A lot of minority writers (LBGT+, PoC, disabled, etc.) experience discrimination in the Literary Community. We don't have our panels accepted for conferences, are turned down for residencies, aren't found on many literary magazine mastheads, and are even absent from the pages of said magazines.
"But, how do you know you were discriminated against if they can't see what you look like?" people often ask, referring mainly to submitting.
That's the hard part. We are discriminated against, but discrimination is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to prove. When someone is reading your work, they can't see you. So, according to a healthy slice of the majority, it isn't possible (especially without identifying information on a manuscript like some places require) for them to know.
So, the naysayers conclude, we have minority paranoia. How can we even suspect that is, indeed, what's happening and we're not just, say, cruddy writers?
Well, let's go search for clues.
Subject matter: Is the poem about a person's Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis? Is a creative nonfiction (reality) about the Autistic writer's struggle for acceptance?
The VIDA count: You mean WXYZ Publication hasn't ever, at least in the last year, accepted a piece by a certain minority group?
Veiled language in rejections: "This essay would be better suited to a specialty publication for people like yourself."
Asking outright about minority status: "Loved this piece! Are you disabled?" Writer answers affirmatively and gets a response like, "Even though I enjoyed this piece, I can't quite fit it in.". (This has happened to me.)
Read the author's biography: Many publishers don't want information stripped from a writer's work. They want to know from the beginning who you are. More and more ask for a photograph up front, as well. So the editors do know who you are, at that point.
The editor holds specific views: Some editors are just blatantly sexist, transphobic, racist, etc. And they don't care who knows. Or it's the most poorly kept secret in literary circles. How likely is a bigot to accept someone in a group they despise?
The magazine wants your experiences not by you: Essays on race written by white people without a single contributor of color to be found. A poem about being a caretaker to a disabled daughter without any disabled people speaking their truths, in any recent issue.
"But, just because someone doesn't accept your poem about your wheelchair, doesn't mean they're ableist." "And, just because an editor asked for your disability status, doesn't mean they rejected you because of it." "Maybe your disability poem wasn't as well-written as the woman who wrote about being a caretaker," "And... and... and..."
I stated beforehand: Unless an editor said outright that they didn't accept someone because of their minority status, it's difficult to tell.
But, when the numbers show disabled people just aren't published in a specific place (even if they publish disability-themed writing) and/or everything else listed... it becomes a distinct possibility.
Have you thought your work was rejected because of your disability/neurodivergence? What made you think it was?
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