strangetwn_god (strangetwn_god) wrote,

Lambda Literary Wank

Once upon a time
It was in Albuquerque, New Mexico
There were these girls that worked at the college
The were really cool...
(They thought so anyway)
The would be delighted to tell you how sua-vay they where
At the drop of a hat
--Frank Zappa, "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats"

So this is shaping up to be the literary fail of the month. The Lambda Literary Foundation announced that among the criteria they will consider for giving out their awards to advance LGBT* literature is self-identification as LGBT*. Heterosexual-identified cisgendered people need not apply. This of course has pissed off a gaggle of writers of gay romance who have given the predictable whines that the contest should be open to anyone who chooses to write about homosexuality. Which, multiple notable winners of the past have, in fact, identified as straight. 

Most of my annoyance comes from the entitlement that insists that the Lambda awards should be an even playing field, while ignoring the fact that the publishing industry currently is not, and works about LGBT* people are crowding out works by LGBT* people, both on the bookshelves and in the critical buzz. As far as I can tell, booksellers are not responding to the current abundance of MM romance and erotica by expanding shelf space, they are doing so by dropping gay studies, history, biography, and other fiction by LGBT* people. 

Straight women as writers of MM romance and erotica are certainly edgy and progressive. They seem to spend as much time telling us how edgy and progressive they are as they do writing fiction. Meanwhile, the mainstream media seems absolutely smitten with the whole phenomena, making it much more covered than gay and lesbian authors, and straight people who dare to write gay and lesbian characters get showered with praise for it. Rowling gets showered with praise for outing characters after publication. And I see scant little sign that MM romance, erotica, fanfic, and yaoi for women (and incidentally men) are literary gateway drug to works by gay men and women. Some have argued that the increasing presence of this genre benefits gay men. Well, FF porn and erotica is over 150 years old, and has shown few signs of elevating the general opinion of lesbian women. I like good escapist erotica and relationship fantasy like anyone else. I got over the idea that it was political activism sometime last century.

The flagship, of course, is Brokeback Mountain, but is it really so great as to be the definitive work of the decade about same-sex relationships? It's not terribly progressive. The protagonists live deeply in the desperate closet, often unable to engage in emotional intimacy with each other. It covers the same ground as Torch Song Trilogy did two decades earlier, with less humor, and lacking the still radical statement that the refusal to embrace same-sex relationships justifies and enables anti-gay violence. Brokeback is a good, even great story, but surely there are other stories that need to be told. And while Proux does deserve praise for writing very well outside of her experience, it's not particularly novel in its depiction of same-sex relationships. Unfortunately, TTT is no longer in print in stage play form.

The LLF isn't saying that straight people shouldn't write about gay issues, it's not saying that people who write about gay issues are bad. It's not saying that those works shouldn't be published, sold, or bought. It is saying as an advocacy organization that it's spending its funds promoting LGBT* writers. And who qualifies as an LGBT* writer? Anyone who chooses to submit a work for publication. And things certainly could have been better had it done so from the start, but it's more than reasonable to do so now.

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