What’s a Writer to Do?

As I was checking the final edits in my next book, Resting Easy in the US; Unique Lodging Options for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, I encountered an unexpected ethical dilemma. Let’s just chalk it all up to bad timing, as Indiana’s governor had also just signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law.

The dilemma? Do I keep the Indiana properties in the book or delete them? I’m opposed to discrimination on any level — in fact my readers are no strangers to discrimination — so wouldn’t including the Indiana properties make me a hypocrite? On the other hand, is it fair to my readers to delete these otherwise good resources just because they happen to be located in a state that has a narrow-minded governor?

So I did what any prudent person would do in this day and age — I crowdsourced my problem. And boy did I ever get an earful — from writers, editors, readers, friends, and colleagues. In the end their input gave me some much needed perspective, and I was able to sort things out and arrive at a well reasoned decision.

Several friends suggested that I contact the properties and ask them if they support the new law. On the surface that seemed reasonable. On the other hand, there are 19 other states that have similar laws, so why should I just question the Indiana properties? If I question one property, I should question all the properties; and that is completely beyond the scope of the book. Think about it — if I were writing a guide to LGBT properties, would I nix a perfectly good pick for my readers just because it wasn’t accessible? Probably not.

I also heard from quite a few Indiana friends, who pleaded with me not to judge them because of the actions of their governor. As a Californian that resonated with me. After all, I’d hate for people to think that all Californians are like our colorful but clueless former governor. I’m glad he went back to Hollywood, and quite frankly I hope he won’t be back.

Additionally, a film critic friend pointed out that although he despised the politics and actions of a number of directors and actors, he evaluated their work objectively, and left the rest up to the viewing public.

A few people thought I should kill the Indiana chapters, but they were in the minority; and surprisingly none of my LGBT friends expressed that opinion. And one kind soul even pointed out that my book was bound to last longer than the law.

The book is about access, and as several of my LGBT friends pointed out, “We know how to screen properties, and we can tell where we aren’t welcome.” And one of my disabled friends encouraged me to include the properties because “we need to support businesses that support us.”

Getting back to the basics, as a journalist it’s my job to tell a story without becoming part of the story. And then there’s that ugly c-word — censorship. I hate that almost as much as I hate discrimination.

In the end, I decided to just stick with what I do best — describe, evaluate and write about access — and trust that my readers can figure out the rest on their own. So yes, the Indiana properties are included. That doesn’t mean that I support the new law; it just means that I believe in inclusion, and that I trust that my readers are savvy enough to make informed choices, based on their own political opinions and ethical standards.

After all, that’s exactly what i did — with a little help from my friends!