For its first 20 years, the Lambda Literary Foundation accepted submissions for the Lambda Literary Awards based solely on a book’s LGBT subject matter.  That policy changed in 2009 to restrict the awards to self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer authors. After two years of implementing the LGBT-only policy, the queer book community remains sharply divided about limiting Lammy nominations to LGBT authors only.

In its review of the LGBT-only policy, the LLF Board of Trustees took into consideration LLF’s mission statement

The Lambda Literary Foundation nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers.

and core provisions in its Bylaws.  The Board also noted that the large majority of finalists and winners of the Lambda Literary Awards have been LGBT authors, but not all of them.  There have also been a small number of outstanding books about LGBT lives written by our heterosexual allies.

In addition, the LLF Board solicited opinions from individuals in the LGBT book community, including publishers, authors, important donors, readers, and casual supporters. Those opinions represented both sides of the issue and were, in many cases, intensely held.

After careful consideration of all these factors, the Board crafted a new policy designed to honor excellence in writing about LGBT lives. The new policy has three components:

  • LGBT authors will be recognized with three awards marking stages of a writer’s career: the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one gay man and one lesbian), the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize (to one male-identified and one female-identified author), and the Pioneer Award (to one male-identified and one female-identified individual or group)*
  • Awards for the remaining Lambda Literary Award categories will be based on literary merit and significant content relevant to LGBT lives. These awards will be open to all authors regardless of their sexual identity
  • All book award judges will be self-identified LGBT

“We fully understand the importance of this issue and the extent to which it has divided our community,” said LLF Board Co-Chair, Dr. Judith Markowitz.  “Resolving these strongly-held differences was not easy.  We worked carefully keeping in mind the best interests of LGBT people, writing, and writers.”

She continued, “The policy we’ve crafted recognizes that those opposing viewpoints are actually contained in LLF’s mission. We hope that the result of our deliberations promotes healing and strengthens LGBT writers and literature.”

*Unlike traditional Lammys, LLF does not determine the criteria for sponsored awards, such as the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award. We administer them on behalf of the funders. LLF can not change the criteria for those awardsonly the funding sponsor can  modify the established criteria. We are actively working with our funders to make the award criteria as expansive as possible.

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17 Responses to “Lambda Literary Foundation Announces New Guidelines for Lambda Literary Awards Submissions”

  1. […] In addition, awards recognizing new and mid-career LGBT authors have been introduced. Full text of LLF’s statement is here. […]

  2. […] am equal parts delighted and dismayed by the press release currently being circulated regarding the changes to the Lambda Awards. Delighted, because I was […]

  3. 29 August 2011 at 4:15 PM #

    I’m shocked that the Lambda awards decided to focus on gay and lesbian authors for the debut award. I guess intersexed, asexual, androgynous, questioning, and queer authors don’t deserve recognition for their work like gay and lesbian authors do.

    And reinforcing gender binary by excluding the intersexed, androgynous and asexual for the later awards is also disappointing.

    • 29 August 2011 at 10:00 PM #

      Is this comment some kind of joke???????

      • 30 August 2011 at 12:33 AM #

        Why? Aside from the factual error in grouping asexual in a comment about the gender binary (the correct would be agender/ed, asexual refers to sexuality), it’s a good point. Sexuality is complex, you can’t just group people into gay, lesbian and straight and call it a day, and there are plenty of people who don’t identify as male or female. I’m a femromantic asexual neutrois – according to these guidelines, I wouldn’t be eligible for any of the LGBT categories despite being incredibly queer with regards to both my gender and relationship preferences. (I can’t identify as either heterosexual or homosexual because they rely on the idea that there are only two sexes or genders. I don’t date the “opposite” gender and I don’t date the “same” gender – I’m interested in women, but I’m not one, nor am I a man.)

  4. 30 August 2011 at 6:20 AM #

    While I applaud LLF’s move to include more award-worthy books based on literary merit, I’m concerned that these new criteria gloss over the T (and Q) in the community pretty hard. As Elsa rightly points out above, the new guidelines leave out anyone who doesn’t identify within the gender binary. I just barely squeak in. There are several people in my life — some of whom write — who do not.

    Also, do bisexual, queer, and trans authors not have debut novels? Do we just not get novels at all, or does this mean we all start with one automatically? If the latter, where do I pick mine up? I’m excited to hear that my career is progressing more quickly than I thought!

  5. […] that in the past couple of days, I have seen people express both excitement and discomfort at the LLF’s new  awards guidelines. It seems that Lambda Literary is trying to appease everyone with their proposed change (most […]

  6. […] then the cherry on top: the new Lambda Awards Guidelines dropped yesterday. So I’m merrily clicking through my RSS stuff in Thunderbird and I end up […]

  7. 30 August 2011 at 9:15 PM #

    Thank you for speaking out.
    You’re right, it is about voice and visibility. But sometimes, I feel helpless against the forces that be in the publishing industry.
    I publish with Bold Strokes Books and have their support, but as a biwriter writing about bisexual characters, the road to success in this allready tight niche, is going to be long and perilous. And now with the Lammmy’s new guidelines, well.
    We need more people coming out as queer, which for me, is a gentle and beautiful word.
    People wake up. Queer is the new gay. We need a queer revolution: in media, marketing, and literature. I urge every queer writer to be bold and write about the grey areas of bisexuality, instead of bending under the pressure of sales objectives. We don’t need to be angry or bitter. We need to be strong and hold the line. Change doesn’t start in books, it starts with the people who write them.

    • 2 September 2011 at 7:23 AM #

      Bi Social Network is thinking about housing bisexual authors books, Let’s talk…..

  8. 31 August 2011 at 10:55 PM #


  9. 1 September 2011 at 1:52 PM #

    I think the idea is fine, but I’m also scratching my head trying to figure out who thought splitting up awards into best actor/best actress style gender couples was a good idea. Were they assuming people who identify their sexuality as something other than “gay”, “lesbian” or “straight” and/or their gender as something other than “male” or “female” don’t exist, or just that they don’t write good books? Why not just give these awards to two self-identified LGBTQ authors? I imagine this was done mindful to the scenario in which only men are nominated via unconscious bias, but it seems to be a decision completely oblivious to the people being explicitly marginalized. Perhaps the board ought to skim through the most recent winner for LGBT Anthology. I’m hurt and confused by this decision.

  10. 2 September 2011 at 12:01 PM #

    I’ve been out of the closet since the early ’70s and have long been outspoken about the need for LGBT-identified persons to be open about their sexual identity. Indeed, being out to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, et al, has been crucial to the “gay” (LGBT) movement, while remaining closeted only hurts the cause. Without that honesty, visibility, and power in numbers, the movement and the progress that has come with it simply wouldn’t exist.

    That said, we are clearly in transition to a new era when sexuality is more fluid and flexible, when many people, especially younger people, choose not to stick a specific label on themselves (one reason so many of us disliked the term “homosexual” so long ago, making us feel like lab specimens instead of human beings). So it’s a tricky subject, and the LLF is caught in the difficult middle.

    Personally, I would prefer the awards be given based on content and primary theme rather than arbitrary and sometimes restrictive sexual identify labels applied to authors. Historically, I look back on the many LGBT writers, from E.M. Foerster to Patricia Hightsmith to Patricia Nell Warren and beyond, who wrote what were clearly “gay” books, future classics in the genre, but who at the time were not self-identified as queer. Today, countless talented writers are at work on books who might not identify narrowly as “gay” or “lesbian” for reasons not of secrecy or fear but of a sense of personal liberation, a key goal of the LGBT movement from the beginning. As for the new awards…

    “LGBT authors will be recognized with three awards marking stages of a writer’s career: the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one gay man and one lesbian), the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize (to one male-identified and one female-identified author), and the Pioneer Award (to one male-identified and one female-identified individual or group)”

    …these awards are funded by specific individuals who have the right to word the criteria as they please. However, it seems from the wording that these awards are all about the sexual identity of the writer, and not about content at all. Apparently, if a gay or lesbian-identified author writes a book that has little or no LGBT content, that book still qualifies. If that’s true, so be it; I’m not funding the awards. But it seems ironic, even counter-productive, for the LLF to open an award to books that might not have anthing to do with LGBT life, thought, or themes. Shouldn’t LGBT content be central to the criteria? Did I miss something?

    Lastly, in this long-winded comment, I would add that because we are in this period of such flux regarding sexual identity, the LLF is caught between a rock and a hard place, working hard to sort it all out and find a fair and sensible solution. I’m not suggesting at all that we withhold our opinions and responses, only that we voice them with respect for those who give generously of their time and effort to keep the nonprofit LLF operating and making an important contribution to LGBT writing and publishing. That sometimes gets lost in all the rancor and venting, and only further curdles and sours an important discussion that is surely not over, and perhaps never will be, given the complexity of the issue.

    • 2 September 2011 at 10:00 PM #

      Thank you for your comment, John.

      I emphatically agree with you that the awards should be given based on content rather than “arbitrary and sometimes restrictive sexual identify labels applied to authors.” We all know LGBTQ content when we read it. The sexual or gender identity of the person who wrote it doesn’t matter to this self-identified gay-queer male.

      I also agree that we should voice our opinions on these issues “with respect for those who give generously of their time and effort to keep the nonprofit LLF operating and making an important contribution to LGBT writing and publishing.” It’s easy to criticize. It’s much more difficult to do.

  11. 4 September 2011 at 10:47 AM #

    Gender binary? What the???? Seems to me the GLTARSKFXZ community is making itself into a large grouping of freaks. We’re doing ourselves in. If everyone is so special and warrants such special categorizing (much like insects), then be special and make your own group. I’m gay, I’m not some New Age Marxist guinea pig!

    • 15 September 2011 at 4:26 PM #

      We have a group. It’s this one. We’re not new. People with “freaky” sexualities and genders covering every letter of this alphabet have been reading and writing for decades. Non-binary genders pre-date the written word. Sorry if you expected the club to be more exclusive.

  12. […] Rose Fox has an open letter to the Lambda Literary Foundation following changes to the Lambda Literary Awards […]

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