Recently, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America has made the decision to disallow same-sex entries from one of their contests. Swiped from Heidi Cullinan's article on the subject:
– Note: MTM will no longer accept same-sex entries in any category.
from the contest rules for the More Than Magic contest hosted by Romance Writers Ink Chapter of RWAThe reason given is that some of the members/judges are "uncomfortable" with same-sex material.
Now, we all have our reading preferences. This person might like kink, that person might like sweet romances. No one is suggesting we should all be reading every possible type of romance out there. Where I have a problem is the fact that paying members of an organization are not allowed to submit to an open competition because their content makes some members -- members who have elected to judge a competition -- "uncomfortable."
Well, to be frank, that makes me uncomfortable.
Because I write gay romance, right? Well, yes and no. There's more to it than that, and this is getting under my skin on more of a personal level than a professional one.
And this is the part where I talk about myself and my past, so to my friends and family who read my blog and don't want to know some of those particulars: Stop reading now.
Those still with me...carry on:
I was twenty-three when I figured out I was bisexual. Some say it really doesn't matter, then, because I was married by that point. Not like I could do anything about my attraction to women, right?
But you know what? It does matter. It's part of who I am. It matters to me, and yet it's something I've largely kept a secret for the last several years. I've kept it to myself, and I kept it from myself for years before that because it was an uncomfortable truth. Something I didn't want to admit, even though the writing was on the wall long before I realized it, because I live in a culture that, no matter how progressive it thinks it is, shies away from and sneers at anything "other."
And eight years later, over a decade into the twenty-first century, while I still find myself debating the consequences every time I think about coming out to even one person, here comes an organization whose definition of a romance includes, quote, "two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work" saying one type of romance, one pairing of two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work, is unworthy of inclusion because those who've volunteered to judge are, quote, uncomfortable.
I know, it's just a contest. It's not the end of the world. But you know what? It's these little things that add up to a culture that still can't offer more than lip service to the idea that being queer is okay. When an organization allows exclusion based on people being "uncomfortable," it validates that discomfort. It acknowledges that the uncomfortable thing is... well, that it's less okay than someone else's discomfort. They could have said "If you aren't comfortable with the material being submitted, with all brands of 'individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work', then maybe you aren't qualified to judge this competition." Instead, they've stated what amounts to, "Yeah, let's not include that, because... eww."
And quite frankly, it makes me feel squicky. It makes me feel dirty. Like there's something wrong not only with what I write, but with what I am.
It validates all the reasons I refused to say "I'm bisexual" to the mirror until I was in my twenties.
It validates all the reasons I still sometimes get sick to my stomach when I think about saying "I'm bisexual" to someone else.
It validates all the reasons I couldn't say "I'm bisexual" until it, according to some, didn't even matter anymore, and it validates all the reasons I put that big blue disclaimer a few paragraphs ago.
Folks, it does matter. And it matters on a level that goes far deeper than reading preferences. Same-sex romance exists because people of the same sex fall in love. People of the same sex who happen to be human beings.
Human beings whose identities exist and matter.