangles" Uh-huh. First, let me scream "GODWIN!" Then let me just gape in wonder that anyone would think ANYTHING about this is even REMOTELY comparable to the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.

Really I'm in awe at how low this has gone in places and deeply thankful that most responses have been more... moderate