"Maybe I'm just being a little troublesome about this," said non-gay writer Edward Albee, "who just happens to be gay" of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" fame, during an NPR interview about this controversy. May-be so, mayyybe so.
Albee was awarded a Pioneer Award at the Lambda Literary Awards last week. In accepting the honor from Lambda, Albee told the audience, "A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay."
Some people at the awards were not happy with this "controversial" statement. According to NPR, "Some artists in attendance felt Albee's tone was inappropriate for the event and have said that creating and supporting work that is specifically gay is important to the visibility of the gay community."
In his NPR interview, Albee clarified his concerns. He is troubled by the fact that "so many writers that are gay are expected to behave like gay writers."
What is the behavior of "gay writers" that other writers, who just happen to be gay, are supposed to live up to (or not)? I've known a bunch of gay writers, all of whom happen to be gay, and they all seem to act differently. I've never had the thought "oh, there's another one a them gay writers, acting all gay and everything." After careful exegesis, I'm guessing that what Mr. Albee meant is that gay writers might be expected to write about gay characters, whereas he never has. Actually, I've seen a lot of gay writers, successful ones, also not writing about gay characters, so it's not as if this is some new idea.
And there is the fact that the Lambda Literary Awards is not designed to suppress gay writers writing about non-gay things. Rather, the 23-year old LL Awards are designed to give honor to LGBT-related works, which often receive no notice at all in the literary world.
The eligibility criteria include the following: "In determining whether a book should be submitted for consideration, it should be noted that the Lambda Literary Awards are based principally on the LGBT content, the sexual orientation of the author and the literary merit of the work." (Maybe you Lambda Literary Awards people should think about mebbe adding gender identity in there somewheres. Jes sayin'. But whatever, really.)
Usually it's the trans community that is all up in arms about whether we're supposed to conform to social expectations or, instead, break every single stereotype of anything ever. But this time, it's the gays getting their turn at an old, old, old issue.
Some LGBT writers write about LGBT subjects. Some don't. I think that's fine. Edward Albee doesn't want to be confined as a writer to gay characters. I think that's fine too. Okay, it was a little curmudgeonly of him to take a swipe at gay writers who want to write about gay content. But what a boring controversy.
But then, if it wasn't boring, NPR wouldn't have been interested.