Sunday, February 5, 2012

In Which I Actually Get a Little Bit Political

I've debated commenting on this issue. Not because I don't have an opinion about it, but because I wasn't sure how much I wanted to tip my hand about myself and about things that have shaped who I am. But the more the debate continues in various corners of the web, the less I can make myself sit back quietly.

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 RWA

The 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.


  1. The RWA is very wrong and needs to either withdraw this competition or change the rules IMMEDIATELY.

    I'm utterly disgusted and very glad I'm not a member. I had planned to apply. Now? Not so much - I have no wish to have anything to do with an association that practises such prejudice.

    1. Me, too. Had aspired for years to join THE club for romance writers. Well, now I'm thinking if I lived this long without them I can probably do without them altogether.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, for letting those that wanted to, get to know you a little bit more, that is humbling for us as your readers, but strengthening too!
    While I am equal parts saddened & disappointed at this whole situation, social media has been getting the message out there, authors who primarily write hetero romance are tweeting and blogging too, so I hope the message gets out that LOVE is normal, and thankfully, blind!

  3. My respect for your eloquence and bravery is immense. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. I salute your courage in taking a stand on this issue. It takes guts to publicly admit to being anything other than heterosexual.

    And it shouldn't. It really shouldn't matter to anyone but those you're romantically involved with what your personal preference is.

    So I went looking for the links and the one with the contest guidelines gave me an error file not found message. So I googled and came across this: ...

    Instead of backing off their unsupportable position, they have cancelled the contest. That's even more offensive than the rule barring same gendered romance.

    Just so you know, I was rather disappointed in your big reveal. I thought it would be something really bad like you eat live goldfish or make hamster porn.

  5. Courageous post. :) All's I can say is, WORD! That and RWA needs to see the wizard about a brain. And quite possibly a heart.

  6. Just one more thing over the years that shows RWA in a bad light. It's no wonder there are some authors who have chosen not to join. They are DEAD WRONG in the position they've taken and I respect you so much for speaking your mind and standing up for yourself, and others. You're the class act here.

    As a heterosexual woman, I have been reading romance since my teens, which was quite some time ago, and I have to say I've found myself reading more and more m/m romance this past year and all thanks to a romance writing team who featured a gay couple in one of their series. I fell in love with a whole new genre! And I'm happy to say discovered some wonderful authors I'm so thankful to have discovered, you included!

    As for the people who judge these contests....if you have an issue with anything you have no business judging any contest!

  7. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. :) I agonized over posting this, but...I'm glad I did.

  8. I'm so glad to read your take on this. I know the contest has since been canceled, and at first glance, the whole thing appears like a moot point. It's not. As you say so simply, it does matter. Perhaps they canceled it because they were scared. Or angry. Or ashamed of themselves. Or perhaps because they refused to get off their high-horses and get with the program. Whatever the reason, it doesn't appear that they have learned anything. Maybe next year -- if they have enough gumption to hold a contest again -- they will do things right. Thanks for speaking up.