Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gao Xingjian said: “It’s in literature that true life can be found. It’s under the mask of fiction that you can tell the truth.”
Truth is authenticity. The authentic lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are celebrated when our stories are written, published and read. Those three steps transform an idea into a community, and they are at the heart of the mission statement for Lambda Literary, the preeminent organization for the celebration of LGBTQ books.
Last week, Lambda Literary held its 27th annual awards ceremony, a glamorous gala in New York featuring the likes of Gloria Steinem, John Waters and the inimitable columnist Liz Smith. The night was especially meaningful to me because the Pioneer Award honored Rita Mae Brown. Rubyfruit Jungle was the first book I ever read where I fell into the pages and imagined myself a fleshed out character — full of personality, ambition and sexuality. It was authentic.
In very recent years, LGBTQ characters have become increasingly visible in the mainstream arts. More queer authors are being recognized for their work, just as the founders of LL dreamed in 1989 when they launched the organization. But recognition of our literature is only one of the organization’s goals. The more we’re incorporated into the mainstream, the more important it becomes to tell our stories with authenticity and to preserve our unique queer culture.
At our board meeting last Tuesday, I was elected president of LL for the 2015-2016 term. It’s a great honor indeed, but more than that, it’s a trust. I’m lucky to follow S. Chris Shirley, who led in the development and implementation of a strategic plan that will take the organization forward for years to come. Plus I serve with a fantastic board, and we have an amazing Executive Director in Tony Valenzuela.
I appreciate all of the support you’ve given me since I joined this board four years ago. From your generous donations to your “congrats” and shares on social media, I’ve had the gift of feeling you behind me. That means more than you know.