Dear Dr. Markowitz:
I don’t believe we’ve been introduced. I’m the SF/fantasy/horror reviews editor at Publishers Weekly and a past judge of the SF/F/H Lambda Award.
I am equal parts delighted and dismayed by the press release currently being circulated regarding the changes to the Lambda Awards. Delighted, because I was appalled when the 2009 rule change required us to perform bedroom checks on nominees to determine their eligibility, and further distressed when a friend of mine, also a judge, was informed that a good rule of thumb was to check an author’s bio and see whether a different-sex partner was mentioned. This rule of thumb obviously excludes trans, genderqueer, and queer authors who are in different-sex partnerships (many of whom I was pleased to suggest as finalists and winners during my time as a Lammy judge). I withdrew from judging in great part because of these changes, and I’m very pleased to see that the majority of the awards will be open to all authors again.
I am dismayed, however, by this:
“LGBT authors will be recognized with three awards marking stages of a writer’s career: the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one gay man and one lesbian), the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize (to one male-identified and one female-identified author), and the Pioneer Award (to one male-identified and one female-identified individual or group)”
In other words, non-monosexual debut authors need not apply, and genderqueer and intersex authors as well as those involved in different-sex collaborations are not welcome at any stage of their careers. How can you even think of calling this a new policy of inclusiveness?
I cannot fathom the decision-making process that led to the splitting of these awards along gendered lines, especially since you must be aware of the growing number of queer people who do not identify as gay, lesbian, male, or female. Why not simply state that each award will go to two people a year? Why take such specific and exclusionary steps? Quota systems serve no one, and I say that as an ardent feminist and anti-racist who has long campaigned for more diverse winners and nominees across the spectrum of speculative fiction awards. Enforcing year-by-year equality between two communities while excluding all others only exposes the artificiality of such methods, which have so little to do with who the six most talented and recognition-worthy authors may be in any given year. You may intend these protectionist tactics to keep the awards “safe” from the encroachment of straight authors, but in the process, you’re joining a long and ignominious tradition of queer people who pay lip service to the B and the T while doing everything possible to promote the L and the G.
Saying that only gays and lesbians, and only men and women, are eligible for recognition is really no different from saying that only queer authors are eligible for the awards in general, except that you have made the criteria even more restrictive. You will still need to contend with the deep moral problems that arise from demanding that authors out themselves–in a world that can still be extremely dangerous for overtly queer and trans people, especially people of color, people who don’t conform to gender norms, and people living in repressive and overtly anti-queer cultures–and subscribe to a particular set of definitions. I had hoped for better from the Lammys. I’m very, very disappointed.
I strongly urge you to consider how many talented and worthy authors may be excluded from consideration for these three new awards, and then to update the eligibility criteria to reflect the true breadth and depth of the community you purport to represent and celebrate.
(cc: awards coordinator pro tem Richard Labonté, The Outer Alliance, my personal and professional blogs)
EDIT: Dr. Markowitz has responded to me, and given me permission to post her response:
The Debut Fiction awards, like any other funded awards, cannot be changed without the full support of the funders. Those discussion are in process but LLF needed to release the guidelines before September 1 so that authors and publishers could begin making nominations.
I am baffled as to why one would invite nominations for an award whose nomination guidelines might be in flux, but at least they’re talking about it.
EDIT 2: Jenn Reese points out that the named awards mentioned above were previously established. My objections stand, but my reference to them as “new awards” is erroneous.