So…You may have been following this, maybe not, but last week, RWI (Romance Writers Ink) a chapter of Romance Writers of America, announced the 2012 Rules for their MTM Published Author Contest, and this year they added a new restriction: This year, MTM’s rules & regulations were changed to state:

– Note: MTM will no longer accept same-sex entries in any category.

Now, this contest has accepted same-sex romance submissions in previous years, and some of those submissions have actually won. Here’s the kicker though. Several authors who write same-sex romance who had planned to submit entries contacted contest organizers asking why there had been a change in rules, and the response they got back was that same-sex content made some RWI Chapter Members “uncomfortable”, and that “same-sex was just too much”.

Umm. Yeah.

Uncomfortable? Really?

I am angry about this. I really am. This is discrimination, period.

Romance is defined by RWA as a love relationship between two individuals. For RWI to accept submissions for all other types of romance, and excluding same-sex relationships because they make people “uncomfortable” is discrimination pure and simple. I also find it to be illogical for the following reasons:

  1. As a reader- we all sometimes read things that make us uncomfortable. This should not however, be used to justify censorship  of any kind ever. Some of the best books I ever read made me uncomfortable, because they pushed my boundaries and forced me to question how I view the world. I don’t have any issue with reading about same-sex relationships, and I enjoy good M/M or F/F romance stories as much as I do M/F romance stories. Not everybody feels that way, and I get that. As a reader, we can choose to put our money where our mouth is, and buy the books we like. But my personal opinion, (or anyone’s personal opinion) should not be used to censor or discriminate against any person or group.
  2. The fact that same-sex sex stories were eliminated from the RWI contest because they made some chapter members “uncomfortable” screams discrimination for another reason. One of the categories included in the contest is Paranormal Romance stories. Paranormal romance can be a pretty weird genre. Paranormal romance stories often include unconventional sex which can include things like sex between humans and angels, demons, centaurs, werewolves, vampires, cyborgs, and aliens (sometimes aliens with creepy barbed sex organs that kill the women they sleep with). Some romance novels do contain non-consent/rape scenes too. Somehow all of the stuff described above was acceptable, but not sex between two men or two women? How is this not hypocritical and discriminatory?

So there was an uproar from many people, especially over the weekend. I heard about it first from The M/M Romance Group at Goodreads.com (of which I am one of over 5,000 members; it’s one of the top ten largest groups on Goodreads.com). People were outraged and rightfully so. Many Authors, book lovers, and LGBT supporters from all corners of the US started a petition, blogged, posted, sent e-mails to RWA and RWI, and by Sunday night, RWI had cancelled the contest. Which, judging by the statement on the contest website, was apparently easier for them than actually apologizing.

Here is RWI’s statement regarding cancelling the contest:

RWI Magic Contests

After much consideration, RWI regretfully announces the MTM Published Author Contest has been cancelled. All monies and books received from entrants will be returned as soon as possible. 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. Please note: our contest coordinator, Jackie, is a chapter member who graciously volunteered to collect entries and sort by category. It is unfortunate that she has become the object of personal ridicule and abuse. 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.

 

I can’t help feel that this statement entirely misses the point. And, it is, as Smart Bitch Sarah called it in her blog post, “bullshit”. The statement made on the RWI Magic Contest page honestly sounds like a hastily drafted post by a staffer or volunteer who got a phone call and was told to get something up on their site right away to stop the e-mail bombardment they were experiencing. It comes across as disgruntled and not well thought out. Clearly no lawyers were consulted in the drafting of this statement. It comes across as condescending…(i.e. how dare people be offended)…and defensive…(clearly all you angry people missed the point). It’s certainly not apologetic. Plus eliminating Young Adult (YA) stories from the contest is not the same as eliminating same-sex stories. YA is a separate genre. Young adult books encompasses books for young adults (teens) that are not necessarily romances and don’t usually contain a whole lot of sexual activity. Same-sex romance is still romance with gay couples. Eliminating same-sex submissions would be equivalent to eliminating submission with African-American characters, or interracial couples. For that matter, if the RWI chapter had tried to ban submissions with interracial couples, or African-American characters, we would not be having this conversation. The chapter would have already been disbanded, reprimanded, disavowed, what have you, apologies would have been issued, and the RWA would have issued something much clearer on discrimination than the BS statement below.

And here is RWA’s statement in response to all of the e-mails they received:

RWA Clarifies Its Position Regarding Chapter Contests

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.
Board of Directors
Romance Writers of America

 

So. Yeah. the contest is cancelled, but this isn’t over. I think RWA needs to adopt a NATIONAL Non-Discrimination Policy that applies to all of their chapters. I wrote a letter to RWA encouraging them to adopt such a policy, (below) and will continue to write to them until they do. If you feel the same way, I encourage you to do so as well. LGBT fiction is a growing part of the romance genre, with a growing fan base that the RWA cannot continue to ignore without marginalizing a number of fantastic RWA LGBT member authors. If they don’t do anything, they will lose members over this, and if people’s posts are any indication, have already. So, we’ll see what happens.

An Open Letter to Romance Writers of America.

To Whom it May Concern:

I’d like to encourage the RWA to adopt a NATIONAL Non-Discrimination Policy (enforced by RWA with all RWA chapters) that prevents discrimination of any kind i.e: RWA does not discriminate based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran status or disability.

I am of course writing to you because of what happened this past week with regards to the RWI (http://rwimagiccontests.wordpress.com/) and their (now cancelled) MTM Published Author Contest. I believe that denying authors the chance to enter contests because of the sexual preference of their characters is wrong. I also believe that justifying eliminating same-sex content (or any content) from a contest because some people were”uncomfortable” with it is wrong. (This is the reason that authors were given for the elimination when they wrote in to contest administration and I believe in automated responses from RWA- as listed by several authors on their blogs/postings). Excluding content because some people were “uncomfortable” with it sounds like discrimination to me.

I love books, especially romance novels, and review romance and erotic fiction in my spare time. Many of the books I enjoy have same-sex content. I have observed the outcry from authors (both gay and straight), book bloggers, and many thousands of concerned people on facebook and Goodreads over the past few days, and I add my voice to their numbers. Please adopt a Non Discrimination Policy that makes it clear to all your members and all chapters that discrimination of any kind will not be accepted.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Penelope Wilder

Here are links to some of the incredible posts that people wrote in response tho the Actions of the RWA and RWI:

I will do my best to update this as this matter progresses. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the RWA’s board meeting in March of 2012.

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