Why Are GBLTQ Writers Paying RWA to Discriminate Against Them?

The most recent and egregious example of discrimination by Romance Writers of America (RWA) against its members was last week when the Oklahoma Chapter declared that GBLTQ entries weren’t welcome, with this brief statement:

MTM will no longer accept same-sex entries in any category.

More Than Magic is a contest hosted by Romance Writers Ink Chapter of RWA.

So a chapter of RWA is allowed to blatantly discriminate against other members without RWA sanctioning them? And the GBLTQ members are paying a hefty annual fee to be treated like third class citizens? What a kick in the balls. I guess their money is good enough for RWA but not their credentials as authors.

This is not the first time that RWA and its affiliates have discriminated against GBLTQ authors. In many competitions GBLTQ entries are given short shrift because RWA “couldn’t find judges to read the entries” What a load of crap! They have a chapter strictly for GBLTQ authors that they could have asked to provide judges, but that would have been too easy and too fair since more entries of GBLTQ books would give the other romance books a run for their money and allow GBLTQ books the opportunity of actually winning some of these competitions that are rigged against them. Last year an M/M book won one of their competitions and RWA immediately implemented it’s NO GAYS rule. This means that any chapter of RWA can discriminate against GBLTQ entries in their competitions by the stroke of a pen.

Is the doubtful “prestige” of belonging to such a discriminatory organization worth the embarrassment of constantly having them spit in GBLTQ authors’ faces? I never understood this desire to be members of an organization with the values that RWA hold dear. It took years before they would accept GBLTQ members and allowed them to set up their own chapter. Heidi Cullinan, president of the Rainbow Romance Writers, wrote a moving piece a couple of days ago decrying the treatment of the chapter’s members, but clearly RWA doesn’t give a damn. All they want are those annual dues and they can’t be bothered by something like the ethical treatment of all their members, not just the ones who write het romance. Why should they care? Clearly Rainbow Romance Writers’ members will continue to fatten RWA’s coffers as they don’t seem to mind the put downs that are constantly meted out by the parent organization.

I could never understand why it’s so important for GBLTQ writers to belong to RWA which treats them so badly. Belonging to the club with the cool kids seems to be a high price to pay in terms of maintaining your self respect. I’m not an author but business organizations should, above all, be professional and ethical, with the same rules for everyone. RWA is not a philanthropic organization – it’s a business, but the board members make their own rules and no one can challenge or question them because they are answerable only to their own hierarchy.

Many authors have commented on Heidi’s post protesting the treatment of GBLTQ authors, but how many of them will revoke their membership and demand their money back? I believe in putting your money where your mouth is and if enough GBLTQ authors resign from RWA and take their money I’ll bet they will change their tune. There is no incentive for RWA to change its policies while GBLTQ writers continue to pay full freight for fringe status. If an organization is not FOR you it’s AGAINST you. Isn’t it time for GBLTQ authors to cease being a sub genre of romance and be their own genre? This latest slap in the face highlights the problem of belonging to an organization with archaic rules and officials – RWA seems to be run by a bunch of women whose sole aim is to maintain the status quo of what “romance” was decades ago and negate anything that smacks of progress and innovation. News flash! The world has changed while they were reading bodice rippers.

One member of RRW who wrote RWA protesting the decision by More Than Magic was told that “some members of the chapter felt ‘uncomfortable’ with same-sex entries.” Lee Brazil, one of the authors who commented on Heidi’s post stated:

“If the judges are uncomfortable reading the entries, then reach out and find judges who aren’t. I mean, what else aren’t they comfortable with? Interracial couples? Oral sex? If you can’t distance yourself and your personal preferences from the equation, you have no business being a judge. Judging is supposed to be impartial, isn’t it?”

Heidi’s post says about RWA, and I quote:

“I think they don’t think for one second saying “no gays” is the same as hanging “whites only” over a toilet.”

I think it’s the same thing.

Heidi is appealing to authors and readers of GBLTQ books to write RWA to protest their decision. Well I’m not going to because I have absolutely no respect for any organization that discriminates against its members. I know what discrimination is like. It’s ugly, it’s bigotry and keeps people in the ghetto. If you would like to join the protest here’s a link to Heidi’s post. There are many eloquent comments on the post in support of GBLTQ writers and I hope that RWA Board members read some of them so that they can understand what a slap in the face their NO GAYS policy is, as well as their support of the Romance Writers Ink Chapter.


  • You know, you raise an interesting point. I saw this post by Heidi couple days ago and now there are few people who had not seen it I would imagine. I wanted to write to them but abandoned the idea because I could not come up with anything civil to say. But while I understand authors wanting to reach to larger audience, as you said if organization clearly discriminates against your stories do you really want to give them money thinking that maybe one day they would be oh so kind to let you participate again? Shakes head.

    • Sirius
      I have too much pride to belong to an organization that takes my money then discriminates against me. I KNOW what discrimination is like which is why I feel so strongly about this. What’s next? GBLTQ writers don’t have any clout within RWA even though they pay the same freight as het authors.

  • I wonder if there is a way of getting the names of the authors in the chapter that decided to say ‘no gays’. Because it seems to me they probably don’t want our money either and I would love to accommodate them.

  • Wave–I found this to be incredibly shocking. I’d been considering joining the organization because so many of my friends are in it. (Why, yes I would jump off a cliff if they all did.) I sent RWA a short and concise email saying that I was considering joining but had decided it wasn’t going to happen.

    • Good for you Ethan. Fattening their coffers only makes them stronger and believe that what they are doing is right. They are bigots, pure and simple.

      They are getting away with discriminating against their own members. Incredible!!

  • Wave, your title is exactly the question I keep asking myself. RWA has been changing the goalposts for its “published author” status ever since Ransom first saw print.. and though I qualifed twice, no way am I going to send those beezers a penny.

    Jason, the list of the RWI board members is here:


    The published writers list is here: http://romancewritersink.wordpress.com/our-published-members/

    Looks like the same people, mostly, except one woman’s husband appears to be their “agent.”

    A pretty small group to be pretending to represent all of Oklahoma, I think.

    The Petition Site petition has about half of its target of 1K signatures. You can add your comment or just sign.


    • Hi Lee
      Thank you for providing the information about the Oklahoma group, but the board of RWA is even more to blame for this latest slap in the face because they changed the rules to permit it.

      I can’t understand paying to join an organization that you know from the getgo discriminates against you.

      • Well, this is one of those curious situations; the RWI chapter made that exclusion–apparently RWA does not set the rules for chapter contests and did not approve this one–per the posts on the SmartBitches blog http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/romance-writers-ink-contest-an-exercise-in-discrimination and Heidi’s long list of comments. Some RWA members are attempting to ameliorate the situation. But since RWA’s been trying to take money with one hand and shove glbt writers out with another, it’s no surprise they’re going for “plausible deniability.” In any case – what do they offer that is worth the humiliation?

    • Thank you for the list of published authors in that chapter. Marilyn Pappano is a fav het author of mine and I will be writing her a nice e-mail stating if she supports the decision of the RWI, I won’t be buying any more of her books in the future.

      I hate boycotting authors, as it reminds me of book burnings and bannings, but this issue is too important. LGBT is a part of the romance genre and if the RWA wants our money, then discrimination has to go.

        • Yes, hiding is so adult.

          I have a long memory and The WayBack Machine finds everything. :)

          It looks like my post to Marilyn Pappano was heard. Guess she on my do-not-buy list.

          I just pre-ordered Suzanne Brockmann’s new book that features a m/m couple (inter-racial too it looks like!)

        • BTW, Marilyn Pappano deleted my comment on her blog. I guess I got my answer, LC. I am very sad because over the last 20 years I have really enjoyed her books.

          But, I reminded her that nothing is ever erased off the Internet. Hence that list is still around:


        • Pulled the “board members,” too. Pappano’s husband was the “agent” for the group.

          Gosh. All they need are some nice white sheets with eyeholes and they’ll be all set.

          Courage of their convictions. Not. They even censor themselves. :hysterics:

  • I agree good for you Ethan. Heidi and other authors are working from within via the RRW Chapter. Hitting them from outside, via their pocketbook is also good, but unless a writer sends a letter saying “This envelope was going to contain my $85.00 membership fees, BUT I have chosen not to join / renew based on RWA’s discriminatory behavior towards LGBTQ authors and stories” RWA doesn’t know that their policies are causing them to loose membership dollars.

    After reading Larissa Ione’s reply in a blog I thought it was the judges that were uncomfortable. Larissa received a reply from the organizers that stated it was the membership not wanting to be associated with LGBTQ stories, even after some had won previous categories of the MTM awrds in previous years. This is discrimination pure and simple.

    So please sign the petition http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/rwa-shouldnt-be-in-the-business-of-discrimination/ or eMail the organizers at jackie.rwimagic@netscape.com or RWA itself info@rwa.org and let them know you are not happy with their policy of discrimination.

    • Mountie
      Thank you for providing this additional information. I hope that those bloggers who frequent this site will take the opportunity to protest this latest slap in the face by RWA.

      • You are very welcome Wave. I do too.

        The writers that choose to enact change from within need all the support they can from continued pressure from outside. Otherwise RWA may think it is OK to carry on with the “as is” and it’s not. I am a reader, not a blogger nor an author and if all I can do is write an eMail a day to RWA asking if the nondiscrimination policy has written and implemented then that is what I will do.

        • If I can come up with something else to say other than – shame on you the bunch of bigots, I will definitely email them and of course sign the petition, there I dont have to think about being civil oy.

          • I posted a very polite letter on one of my fav het series author’s blog stating that if she continues to support the RWI (she’s a member) then I won’t be buying anymore of her books. I hope she comes out against them. If not, then she can kiss my money good-bye. Discrimination is discrimination and sometimes the only way to change attitudes is to hit people where it counts: their pocketbooks.

            I am giving her a chance to make a statement. If I see silence…in essence that means she agrees with the RWI and I guess for the first time in my life I will be boycotting an author which I find so sad.

            • Thanks Lasha

              If more readers demand that their favourite writers take a stand on this issue I think that RWA will have to state their position categorically and make their chapters toe the line. Right now they are taking the position of plausible deniability.

              • It looks like they are all hiding out hoping this blows over as the RWI web site just pulled its Board Members and Published Authors names off its site.

                Wow, what a bunch of cowards. :sad:

                • The next step – count on it – is that they will be crying about how they had to go into hiding because Teh Ebil Ghey was persecuting them. Because any attempt to object to discrimination is an Attack On Their Faith. :sceptic:

                  • They can cry all they want about us Evel Gheys but I now know what that chapter is all about and so does the rest of the writing world.

  • I was also in the process of joining. Boy, am I glad I didn’t. After RWA finally changed its definition of romance, I figured we’d be past this. I guess I underestimated the good people of RWI.

    I did send a letter to RWA and RWI. My main point: if you’re uncomfortable reading romance, don’t be a romance novel judge! These uncomfortable judges should excuse themselves.

    Too easy, right?


    • It’s easier than that, actually. When I read for the Rainbow Awards, I asked Elisa not to send me any yaoi-style stories because I don’t care for the genre. And I had to send back two books, one because a friend wrote it and one because it was from a publisher I work for. RWI had volunteers who were willing to judge GLBT; they rejected them. :curse:

      • Lee

        RWI had volunteers who were willing to judge GLBT; they rejected them.

        So it’s more than being “uncomfortable,” it pure bigotry. What a great bunch of people? 👿 They’re obviously privileged so they have no idea what discrimination is.

    • Yes it is too easy Nadja because it really has nothing to do with the judges. It has everything to do with the small group of writers that run that chapter being “uncomfortable” with having LGBTQ stories in it’s competition. The fact that RWA does not have an nondiscrimination clause in it’s books guiding all it’s chapters also contributes to it as well.

    • Hi Nadja
      Good for you too! It’s a great way to get back at RWA by sending them a letter telling them what you think of their policies.

  • A fellow author posted their letter to the RWA on a publisher loop, and what struck me was how they ended the letter – something along the lines of “I don’t harbor any disrespect.” And all I could think of was…wow. They’re a bigger person than me. I do harbor disrespect against bigots. I haven’t sent a letter because frankly… Yeah. Eloquence in the face of abject hatred isn’t something I’m capable of.

    • Hi DC
      How could a GBLTQ author respect an organization that discriminates against him/her? It’s humiliating that you would respect a body that treats you like you’re worthless.

  • This is the main reason I wanted to help with GayRomLit. I have no desire to hand over any of my money to any group or organization that has zero intention of doing anything to promote either my work or at the very least, the genre in which I write.

    I stopped begging to be loved and accepted by ignorant assholes well over twenty years ago. Let alone paying them to abuse me. I get that some authors write both Het and M/M, so I see why those individuals might stick it out. For me though, the only way any organization like this one would manage to collect any fees from me would be to pry the money from my cold, dead hands.

    Happy Weekend everyone! : )

    • Hi Other Ethan :)

      Thanks for stopping by.

      It’s amazing that RWA has managed to convince GBLTQ authors that taking it up the you know where and paying for it is good for them.

      I won’t pay anyone to stick it to me.

      I understand that belonging to a professional organization is great for your career but it doesn’t put money in an author’s pocket – the readers do.

    • I’m of two minds right now. I had printed out the RWA form to join last week — before this BS. From Canada its $130 to join RWA and then an additional fee to join the various chapters.

      On the one hand I agree completely. Why the hell should I support an organization that won’t support me? So I tore up my registration form and threw it out. Though now I’m liking the idea of sending the registration form, sans cheque, with a note stating that my $130 went to a supportive organization like It Gets Better (which it will anyway but they don’t need to know that. 😉 )

      On the other hand, by joining the evil empire, I can join the Rainbow chapter and be one more voice in the stand against their bigotry and discrimination, and hopefully help make a difference from the inside. Be proud and professional and make sure that I’m putting my best work and best foot forward.

      If you haven’t seen it, Suzanne Brockmann has written a brilliant post on this, as well as posted part of her letter to the RWA. I don’t do facebook so I can’t “like” it, but for those who are, like it like a madman.

      • LC
        Thanks for the link to Suzanne’s post. It was inspired. I wonder how RWA will respond. I recently reviewed her latest – When Tony Met Adam which is M/M.

        Obviously it’s your decision about whether to join RRW but I would wait until RWA changes its discriminatory NO GAYS policy.

        You have to pay $130 to join because you’re from Canada plus you have to pay to join individual chapters? WOW Hope it’s worth it.

        • Wave,
          Yeah, its a bit hefty a fee to join, which is why I’ve been on the fence so long. I do think I’ll wait and see what they’re going to do — what they’d *better* do — though.

          Sirius, same here!

  • Went and signed the petition–one word for it all–despicable–and assholes–okay two words–so sue me!! Oh maybe that was what the Okies chapter had in mind. eh??

  • Am I the only one who finds the tag line on that website that LC posted a bit … exclusionary. “Smart women read romance, we write it”. http://romancewritersink.wordpress.com

    I know that women are probably 95% of the romance reading community, but smart men do read it, even het stuff. :-) And it kind of insinuates that women are also writing it, which is true, but there are men as well, especially in m/m. I guess it just hit me right between the eyes that they would say, our target is women, we are women, our site is hot pink. Thus their decision to exclude men (as protagonists) probably fits with the “image” that particular chapter is giving off.

    I’m not familiar with RWA, so have no clue if that is a national slogan and maybe it’s the PC Canadian in me, but I’d be changing it to “smart people” because people come in all genders and read romance.

    • Romance Writers Ink (RWI) is the group that caused the latest blow up by saying no gay books will be allowed in their competition.

      Of course they are exclusionary!!! No men allowed.

      Romance Writers of America (RWA)
      http://www.rwa.org/ is the big poobah for romance writers. They set the rules about what romance is and is not.

  • Wave, thanks for helping spread the word. Right now I’m still very angry, I’m hurt on behalf of all my author friends who are gay, lesbian, bi or trans, and I haven’t settled down enough to post anything calm and coherent of my own, never mind email the RWA board. I won’t do that until I can be my professional best and I’m nowhere near that right now.

    Here’s how I see the whole mess, FWIW. To my mind, RWI has no excuse good enough. By now everyone knows lack of judges wasn’t a problem, so nothing they can say will redeem them in my mind. (I’m sure they’ll all cry themselves to sleep tonight :roll: ) The RWA national board is another matter. So far, their non-answer to this has been disappointing. But there’s still the chance they might address this, hopefully with the non-discrimination clause Suz Brockmann and others are calling for. If they do, I’ll believe they’re behind me and my fellow authors of GLBT romance. If not, then I don’t know. Personally, when I’ve been to the national conferences and met RWA members, the vast majority have been extremely accepting and eager to hear about what I write. Not only that, but my books go like hotcakes in the bookseller and librarian room. I think most individual RWA members are not bigots. But they’re not the ones getting my check, and that’s kind of a problem, isn’t it?

    Also — and maybe I’m speaking out of turn, being straight — but it seems to me that this is a particularly important issue for authors of GLBT romance who identify as GLBT themselves. Some have been very keenly hurt by some pretty stunningly thoughtless comments on the PAN (published authors network) email loop).

    • Hi Ally

      Thank you for commenting. I know you’re very tired but this issue is obviously very important.

      RWA could have stopped this at the pass by not allowing one of its chapters to blatantly discriminate against another chapter. Was that so difficult? Now the whole “plausible deniability” they are so good at comes into play.

      I read Suzanne Brockmann’s post and it was inspired. Now RWA has to do something because she is too popular for them to brush her off with their usual excuses. Right now RWA is busy pulling their membership lists from their websites so that readers and other authors can’t access them, instead of trying to fix the problem.

      I had no idea that individual GBLTQ members are also being targeted and subjected to negative comments from their peers. It’s outrageous that some authors are taking shots at their GBLTQ peers just because they are not straight. It’s not only the books but it’s now personal?

      • When you’re GLBTQ it is always personal. “Some of my best friends are (fill in minority of your choice) but they just don’t unnerstand they have to be satisfied with what we feel like giving them.” And a lot of them really don’t get that they’re talking about people who are sitting right beside them.

        • What amazes me is that authors can discriminate against their fellow authors and think that’s okay. I wonder which other groups they discriminate against? It’s a “creeping” disease.

      • Yeah, the whole thing made me sick. It wasn’t really directed at the authors, but basically comments more or less defending RWI’s right to exclude GLBT main characters, and totally not understanding how that’s different than excluding a particular genre such as paranormal or inspirational. One authro also brought up the dreaded “what, I don’t understand, why can’t THOSE AUTHORS just write books that fit the criteria and enter THEM in the contest, derp derp derp???”
        That’s not an exact quote, but nevertheless a fairly accurate interpretation, I think. Blargh. Luckily the mods jumped all over it when things started getting ugly and told people to cut it out or get put on moderation.

        As far as removing the membership lists, chapters have control over their websites, not national, so the RWI would be the ones taking down their list. Pretty sure they’ve probably gotten some unpleasant personal emails recently, now why would that be?? Hmmmm… :thinker:

        • So now they want THOSE AUTHORS to change what they write so that their books would qualify for the competitions? Why don’t they just TELL them what to write. That’s an idea. :(

          They are cowards for removing their membership lists. However a few savvy readers already copied their lists so we know who they are.

          Did RWI really think they would get away with what they did? Oh maybe the did. I wonder why?

          • Yeah, that one really just dropped my jaw. OTOH I will say that the majority of authors who spoke up on the PAN list spoke up in support of GLBT authors and the authors of GLBT books. Those who defended RWI’s right to be bigots were in the definite minority. I will also say that no one on either side went in for out and out flaming.

  • They cancelled the contest:

    “After much consideration, RWI regretfully announces the MTM Published Author Contest has been cancelled. All monies received from entrants will be returned as soon as possible. We have heard and understood the issues raised, and will take those concerns into consideration should the chapter elect to hold contests in the future. Please note: our contest coordinator, Jackie, is a chapter member who graciously volunteered to collect entries and sort by category. It is unfortunate that she has become the object of personal ridicule and abuse. We recognize the decision to disallow same-sex entries is highly charged. We also opted not to accept YA entries. We do not condone discrimination against individuals of any sort.”

    • “We do not condone discrimination against individuals of any sort.”

      That is SO good to know. They don’t condone discrimination, my ass.

      The only reason they cancelled the contest was because writers were being urged to withdraw from the contest, and they were becoming a lightning rod for discrimination.

  • I posted about this yesterday and basically said the same things you did. I’ve never been a member of RWA, because of things I’d heard that left me cautious about them. I’ve experienced a great deal of discrimination in the twenty years I’ve been writing gay fiction, so I have pretty thick skin. But this time it stung harder than other times.

    • Hi Ryan

      I know that many authors posted about this latest example of discrimination from one of RWAs chapters, but I couldn’t sit back and NOT say anything.

      Discrimination is discrimination.

      RWA needs to support all its members who write romance, not just the het authors.

  • I note with interest that the first pro-RWA comment on Brockmann’s post is from someone whining about where were the LGBT authors when RWA was discriminating against epubbed.

    As Ally Blue then pointed out, we *were* the epubbed authors, and one of the reasons for the discrimination against epubbed authors was that it was an easy way to keep out the m/m books. And further back, to keep out a lot of the erotic romance.

    Back in 2005, when pro-published m/m romance was still just breaking out into mainstream awareness, I stumbled across the then-current RWA “we’re not discriminating against this type of book, honest, guv” by ego-surfing and finding a comment along the lines of “if they can’t cope with the hero and heroine having sex, they’re really not going to cope with Jules Jones.” Phrased less politely than that. :-) Because the idea of one penis on show in the room was far too shocking to the good ladies of RWA, never mind two. Let alone two penises and no vagina in sight.

    They’ve had to hold their noses and accept the existence of erotic romance. It’s just too popular with the readers to be able to exclude erotic romance writers with nasty little games like saying their horrid porn websites can’t be linked to from chapter websites and their books mustn’t be listed in the “first publication” brag page. They eventually had to stop being quite so blatant about the discrimination against LGBT romance. Both of these things happened in part because there were members who were willing to fight from within, who formed the Passionate Plume and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. Those chapters have done a lot of good, and I would never criticise other writers for taking that route. But I’ve never joined RWA, because every single time I’ve started to think that maybe the organisation is showing signs of moving into the twentieth century, there’s another kerfuffle in which they demonstrate that it’s forever 2 steps forward and 1.9 steps back.

    • Hi Jules

      I note with interest that the first pro-RWA comment on Brockmann’s post is from someone whining about where were the LGBT authors when RWA was discriminating against epubbed.

      There will always be people who will seize any issue for their own personal soapbox.

      I think Brockmann is a terrific advocate for GBLTQ issues since her son came out. No doubt her voice, among others, put a lot of pressure on RWA which I’m sure they in turn wielded on Romance Writers Ink. RWI probably didn’t go down without a fight but they saw the writing on the wall when so many authors threatened to pull entries, and readers as well as other authors accused them of discrimination.

      On a different topic, it still bothers me that all M/M romance is dubbed erotic because I read many books that have no sex scenes or only kissing, but again I suppose that’s another way of keeping these books out of the hands of the general public and repressing the numbers.

      If there’s one lesson to be learned it’s that discrimination is a double edged sword as RWI found out. Their members realized that other authors and readers wouldn’t take this sort of thing lying down, and that they were in danger of being blacklisted themselves

      I think it will take a lot more than this little fracas to change the old guard at RWA — I’m sure they must be pissed at how this played out.

  • if enough GBLTQ authors resign from RWA and take their money I’ll bet they will change their tune

    Honestly? I doubt it. I’d be willing to bet cookies — lots of them, chocolate ones — that if every GLBT author and every author of GLBT romances quit RWA tomorrow, the bigots who make these decisions would heave a huge sigh of relief, say, “Thank goodness that’s over with!” and go on about their business. They’re a big organization, the biggest professional writers’ organization IIRC, and they pull in plenty of money. They did fine before there was any significant GLBT romance genre, and they’d do fine if we all just went away and ignored them.

    The question is, how many other people will also go away, taking their checkbooks with them? If the idea is to hit RWA in the pocketbook, it’d take all the GLBT writers plus a good chunk of the het-writing members as allies, all quitting. Frankly, I don’t see it happening.

    Note that whenever this sort of thing comes up, there are plenty of het-writer members who express dismay and outrage, and before the Rainbow Chapter started (what, a year or two ago, max?) there were GLBT-writers who were members of their local chapters and said that the other members were great people, very supportive, etc. Also note that a few years ago when RWA National tried to define a romance as being a love story about one man and one woman, it was the rank-and-file members who rose up and protested and made them retract it. The bigotry problem isn’t with the majority of RWA members.

    The problem is with some number of decision makers — officers, board members, whoever sets and implements policy over there. Enough of them are either bigoted against GLBT people and fiction, or are willing to follow along when others are, that this crap comes up every few years.

    My guess is that the rank-and-file members will rise up again, as they seem to be doing already, and force National to make some sort of decision about this, which would be great. But the basic attitudes still remain, and until those change — or the membership forces the people with those attitudes out of their positions of power and elects new people with new attitudes in their places — similar crap is going to come up periodically, maybe in slightly different forms, over and over.

    Me, I wasn’t at all surprised by this. It’s unfortunate that this sort of thing isn’t surprising in RWA, but the fact is that it’s not.

    I’m not a member. Aside from the anti-GLBT attitudes, they also have massively negative attitudes toward any writer who’s digitally published, who self-publishes, or who is published under a business model where they don’t get a significant advance — last time I was paying attention, I think the minimum was $2000. I’m digitally published with a small press paying royalties only, and I write M/M. I’ll be damned if I give money to an organization that spits on me twice.

    The creation of the new Rainbow chapter for GLBT writers, and whatever the other new chapter for digitally published authors is called, a couple of years ago had people bouncing up and down about a new era in acceptance and inclusiveness within RWA. I was skeptical then, and apparently I was right to be so. I honestly would’ve loved to have been wrong about that, but there you go.

    The signs-and-portents I’m waiting for all center on the RITAs, RWA’s big national-level contest. The RITAs are the jewel in their crown, their precious baby. When GLBT books start finalling in the RITAs in fairly large numbers, when GLBT books start winning RITAs now and then, when digital-first, no-advance books start finalling in and winning RITAs, then I’ll consider giving RWA my money. Until that happens, any changes they claim are just empty talk.

    I’m not holding my breath waiting.


    • Hi Angie

      Thank you for your very indepth analysis. I can’t even attempt to respond to all of the excellent points you made. :)

      The most important issue you highlighted, the RITAs, which I was vaguely aware of, 😆 (kidding!!!) will be the tipping point in terms of how RWA conducts itself in future. If, as you say, digital GBLTQ books start to win and keep on doing so, and they are fine with that and supportive then maybe that would be the time for GBLTQ writers to consider joining RWA in droves.

      I did know that RWA has deep pockets and the puny dollars that members of the Rainbow chapter contribute to their overflowing coffers was but a drop in the bucket, but it would have made a statement about their discriminatory policies if members left in large numbers and made statements about their reasons for doing so.

      But the basic attitudes still remain, and until those change — or the membership forces the people with those attitudes out of their positions of power and elects new people with new attitudes in their places — similar crap is going to come up periodically, maybe in slightly different forms, over and over.

      I said something similar in the post that it’s the hierarchy of RWA that needs to change, or the organization will be forever mired in what it is today, an unprofessional hodge podge run by a bunch of amateurs who only want to maintain the status quo.

      Thanks again for commenting Angie and I’m still waiting for your post. 😀

  • Sad, very sad. I have had reservations about joining the RWA and I am glad I listened to my instincts. I was just about to talk myself into it when I read this on face book. I am abhorred and saddened and yet at the same time not surprised having experienced this bigotry first hand with a transgender YA I am marketing to agents.
    As much as I would like to see the RWA fall on its knees and apologize, I am with others here who voice the opinion that they never will. I think the best thing that can happen, if it’s not already happened, is for a GLBT equivalent group to form, not associated with the RWA. It would be nice if someone with money could jump start the group to give it punch and power. I guess that’s another thing to add to my “to do” list when I win the lottery. LOL
    Would there be any way to contact GLBT actors, business owners, etc to see if they were willing to back a GLBT based writers foundation?

    • Hi Adrienne

      I am abhorred and saddened and yet at the same time not surprised having experienced this bigotry first hand with a transgender YA I am marketing to agents.

      First, you might consider taking your trans* book to Riptide which has a few transgender releases.

      I think the best thing that can happen, if it’s not already happened, is for a GLBT equivalent group to form, not associated with the RWA.

      I thought of that too but the entity would need a fair amount of start-up capital and dedicated staff to handle all of the technology, financial and marketing issues. Perhaps at some future date, if RWA continues the way it is today, a few people with industry contacts and money such as Brockmann could provide money and public “faces” for such a start-up.

      I have no idea where you could contact GBLTQ actors etc.,to discuss your idea, but a little research project might be a good start. 😀

    • Oh, there are GLBT writers groups – but they tend to sneer at genre writing. I don’t want to see yet another ghetto. The issue here is whether same-sex love is “real” romance.

      The RNA in the UK — Romance Novelists Assn. and the Aussie romance writers groups do not discriminate. I’d love to see RNA start a North American chapter. (If RWA can overcharge Canadian writers to join, maybe a Canadian-based group could open its doors to Americans. Alex Beecroft has offered to ask her local chapter head about the possibility.

      I’m not an “organization” type person — writing is a solitary business – but if anyone’s interested in pursuing the notion, I’m ready to participate.

  • It’s been very heartening to see so many people take this situation seriously, rather than brushing it off like it’s not a big deal. Thank you so much for posting about it! <3

    • Hi London

      It was my pleasure to use this site to highlight what I thought was a horrible example of blatant discrimination. But make no mistake, this issue will continue because I’m sure that RWA and some of its chapters are not happy and they will come out very soon to show their true colours.

  • I find I’m really bothered by this call to cease membership or never join RWA as a way to combat this situation.

    RWA is a powerful voice in romance that has fought for its members on many occasions in areas like contracts and standards. The only reason they do fight, though, is because their paying members demand it of them. They’re required to be our voice because we pay them and they will listen to us because they must. In fact, they have responded to several people’s messages and, though the response has been to say they have no policy in place at this time but do plan to discuss this at their board meeting in March, they have heard us and will act. They’re an organization run by volunteers and a small staff; in my experience with such slow-moving creatures, that they’re thinking and planning already is progress.

    In order to demand more progress, to demand that non-discrimination policy and a resource for locating judges or whatever else we want from them, we have to be RWA members. By paying my dues and joining their groups that show me — a little ebook author of same-sex romances — as being just as professional and financially viable as any M/F author, I’m forcing them to acknowledge me. I have the opportunity to make them hear me too.

    Now add my voice to 100+ other authors of same-sex romances organized into one of their own chapters, and we will most definitely be heard. The Rainbow Romance Writers are proud to stand up and tell our parent organization that discrimination is unacceptable and we won’t be quiet about it. We won’t discontinue our memberships because, to to that, is to fall silent and let them win. We’re in this parade and they will see us, hear us and respect us.

    I am a member of Romance Writers of America, their PAN group and their Rainbow Romance Writers special interest chapter because RWA was made to acknowledge ebook authors, ebook publishers and same-sex romance authors by people who went through hell to step up and demand it years before me. Now I get to be a part of those people who step up and demand equal rights for myself and fellow same-sex authors and I’m damn glad to do it.

    • Very well said, Missy. I am a proud member of the Romance writers chapter. I don’t post a lot, but I read everything.
      I’m not much of an activist. I write m/m romance because it’s freakin’ hot and I love it. Of course I believe that love is love and there’s not enough of it in the world, and my money and my vote goes to any cause that supports gay marriage and the fair treatment of all people.
      Having said that, I have been inspired by all this to go ahead and get my PAN (published author) status with RWA. I know this action is contrary to what some folks have urged, but I believe the best way to affect change within the organization is simply by showing everyone that writers of LGBT romance are as professional and successful as all other members. Change won’t happen unless we have a seat at the table.
      I consider the fact that I can even achieve PAN status with an m/m book a tribute to the LGBT writers who came before me who fought so hard to create the Rainbow chapter. To abandon it now would not be very respectful of all those writers who paved the way to make it possible.

    • I hope you are successful. But I look at the effect of a similar strategy followed by writers of erotic romance — who have been doing this for about a decade now — and it appears to me that they are still in the ghetto. We each follow our own conscience on an issue like this.

      I want to see change in my lifetime — and I think RWA, by turning away not only from GLBT issues, but by pretending that alternative publishing methods are not legitimate, is dooming itself.

      Adaptation is the key to survival and they do not want to adapt. Not one penny from me to support a discriminatory organization.

    • Hi Missy

      There is no incentive for RWA to change its policies while GBLTQ writers continue to pay full freight for fringe status. If an organization is not FOR you it’s AGAINST you.

      I stand by what I said in my post. Discrimination is discrimination, no matter how you cut it.

      You said:
      They’re an organization run by volunteers and a small staff; in my experience with such slow-moving creatures, that they’re thinking and planning already is progress.

      Perhaps it’s a mind set. You can’t change the way people think without something like a tsunami. Maybe the staff are mired in the 60s.

      You can change from within or from outside an organization, it’s a matter of choice, but I would suggest that until RWA shows the majority of GBLTQ authors that they are really advocating on their behalf they will be slow to jump on their bandwagon.

      I have belonged to many business organizations that are run professionally. Maybe RWA needs to invest some of the money they collect in staff who don’t have a vested interest in keeping things the way they were.

      Everyone has a different point of view on this issue but if you have experienced real discrimination, as I have, my experience says that when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

      • In a large, entrenched organization like RWA, nothing changes unless you MAKE it change, and that can only be done by pushing from the inside. The old guard can’t ignore us when we’re standing in the middle of their living room waving our big ol’ rainbow flag and chanting 😎

        • Ally

          The old guard can’t ignore us when we’re standing in the middle of their living room waving our big ol’ rainbow flag and chanting

          I have this picture of you holding the flag and chanting. I needed a laugh Ally and you just gave it to me.

          You made some excellent points and I think change is possible both from within or outside an organization.

          I hope that the RWA meeting in March resolves some of these issues but I’m not holding my breath. Here’s part of their press release:

          So long as chapters fulfill their obligations under state law, as well as RWA and chapter bylaws, and their programs and services support the professional interests of career focused romance writers, policy affords them rather broad latitude in determining which programs and services to offer.

          Absent policy governing chapter-level contests, RWA’s board cannot intervene in the decisions of individual chapters.

          I’m not getting any warm and fuzzies that this won’t happen again at another RWA Chapter since it was the big old hole in the by laws that allowed this to happen. 😮 I’m glad I’m just a reader – not an author. I’m going into my hole to hide.

          Why aren’t you at the EDJ today?

          • I’m part time now. Woooo, finally!!! I spent half the day with my girl-child and the rest of it driving home. LOL. Am now vegging for a bit before I get busy on the WIP again!

  • Hi Wave

    I am so pleased you have written this post. I became aware of the situation when I read about it on Katey Hawthorne’s blog and then read Heidi Cullinnan’s moving and bone weary take on it.

    I had the same day been moved to tears by a Rolling Stone article about gay teen suicides.

    How is it possible that people who are involved with using their imaginations to create books have such little empathy as this……it all starts with discrimination and exclusion.

    I’ve emailed RWA with my opinions, but as a Brit and just a reader of books feel I can make no impression, I’m so pleased writers are withdrawing their financial support to them. I’ve signed the petition and tweeted the link – I have never before wished that I networked!

    Thanks again Wave.

    • Hi Raine

      How is it possible that people who are involved with using their imaginations to create books have such little empathy as this……it all starts with discrimination and exclusion.

      You know, I really wonder about that. In such a creative industry as writing we have the old guard who want to maintain the status quo. Kind of reminds me somewhat of the way things were in the US in the fifties and it took legislation and people who stood up and demanded to be counted in order to implement meaningful change. Of course this situation is not the same but it smacks of people whose minds are closed.

      RWI has cancelled the competition so all of the bad press achieved something, but none of this would have been necessary if RWA hadn’t made it possible for them to discriminate. RWA must advocate for all its members not just the majority.

      Thanks for doing your bit Raine.

      • I may get flak for this, but .. a lot of readers of conventional romance do not welcome any creativity that challenges their preconceptions. As my wife says, they want “The Two Bears” story over and over. Look at the number of m/m readers who refuse to read a story where a woman is involved in any way with one of the heroes. Look at the number of m/f readers who reject any story in which the heroine gets involved with anyone but her One True Love after the twain have met. I’ve said it before, but all stories started out as teaching stories. There seems to be a human need for stories that reinforce what we believe. Good writing can introduce new ideas to expand a person’s worldview, but when someone has an established aversion to a particular idea, they tend to respond badly. This isn’t always a bad thing; I remember a huge protest years back against a book about a serial murderer who tortured his victims (all women) in gory detail. Hundreds of women protested the publication of this mess–as I would have, it sounded like something that should have been turned over to a forensic psychiatrist before the author’s back yard was inspected for fresh-dug graves. Many of these folks really do equate same-sex love with the same level of horror. And they feel very threatened when we write stories which demonstrate that, in most respects, same-sex love is not all that different from boy-meets-girl.

        • Lee

          Romance readers like stories that follow a specific story arc. However, this issue is not about what readers like to read/buy.

          On this site we review M/M books ranging from horror to biographies, contemporary to fantasy/paranormal, and even a few historicals, whether they are traditional romances according to RWA (read: no HEA/HFN). So there’s a range of available books.

          We review books with cheaters,(many of my favourite reads are about cheaters which says a lot about my reading habits) :) M/M/M menages, BDSM, twincest, devils/angels, sci fi, military books, murder/mystery etc. and I keep asking writers to expand their imagination. I have posted a few times about whether writers have lost their imaginations, and many of them have taken issue with my posts.

          This is a roundabout way of answering your comment. The reviewers here have significantly different tastes and the readers who are regulars on the site have similar tastes. Many of the books reviewed here are not exactly the kind of books I would read, but I believe that the reviewers and readers should be given the option of deciding what they want to read within the context that this is a M/M review site.

          BTW I’m sure you have figured out that I’m not a traditional romance reader – I started out reading fantasy and I still love those stories today. :)

  • I’ve been following this debacle from the beginning, and it’s been a big eye-opener. I was debating joining RWA just before–the July conference is practically in my backyard. However, after learning about RWA’s general attitudes, and ass-backwards ways, I’ll pass.

    • Hi Lou

      Maybe they will institute meaningful change due to all the bad press RWI is receiving arising from this incident. This could all have been avoided if their policies didn’t permit what happened with RWI. Perhaps if they hadn’t just thrown their hands in the air and indicated that there was nothing they could do, rather than reining in RWI, this could all have been avoided.

      • This could’ve been avoided if just one person in charge had some common sense. The fact that none of them expected the backlash reflects badly on the leadership. They’re clearly out of touch. I wonder if RWI decided they were uncomfortable with interracial couples (as I’m sure many of them are), RWA national would have gone along with that too. RWA needs to shake up and step into the 21st century, or wither up and die.

        • I wonder if RWI decided they were uncomfortable with interracial couples (as I’m sure many of them are), RWA national would have gone along with that too.

          Here’s what Brockmann said about that:

          But you know what? If that line from the MTM entry rule pages read: “MTM will no longer accept inter-racial entries in any category,” you better believe RWA National would be on top of that faster than you can say “Sam and Alyssa.”

          Maybe RWA does choose its poison. They probably felt that the GBLTQ lobby was not as strong as if they had played the race card, so they were willing to rock the boat. Boy were they wrong.

    • Like LC, Lou I had my membership application printed and ready to go. I had even contacted my local RWA chapter to see about their stance on ebooks and LGBT. (I have a friend in Toronto who loves her chapter which is why I was considering joining).

      Now, I am going to wait until the March national meeting and see what the board says about this mess. Maybe you’ll do the same? If the national board doesn’t address this matter…then I won’t be joining as Wave said why join an organization that treats us as third class citizens.

      Maybe I am optimist and hope the RWA will change…we can only hope.

      • I have a friend in Toronto who loves her chapter which is why I was considering joining.

        Your friend probably loves the Toronto Chapter because the philosophy here and the membership are quite different from a chapter that’s say, in Oklahoma or somewhere similar.

        I really hope that RWA changes the way it does business. Members have to remember that this is a business not a philanthropic organization.

        • I hope come March something changes.

          BTW, Wave, the RWA issued a press release on their web site, quoting here:

          RWA Clarifies Its Position Regarding Chapter Contests

          “RWA members are served by 145 local and special interest chapters, and those chapters are individually incorporated and governed. So long as chapters fulfill their obligations under state law, as well as RWA and chapter bylaws, and their programs and services support the professional interests of career focused romance writers, policy affords them rather broad latitude in determining which programs and services to offer. Absent policy governing chapter-level contests, RWA’s board cannot intervene in the decisions of individual chapters.

          Romance Writers of America does not condone discrimination of any kind. RWA’s policies regarding chapter programs and services will be discussed when the board reconvenes in March.”

          Board of Directors
          Romance Writers of America

          • Thanks a lot Lasha for all the work you have put into this especially your investigative skills. :) Maybe you should have written the post. 😆

            • I had seen posts about this all over FB and LJ, but until I knew the full story I didn’t want to make a statement – that’s the ex-cop in me waiting until all the evidence is gathered before going after someone. :bandit:

              Your post motivated me to do something. So, thank you. The saving web pages? That’s an old Fandom_Wank trick. As I tell my college-aged nieces and nephews, do not post anything on the Internet that in 20 years you’d be ashamed of seeing pop up again. 😉

              But seriously, I am still just astounded that people in 2012 still have these views. It makes me want to move to Canada some days or gather all those people up in a room and shake them until their heads are on straight – so to speak.

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