An Open Letter To RWA

In the wake of the revelation on Heidi Cullinan’s blog today concerning discriminatory action by RWA and its subordinate chapter that runs the More Than Magic contest, I was moved to write this blog. For more on this, you can check out http://heidicullinan.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/rwa-shouldnt-be-in-the-business-of-discrimination/ and http://ryan-field.blogspot.com/2012/02/rwa-rwi-no-same-sex-entries-in-mtm.html?spref=tw

If you’ll look to the side of this post, you’ll notice the banner that says “Haters are NOT welcome here!” I said, I mean it, and I’m going to make that point in big letters right now.

To the administration of RWA and RWI:

Dear Sirs and Madams:

My name is J.S. Wayne. I am an erotic romance author based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, and have been working actively writing erotic romance for the past year and a half.

When I first received my contract, several people recommended I look into RWA membership. Tellingly, just as many people told me to steer clear. I make my own decisions, so I read the RWA bylaws, which to my way of thinking are far too restrictive and place too much onus on the membership. The few benefits RWA confers seem to be limited to what a good SEO/marketing campaign can accomplish. More importantly, there seemed to be a distinct lack of interest in erotic romance, particularly that which featured same sex couples.

While I understand and even applaud your willingness to afford a certain degree of autonomy to chapters such as RWI, who administer the MTM contest, I cannot in good conscience view your acceptance of their discriminatory behavior toward authors who write same-sex romance with anything but disgust. Your own bylaws specify romance as being between two individuals. If RWI wishes to conduct this contest under the aegis of RWA, it seems to me they should be willing to abide by the letter AND spirit of the overarching body’s bylaws.

Personal discomfort is one thing, but when discomfort is dispensed in such a callous and ham-handed manner, it becomes discrimination. While I myself am a straight male, I write erotic romance featuring men and women in a number of settings and situations, including homosexual and heterosexual pairings and menages. The unfortunate treatment of certain of your members proves three things.

1) You are not concerned with retaining and increasing your membership. I have flirted with the idea of joining RWA several times, but in the wake of this outrageous situation, I cannot in good conscience do so. I predict a rash of resignations and refusals to rejoin RWA because of this.

2) You do not represent all authors equally. You are allowing a vocal few to speak for everyone, thereby denying romance authors the very forum and safe haven you promise them in your bylaws. The chapter is subordinate to RWA as long as they are conducting contests or any other business as an RWA chapter. By tacitly condoning their behavior by refusing to deal with it, you have demonstrated that RWA is not in fact what you profess it to be.

3) You are not interested in permitting those who write “other” types of romance to feel welcome. This is amply demonstrated by the phrasing of certain of your bylaws and punctuated by this situation. I’ve often heard that e-book authors and those who write erotic romance are looked down upon by your organization, but I would never have expected an organization that bills itself as professional and tolerant of all forms of romance to react in such a milquetoast fashion to the disgraceful refusal of RWI to allow same-sex pairings. By doing so, you have de facto stated you do not believe erotic romance or romance concerning same-sex couples IS in fact romance, a huge slap in the face to your membership, the industry, and the GLBTQA community as a whole.

In closing, I will say that I am not a member of RWA and have no intention of becoming one until such time as your bylaws are rewritten to prohibit discrimination against authors in any form. I hope you will see the error of your ways and apologize to the authors who you have offended and whose work you have so cavalierly dismissed. Until that day comes, you can be certain you needn’t concern yourself about how you should spend my membership dues.

Best,

J.S. Wayne