After much consideration, RWI regretfully announces the MTM Published Author Contest has been cancelled…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….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.
Like many other LGBT romance writers, this turn of events saddens me. Why? The non-apology. YA entries weren’t allowed? All right. Did MTM indicate YA entries were excluded because accepting YA entries made the membership “uncomfortable” and that YA stories were “just too much?” No. Claiming you don’t condone discrimination when you have demonstrably discriminated doesn’t wash. An apology, a sincere, apology for the discrimination as well as the very real furor and damage that discrimination caused in the RWA community as well as the LGBT romance community is in order. Instead, we were presented with (shallow) justifications.
I’m not impressed.
With RWI, I’m not impressed, anyway, but with RWA? RWA’s Board of Directors posted a statement earlier today:
RWA members are served by 145 local and special interest chapters, and those chapters are individually incorporated and governed. So long as chapters fulfill their obligations under state law, as well as RWA and chapter bylaws, and their programs and services support the professional interests of career focused romance writers, policy affords them rather broad latitude in determining which programs and services to offer. Absent policy governing chapter-level contests, RWA’s board cannot intervene in the decisions of individual chapters.
Romance Writers of America does not condone discrimination of any kind. RWA’s policies regarding chapter programs and services will be discussed when the board reconvenes in March.
RWA stepped up to the plate. RWA has explicitly disavowed discrimination and has stated that the board will consider chapter policies in March. RWA listened. Can I put it any more plainly? We have been heard. Does that mean the slipper slope of chapter autonomy to discriminate, which sparked the furor, has been resolved? No. Of course not. It does, however, mean that RWA is addressing this issue. I — and many, many others — will be very interested in seeing what the board does, but I, for one, am grateful for the action RWA has taken.
So…what happens now?
RRW President Heidi Cullinan offered several excellent suggestions (talking points heinously stolen from Heidi’s blog):
- If you are a member of RWA, join the Rainbow Romance Writers to show solidarity.
- If you are a member of RWA and a local online chapter, bring up LGBT rights issues and welcome LGBT romance authors when they join and encourage LGBT romance authors to join your chapter.
- Ask RRW members to help you in your chapter contest judging and volunteer to judge yourself, especially if a contest is open to LGBT entries, and tell them that’s why you’re volunteering.
- Ask for RWA to author a clear statement on non-discriminatory practices in all contests and events.
And for readers:
- Buy LGBT romances, and not just the kind you already like.
- If you like LGBT, try het romance.
- Promote great LGBT romances. Promote independent press. Promote other-than-white-skin-tone romances. Promote quality self-published works. Promote the books who have been relegated to other ghettos, if not as flavors of the reading rainbow you enjoy reading at least as other places which could use some floodlights.
All excellent suggestions, to which I’ll add just one more: a new twitter hashtag, #whyrwa. Why am I (or any other LGBT writer) still a RWA member? Why do we stay? That’s a question that’s been asked in the LGBT community and that answer, sadly, has been drowned out by the outrage over RWI’s discriminatory contest policy. I encourage each and every one of you to take a peek at the #whyrwa hashtag and if you’re a LGBT romance writer who has considered but hesitated to join RWA? Monitor it a bit. Give us a chance to tell you why RWA is — STILL — the organization for romance writers, including LGBT romance writers. There is value in joining RWA, even for (and I’d argue especially for) LGBT romance writers. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, folks. Come see what RWA (and RRW!) have to offer.
I cannot possibly express how grateful I am for the support of each of you as well as the support of my RRW chaptermates and fellow RWA members & allies.
Your one voice? Is beautiful.