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The 36th Lambda Literary Awards – A Huge Success

By David T. Valentin

On Tuesday night (June 11th) Lambda literary hosted their 36th Lambda Literary awards, also known as the Lammys. Just like last year, the LGBTQ+ literary organization hosted their award ceremony in Sony Hall on 46th street in Manhattan, New York, marking the second-year hosting in the space. 

Last year, I had the opportunity to work sign-up at the beginning of the event. To see so many happy smiles coming to celebrate LGBTQ+ literature and art immediately made me feel welcomed. By the end of the night, although I only stayed half-way through the award ceremony, I left knowing that no matter what was going on in my life a year from now, I would be volunteering again for the Lambda Literary Awards.

This year, I was stationed by the organization’s director of programs and operations L.D. Lewis, at the listening lounge, a small, little 70s rustic cove in the corner of Sony Hall and across the stage, where I would be preparing presenters to step on stage with the envelopes that they would read from to announce the winners of each category. After, the winners would come backstage to the listening lounge where one of the event’s photographer, Leyda Luz, would snap their pictures with their award.

At first, I thought I would be overwhelmed. I thought I might screw up. Afterall, these are writers who, for the most part, had either established careers or were part of Lambda Literary. But then I met the director’s interns who were brimming with energy and excitement to finally witness the cumulation of all their hard work and time that they dedicated to bringing the 36th Lambda Literary Awards together.

And I thought, of course, this is a professional setting of like-minded artists within the same industry so, yes, professionalism is important as a volunteer. But then I remembered that above all else, the Lambda Literary Awards is a celebration of queer voices, queer art, and queer truth. Most of all, as one presenter said on stage, it is about taking back our narrative from ignorant bigots who try and drown queer voices out with their hate out of fear that their status quo existence might change.

So, I channeled that energy. I channeled that fight—my own and the bigger fight I am a part of by being part of the LGBTQ+ community—stoked my fire and realized I was among family. I was safe, and I had no reason to put on a mask or be nervous to talk to anyone there

Just as last year, at the strike of 6:00 when the doors opened, a flood of some of the most beautifully, creatively and elegantly dressed people came flooding into Sony Hall. Hosted by drag queen, a room that not minutes ago was filled with a few voices echoing across the hall as they tested mics was suddenly and immediately drowned out by a horde of people ready to celebrate a community long-deserving of the love they pour into this world.


It took some time to calm the excited crowd, but as soon as the award shows’ host, Drag Queen Miss Peppermint, American actress, singer, songwriter, and activist, took hold of that mic all eyes and ears were on her on the stage. With some quick-witted jabs at the audience and perfectly timed gay jokes, she had the crowd ready for the night. 

With 25 categories to win from broken down from gay, lesbian, trans, and bi from speculative fiction, romance, erotica, memoir, drama and poetry, the award ceremony celebrated queer voices across the country for three entire hours (not counting the hour-long cocktail hours before and after the award ceremony). It was a night of cheerful laughing, joyful screams and impactful speeches discussing the importance of queer representation in the literary award, the attack on LGBTQ+ people—specifically trans lives—globally right now, and, most importantly, the genocides being committed in different countries over the world and the ways in which that intersects with queer liberation politics.

Along with the 25 categories writers can win from, Lambda Literary also gives out five special awards, now seven this year with the introduction of two new awards. The awards are the Randall Kenan Prize for Black LGBTQ Fiction; Jeanne Códova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction; Judith A. Markowtiz Award for Exceptional New LGBTQ Writers; Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize; The J. Michael Samuel Prize for Emerging Writers Over 50; and the two new awards of this year, The Denneny Award for Editorial Excellence and The Pat Holt Prize for Critical Arts Writing. 

Despite being backstage (so to speak, even though I was technically all the way in the back of the hall facing the stage, but I digress), I felt front and center and completely involved in the process. In some ways, I had one of the more important jobs there and that was being the calming, welcoming face and smile presenters needed to gather their thoughts to go up on stage and speak to a hall packed with people, a task even the most confident of people get nervous to do. Not much different from being a part-time bartender. 

The award ceremony concluded at 10:00 PM, and immediately the party started within Sony Hall. The lights were dimmed, the music was blasted and the disco ball above the crowd speckled light across the entire ceiling of the hall all while attendees danced as servers swerved in and out of the crowds serving cocktail food on platters.

Although during most events in the city where I go home, a bit socially drained from the events of the night and dreading the long trek back to Staten Island, I felt myself being reinvigorated by the crowd as people climbed up on stage and danced to the songs of Kylie Minogue, Cher and Britney Spears. I found myself enchanted by the moment, enchanted by so many beautiful queer souls in one place. I thought to myself, no wonder queer people surround themselves with style, art and elegance, because we fucking deserve it and if society isn’t going to give it to us, we’re going to make it ourselves.


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