Lambda Literary Foundation changes its mind & its awards (again)

by Sunita

I woke up this morning to find out via my feed reader (thanks Teddypig!) that the Lambda Literary Foundation has decided to allow non-LGBT writers to compete for its annual awards. For those have forgotten, or who weren’t paying attention in the first place, or didn’t care, the LLF decided in 2009 that only self-identified LGBT writers were eligible to enter. Prior to that decision, eligibility for the awards was based on book content rather than the orientation/identity of the author (I use both words advisedly, since they can mean different things, LLF used both terms, and it was never clear what they meant by either). A small taste of the debates that followed the announcement of the policy change in 2009 can be found here, here, and here, with a fanhistory wiki roundup here.

The LLF explains their U-turn thusly:

In its review of the LGBT-only policy, the LLF Board of Trustees took into consideration LLF’s mission statement

The Lambda Literary Foundation nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers.

and core provisions in its Bylaws.  The Board also noted that the large majority of finalists and winners of the Lambda Literary Awards have been LGBT authors, but not all of them.  There have also been a small number of outstanding books about LGBT lives written by our heterosexual allies.

I’m not sure if they mean there have been a small number of outstanding books, etc. competing for awards, or only a small number have been written, but whatever.

I don’t really know what to say. I have no insight into the decision-making process of the LLF; they state that as part of the decision-making process

the LLF Board solicited opinions from individuals in the LGBT book community, including publishers, authors, important donors, readers, and casual supporters. Those opinions represented both sides of the issue and were, in many cases, intensely held.

Intensely held. Mmm hmmm. I bet they were.

Judges must still be “self-identified LGBT,” so identity will still provide a gatekeeping function.

In addition, awards recognizing new and mid-career LGBT authors have been introduced. Full text of LLF’s statement is here.

Comments? Reactions? Data-free or data-rich speculation? I’m still trying to figure out what I think, beyond “huh.”

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