Difficulty of Diversity: LGBT+

17 Nov

Today Editor Ed finishes his series on diversity in genre fiction to address LGBT+ authors. Ed is a small press publisher, editor, and author for many years.

I mentioned in a previous post that when organizing my first anthology, I idealistically aimed to select a diverse range of authors that represented a variety of gender, race, and sexual orientation—and promptly ran head-first into a brick wall.  For female and minority authors, the problem was a depressingly low number of submissions from those groups.  But there was a different problem with LGBT+ authors, one I hadn’t anticipated …

How do you know if an author is LGBT+?

Unlike race and gender, which an editor can usually determine from an author’s name and photograph on social media, the editor generally can’t determine someone’s sexual orientation just by looking at them.  They have to tell you.  And, for the most part, they don’t.

You see, an author’s sexual orientation isn’t generally the type of information they usually include with their submission cover letter.  They’re typically more concerned with genre, word count, and plot summaries.  Perhaps they understandably fear discrimination if they disclose an LGBT+ orientation.  Or maybe they just don’t think it matters, or shouldn’t matter—and they’re right, it shouldn’t.

In my last submission call, only one author identified their sexual orientation (bi) in their cover letter.  I was able to determine another author’s orientation (also bi) by searching Facebook profiles.  And that’s it.  Two.  Worse, one of them had their story automatically disqualified for some uncomfortably racist subtext.

And all the other authors?  I had absolutely no idea.  For all I know, maybe I did publish a LGBT+ author in that anthology, but just didn’t realize it.

And here’s the thing: it would be horribly inappropriate (and quite possibly illegal) to ask.  I mean, can you image that?   “Excuse me author, I know this is a very personal question about a very private part of your life that’s really none of my business, but what type of people do you like to have sex with?”  I can imagine the lawsuits already!  Besides, I imagine I’d get a lot of answers along the lines of “Why does that matter?” or “What does that have to do with my story?”  And the honest answer is “Nothing.”

I haven’t yet found a solution for this dilemma: How can an editor ensure LGBT+ diversity among an anthology’s authors when the editor doesn’t know their orientations, and can’t ask?

If you readers have any advice or suggestions, please let me know by leaving a comment.  Have you heard of other publishers who have found a way to solve this problem?

4 Responses to “Difficulty of Diversity: LGBT+”

  1. Disha Tandon November 18, 2020 at 3:32 am #

    Beautifully written!!🥺

  2. joanne the geek November 18, 2020 at 6:21 am #

    It’s not just about having LGBT writers, but also having LGBT content. Some LGBT writers, like myself, tend to have obviously queer characters/relationships, but I know others aren’t so obvious. Maybe get in touch with LGBT writers’ groups?

    • Editor Ed November 18, 2020 at 9:58 pm #

      That’s ultimately what I did with that anthology – made sure it included at least one story with gay main characters. Unfortunately, I have no idea if the author was LGBT+ or not.

    • Declan Taggart February 12, 2021 at 6:27 am #

      I second this! Diversity of sexuality is not relevant unless it is in the material – as it is not something that one can present as (unless they choose to disclose than information). If this is information that you don’t access anyway, and there are no barriers in place, then you are, by proxy, inclusive of LGBT+.

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