I’ve read a number of good posts on the decision by Lambda Literary Foundation to essentially limit their awards to GLBT writers, and I guess I want to get my own thoughts out there, for what they’re worth.
While I think sexuality is a continuum and very few people are totally ‘straight’ or totally ‘gay,’ I consider myself primarily heterosexual, and I certainly have not had the experiences that a lesbian woman would have had. This means that when I’m writing gay characters, I have to do research and draw from my imagination and empathy, and it’s possible that the resulting fiction may be less authentic than a comparable book written by a lesbian or gay man. I’ve seen that argued – that the awards have to change because straight writers can’t portray the gay experience as well as gay writers can.
And if so, that ought to be apparent to the Lambda judges, who are, presumably, members of the GLBT community.
I’ve seen it argued that there’s so much crap written by female M/M writers that it’s necessary to limit the contestants to members of the community. Um, yeah. Because crappy shapeshifting were-tiger slash always gets nominated. Or not. Seriously, badly written crap that fetishizes gay men is not going to be shortlisted for the Lambdas no matter what the sexual orientation of the author is any more than girl-on-girl porn for straight guys is going to be winning any awards.
We come back to the judges, who are members of the community. I have faith that they’re able to identify outstanding works that portray authentic GLBT themes and characters. If that is the goal of the awards.
But apparently, it’s not. Apparently the goal is to support and nurture writers who identify as GLBT. That’s not a bad goal – actually, it’s a fine goal, but it does represent a shift in priorities, and I think the better way for LLF to have handled this would be to announce the new priorities BEFORE submissions began.
I’ve also seen discussion using the analogy of race or gender. Should men be eligible for awards for women’s fiction, for example? I think that depends on the stated goal of the award. If it’s to honor women writers, then no. If it’s to honor books that accurately depict the experience of women, then as long as the book does that, I don’t care if it’s written by the biggest misogynist in the world. I judge a book by what is in that book, period. But that’s just me, and I recognize LLF’s right to structure their awards any way they please. I just think literary awards ought to be first and foremost about the literature.
Finally, LLF used the whole Amazonfail thing as an argument for their position, but Amazon did not target queer writers. They targeted queer-themed writing.