The Lambda Literary Foundation released its new award eligibility criteria today:
- LGBT authors will be recognized with three awards marking stages of a writer’s career: the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one gay man and one lesbian), the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize (to one male-identified and one female-identified author), and the Pioneer Award (to one male-identified and one female-identified individual or group)
- Awards for the remaining Lambda Literary Award categories will be based on literary merit and significant content relevant to LGBT lives. These awards will be open to all authors regardless of their sexual identity
- All book award judges will be self-identified LGBT
I approve of the second and third points. (Not everyone does. For an opposing viewpoint, see Sassafras Lowrey.) Here’s my reasoning. One, if you can’t substantiate (check, prove, police, ensure) eligibility, it’s pointless. Two, if a panel of self-identified lesbians (or trans, bi, or gay folk) think that a lesbian (or trans, bi, or gay) novel speaks to them, represents their lives, then it does; it’s worthy.
As to the first point, the eligibility criteria for the named awards: they’re just plain wrong. Go read this response from Cheryl Morgan–and be sure to read Roz Kaveny’s comment. They’re angry. They’re right.
It’s time for a full and frank discussion of these issues. The Lambda Literary Foundation needs to address trans and bi visibility, equality, and accessibility. Or it should bill itself not as an LGBT organisation but LG(bt).
One small point in LLF’s defence: named awards criteria can’t be changed without the consent of the sponsor who funds the award. Hopefully that consent will be forthcoming soon. Meanwhile, it’s simply not a good enough excuse for publishing these exclusionary rules.
The Lambda Literary Foundation is the world’s foremost LGBT literary organisation. It must live up to that responsibility. It must champion every member of its community e�qually–no exceptions, no excuses. These are difficult financial times, but if an award’s sponsoring body refuses to offer equal access, that award should no longer be administered by LLF.
It’s time for LLF to stand up.
13 thoughts on “It’s time for the Lambda Literary Foundation to stand up”
Thanks for commenting on this. When the announcement of the new criteria came through the queer librarians' mailing list this morning, I reacted in exactly the same way as Cheryl did.
David, you're welcome. I'm just sorry I have to. Sigh.
I'm sorry you had to speak up to, but I'm also glad you did. When I saw that in my email this morning, I was disappointed in the LLF. I have to wonder how we can expect the world at large to be more inclusionary, accepting, and celebratory of all the whole spectrum of QUILTBAG people if our own organizations cannot be.
Do you know the history of the named awards? Do they go back long enough that at the time the restrictions made more sense?
And isn't this an opportunity for someone to step forward with prize money for a new award with more inclusive criteria?
The article I read about this said that you were one of the original champions of the self-identified LGBT writers-only policy that this replaces. I like this change in policy (part 2, above anyway) but would love to see a post from you about your own shift in thinking on the issue.
I know you have a post here somewhere about there being no such thing as “lesbian” writing. And I agree with that post too. But it seems to me LLF still has a place. What is it and how do we define it? These are complicated and context-dependent questions.
Personally I think queer solidarity that cuts across and muddies neat identity categories is where we need to go now and I like number 2 above, because it points to that. And yet, how do we still maintain a certain kind of support for people who do identify with categories that are under- or mis-represented? Or do we need to do that at all anymore? (I think we do, with caution.)
So again, I'd love to hear you wax at length about the complexity of all this.
Lily, no, when I came onto the board the 'new' (now defunct) rules were already in play. I fought to get it changed. In that sense, my thinking hasn't shifted. Any comments I made at the time were as a Board member i.e. “Here's what we're doing. Here's the Board's reasoning.” It was never my reasoning. But being part of an organisation means presenting a unified front in public (even if there's war going on behind the scenes).
LLF's role, to me is clear: to champion queer literature–all producers and consumers, all supporters and funders of that literature. The particulars of how to do that must change as our community changes.
The more the community talks, the more the board listens, the more closely aligned LLF's mission will be with the community's needs.
Elaine, I'd love to see someone step forward to fund more awards.
jennifer, LLF needs more diversity on its board. It's one of my missions.
LLF has lots of awards and having one that is for gay men and one for lesbians doesnt remove all the other options for bi and trans authors. Jesus god, this is not kindergarten, awarding a particular category of writer is not so you can exclude any others, it's about awarding a particular catagory of writer.
We do not all have to win, it's not the fucking Special Olympics for gods sakes.
I have to say the LLF baffle me. They seem to kick themselves in the face every time they open their mouths. I try and think “perhaps they don't realise how exclusionist they are being” but that's stupid of me, of course they know–so the thought remains, why?
Womyn, I believe you are misunderstanding the issue.
Erastes, I'm waiting to see if LLF will correct this error. I'm hoping it is an error, not an indicator of a lack of understanding of the value of inclusiveness.
Let me know – and if there's anything I can do. Cripes . I was never militant, but the LLF have made me so.
Erastes, I'll certainly post about it.
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