Past intern and 2x guest editor Lydia Rogue is a freelance writer and editor who made quite a few improvements around here in our office and editorial standards. In their last post as a volunteer with us, Lydia explored why inclusive language is so important in open calls for submissions, for a better, more diverse publishing world.
If you take a look at Microcosm’s submission guidelines, there’s a sentence inviting people who aren’t well represented in the publishing world to send in their manuscript.
People of color and transgender or gender nonconforming people are particularly encouraged to submit, as is anyone whose experiences are not well represented in the publishing world.
In the same vein, when I put out a call for submissions for True Trans Bike Rebel, and now that I’m looking for pieces for The Great Trans-Universal Bike Ride, I’ve made it clear I’m looking exclusively for submissions from trans and nonbinary people.
Just a few days ago I was digging through submission guidelines for a variety of lit magazines, as well as trawling job boards for listings. Both in my job hunt and in the perusal of submission guidelines, I was surprised to find more and more magazines have been saying that they’re especially interested in submissions from women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people and other minority voices.
Not just “Equal Opportunity Employer” statements, as required by law, but actually stating that they’re looking for minorities.
Let me point out that this has not always been the case, and I am glad to see it.
Admittedly, it’s hard not to be wary of these calls, especially when it comes to jobs. It often feels like they’re trying to get diversity points without actually following through. This thought is fueled by the countless stories I’ve heard of hiring managers tossing applications (regardless of legality) because someone listed their pronouns as anything other than he or she, or because their name doesn’t match their gender marker. And often I do wonder, when I send an email with “Lydia Rogue they/them” to hiring managers or editors, if that isn’t part of the reason I never heard back. It’s nerve-wracking.
So why do we do it at all, then?
Why not just let the implication of inclusivity stand?
Why call people in?
It’s easy to pretend that the default of equality is enough, especially if you’re coming from a place of privilege. If the laws dictate you can’t discriminate, and people are wary when you explicitly state you’re inclusive, why do it at all?
The answer is that regardless of what the laws say, the reality is we often aren’t welcome in these spaces.
The default attitude is not welcoming – the default is we’re shut out of many industries. We’re told no one wants to read our stories. Sometimes it’s just implied, other times we’re outright told no one wants to hear them. If we’re welcomed at all, we’re shuffled off into a corner, pigeonholed into a genre that defines us by our minority (or the minority of our characters).
But we’re more than that.
Microcosm Publishing has always focused on relating the experiences of what it’s like to be a marginalized person, and has worked to make the publishing world more representative of how diverse the real world is. We are constantly asking the question “How can we remove barriers to success for marginalized people in our industry?” and open calls for submission are a big part of that.
When putting out a call for submissions like this you’re opening the door to others. Regardless of whether someone explicitly states “I am that minority” when sending a manuscript or a story or a job application, you may find yourself with more minorities sending in applications regardless, because while we may be wary of making our minority explicit, it’s still nice to be invited in.
When all the submissions for True Trans Bike Rebel came in, Elly and I were amazed at what we saw. By telling people “You have a story and we want to hear it,” they submitted stories that represented the diverse range of experiences trans and nonbinary people experience.
By calling people in, we made them feel at home, like they had a place here.
We didn’t have to list every possible combination of minorities and story types, people drew conclusions and submitted their stories to us. It doesn’t take much to enact change, you just have to be willing to do it.
By holding the door open and saying ‘You’re welcome here’ we saw positive change in the types of stories submitted to us.
Try it out sometime and see the changes you too can enact in your community.