Yanno, as much as I like to have my fun, it can’t be all dinosaur shifters and hillbilly cowboys so brace yourself — serious post directly ahead.
I am a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America) and have been for quite some time. The conference I went to in NYC last summer? Was RWA’s National conference. I’m a member (or have been a member) of several RWA chapters. I pay my dues. I vote. I serve on chapter committees. I go to conferences. I take workshops, network with my peers and stay abreast of industry news. If you write romance, I firmly believe that becoming a RWA member is 100% the way to go and will make you a stronger writer. I’ve encouraged many writing peers to join.
With that said, being a M/M romance writer in RWA is not always a bed of roses. There are prejudices and bigotry in segments of the general population of America. It’d be unrealistic and silly to not expect a certain amount of bleedover. While the bulk of RWA members I’ve met and interacted with have had no issues with romance stories about two men (or women) falling in love, I’m afraid some have taken issue with it. Great issue.
RWA defines romance as:
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. (Emphasis mine. Full text)
Two individuals. In no respect are those individuals differentiated by gender or sexual orientation. LGBT romances are no less romances than stories with heterosexual couples, according to RWA’s own definition.
And yet some still insist on excluding LGBT romance from general romance categories.
Romance Writers Ink(RWI) is a Tulsa, OK based RWA chapter that sponsors an annual contest, More Than Magic (MTM), for published writers. In recent years, LGBT romances have been accepted as contest entries. Many have scored well in the contest, finaled and even won.
This year, MTM’s rules & regulations were changed to state:
– Note: MTM will no longer accept same-sex entries in any category.
No reason for this change is given.
So…I emailed the contest organizer to ask why this change was enacted. The contest organizer replied that RWI chapter members were “uncomfortable” with accepting same-sex contest entries. “Same-sex was just too much.”
Yeah, you read that right.
Romance is defined by RWA as a love relationship between two individuals, but RWI has unilaterally redefined romance as existing between one man and one woman for MTM.
And at RWA headquarters, no one seems to be willing to do anything about that. Chapters, apparently, are allowed to run their contest as they see fit, limiting contest entries by category and genre as appropriate. The only problem with this response is that LGBT is not considered a category or genre by RWA. If you look at the categories and genres for which RWA’s national awards are separated into for Golden Heart and Rita contests (2011 winners list), you will not find a LGBT category. Because there isn’t one. LGBT stories are entered into GH/Rita in the Paranormal category. Or Historical. Or Romantic Suspense. Whatever category fits the story without regard to the gender or sexual orientation of the protagonists.
And yet, RWA is allowing one of its chapters to make a distinction it does not make itself. RWA is allowing one of its chapters to specifically exclude LGBT entries from romance categories regardless of RWA’s own definition of romance as existing between two individuals rather than two heterosexuals.
If you have a few moments, I ask you that you please consider emailing a note to RWA to ask them to step forward to address this wrong. Romance is defined as occurring between two individuals by RWA. RWA has not excluded LGBT pairings from its own contest categories (Golden Heart, Rita), nor created a specific category for LGBT romances. As such, wholesale exclusion of LGBT romances gives every appearance of discrimination, intolerance and bigotry that, by virtue of its inaction, RWA is tacitly approving & condoning on a corporate level. You may email RWA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you feel so directed, you might also like to shoot an email to RWI’s MTM contest organizer at email@example.com.
As an individual, I am one voice. A small voice. Not very important. Easily dismissed and ignored.
Together, we are many voices. I encourage each and every one of you to let your voice be heard. Please join me and other LGBT authors raising awareness about this issue. Email. Tweet about it, using the hashtag #Rom4All (adding #RWA and #LGBT). Share it with friends on Facebook too.
What year is this? Hopefully, it’s the year when the exclusion of LGBT romance from (and by) the wider romance community will no longer be tolerated. Please help us make it happen.
With love & thanks…from the trenches,