Saturday, February 4, 2012
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:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them how you feel.
Posted by KT Grant at 12:23 PM