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Discrimination in Romance is Unacceptable

I hadn’t planned on blogging about this on this website. Had instead intended to raise my voice on other blogs and leave it at that. However, in a conversation with an old friend of mine, he asked me when was I planning to give up my dream of trying to change the world. I told him that I’d give up that dream when change was no longer needed.

In light of that conversation I knew that I couldn’t be quiet about this. Especially not with it being Black History Month and a time when many people recognize those who gave their lives fighting for equal rights for everyone. This is certainly a human rights issue, because this isn’t just about writers, if same-sex romance in books makes these people “uncomfortable” then those of us who engage in same-sex relationships and identify as part of the rainbow makes them “uncomfortable” as well. And who knows how long it will be before someone says that BDSM makes them “uncomfortable” and books with interracial relationships makes them “uncomfortable”? Romance will return to being about heterosexual, Caucasian couples engaging in intercourse in the missionary position only, with the man being a “bodice ripper” and “forcefully persuading” the woman into sleeping with him. With that truth ringing in your mind I encourage you to read the blog (and yes, I know I can talk, but trust me this is an important one) and then sign the petition, by following the link below.

This is a portion of a blog post from Heidi Cullinan:

– 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.

Do you?

I of course don’t agree with this policy. In light of this being not just a GLBTQ issue, but a discrimination issue, I knew that I had to speak up. Much as others before me spoke up and marched and protested when faced with discrimination, bigotry and racism.

Here was my response on the petition that I signed:

There was a time in this country when people were “uncomfortable” with Native Americans and so they were forced onto a reservation, this was of course after they killed off as many of them as they could.

Then the time came when people were “uncomfortable” with blacks and so they were enslaved, many of them died on their way towards their enslavement, but their lives were of no account to those who were “uncomfortable” with their presence on Earth. When those blacks were emancipated, there were some people who were “uncomfortable” with sharing the same water fountains and bathrooms and counters with them, so “Separate but Equal” was created and these black people were given separate facilities, separate schools, separate everything to use, oftentimes they were of lesser quality, almost deteriorating in their upkeep, but the people who were “uncomfortable” with them, didn’t feel bad about it, because at least *they* weren’t “uncomfortable” anymore.

Interracial relationships made people “uncomfortable” so it was made illegal. The schools being integrated made people uncomfortable, so there were riots, protests, and those who tried to integrate those segregated schools received death threats and were attacked. This country has endured protests, lynchings, violence and riots because people felt “uncomfortable” with something that was “different.” Some ultra conservative, some racist, some bigoted person felt “uncomfortable” so people were denied their unalienable rights to love, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I am an African American, transgender male homosexual and I am an author of GLBTQ romance. I didn’t join RWA at first, because honestly, I didn’t see blacks in many mainstream romance novels as main characters, and I sure as hell didn’t see any gays in those positions. When I began to see authors sneaking them in I began to have some faith that maybe, just maybe, mainstream romance had recognized that there was nothing “wrong” or “disgusting” or “immoral” about gay romance. Romance is just romance. Plain and simple.

End of story.

To say that *romance* makes “romance writers” uncomfortable not only baffles my mind, it breaks my heart, because it’s just like *people* saying that other “people” make them uncomfortable and we see what happened when that happened before in history (ie, the Holocaust, slavery, Darfur, etc.). The RWA shouldn’t just feel ashamed, they should feel as if they have committed an egregious error not just against members of the GLBTQ community but against all romance readers and people in general by letting this decision stand. Bigotry, discrimination, and homophobia in any form is not to be tolerated from anyone. If we are going to be “uncomfortable” by anything, we should be “uncomfortable” by those things.

So I am giving you all the link to go and raise your voice with the rest of us in the face of this situation. Whether you’re a reader or a writer of GLBTQ or “traditional” romance, this is an issue that affects all of us that love to read about people falling in love. Those of us that are excited by the idea and the prospect of romance and passion and desire.

This is for those of us who believe that love is love.

Sign The Petition Here

-Vicktor Alexander

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