Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Lambda Literary Foundation Changes Their Lammy Award Guidelines to both include Allied writers and highlight GLBTQ writers as Well

It's been an ongoing debate, whether the Lambda Literary Foundation should celebrate, with their annual Lammy Awards, books or authors.

See, two years ago LLF changed their guidelines, saying that only books with great GLBTQ characters written by GLBTQ authors would be eligible.

They wanted to promote GLBTQ writers, and while I think that's a laudable goal, I (and others) felt that the eligibility change was a dis-service to all our allies who write wonderful books with GLBTQ characters and themes. (And many of their past Lammy Winners, like Ellen Wittlinger, author of "Hard Love," are heterosexual Allies to our queer community.)

So it was announced yesterday that LLF has struck a new position moving forward, a compromise which I think answers both needs: celebrate the best GLBTQ books each year, no matter WHO wrote them (or who the authors fall in love with) while adding three new award categories to specifically celebrate GLBTQ authors!

Here's their new policy, taken from yesterday's press release:

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

Bravo, Lambda Literary Foundation!


I think Angie's comment below is very right-on. I, too, hope that LLF re-considers the structure of its three categories of awards for LGBTQ authors to include ALL LGBTQ authors!

Thanks, Angie!



Angie said...

You know, it's a step in the right direction, but looking at their new awards, they seem to be creating more problems while solving old ones.

I remember the mushroom cloud from a couple of years back when they decided to ban books with LGBTQ characters written by straight authors. For that matter, it sounded like they might be looking with a jaundiced eye at any book written by someone who didn't identify the same way the protag did -- a lesbian who wrote gay fiction, for example. I thought that was a ridiculous step backward at the time, and I think it's wonderful that they're going back to judging only the book and not the author.

But the new awards seem problematic too.

the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one gay man and one lesbian)

So if you're a debut novelist but you're bisexual or transgendered or genderqueer, you don't qualify for that award?

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)

Again, genderqueer need not apply for either of those?

Why couldn't they make all three special awards open to all LGBTQ authors? Or all LGBTQ debut authors, in the case of the first one? Leaving people out isn't the way to model the inclusive behavior we're working toward in the larger society, and it seems unworthy of Lambda.

It seems they're fixing one problem but adding in a new one. How hard is it to include all the letters in GLBTQ equally? [sigh]

Maybe next year.


Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Angie, love your comment! Very well-considered, and I've added an addendum to my initial post on this, agreeing with you - the GLBTQ author awards should be open to all GLBTQ authors, including the gender-queer members of our community!

It's a great example of why I love blogging - the back-and-forth discussion through comments really helps me learn and grow!


Lisa Jenn Bigelow said...

Awesome that the Lammies are going back to more inclusive entry rules. That had been bothering me. I think the awards will be more meaningful this way, knowing that the works have been drawn from a wider pool and that the work, not the author's sexual or gender identity, was the most important factor.

Angie makes a great point, though, about the new awards' restrictions. I assume the supposed aim is greater gender balance -- which I do think is valuable, seeing as queer publishing is skewed toward male authors and books about gay men, and often the awards are, too. (I wrote about this problem with regard to ALA's Stonewall Awards.) But to shut out people in the BTQI parts of the cloud is definitely problematic.

Hayden said...

Members of the Outer Alliance (community of writers of speculative LGBT fiction) are up in arms over this rule change. One of them just posted this at Publisher's Weekly:

An Open Letter to Lambda Literary Foundation Co-Chair Dr. Judith Markowitz

Nicola Griffith also did a blog post about it.

A few others from the group posted similar blog posts, but I can't find the links right now. They all pretty much echo each other, though.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks everyone for your comments so far - and Lisa, I really appreciated your essay about the Stonewall awards' nominees lack of diversity - how all the main characters (though they may have been queer) were white men. As a white gay man myself, I need to be more sensitive to the inclusion of queer people of color - and I'm always grateful to see this discussed!

And Hayden, thanks for those links - I like how Rose Fox put it in her open letter!


maddox said...

I also immediately thought of these rules excluding genderqueer and trans and bisexual, and just general queer, authors, and I'm very glad others jumped to notice this as well. [For instance, if I were an author of such great caliber, I do not see myself as eligible for any category. Thank goodness my literary career has yet to take off, while these awards do some catch-up.]

While I see that the publication rate for "gender" is not inherently balanced, I don't see why books should be judged based on the "gender" of the person who wrote them. If a book is merited and deserves recognition, should it really matter who wrote it? In sports, men for the most part outperform women, and there is an acknowledged biological advantage. Is there a similar advantage that I'm not aware of when it comes to writing books?

Angie said...

Maddox -- Is there a similar advantage that I'm not aware of when it comes to writing books?

There's no inherent advantage that makes men naturally better authors than women, but there is a perceived gender bias in the outcome of the Lambda awards anyway. A group of lesbians split off some years ago to start their own award -- I think it's called the Golden Crown award -- because the Lammies were going disproportionately to men.

It's like the Oscars -- there's no inherent reason why either men or women should be less able to compete for an acting award, but the acting awards are divided into male and female anyway to negate the effect of institutional gender bias in our society. (Best example off the top of my head is to look at roles available for men and women leads in movies -- men are the heroes who save the day far more often than women, even in the 21st century, while women are still more often in the Lois Lane type supporting/reward role. Men have more opportunity for splashy, meaty roles, and so would probably win more acting Oscars than women if they competed for the awards.) It sucks that it's there, but it is there and until social attitudes change, separating such things out on artificial lines is the only way to deal with artificial biases.


Amy-Baskin.blogspot.com said...

Really glad to hear this! Thanks for posting, Lee!