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.

Sue Brown

At the end of a reasoned blog from someone who reviews ebooks, the first comment was that the outcry was INTIMIDATION and BULLYING (her capitals). Normally, I wouldn’t say anything, but I did point out how completely ironic that statement was.


I got this via Taylor Donovan’s FB. Apparently, the brouhaha has made New York Daily News blog: http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/02/romance-writers-ink-decides-no-same-sex-romances-for-its-more-than-magic-contest .

Jadette Paige
Amber Green told me about this right after Heidi’s post went live. Years ago, I joined RWA. For one year only, that was all it took. Really less than one year. I had heard that they were so helpful and useful to romance authors. Sure they have some wonderful people there but not being close to a local chapter it was useless for me. The few conferences I did attend were full of NY authors looking down on little old me. Nope, didn’t like that. I am an author. No one will take that away from me. I also write… Read more »

I saw this on Goodreads and immediately signed the petition yesterday. Plus wrote an e-mail asking what other exclusions they had mandated and that it made their chapter less inviting, credible, and basically “incomplete”.

It’s too bad the RWI volunteer, Jackie, received person ridicule/abuse in e-mails sent to her (if that’s true-call me a cynic). 😕

Lee Rowan

“Abuse” to a bigot means pointing out the bigotry.

If their “clarification” — we don’t condone it but we will not interfere — had been posted in reference to racial discrimination, or banning inspirational romances .. no one would be satisfied with such a wishy-washy evasion.

The more I hear from conciliatory RWA members, the more I think “Stockholm Syndrome.”

:my2cents: I would not want any LGTQB (what ever order you like) person to pay dues and be subjected to this. This is the time for Het allies to step-up, stay in the game, and fight the battle. Someone needs to pressure a RWA vote. The LGBQT community fights every day. I think this fight needs to be fought by the Allied Campaigne. So I hope some people pay their dues inorder to retain battle positions. Every battle by a minority pop has needed back-up from the ranks in the majority position. Let’s not have eveeryone abandon this field. This… Read more »
Lou Harper

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.

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… Read more »
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… Read more »
Missy Welsh
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… Read more »
Lee Rowan
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… Read more »
Bren Christopher
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… Read more »
London Burden, Coordinator

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

Adrienne Wilder
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… Read more »
Lee Rowan
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
Jules Jones
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… Read more »
Ryan Field

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.

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.… Read more »
Ally Blue
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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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??

Ethan Day
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… Read more »
L.C. Chase
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… Read more »

I really liked Susanne Brockman’s post. That would make me read Born through the night much much faster.

DC Juris

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.

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