Read the full article at Coffee & Porn in the Morning: A Beautiful No: How Richard Herod III Turned a Townhome Rule Into Powerful LGBT Activism.
You may remember the great and terrible brouhaha that came down regarding the Romance Writers of America Oklahoma chapter Romance Writers Ink singling out LGBT entries as no longer accepted in their More Than Magic contest, a contest LGBT romances had won and placed well in during previous years. You may also remember RWA being uncomfortably quiet and cagey during the confusion.
They are quiet no longer. In the minutes from their March board meeting, RWA included are two items of particular note:
4. The Board approved adding anti-discrimination language to the Policies and Procedures Manual as follows: Membership shall not be denied to adults because of race, color, gender, age, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual preference, disability, or political affiliation.
5. The Board urges our chapters to make every effort to ensure that their contests and other services are inclusive. While RWA chapters are affiliated as individual corporations, and RWA Staff and Board are not involved in overseeing chapter contests and other programs, both Staff and Board are available to support and advise chapters on best practices.
Let me begin by making clear this is a huge step forward for RWA. An organization this large never moves with haste, and RWA has a long history of being conservative, not in political flavor particularly but in its desire to embrace change. The fact that this statement came so quickly and easily quite probably is in large part to the public attention the RWI/MTM issue received.
Would I like to see the definition go further? Oh yes. To start, I hope they change the word “preference” to “orientation” as it should be. I’d love to see RWA and everywhere else in the world put down in black and white that discrimination in any form will not be tolerated. I’d love to see equality protection emblazoned everywhere. But I also understand that organizations like RWA have legal entanglements that give new depth to the word “snarl.” I don’t know this for certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that RWA can’t legally constrain its chapters any further than the above two paragraphs, this might actually be as far as they can go. I can see the legal slippery slope, because that’s always how this goes. One clause nailed down doesn’t just open the door you wanted but thousands of others you didn’t know where there. Or maybe they could be that specific, but this is as far as they’re willing to go for now. We’ll likely never know any further details than those two paragraphs provide.
What I do know is that a lot of chapters and individuals will be upset by this, and not just RWI. Some will be upset that RWA made any nod towards accepting all orientations at all. Some will be upset they didn’t go far enough.
No matter what the background stories are, I know one thing for certain: this new language is a great step in the right direction. I’m grateful for swift action on the part of the national board and hope there is never need for any further discussion on the matter, that inclusion will be the new norm for all RWA chapters. I’m proud of RWA for exceeding my expectations and covering a great deal of my hopes on this issue and with an alacrity I did not anticipate. RWA, I am impressed, and I am grateful, and I am pleased.
Just as I did a few months ago, I encourage you to write the board and blog, only this time I hope you are writing in thanks. If you aren’t able to because in your mind RWA didn’t go far enough, I fully understand the deep and personal cuts on this issue. But I hope no matter what you are able to see that if nothing else this is a gigantic first step for a large, complicated, and I repeat, conservative organization. And as far as my chapter, Rainbow Romance Writers is concerned, this is a victory and an important one.
I hope with all my heart we never have to deal with this again, that this truly is some quiet new dawn. If not, we’ll be ready. But I’m going to enjoy this Pollyanna moment as much as possible. I hope you can too.
Last night I was skimming through my Google Reader feed and stumbled on a Minnesota couple’s video explaining why they will vote yes on a Minnesota amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. It really upset me, and when I showed Dan, it upset him too. So we sat in front of my computer for a half hour and talked about our views on same-sex marriage and why we love equality in Iowa and why they shouldn’t vote against it in Minnesota. Then I spent the morning editing it, and I uploaded it to YouTube as a response.
This is how it turned out.
I’m starting a blog series about all the many wild and wonderful communities within LGBT romance, and I’m going to start with one of my personal favorites, the M/M Romance group at Goodreads. I interviewed “Moderatrix Lori,” the chief whip-wielder and head moderator.
Tell us a little about the Goodreads M/M group: how it got started, what it does, etc.
The Goodreads M/M Romance group was started on June 14th, 2009 by author Christie Gordan. I joined the group a couple of months later, hungry for someone to discuss my new found love of M/M romance with. There were only about 11 members when I joined and not much discussion going on so I sent Christie a message and asked her if she would be willing to make me a co-moderator of the group. As a busy author she was more then happy to let me have a shot at growing the group. Jen joined me as a co-moderator a few months later and not long after that we added Jase to our team. 2 1/2 years later we have over 5,300 members in the group and have added two more members to our team, Katie and Stacey Jo. Our vision for this group has always been to provide a safe place for people to discuss their love of M/M romance, talk about their lives, discuss LGBT issues, both political and social and find support among a group of people from all walks of life. It has become so much more than we ever envisioned. We have raised thousands of dollars for LGBT charities, self-published two anthologies featuring both established authors and those just getting their feet wet, produced a group video for the “It Gets Better” campaign, and provided a platform for members to question, discuss and get help with issues that affect not only the readers and writers of M/M Romance but the LGBT community at large.
Would you share with us your personal story, why this group is so important to you?
When I stumbled upon my first M/M romance, I was just blown away. I have always been a gay rights advocate but it wasn’t until I joined a LGBT friendly chorus in 2008 that I became a true activist. Now I was reading these books that were opening up a whole new world for me. I had been focusing on the rights and freedoms we sang about and advocated for but I hadn’t really thought about the personal and relationship issues that many of the members of the LGBT community faced. It really hit home for me when I realized my 18 year old son was gay and was struggling to come out. Even with a mom who was fighting the fight, he was afraid. I was so much better prepared to sit him down and talk to him about it because of the books I had been reading and the people I had met in our group. I knew in my heart that when he grieved for a life he didn’t think he could have as a gay man, that I could honestly tell him he could have it. That someday he would find that one special person, he would have that house with the white picket fence and he would have the golden retriever, the children and everything else he had ever dreamed about. It may seem silly to some that a romance book or a group dedicated to romance books could have such a profound effect on a person, but it does. We see it every day. We see that we are not alone, we see that there is hope for a better future and we see that we’re not all crazy for loving books that for some of us is something we can’t share with anybody in our real life. For some of the members in our group, it is the only place they feel safe and welcome and for that I am deeply and profoundly grateful.
What are some of your favorite features/aspects of the group?
Where to begin. The best thing about our group is that there is something for everyone. From the person who never writes a single post to the regulars who post several times a day, there is always some event, contest, reading challenge, discussion, etc..going on that is going to appeal to a member of the group. We’ve had two, very successful story writing events and are getting ready to start our third. Both have produced anthologies that we’re very proud of. Stuff My Stocking: M/M Romance Stories that are Nice and… Naughty and the multi-volume Don’t Read In The Closet anthologies have garnered widespread success. We’ve introduced readers to established authors they somehow missed and given a platform to new authors that may not have been discovered quite so quickly if not for these events. We just wrapped up the first annual M/M Romance Group Member Choice Awards where our members nominated and then voted for their favorite books in over 40 categories. The real-time chat session we had to announce the winners was well attended and so much fun. We are so fortunate that many of our members are authors whose participation in contests, chats and discussions truly make our group a special and unique place. I also love our creative and fun reading challenges which not only help you decide what to read but also help you discover books you may never have found on your own. We have the greatest group of gay men who willingly share the intimate details of their love life in our Gayology 101 discussions. These threads are designed to answer those burning questions we all have and to help authors work out the mechanics of some of those hot love scenes we’re all so fond of. Another very popular feature in our group is Jase’s Discounts & New Releases. Jase spends hours each day scouring the internet, following blogs and newsletters and keeping his finger on the pulse of what’s new, what’s coming up and where the sales and discounts are.
In addition to all that, we’re a family. We have the most thought provoking discussions and honest dialogue of any group I’ve ever been a part of. We treat each other with kindness and respect and we let our members lead the way into areas that matter the most to them. We also have a lot of fun and try not to take ourselves too seriously. Most of all, we have a lot of heart and I think that becomes evident as soon as you join.
Heidi’s personal note: Authors and readers alike—there is no replacement for this group. Discussions have become heated at times, and like all good families we have our dramas, but nowhere on the internet is there a comparable hub of m/m romance discussion and information. I stumbled into it shortly after my first book came out, and somewhere in the archives is my almost tearful exclamation of, “I have found my spiritual home!”
Visit the M/M Goodreads group today and see if it might not be your home too.
It’s such a loaded, nasty word. It’s negative, and no one ever wants to use it. It’s like “racist” or “homophobic.” “Anti-Semitic” sounds more like a clinical condition than a mindset one shares with Hitler, but it nevertheless carries enough context to send people scrambling for higher ground. “I’m not a bigot. I’m not homophobic. Some of my best friends are [insert marginalized group here, hopefully at least without a slur but sometimes not even that].” Distancing oneself from the label isn’t just knee-jerk. It’s self-protective. No one wants to be a bigot. No one believes they are a bigot.
It doesn’t really matter, though, because bigotry is a condition, and it takes an object. A person must be there to house the bigotry, because without them bigotry is just a nasty concept no one in their right mind would pick up.
As an Iowan, I’ve become cripplingly aware of the nature of bigotry, especially in regards to LGBT rights. Between our landmark Iowa Supreme Court case in Varnum vs. Brien (the decision that led to same-sex marriage being legal in our state) and our status as first-in-the-nation Presidential caucus, our state which is more traditionally plagued by nothing more than bad corn and pig jokes is a constant battleground over whether or not men marrying men and women marrying women will bring about the end of the world as we know it. The issue touches my friends. The issue touches my child. And while we have some incredible native champions, I’m here to tell you, the worst part of facing endless waves of bigotry are not the outright nasty bastards but the people you would normally hold the door for at a restaurant, whose children play beside yours in the mall play lots. The worst part is knowing that very good people are caught up in it and that they believe with all their heart that they aren’t hurting anyone at all, that they are in fact the victims.
That’s the lure, the candy coating that helps the bigotry go down. “I’m a victim too!” Last winter I sat on the floor of the Iowa Statehouse and listened to a parade of Iowans explain how the Varnum vs. Brien decision harmed their families and made them homeschool their children, how it pollutes the minds of their children, how it goes against God. Every last one of them believed all the way to their bones they were on the side of right, and their pastors were there backing them up. Not a single individual objected based on anything but religious principles.
Not a single one of them believed they had anything but a divine right to live in a world tailored to their beliefs. To their comfort. To their preference, to their sense of design fabricated from a text famous for holding the line on every civil and human rights issue in Western culture.
At this point in a discussion like this the Nazi references start coming out, when the fire of righteous indignation reaches its fever pitch. That does seem to be where zealous diatribes go distinctly south, no matter who is holding up the placard. But HITLER and NAZI really are the elephants in the room whenever you bring up bigotry and hate of particular social groups. The only thing worse than being a bigot is being Hitler, who made himself Emperor Almighty of All Bigots. Nobody wants to be Hitler. Nobody wants to be a Nazi.
Nazi is the Little Black Dress of name-calling. That’s what my friend Damon told me when we were discussing this, and it keeps ringing in my head. It’s what you call your enemy when you want not to really zing them hard but look cool doing it.
I wonder at what point in the universe we will figure out that we are none of us Hitler and all of us are, both at once. That just like bigotry, Hitler is a name, a condition, and tossing the title around doesn’t do anything but piss people off and how. The bigger sin is being the bigot, being the shadow Nazi, being the Hitler. Whether or not it’s named, the action is what will do the damning.
– Note: MTM will no longer accept same-sex entries in any category.
from the contest rules for the More Than Magic contest hosted by Romance Writers Ink Chapter of RWA
It’s taken me several days to be able to write this blog post, and the worst part of it is that my job isn’t done with this. As president of the Rainbow Romance Writers, RWA’s chapter for LGBT chapter, it’s my job to address the situation. I intend to, but I admit, at this point I keep reading that above line and feeling heavy and tired and depressed. I try to tell myself it’s because I’ve been felled by a pretty impressive cold for over a week and that it’s what’s making me tired. It’s a good story, and I wish I could buy it. But the bald truth is that I read that line, and every time it just hurts all over again.
The membership of RRW has been braver than me. Several members have emailed to ask why the change; one member got a reply. She was told it was a hard decision, but some members of the chapter felt “uncomfortable” with same-sex entries. That word keeps resonating too. Uncomfortable.
Well, I have to say, RWI. Discrimination makes me pretty uncomfortable too.
I just can’t get over the balls of stating, right there in black and white on a freaking website, “no same-sex entries.” No Irish need apply. Whites only. Pick your discriminatory phrase and insert it right there, because they all fit. Does that seem harsh? Probably only if you’re not gay or passionate about the rights of LGBT persons.
Here’s the truth. LGBT romance is growing more and more every day, but don’t let anyone try and delude you it’s anywhere but at the more sunlit alleys in the ghetto of the publishing world. Despite our very good sales within our digital-first houses, we aren’t even on the map for most New York publishers. Anyone within the genre knows too that LGBT romance gets plenty of flack from LGBT literary. It’s the same fight mainstream romance has with the mainstream lit fic genre (much like snotty religions, they don’t think they’re a genre, just the True Disciples of Book) except LGBT romance gets some nice kicks in the teeth for having straight women in the room. I’d point out a whole hell of a lot of us are bi, but if you know anything about arguments within the alphabet soup, you know that gets a lot of sneers too.
So it’s nothing short of a fine slice across the hand to be skimming through places LGBT romances might submit entries for contests, trying to get more exposure and out of the ghetto—this one is for published books and last year an m/m novel won—only to find a big fat NO GAYS sign.
When I asked about this, I was told the board made a ruling on same-sex entries in contests and said basically that chapters could make their own judgments based on genre. The heading of the issue was labeled “same-sex entries in contests,” so there’s no question this is the clause that made RWI feel they could pop that line I opened with onto their website, sigh in relief, and move on with their day. Make no mistake. RWA national said this is kosher.
I don’t mind someone reading my novel and disliking it. I don’t mind entering a contest and not being chosen. I don’t even mind someone seeing that my books have same-sex romances in them and saying that’s not what they want to read. But I do mind someone discriminating on principle alone. I do mind someone telling me that I’m a genre one can just skip but not recognizing me as a genre for the RITA awards, making me compete against people who have no idea what a ghetto looks like and how hard it is to get out of one. But to say “here you’re a genre, you can’t play” and then “here you’re not, so have fun with your teaspoon while everyone else gets a backhoe” is not fair. And not right.
It hurts. And it’s wearing. I’m supposed to be professional and I’ll get there, but right now I’m just Heidi Cullinan, author and reader and very tired person. You know what, RWA? We write damn good stories. We work very hard. Do we have some stinkers in our midst? Oh yeah. And you know what? So do the m/f books, and you know it. You know what, judges of RWI who are uncomfortable reading about same-sex relationships? I’m uncomfortable with you judging my work like that without reading it. I’m uncomfortable with you pasting RWA on yourself and then saying, with RWA national’s blessing, that you don’t want to read that gay stuff.
What LGBT romance needs are more readers. What we need is exposure and opportunity. We aren’t asking for special treatment, and believe it or not, we aren’t even asking for a genre label. Yeah, it’s hell competing against the full press in the RITAs, but we’re okay with doing it. In fact, we’d rather. We’re willing to work. We’re willing to throw ourselves at the walls of ignorance and nose-wrinkling and discomfort because boys and boys and girls and girls are kissing and wearing each other’s clothes and revealing they’re gender queer. Yeah, we’re in our ghetto alleys, but we are here and determined and ready to work to show you how much we have to bring to the table. And we’re ready to do it over and over and over until people listen.
So give us a chance, eh? You’re “uncomfortable” with our pairings? We’ll work hard to change your mind. But you have to work too. You have to let us play. You have to admit you’re taking our dues and calling us full members, and you need to treat us like them. You need to not hang “no gays” signs on your contest windows. And if you do, you need to be called out on it.
Are you an author of LGBT romances? Are you a reader of them? Are you an advocate of LGBT rights? Please write to RWI’s contest coordinator (email@example.com). Please write to RWA. Please don’t yell and throw glass. You can be hurt, but please be civil. One little pebble thrown becomes an excuse to call us the bullies. And you know? I don’t even think RWA or RWI are the bullies. I think they’re not thinking. I think they’re thinking of themselves and keeping things quiet and easy. I think they don’t think for one second saying “no gays” is the same as hanging “whites only” over a toilet.
If you know that’s exactly what it is like I do, tell them. Politely. Firmly. Over and over and over again.
RWI, RWA: Let same-sex entries into your contest. Change your policies. Don’t discriminate.
If you go to http://www.heidicullinan.com today, you won’t get very far. Credit where credit is due: after reading the how-to’s people posted on twitter, I promptly emailed my
brother webmaster and said, “Um? Hans? Help?” He of course had no trouble, and up the module went.
Why? Because I like the Internet. A lot.
It’s true, the Stop Online Piracy Act in theory is designed for me because I’m an author, and I’m pirated every day. But while SOPA would theoretically stop my books from being stolen, it would stop a lot of other things too. Things I like.
- Coffee & Porn in the Morning
- Facebook (well, sometimes I hate this one, but you know.)
- random pictures I post in my blog
- my blog
- being able to watch the TV people won’t let me buy legally
- finding out of print movies no one is willing to sell me anywhere
- watch old commercials
- get music some fool thinks I’m going to pay triple the asking price PLUS shipping PLUS wait a month for the boat to get here
These are the gimmies. But as an author? Here’s the real shocker, and it’s not popular with many other ebook authors, let me tell you that. I don’t mind the piracy of my books even half as much as most people.
I begrudge people who somehow have decided I’m The Man and they shouldn’t have to pay me and upload and download my books from mass sites because this gives them a hardon, being badass. I begrudge them, but I don’t want them stopped, not like this. Pushed to the wall, I want them stopped, maybe, but I’m very leery on the how, and really at the end of the day I’d rather convince people not to steal from me in ways that don’t threaten the Internet. To be honest, I can’t see exactly how that can happen.
The other issue is that I know damn well some people are getting my books via piracy who couldn’t get them otherwise. I’m sure the actual numbers are low, but even two percent would make me leery to cut them off.
- LGBT teens who can’t even tell their parents they’re gay, let alone that they want to borrow the credit card to buy some gay romances
- people for whom even having the book on their hard drive could get them beaten or killed, either by their government or a spouse or someone else with undue authority, people for whom actual purchasing is either too high a literal or emotional risk
Those are the two biggies, really. There are a million cases where I empathize in the abstract but resent in the specific, but even there I’m not willing to shut down the Internet so people don’t pirate my books. Because no matter what the authors of this bill or any like it say, it’s not going to do anything but take the freedom from the individual and give it to a bunch of bastards who sit behind desks and think they should be able to drive the world like a bus.
I’ll be the first to admit I have conditional ethics. No Kant for me. But I try not to be a hypocrite as much as possible, in that if I want the freedom in one media, I can’t be too pissed when the same terms apply in my own. And no, I really don’t believe every one of my pirated books is a lost sale. I think the percentage is incredibly small, because I do believe that in general, if the rules are fair, most people prefer to play by them. Those who can’t or won’t aren’t going to be moved much by laws. It’s the same way with guns. Legislation really doesn’t stop people who truly want to get them. I can only carry that analogy so far because I get murky in the idea of “need guns,” but you know, I also am not interested in telling someone else what their needs are and aren’t.
If you pirate my books and read this blog — well, you’re going to have to make your own decisions. Whatever kind of money you imagine I make, I don’t. I have piles of debt and cats and a child to take care of, and book sales regularly mean I can afford to participate in the alternative health care measures that frequently are the only thing between me and pain. So if you’re just some smug bastard who gets jollies off stealing, enjoy your karma. But I’m not getting tangled in your fuckedness. The universe will sort you out soon enough, because it always does. I just don’t care about you enough to be bothered.
To everyone else, I’m not judging you. If you can pay, please do. If you can’t, it’s your risk to take, your conscience, your decision. On rare occasion I stand up to sites that pirate, but mostly I try not to think about it. Your reasons for pirating are your own, and ultimately you have to answer to them.
As for the personal passing back-and-forth of files, whatever.
For me everything gets so muddy so fast with piracy. Pirates have been around forever, and there are as many pirates who fall into the profession because they feel compelled as those who just like power. I’ve already spoken on the latter. For the former? I don’t know. I’m not in your shoes. I can’t really judge your reasons, or rather, I’m not going to. Plenty of other authors and artists will think I should. They have some great arguments, and I suspect I’ll see them and possibly some outraged yelling in the comments.
The bottom line for me is that I’m not about punishing the whole room for the actions of a few. I didn’t like it in third grade and I don’t like it now. I really, really don’t care for rewarding one set of bastards because they made emotional public arguments and greased the right palms of the lawmakers.
I like the Internet as it is. Warts and all. If you are for SOPA, I respect your right to be so. As for me and my websites, we shall stand opposed.
If you don’t like SOPA and live in the US and haven’t contacted your representatives, please do so now.
Originally published at Accessline Iowa.
I was a Girl Scout. First I was a Brownie, complete with the adorable brown beanie and the knee socks with weird orange fringe things. We met once a week in the basement of the Catholic church in town, which I remember because it felt so deliciously wicked to meet in Another Church. (This was a very small town.) We made crafts and sang songs and put on skits and had outings. We had cookouts where we made “walking salad” (apples with the cores removed and replaced with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and a caramel) to eat while we went on our hikes where we were admonished to take only pictures and leave only footprints. We learned about Indian mounds (It was less PC in the 70s) and how to properly make a campfire. But mostly, whether in the woods or out, we were taught to be respectful.
The individual lessons blur together in hazy memory, but I am very aware that I was taught to be responsible and above all respectful. In Girl Scouts you behaved, not because you’d get yelled at if you didn’t but because that’s what Girl Scouts were. We were good girls not because we sat still but because we did good things. We were helpers and listeners and doers. We phoned our relatives and hocked those cookies because something good happened from doing that. I can’t remember what it was, but I remember believing that selling those cookies was my duty.
Looking back, the Girl Scouts was a heavy partner in the formation of my character, because in addition to that drumbeat of humility and respect, GSA gave me more than a little inner steel. There was absolutely no activism of any kind, but there was definitely the sense that you stood up for things, quietly, but you stood. We wouldn’t have been caught dead with a placard, but we’d absolutely be the Good Samaritans. Put on that uniform and you transformed into a public servant. Service, that’s what I remember most about Girl Scouts. Respectful service.
I can tell you what Girl Scouts wasn’t about. Hate.
In fact, pretty much Girl Scouts in my experience was anti-hate. In GSA you tolerated at worst and accepted and learned and welcomed at best. By the time I was in seventh grade I’d somehow become one of the most-fun-to-mock kids in that tiny little ghetto, but not at Girl Scouts. We were all sisters, and we were all servants, and not one of us would have been caught dead mocking or being mean. Not in front of a leader, anyway. Even someone you didn’t like had to be “gotten along with.” There were no power plays in Girl Scouting and no name-calling, no nothing that even smacked of exclusion and mockery and disdain. A Girl Scout went out of her way to show respect. Continue Reading →