Being Present & Principled: AWP Solidarity at the San Antonio Conference & Bookfair
May 13, 2019
AWP is an association that is committed to respecting the universal human dignity of all persons. “Universal” is a high threshold, but not one for which we are prepared to make any exceptions. Each of us is distinguished by our individual identity and affiliations, and we embrace the many gifts associated with that diversity. In our view, our society ought to join together to achieve and sustain acceptable standards of decency, civility, and solidarity, and to that end we all have ample reason to embrace and honor our diversity.
At AWP, we are currently receiving messages and are following social media conversations regarding the appropriateness of holding the AWP annual conference and bookfair in San Antonio, Texas, next March. Currently, many people in our community are deeply troubled by some of the initiatives currently under consideration by the Texas state legislature—initiatives that specifically target the human dignity, human rights, and legal standing of sexual and gender minorities. That legislative session is drawing to a close soon, and knowing that our #AWP20 conference and bookfair will be held in San Antonio, we are monitoring the outcomes very carefully. We, along with most people in our community, deeply deplore the anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives currently under consideration by that body.
The city of San Antonio officially embraces diversity and has a vibrant, engaged, and multicultural LGBTQ+ population, with many civil society organizations active in this context. They deserve our solidarity. We also applaud the dedicated work of state and national LGBTQ+ organizations who are working very hard to persuade the Texas legislators to take a more equitable and inclusive path ahead; over the past month we have been in close contact with many of these organizations and with our own LGBTQ+ Caucus. We are convinced that the presence of our literary community in San Antonio next March will do much to support LGBTQ+ persons and their allies, and we intend to take very clear measures to make that support tangible and meaningful. This will include a specific solidarity event, and the #AWP20 bookfair service project will benefit an organization in San Antonio that serves the LGBTQ+ community. Also, given the nature of organizing conferences at the scale of AWP, we must set these locations four years in advance. Cancelling now would incur enormous financial hardship to AWP and make any prospect of an alternative conference venue for 2020 unlikely.
The legislators in Austin, Texas, would be taking a divisive and harmful path were they to pass any of the anti-LGBTQ+ bills that they are now deliberating. Many advocacy groups have pointed out to them in very clear empirical terms—dollars and cents—that such bigoted and exclusionary laws would result in significant financial losses to the state of Texas. That is true, and important. Still, the most important consideration cannot be the instrumental one; bigotry and exclusion based on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation are simply wrong.
Yours in solidarity,
Chloe Schwenke, PhD