Benson Kua, Wikimedia
This post probably won’t be what you think it is. It’s about writing and my submission guidelines for Alice Unbound but it’s about more than that. The above letters refer to people of various gender preferences or identities. It’s also called QUILTBAG, for ease of remembering the letters in the acronym.
It is very common to now see a statement in submission guidelines that states something like: “Submissions from the QUILTBAG community are accepted/encouraged/not discriminated against.” The words vary but the intent is the same: inclusion. That’s the basis, though I’m not sure of the full evolution of this in terms of writing.
As some point in the past, someone or some people felt there was a prejudice against gay or lesbian people or those identifying with any other version of gender identity. I’m going to state this here first, though I’m sure to offend someone. I’m an egalitarian. I believe in equal rights and the same treatment for all people. Now I’ve judged and juried several writing competitions and awards, edited some magazines/zines and a couple of anthologies. And even before I did any of these things I was a reader. Never did I choose to read a person because of their color, their gender or who they liked to have sex with. In fact, the latter especially is none of my business. I read because I liked the story and I went back to the same author because I liked their style.
As an editor and juror, I read for great stories first. I may know by a person’s name whether they’re female or male, but not necessarily. I don’t know if they’re a person of color or if they’re gay and asexual, or bi-curious, or bi, or gender fluid. And really, as far as I’m concerned, it does not matter. I’ve never submitted a story and said, hey, I’m a white girl whose Italian mother was ostracized by my father’s Scandinavian family, and I’m bisexual but only like black guys and white women. (Some of this statement is true and some is fiction, but again, it doesn’t matter. Some of that statement could be valid in submission, if the magazine only published Italian writers, or people of color. And likewise, the anthology I’m editing must have Canadian or residents of Canada as writers.) It is nobody’s business and has absolutely nothing to do with my writing. I also would feel uncomfortable stating any of this while submitting to an anthology/magazine, because I want my story to be chosen on its merit; not who I know, who I bed or how I identify.
Now, I’m not saying that there has been no prejudice. There probably has been in some cases or some areas. I just have lived in a bubble and don’t know about it overall but I don’t know every magazine out there. But an editor reading relatively unknowns from different geographies isn’t going to know these things about a person, unless that person is already known to them, or tells them. So where does this prevalence for guidelines saying “LGBT welcome” come from? I’m not sure. Some is general gender awareness and the rise of equality for gay and lesbian rights, and then more awareness of other gender identities/preferences. It’s only natural that it would get tagged into something as powerful as writing. And in the speculative genre, some might say that there has been a predominance of white Amerocentric characters, while at the same time, and long ago, speculative fiction was one of the first places where strong female characters and other types of sexual relationships were explored, even if it was once white men only writing them (and Samuel Delaney). Robert Heinlein was a product of his times but he was exploring identity and genders in his own way decades ago. Spec fiction has always been open to pushing boundaries. And yes, some female writers started out with male names to stop any prejudice against women.
This blog piece has evolved from comments on a thread where I posted the guidelines and someone said, why list this LGBQT stuff? At the same time, another person said editors were lazy for posting this and should solicit people directly. So let’s address that aspect.
If I have open submissions and the anthology is not invitational, then to solicit specifically from a transgendered person, or a gay person means I’m giving preferential treatment over other people. It’s an open submission and I’m an egalitarian. Second, editors don’t always have time to solicit this person and that. I’d have to start researching writers I know of, as opposed to those just starting out where there would be little to research, to find out who is gender fluid, transgender, asexual, bi, gay, lesbian, etc. to solicit a story from each of them. And I’m sure to leave someone out and cause more ill feeling. And then what about the hetero people, or cisgender? By being equal and fair, I list the guidelines so anyone can submit. Just send great stories.
Well then, why are you encouraging QUILTBAG in your guidelines? Because, if you don’t these days, someone is sure to attack you as being prejudiced. And in Canada, many small presses receive grant funding from provinces and the federal gov’t. Those governing bodies also require fair and equal attention to all types of writers. The statement is pretty much standard. So, if anyone of color or whatever gender identity feels like they might be ostracized or blacklisted, this tells them that they are not. And again, I’m really not going to know 99% of people’s gender identities or preferences.
Lion or unicorn, or girl, you’re welcome to submit to Alice Unbound. Sir John Tenniel illustration.
In the end, as I’ve said before, I read for good stories. I don’t even read the submission letters first, and I don’t care who you have sex with. And please, don’t tell me. I don’t need to know. It’s none of my business and I will not reject or buy your story because you are any of the above. However, sometimes for those grants, if the publisher says, yes we had three transgendered writers, then that might help with more grant funding. Exile Editions actually has authors sign (voluntarily) a form that discloses if they are a minority of any type, but it doesn’t affect my selection.
And to those who decided to call editors lazy, try being an editor first before you make that statement. To close this post, I’ll state again, I’m an egalitarian. I don’t care who you are, or how you identify. I care that I have the best stories to emulate the premise for Alice Unbound.