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Saturday, February 4, 2012

WTFckery Factor: Romance Writers of America Discriminates Against LGBT Romance


Discrimination and intolerance are hot button issues for me. I’ve been on the end of both. I haven't always been accepted by people, so when a person or a group of people aren’t considered acceptable, it really upsets me.

I’ve talked about how important acknowledgement and recognition is for an author before. It varies for authors because acknowledgment and recognition is subjective. Some believe hitting a list like the NY Times or USA Today, or perhaps a certain amount of dollars they receive in royalties can achieve this. Another way is entering a writing contest, finaling in their category of choice and perhaps even winning it.

The Romance Writers of America has many chapters across the United States, including in other countries. These chapters hold various contests for published authors and writers, where for a small fee you can enter and have your worked judge.RWA has a major contest each year called the RITAS where authors or their publishers can submit their work to be judged by their peers, and depending on how well the work is judged, the book will go onto to final in a specific category and have the chance to win best romance of the year for that category.

When it comes to the romance genre, it appears a “real” romance is a love story between a man and a woman. RWA doesn’t have a LGBT category, so if you’re an author of LGBT romance, you can’t submit for the RITAS. And in regards to the Romance Writers Ink Chapter of RWA, they will no longer accept same-sex entries because “some members of the chapter felt “uncomfortable” with same-sex entries.

Author, Heidi Cullinan brought this to light on her blog yesterday titled: RWA Shouldn’t Be in the Business of Discrimination.

Heidi adds: “When I asked about this, I was told the board made a ruling on same-sex entries in contests and said basically that chapters could make their own judgments based on genre. The heading of the issue was labeled “same-sex entries in contests,” so there’s no question this is the clause that made RWI feel they could pop that line I opened with onto their website, sigh in relief, and move on with their day. Make no mistake. RWA national said this is kosher.”

After reading Heidi’s post, I was enraged. I understand LGBT literature is not for everyone, but I find it funny that an organization like RWA that was founded by women, and for the most part is run and supported by women would turn their backs on LGBT romance and the authors who write them because women know all too well what it’s like to be discriminated against. Women have only had the right to vote in the U.S. for less than 100 hundred years. In other countries, women are considered second class citizens. How hypocritical of an organization like RWA to discriminate against LGBT romance.

What if RWI and RWA decided they weren’t “uncomfortable” with accepting romances with a hero or heroine who has a physical handicap or were Black, Asian, Jewish, Christian Mormon, etc. or the heroine was a size ten or size sixteen when she should be under a size eight because that’s what an “acceptable” woman should be portrayed as in romance?

Why are people more accepting of all types of sexual acts between a man and a woman in romance like oral, anal, bondage, S&M, or what have you? But when it comes to same sex romance, there is an uncomfortability factor regarding two men or two women making love much like a straight couple would? A hero can stick his penis up the heroine’s ass or stick his tongue in her vagina or have her give him a blow job and no one will bat an eye, but when a man sticks his penis in another man’s ass or a woman gives oral pleasure to another woman, it’s considered uncomfortable? Does anyone find this hypocritical? I do.

This sickens me immensely that a national organization like RWA, that has a tough time already being taken seriously by the mainstream media and in some publishing circles would turn their backs on LGBT romance, that in my mind is the perfect example of showing acceptance of love in all forms.

In 2008 I joined RWA. I gladly paid my $95 dues at that time even before I decided I wanted to write and get published. The three RWA conferences I attended and the people I met there amazed me with their intelligence, knowledge and kindness. But as of last year I noticed some major cracks in the organization that rubbed me the wrong way.

RWA heavily promotes traditional publishing. They barely acknowledge digital publishing unless a traditional publisher, like the big six NY publishers decide to publish digitally. I can’t think of any panels at the national conference run exclusively by digital publishers and or their authors unless it was a spotlight panel, and even then that was very far and few between. In the digital world, LGBT romance and fiction excels and has become very successful. As for panels promoting LGBT publishers and their authors, there was nothing. During the three RWA conferences I attended, there was not one panel or book signing only for LGBT romance.

When I jump started my writing and got published, I decided I wanted to write all types of romance and was proud that in one year I published multiple titles that dealt with Straight, Gay (M/M) and F/F romance. My goal was to show romantic love in all forms, regardless of gender. In doing so, I decided I wanted to write more LGBT romance because to be honest it pays better for me and I enjoy writing it.

I joined RWA because it gave me a sense of belonging and acceptance. And when I reach PAN status and was welcomed into that fold all because of a lesbian romance, I thought I had arrived. But apparently what I’m writing isn’t acceptable still and based on Heidi’s post and RWA’s stance on allowing chapters to reject LGBT romance for contests, I no longer want to be part of an organization that doesn’t practice what they preach.

RWA states: in their Code of Ethics:

“The mission of Romance Writers of America is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy.

RWA members strive for excellence and integrity in the profession of romance writing.

Honesty and Integrity. An Industry Professional shall perform his/her duties with honesty and integrity. The Industry Professional shall not mislead, deceive, dupe, defraud or victimize clients, members of the organization, the general public, or any person with whom RWA does business as an Association.”

Nowhere on the RWA website does it state that a romance is only between a man and a woman and same gender love stories are not allowed. “A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.” In their subcategories on the website, there is no mention of GLBT romance.

Honesty and integrity and being an advocate for romance? RWA has duped me big time in regards to this.

So as of last night I emailed RWA and told them I no longer what to be affiliated with their organization and to take me off their PAN authors listed on their website. I refuse to acknowledge my PAN status and RWA any longer. I’m dropping out of the Yahoo Pan author loop that has aided me in so many ways. From this moment on RWA doesn’t exist to me.

Because of RWA’s stance on LGBT romance, when my membership is up for renewal in August, I will let it pass. My $85 dues will be put to better use elsewhere and already have.


Last night I was so angry that I channeled my rage and donated not $85, but $100 to the It Gets Better Project:

Kate,

Thank you for your generous contribution of $100.00 to the Iola Foundation made in support of the It Gets Better Project. We appreciate the support from so many people like you who want to put an end to anti-LGBT bullying.

More than 30,000 unique positive messages have been recorded to show young LGBT people the possibility of a better tomorrow, if they just believe that it will get better. With your donation, we are able to continue to share these messages of hope and the potential for a bright future with LGBT youth.

The It Gets Better Project will continue to thrive and reach LGBT youth as long as people continue to talk about the Project and share their stories. If you haven’t already done so, please record a video message or submit your written story of how your life got better. Let young LGBT people know how life has gotten better for you.

Share the It Gets Better Project with your friends and family by letting them know that http://www.itgetsbetter.org is a great place to watch videos and learn about how people are making it better every day for LGBT youth.

Sincerely,

Brian Pines
Treasurer
Iola Foundation


From now on, my dues that would have been sent to RWA will be denoted each year to a organization like It Gets Better that teaches tolerance and acceptance.

I may not be some big time author who makes millions of dollars or have a big enough platform to make waves and force RWA to rethink their stance on LGBT romance, but I feel if I can do something as small as turning away from them and supporting other organizations that preach tolerance and acceptance regardless of gender, the color of one’s skin or someone’s sexual preference, it’s a start.

RWA, you should be ashamed.

If you feel the same way as I do, please write the Romance Writers of America at info@rwa.org and tell them how you feel.


Katiebabs

27 comments:

Marnie Walski said...

I don't belong to RWA I am not a writer but I am a reader. I read romance lots of it. I read M/F , M/M and M/M/F romance all the time. I like them all. Some of my faves are M/M. Every sub genre has stellar stories and not so stellar stories. It's sad that Romance Writer of America can't see romance exists on many levels.

Intolerance and Discrimination from something like RWA saddens me.

I wish I belonged so I could not renew.

Brie said...

This was one of my favorite comments on that post:

JoAnn Ross says:

I can’t understand why wolves, dragons, vampires, zombies, aliens, and other things that go bump in the night are okay. But love between two humans of the same gender isn’t a “romance.”

I'm angry and saddened by this, I'm not an author but as a reader I think this is insulting and I feel excluded myself because I wish all the books I love could get the same respect, recognition and acceptance.

Marnie Walski said...

@brie -- Thanks for posting that comment. I never thought of that pretty soon it will be only M/F non-paranormal/alien love stories. Then I would get very upset those are my favorite genres.

Where does the line end where does the discrimination stop?

KB/KT Grant said...

The idea of being "uncomfortable" made me go WTF? Straight romance has all types of sex acts, some that made me blush, including heroes in historical romance who force themselves on the heroine while she sleeps and is essentially raped. Yet no one is "uncomfortable" about that.

But oh no, we can't have 2 men kissing or 2 women kissing and showing all types of sex acts because it's "uncomfortable".

JenM said...

Great post. I'm not a writer so I don't have anything to do with the RWA, but I've sent them an email to let them know how much I disagree with their discriminatory stance. I don't read much GLBT romance because it isn't my usual cup of tea, but I fully support it as a valid form of romance.

These hypocritical organizations drive me insane. What business is it of theirs what we choose to read and derive enjoyment from? This is right up there with the same sex marriage issue, which is another one that just drives me crazy. They don't have any problem with Brittany's Spears' 3 day marriage, yet condemn homosexual marriage as being the downfall of civilization. Aargh!

Nita Wick said...

I seldom agree with RWA. But I feel like this is being blown all out of proportion.

RWA National does not exclude GLBT titles. Contests run by the National chapter accept them. They simply defended a chapter's right to run their contest however they wanted. And if GLBT makes them 'uncomfortable' then they don't have to allow it in THEIR contest.

It's one contest. Not all of them. And if this RWA contest can't exclude GLBT titles, then by the same logic, there should never be an RWA contest that excludes heterosexual titles. Sorry, Rainbow Romance Writers chapter of RWA, you can never again have a contest just for GLBT. That's discrimination!

Seriously, people. If you don't like the way this ONE contest is run, don't enter. Ask your friends not to enter. Start a boycott of that contest if you want.

But don't bash all of RWA because ONE local chapter doesn't want to read/judge your books. And don't blame all of RWA National for not forcing their chapter to read/accept them if they don't want to.

KB/KT Grant said...

Nita: The let me ask you this, just as I stated in my post. What if judges didn't want to judge romances that features minority characters or say a hero or heroine based on their religion they practiced in the story? What if the romance was about a character who was mentally handicapped or suffered from mental issues? Would the outcry over that be more justified than if it was over LGBT centric romance?

I also don't understand if someone was willing to judge, did they not realize that same sex romances would be entered? If so and they were uncomfortable reading them, then they shouldn't have judged.

Nita Wick said...

KB/KT-- What if they couldn't get enough volunteers to judge without the guarantee that GLBT titles would be excluded? These are volunteers remember? This is THEIR chapter, not some publicly funded business. Taxpayers aren't funding this. It's a small organization of writers who apparently don't like to read same sex romance. So what? I don't like to read gory mysteries. I am certainly not going to volunteer as a contest judge if you can't guarantee that I won't have to read Stephen King or the like.

And what if they did exclude bi-racial entries? If you can't have a contest that excludes bi-racial, then you can't have contest exclusively FOR bi-racial romance either.

Discrimination is still discrimination when it's reversed.

Stephani Hecht said...

Nita-I will tell you why this situation isn't being blown out of proportion. LGBTQ rights are a huge issue and it's been an uphill battle. Every time we turn around, we find that we have lost yet another teen due to bullying or because others were "uncomfortable" around them. By refusing to take a stance on such an important issue, RWA is basically condoning such behavior.

You talk about discrimination going both ways, well let me tell you what I have to face every day. My son can't get married. He can't donate blood. It will be very hard for him to adopt a child. He may be unable to offer his partner health care benefits. My son can legally be fired from his job. He can be denied housing. I have to watch so-called churches carrying around signs, condemning him to hell. Another driver nearly drove him off the road, simply because my son had the audacity to have gay right bumper stickers on his car. So, I think we can recognize discrimination quite well, since we have to deal with it all the time.

This would have been a perfect opportunity for RWA to show that they don't stand for this kind of hate. I have a lot of younger readers and seeing this kind of discrimination hits them hard.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

A non-profit chapter of a trade organization isn't the same thing as a private club. While the legal standing of the discrimination is not something I have the expertise to speak to, I do agree that morally, this is objectionable behavior (and yet, I agree with Nita that it can be reversed and that bothers me as well. But that would be another post on another day.)

In this issue, though I think authors who live in a world that includes loving relationships of many varieties are merely asking that the trade organization which purports to speak for them, be inclusive.

I am not gay, but have written books with loving gay relationships. I'm not African American, Native American, Chinese, Latina, either, but have written romances featuring all of the above. I write that way because the world I live in is full of interesting people with interesting stories. I can't imagine why any of those should be excluded from the definition of romance.

Nita Wick said...

Stephanie, discrimination *is* wrong. I don't deny that. It's sad. I don't condone it. I don't like it.

But we are talking about what people like to READ here. Forcing a chapter to accept GLBT titles in a contest run by volunteers is not going to change how people treat your son.

RWA as a whole does not discriminate against GLBT. These titles are accepted in the national contests. And as far as I know, they are accepted in all other RWA related contests beside this ONE.

RWA National mandating that GBLT titles be accepted in every contest will not FORCE anyone to change their mind about whether or not they like to read them.

What are we going to do about the reverse problem? Some people read GLBT exclusively. Gasp! Those bigots! {That's sarcasm for those who might miss it.}

Why is it perfectly fine for Rainbow Romance Writers to hold a contest that excludes heterosexual titles, but it's the end of the world when another chapter decides they want to exclude GLBT?

Stacia said...

Nita:

It is perfectly fine for Rainbow Romance Writers to hold a contest that excludes heterosexual titles because it is a special interest chapter, based on content. Just as the paranormal, erotic, Regency romance, and other special-interest chapters can limit their contests to entries based on their content area, so can the RRW.

You're mixing apples and oranges with that particular comparison.

Sable Grey said...

I blogged about this and will say again I think this kind of bigotry in my industry, as both an author and a publisher, is bullshit. There is no place in a genre that focuses on the sexual and personal romance between consenting adults for this kind of discrimination. I'm furious...and I'm not the only one.

Alison said...

Not to be a troll or anything, but I don't think that Rainbow Romance Writers has ever held a contest of any kind, ever.

Which means that this argument about what RRW does and doesn't allow in their contests a moot point.

And honestly, even if they had a contest, I'm pretty sure that they'd allow anything into it.

I am a member of that chapter, but for less than a month, so forgive my chapter ignorance.

Nita Wick said...

For Alison:

http://www.lambdaliterary.org/writers/subs/08/10/rainbow-awards-of-excellence-raes/

Stacia,

So if this chapter (not sure even which one it is and don't really care to know) announced their intention to have a special interest in traditional, heterosexual romance, THEN it would be okay for them to limit their contest?

Apparently it's okay to condemn, to play judge, jury, and executioner. Obviously that chapter MUST be filled with homophobic bigots. They don't like to read GLBT. How could they be anything but bigots?

{big sigh} I suppose it's a waste of time pointing out the hypocrisy in this whole thing. No one ever wants to admit when they are behaving as poorly as those who have offended them.

Stacia said...

Nita:

As far as I can tell, in my conversation with you, the only one to use the words "homophobic" or "bigot" is you.

Please don't put words in my mouth. I don't appreciate it one bit. I'm not the one behaving badly here.

Nita Wick said...

Sorry, Stacia. I should have put some stars or something after "So if this chapter (not sure even which one it is and don't really care to know) announced their intention to have a special interest in traditional, heterosexual romance, THEN it would be okay for them to limit their contest?"

That was the only portion of my post that directed at you. And you didn't answer my question. ;-)

Several people on this thread and all over the internet have accused the chapter members of bigotry, hate, homophobia, etc. It's judgmental and incites just as much division, animosity, and anger as the alleged discrimination. It's hypocrisy at it's finest.

Stacia said...

NIta:

I don't understand your question. The Faith, Hope & Love special interest chapter has contests for both published and unpublished authors, and I don't have a problem with that at all. Christian romance is a popular genre.

What does that have to do with a non-special-interest chapter (i.e., not the Christian romance chapter) banning GLBT romance?

Nita Wick said...

Reworded... Does a chapter need to define themselves as "special interest" in order to focus on traditional, heterosexual romance?

Do you mean they can only limit their contests if they define themselves as a limited special interest group?

If so, that's the first and only argument I could accept for forcing the chapter to accept anything they don't want to.

All the other arguments I've heard are based on an emotional, knee-jerk reaction and the assumption of discrimination.

Stacia said...

Nita:

Those aren't questions I can answer. Those are questions for RWA.

Nita Wick said...

Maybe those are the questions people should be asking RWA to address.

The trouble with asking RWA to enforce a "no discrimination" policy is that it could very well harm the special interest chapters. Next thing you know, FF&P will be forced to accept mainstream historicals. ;-)

Seriously, though. We should be careful what we wish for. Think before we act.

Maybe the current members of that chapter really do have a passion for traditional, heterosexual romance. Maybe they don't like erotica either. Maybe they don't like chick lit. I don't know. I'm not a member of that chapter.

If they did re-define themselves as the "Traditional Heterosexual Romance Chapter" will there be some kind of protest about that? One friend posted on another thread, it's okay to have the NAACP, but we'd never hear the end of it if someone tried to establish the NAAWP. It's a very good comparison.

And we're right back to my original observation: Discrimination is still discrimination even when it's the minority group practicing it.

Zevon Price said...

This kind of nonsense hurts my soul. Love is love, and that should be the end of it. I can't believe that an organization primarily run by and for women could do this. Discrimination is wrong. For women as a group who have so frequently faced it to do it to another group, especially one including other women, is appalling. We should be supporting each other, regardless of race, sexual orientation, or social class, or whatever.

Elizabeth McKenna said...

Thank you for fighting this. You rock.

Rayna Vause said...

Katie,

One point of clarification. Liberty States Fiction Writers. Is not now and has never been affiliated with RWA.

We are a multi-genre group that welcomes all. I'm one of the founding members and an LGBT romance author. I can assure you that you would indeed be welcomed as a member and at our conference. In fact, we will be having a panel on GLBT romance, which includes authors Ally Blue and Tere Michaels, at the Liberty Conference's readers event in March. I did extend an invite for you to be a panelist when I spoke with you a number of months back. The offer still stands unless you've changed your mind.

Best,

Rayna Vause

KB/KT Grant said...

Rayna: Thanks for commenting. I had assumed LSFW was an offshoot of NJRWA and if I was mistaken, I apologize.

I would love to take part in anyway I can if you want, even after my goof here, which again I take full responsibility for.

Nonny said...

Nita:

Were it a matter of volunteers, that would be one thing. However, it's not. I have personally volunteered for chapters I don't belong to because they needed judges for particular categories. This isn't an uncommon practice at all.

Moreover, there have been authors that volunteered to judge GBLT categories for RInk, and were refused. Larissa Ione talked about it on Twitter, and the person who contacted her from the contest confirmed that it wasn't about judges, it was because the group held a vote and the majority were "uncomfortable" with same-sex romances.

How that can be construed as anything but homophobia and bigotry is beyond me.

KB/KT Grant said...

The WI Magic Contest was cancelled:

"After much consideration, RWI regretfully announces the MTM Published Author Contest has been cancelled. All monies received from entrants will be returned as soon as possible. We have heard and understood the issues raised, and will take those concerns into consideration should the chapter elect to hold contests in the future. Please note: our contest coordinator, Jackie, is a chapter member who graciously volunteered to collect entries and sort by category. It is unfortunate that she has become the object of personal ridicule and abuse. We recognize the decision to disallow same-sex entries is highly charged. We also opted not to accept YA entries. We do not condone discrimination against individuals of any sort."

http://rwimagiccontests.wordpress.com/

The also state because they don't take YA submission also, they're not discriminating.