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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Paul Monette