kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
[personal profile] kaigou
continuation of lambda, literature, voices, and also, I live in the taj mahal.

Pop quiz! Name the moron who made this statement!
“I think it’s one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan.”

If you answered "Jackson Rathbone," you get a cookie! And thus, I hereby propose:
rathbone /ˈræθboʊn/ [rath-bohn] v.
1. To appropriate or fake membership in a minority group, based on a belief that such appropriation requires little effort to be sufficiently convincing: She thinks hair dye's all it takes to rathbone it.
2. To hoodwink, or be hoodwinked by, faked membership in a minority group: He totally rathboned the casting director.

that's some awkward phrasing. any editing suggestions, better example, maybe?

For another real-life example, here's someone encouraging a rathbone in the LLA kerfluffle*, with context being that the LLF would take it at face-value that a nominee is part of the community: "just say you're bisexual, that's easy enough." Or a speaker rathbones, "I kissed a girl once or twice in college, that should be enough to call myself bisexual." Or you can rathbone vicariously! When person A would like to have that award, and admits s/he isn't sure whether the label applies but notes, "it just says that if you say you're LGBT -- whatever that means to you -- then you are." If the audience exhorts, "just say you're bi!" then we've got vicarious rathboning!


(Unless we're getting into pseudo-rathboning, where the audience commentary is purely sarcastic. But if the listener/original-poster takes the sarcasm seriously, then we're still looking at potential rathboning. After all, if the OP thinks the suggestion is believable, why wouldn't others?)

* All quotes have been paraphrased, to give the guilty a chance to wise up without the glare of public humiliation. (Save that for repeat offenders.) In some cases, the statements were later revised or deleted, but I'd saved the original as illustration. IOW: if you don't know who said it, then don't fuss about it. If you do know, or it's you who said it, consider this as my polite and subtle way to point out that you were an idiot. If you edited, the not-naming is small reward for your successful removal of foot from mouth -- but the words themselves stand so others may learn from the example.

There's been some going back and forth as to whether the LLA were ever content-only, with a lot of people interpreting the rules pre-two-days-ago as being "just the content, ma'am." So, let's review:
In determining whether a book should be nominated, consider that the Lambda Literary Awards are based principally on the quality of the writing and the LGBT content of the work. The sexual orientation of the author is secondary.

Okay. Reread that carefully. Yes, very carefully. Let's see if you catch it. (Take your time -- it actually took me about four rereads before it dawned on me.)

That's right: secondary is not synonymous with irrelevant.

'Secondary' in this context looks more like they're saying, "first we consider the LGBT content, second we consider the author's orientation". Maybe that means they work like so: "this book is a great book about coming-of-age as a gay man... check on number one! And, it's written by a lesbian, so, check on number two!" If that's true, then the LLF just flipped things, and now it's "we consider the author's community membership first, and then the content and quality of writing."

Or not; it's actually kinda hard to tell with either description (each equally ambiguous in different ways). The new one is awkward, overly wordy, and downright badly-written -- and the use of 'gender' instead of 'sexual' as adjective to 'orientation' had me, as well as several others on the original Dear Author thread, wondering if our gender would be used to determine whether we 'were qualified' to write on the content.

IOW: here is lesbian, check! wait, the book is about gay men, no-check, disqualified! Plus, I know Sparky did his/her level best to convince us that 'gender orientation' is same as 'sexual orientation' but it's not a term I've ever heard and I didn't think I was quite that ignorant. Basically, the new version tries so hard to include all possibles that it actually makes things twice as confusing.

Anyway, if the original awards-framework did not consider sexual orientation at all, then I would expect it to say that, y'know, something simple, like, oh... "we don't consider the author's sexual orientation at all." But they didn't say that. The rules there only say that the author's orientation is secondary, that is, of importance but not as great of importance as writing-quality and story-content -- but definitely not irrelevant.

I like Nicola Griffith's work, but when the LLF wished to post a clarification about the new rules, it was posted on Nicola's blog, since she's one of the board members and I guess her blog is widely-read enough that it was considered a good way to propagate the president's statement. Thing is, this choice perfectly demonstrates the peculiar blindspots that seem to characterize this entire LLF fiasco.

Psst, LLF: you might want to think about this shit.

When you post a clarifying announcement -- y'know, the one that says: "when one or more of our own LGBT writers may have as a Finalist a book that may be the only chance in a career at a Lambda Literary Award" -- it's kinda, well, ironic in a very bad way when this paragraph is directly across from the blogger's own biography. Y'know, the one that says "winner of the Nebula, Tiptree, World Fantasy and six Lambda Literary Awards."

Am I the only one here who immediately thought, gracious, are you sure it's an issue of letting straight people win awards? Because it looks like to me that some folks are already winning everything. Maybe instead of fussing about who might be winning, you could, say, stop giving awards to the same people over and over and maybe let the rest of the class have a chance.

Just an idea.

Regardless of intention, the appearance is certainly, well... the combination of LLF statement and posting-author-biography is rather, shall we say, unfortunate.

Here, a bit of how other awards foundations phrase their guidelines.

...awarded only to writers originating and writing from Asia, rather than authors of Asian background writing from other regions. — the Man Asian Literary Prize

...specifically for Arabic-language prose fiction by Arabic authors... — International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF)

...Must portray some aspect of the African American experience past, present or future. Must be written by an African American. ... — Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) Literary Awards

...given annually to English-language books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience. — American Library Association's Stonewall Book Award

...annually awarded to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English, and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year. — The Orange Prize for Fiction

...for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. — Man Booker Prize for Fiction

... presented to the best English-language book of the year with a Welsh background, and the best Welsh-language books for the primary and secondary sectors. — Tir na n-Og Awards (children's literature)

... for works of science fiction ("SF") or fantasy that expand or explore one's understanding of gender. — James Tiptree, Jr. Award

... to honor African-American authors and illustrators who create outstanding books for children and young adults — The Coretta Scott King Awards

Just so we're all clear on this: the nomination period started yesterday morning (October 1st). The announcement was NOT made mid-nomination. It was made, uhm, a week before the nomination period started, and if you ask me, that's not much better. LLF should've either gotten this ball rolling immediately after the last go-round, OR waited until the next one. Doing it at the last minute just makes them look like scatter-brained, impulsive, ill-planned twits.

And although LLF does have 'ally-like' awards, and people are pushing for more of that (which I think would be fine, myself), the fact is that my own political iron in this fire is that I would a) be annoyed if the awards were expanded to include more for allies and b) not all that surprised if it did happen because c) I've pretty much accepted that the LLF doesn't actually give a damn about my segment of the community, and in fact d) some of us wouldn't be all that surprised if LLF added more het-recognition and kept right on ignoring us.

How's that work, you say? Well, back in '92, there was a book came out that was one of the very first ever to address bisexuality as something other than a phase, that didn't dismiss it as promiscuity or inability to make up one's mind. And gee, it was nominated, but the LLF didn't have a category for 'bisexuals'. Rather than spontaneously create one, for some inane reason the judges decided to put Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out in -- wait for it -- wait for it -- the lesbian category.

Unsurprisingly, the book lost. Duh.

And just as unsurprisingly, the bi community hit the roof. Of course the book would lose in the lesbian non-fiction category: it's not a freaking lesbian book! It needs its own category! There were complaints and letters and petitions.

For fourteen years.

That's right. That book came out in 1992, and LLF introduced the 'bisexual' category in 2006.

Maybe it's me, but that just doesn't quite meet my standard of "an award that truly represents its constituency". More like, "an award that only notes the existence of some pesky members when those members petition so long and so hard and so loud that finally it's just too tiresome to keep ignoring them, so might as well throw them a bone with a single category and hope that they'll shut up."

So you'll just have to forgive me for being a tad bit cynical in some ways, when it comes to LLF getting my goodwill -- and one (of several, actually) reason I had such a strong knee-jerk reaction. One that started, honestly, from a position of expecting exclusion, and having to work my way back from there to something more applicable to the actual circumstances, but at least now you might see why that reaction is ingrained, when it comes to the LLF.

Well, I figure I'm getting points somewhere, somehow, for supporting them, even if a snowball's got a better chance at fourteen holes-in-one at mini-golf in July than I ever do of getting any support in return.

But it's just telling, y'know? It took the LLF fourteen years just to add a single flippin' category, and then they turn around and drop changes on the community (and unsuspecting publishers) with barely a week's grace before nominations are to open. Just makes you wonder, eh. Who the hell has enough clout to demand such rapid-fire changes? I can promise you the person's not bi and not trans, at least, or we would've had about twenty years of warning, not two hours -- because it'd be taking LLF that freaking long to even notice a bi or trans member had a complaint in the first place.

What, me cynical?

Also, something that I keep wanting to say (but really didn't fit in the previous post):

Dear concern trolls! STFU, KTHXBAI.

I mean, really. Are you people stupid, or do you have to get together for practice sessions on alternate thursdays to manage this level of stupidity?
What if an author's bi and her husband doesn't know it, and she wins the award? She's been outed to her husband!

Hold on, I have to ponder this. Crap, brain just failed again. It can't handle the combination of absolute hilarity and utter stupidity combined with the delicious topping of lame concern-trolling by -- of all things! an LGBT-identified poster, oh, the ironies -- and wow. Amazing. All rolled into one convenient bite-sized package, for your convenience.

No, seriously. Yes. SERIOUSLY. You have published a book. The book has LGBT content. Your publisher nominates you for a Lambda award. You learn about this. You tell your publisher and LLF, "please withdraw me, as I do not identify with the community", or, "please withdraw me, as there's been a mistake and I'm not actually a member of the community."

I know! Amazing! But it's actually possible to notify someone that you do not qualify!

But assuming this is just too much of the intelligence for our poor beleaguered closeted bisexual who just published a goddamn book with LGBT content, HELLO -- did it never occur to you people that the vast majority of the English-speaking world is probably going to assume the author is part of the LGBT community anyway? There remains a huge association, one that (I suspect) LLF was betting on for a long time, that only gay-people write gay-content. (Aside: and is the reason, I'd bet, that it never occurred to LLF that it might be good to, y'know, spell this shit out, yo.)

Beyond that, though, if this poor beleaguered closeted author is married to someone so homophobic that she can't bring herself to out herself to him, wouldn't he, oh, kinda already be more than a bit wigged by the fact that she's writing gay fiction? I mean, if he's got a clue what she writes and she can't come out to him, then that author's got bigger problems than whether or not her romantic gay romance wins any awards.

But for the sake of argument, let's pretend the author's spouse couldn't handle the notion that she writes gay romance. Alright, then. So either she publishes under her own name, or she uses a pseudonym. If the latter, then why halo thar, the award would be given to the PSEUDONYM. That's right! Joe Brown, the author, gets the award! Not Babs the Closeted Dingobat! Unless Babs is so freaking stupid she just leaves these things lying around, or lets on that she's setting up a d/b/a on the household checking account for Joe Brown, how the hell would a spouse know? I'm not saying secrecy between spouses is good, but if your relationship is already this whacked, you're keeping bigger secrets than just what pseudonym you use to write guy-on-guy porn, babe.

What, no pseudonym? Our Babs is too stupid for even that? Oi. In which case, I'm not freaking crying for Ms Argentina, err, Dingobat, because a) we're back to square one with the whole if-her-husband-doesn't-know crap and that's assuming b) she even wins. I mean, really. The concern trolls aren't just worried about a mythical author, they're worried about such an incredibly moronic, dishonest, self-deluded author that I can't help but start feeling like the idiocy is contagious, because the concern trolls aren't looking too bright themselves.

And that makes for a lovely segue into the other major theme among the concern trolls: that it's illegal to ask someone their sexual orientation (or so we're blithely informed, in between alligator tears over whatever fantasy author we're supposed to feel concerned about this time). Don't they realize that by making the awards about one's sexuality that they're -- oh, noes! -- forcing people to break the law!?

Cue sobbing and gnashing of teeth here.

Cue me laughing hysterically because wow, ARE YOU PEOPLE STUPID.

Look, if a publisher nominates someone who prefers to remain closeted, this is NOT rocket science! The closeted author -- who, by LLF's standards, is effectively not part of the (openly) LGBT community -- does not freaking qualify anyway. There's no need for the author to quote-unquote answer the question, because the author can simply say, "I am not part of your community and therefore should not have been nominated, thank you but no thank you."

Or! A writer could be proactive (though I guess concern trolls don't cry for smart, err, proactive athors) and tell his/her publisher: "yes, I know I'm writing LGBT content, but please don't nominate me for the LLA, because I don't qualify." Or "because I'm not part of that community" or whatever.

I'd bet you that part of this requirement for 'openly' may revolve around the situation between AfterEllen.com and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, as reported by the Editor-in-chief of the site. Apparently, while promoting her book (which has a lesbian Latina character), Valdes-Rodriguez told the online magazine that she self-identifies as bisexual. Fast forward, and now Valdes-Rodriguez is claiming -- on her Wiki entry and elsewhere -- that any/all claims that she's bi are big fat lies! And she's gonna sue the lying liars who tell those lies!

Whaddaya wanna bet her sales had to have been boosted by the admission that she's bi. An out, bi, Latina. It's like a four-leaf clover in the wild: you can find 'em but it takes a metal detector and night goggles. Valdes-Rodriguez played that for all it was worth, and now it's the magazine and its readers who feel like they've been jerked around. Insult to injury, now the duplicitous Ms. Valdes-Rodriguez is accusing the magazine of libel -- for printing exactly what Valdes-Rodriguez said herself. Really. Bitch, please.

(I tried to think of something suitably strong to capture how I feel about Valdes-Rodriguez, but it'd be an insult to every female dog I've known -- on four legs or two -- to be put in the same category as a low-down, two-faced, delusional, fraudulent, malicious, back-stabbing rathbone like Valdes-Rodriguez. Actually, that's not how I really feel. How I really feel contains a great many more words, not all of which are four-letters but plenty of which are, at least in spirit. In four languages. No, five.)

Don't know, but wouldn't be surprised, if this were one of the influences on LLF's decision to require all nominees to be 'openly' members of the community. Besides, if you're open, then chances are you've said as much to your publisher, or at the very least would not have an issue saying as much to your editor or publisher, for them to even know to nominate you -- otherwise, you keep your mouth shut, your publisher doesn't know, and you remain un-nominated. Which means a lot of the concern trolls' insistence that this requires people to out themselves! and there will be bed checks! and spankings! and later, the oral sex! -- wait, sorry, wrong post, where was I -- oh, right.

I'm not a lawyer but it still seems kinda hard to be forcing someone to break the law when you're leaving it open to them to say anything to you, hell, when you don't even ask the question. Or maybe the concern-trolls are all worried because it'll be entrapment. Or maybe not -- that may be a level of stupid even they haven't reached. Though now that I've raised it, anyone wanna hit the stopwatch, see how long it takes before we hear the bemoaning about potential entrapment? or did we already and I just missed it?

Point is, when LLF says you won't be asked, what they really mean is that you must, in some way, volunteer the information. Babs may have one seriously fucked marriage based on a lotta lies and a half-cup of ignorance, but at least she doesn't have to fear, oh noes!, that she might, oh gasps!, win a Lambda and thus be outed. Seems like there's plenty of ways to back out if you're a) not in the community at all or b) don't want anyone to know you're in the community. You end up in hot water for outing yourself, then sounds like a personal problem to me.

Hello, bed, blankets, nighty-night. Moron.

Part of making that bed is sleeping with the consequences: if an author connips post-win, the weight may fall on her publisher's shoulders. Would the award be retracted? Or would the author be disqualified and award given to someone else? Would publisher get money back? If so, it might cost Babs, or Ms. Valdes-Rodriguez, her next publishing contract (if nothing else for humiliating the publisher, unless publishers are suddenly reeeeeally forgiving these days... NOT). Open question whether the publisher would get its money back from the nomination -- because we should never forget that the LLA require publisher nomination, short statement about reason for nominating, and the administrative fee of $30 -- but I imagine it'd be an unhappy publisher either way, and that makes for unhappy author. Still preferable over unhappy LGBT community left holding the sack o' useless lies, though.

Defining "openly" is incredibly vague (one reason I dislike it), but I do at least get what looks like a logical motivation for that part of the rules. Not that the concern trolls seem to grasp this, but I don't think they're listening much by this point, anyway.

I will admit that the issue of 'openly' got my greatest ire when I first learned of LFF's re-wording of its mission statement, but this is not because I'm in any real doubt as to whether I'm in or out of the community. It's because I've spent my entire time in the community having to defend my inclusion almost constantly.

Whether you like it or not, the only people I've ever met whose experiences echo my own -- when it comes to the tug-of-war between a minority group and the majority group -- are biracial friends. If they're not getting grief for the fact that they can 'pass as white' (or come damn close), and thus aren't welcome in their PoC community, they're getting grief from white folks who either resent the person's almost-PoC-ness, or the person's not-PoC-enough-ness. It's like you just can't freaking win, and I know that game pretty damn well myself. Neither party wants you, both see you as being "too much of the other to really ever be one of us".

Allow me to impose on you for a few more minutes, with a bit of history.

Sometimes in DC, during my college years, I'd hang with my friend Ben. Now, Ben and I shared some peculiar ideas for entertainment. Ben, being gay, preferred his porn boy-on-boy, and me, being me, had to snark. So our idea of good times was to walk to Dupont Circle, where we'd go to Triangle Video and pick out gay porn together, and then we'd watch and rate (usually based on whether the plants in the background were real or fake).

(If you're wondering, Ben's preference was for European porn, which he pointed out had guys who looked like they were actually enjoying themselves. They'd even kiss! which we almost never saw in American porn. Plus, European porn shot on film, not cheap video. And actual foreplay! American porn: very little foreplay, and definitely no plot. Though we always laughed ourselves silly at the obligatory badly-delivered line of "I've never DONE this BEFORE". Ben could say the line in three languages. Look! Cosmopolitan by way of porn!)

Anyway, Ben introduced me to a few bookstores in Dupont Circle, and one of those was -- well, let's just call it a women's bookstore, shall we? -- and that was where I first discovered Rubyfruit Jungle. Not long after that I took a girlfriend there so she could get her own copy. Both of us being young college students, we naturally got the 'how-cute' looks from the women who worked the bookstore.

The next time I went, it was with a guy I was dating. I didn't think anything about it, but my appearance was both consistent and distinctive, which in hindsight explains why I probably was recognizable to the store's clerks. Anyway, the boy and I are standing at the counter, waiting for the clerks to finish whatever they're doing and for one of them to come do the checkout thing. We stand there, and stand there, and stand there. The clerks are both ignoring us. The boy and I are waiting patiently, not in any real rush, but not sure why the clerks haven't said anything to us.

Then one clerk says to the other, real loud, "you want to know what's so excellent about bisexuals?"

The second clerk asks, "what?"

The first clerk says, "the fact that they don't actually exist."

The second clerk says, "means you don't have to wait on them, then."

And then they went back to what they were doing: ignoring us.

I was eighteen years old, and I was completely humiliated, and I had no idea why and no idea what to do about it, except put the stuff on the counter and leave.

That was my first introduction -- among those I thought were co-partners in this new community I'd found -- to the treatment I would eventually learn to accept would be par for the course from the gay and lesbian community. So, yeah, exclusion will trip me up. I've gotten slings like that, large and small, over the years, and that's why interactions with the LG community will often have me braced for impact. That, to a large degree, is the reason I lean so hard in favor (most of the time) of being as inclusive as possible.† I know what it's like to constantly be shut out. I hate it being done to me, and I won't do it to another.

But that's not at all the same as protecting a minority's right to define itself and award, promote, and honor its own. I know what it's like to be treated as invisible, even literally, and I know what it's like to be excluded, and that's why I know for certain that the LLF's decision is not at all the same thing.

I should note that when I smack up against privilege-moments of my own, I know it's a combination of privilege, personal history, and an overlay of community-history. Even if I could erase all privilege or learn to see it coming and nullify it, I suspect I'd still have a personal sense that I'm about to be told I don't even exist, or that I shouldn't exist, or that the world would be better/easier/nicer if I didn't exist.

So I'm well aware that to defend LLF here may seem hypocritical given I've appeared to do the opposite when it's another group's turn. But if you get that impression, it's only because you weren't watching when I went through the exact same reaction to LLF's announcement -- and I'm in this community! Each time, every time, autonomic reaction kicks in, and then I have to fight free of the tarbaby before I have any real, rational, perspective, and that's why I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to most folks: because been there, done that, got the t-shirt, lost it all in the lawsuit and learned to love again.

After the Dear Author thread wound down, I kept thinking about some of the discussion, and eventually followed a few of the threads to see what was said elsewhere. That's when I ended up on Nicola's blog, contemplating the revised statement from the interim president. What I replied to Nicola, there, became the nucleus for the first long post on this topic. The part I left out of that version, though, I'll add here, because for all the snark and stupidity on this post, there's a serious core under the monkeying-around, and it's a core I would prefer to leave as the last note, so it's not drowned in the noise-to-signal ratio.

The books I chose for my bookstore, the default recommendations to my LGBT teenaged customers were always LLF awarded-books -- because I knew these stories would be authentic voices, would be a reliable 'core' of LGBT literature. I wanted my customers -- kids and adults alike -- to know that they were reading a book by someone who had been through the same thing, who got them on a deeper level. To mangle Stephen Vincent Benet, 'no straight that was ever foaled could know the inwardness of it'.

Until a queer kid doesn't have to fear for his life in being queer, until a queer kid never faces a life or even a single instance of being treated as invisible, until even as queer adults we have that freedom as well, we all need not just the courage of those stories. We need the courage of the people telling those stories. We need to know that someone else has stood up and been willing to take that risk and come out, to be visible. A non-LGBT person's story may be good, but it just isn't enough, and for that reason, a non-LGBT person's story -- no matter how popular or writerly -- will never suffice.

Thank you for reading, thank you for considering, and thank you for your words and thoughts in return.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

October 2016

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