The Romance Writers of America “More Then Magic 2012” fiction contest was cancelled when people became unaccountably perturbed at the No Same-Sex Romance rule…

Romance Writers Ink Chapter Cancels Contest

Romance Writers Ink (RWI), an Oklahoma chapter of the national Romance Writers of America, has cancelled its “Where the Magic Begins” writing contest after their refusal to accept  same-sex entries created a controversy.

The RWI Magic Contest blog explains: “We have heard and understood the issues raised, and will take those concerns into consideration should the chapter elect to hold contests in the future … We recognize the decision to disallow same-sex entries is highly charged. We also opted not to accept YA entries. We do not condone discrimination against individuals of any sort.”

We do not condone discrimination against individuals of any sort.  Practice it, yes.  Condone it, no.

Thing is, I can see quite a few potential entrants getting po’d over the rule because some of their best work is same-sex romance.  Here in the U.S. there is a very energetic subculture of female heterosexual romance writers who write sexy steamy male same-sex romance stories which in turn are devoured by heterosexual female readers.  And then there is the entire genre of Japanese “boys love”  manga devoted to it (which variously goes by yaoi and shōnen-ai), all or nearly all of it written and drawn by young heterosexual Japanese females for a young heterosexual female audience.  Yes, there was moral outrage over the contest organizer’s decision to ban same-sex fiction I’m sure, but I’ll wager there was also quite a bit of disappointment too.

And that is worth taking notice of.  The so-called “yuck” factor that people talk about when discussing gay rights isn’t quite as cut and dry as might be thought.  At rock bottom it’s powerful heterosexual males who have historically made the rules regarding how love and romance and sexuality are represented in the culture, and other voices were systematically shut out.  The loosening of censorship laws in the 1960s allowed new voices to tentatively speak up but it’s been the new technologies that have really overwhelmed the old cultural gatekeepers and that is a big part of what now motivates the culture war.  It’s always been about power and often power depends on convincing other people that they are powerless. But the ability of those in positions of privilege and power to dictate to the rest of us how to view our lives is not the absolute it was.  The more voices that are heard which previously were not, women, lesbians, gay men, transgendered people, the more everyone can see the beauty and dignity of the many forms of human love and sexuality.  And the more they recognize within it their own stories.

So the old story of boy meets girl becomes the story of heart finds heart and suddenly people see that this is the universal story after all, and gender is only the detail of any one particular story, and it’s all the same old story and the fundamental things apply as time goes by.