Is membership in marginalized groups stated or implied appropriately in quiz bowl questions?
Many of the important people asked about in quiz bowl are members of marginalized groups. Whether it's sexuality, race, or something else, there's a ton of ultracanonical answerlines that fall into a minority group of one of those categories. While quiz bowl questions do a decent job of acknowledging ethnicity and race, the fact that many authors, artists, and historical figures belong to a marginalized group is often completely ignored. As an example -
On AseemsDB, there are 101 TU/Bonuses on Michel Foucault. Outside of a 1993 Penn Bowl bonus, none of them mention his homosexuality or the fact that his homosexuality was formative to both his life and a good deal of his work. Out of 134 TU/Bonuses's on Virginia Woolf, one explicitly mentions her sexuality, while a couple more mention "lover of Vita West". The same holds mostly true for Inge, Vidal, Genet, Coward, Whitman, Mann, Grimke, Keynes, Ginsberg, Forster and many many more answerlines deeply imbedded in the canon.
There are a couple cases where homosexuality is very commonly implied or stated, two of those being Oscar Wilde and Verlaine / Rimbaud (I group them because in both cases the inevitable FTP is some derivative of "had relationship with -the other-"), and these deserve to be looked at closer. First, Oscar Wilde. Any references to his homosexuality only come along with discussion of The Ballad of Reading Gaol or De Profundis, and in most cases this reference comes in the form of phrases like "while convicted for gross indecency charges", "wild homosexual antics with Lord Alfred Douglas", and "homosexual offenses/acts". In the Verlaine / Rimbaud case, I think the convention of using them as a giveaway has just magnified to the point where it's the most known thing about them, and therefore is included in nearly every question.
With some exceptions, nearly every question on LGBT people neglects to mention or imply their status as a member of that community, even when it's incredibly relevant to their work and life (which I'd argue is pretty much ubiquitous). When it is mentioned, it is often done so in a way that dances around the fact, puts it in a negative light, or is essentially reductive to "lol gay people". Explicit mentions of sexuality no more complicated than "For 10 points, name this gay novelist" are few and very far between.
Why is it advantageous to fix this?
As much as it would be great if people only got things in quiz bowl because they had read the work in question or read about it, the fact is that much of any player's surface-level knowledge comes purely from hearing quiz bowl questions. As a means of delivering information, then, it's key that quiz bowl helps to highlight the contribution of marginalized groups to major fields of study. As a gay quizbowler, finding out that many of my favorite playwrights etc. were gay was actually a really cool experience; it inspired me to learn more about them given the shared link, and knowing that their works were written through that lens helped me to identify with them.
More widely, it helps to legitimize minority groups in that it makes clear the impact that marginalized groups have had in academic topics. It reaffirms the existence and contribution of those groups, and knowing that marginalized groups have made such important impacts in the world makes it much harder to discriminate against and belittle those groups as a whole. I hate to use this, but I think the whole "_____ teen surrounded by bigotry who plays quiz bowl and realizes that they can do anything" argument is actually pretty valid here as well.
A more practical reason is simply that it makes the question a more accurate depiction of the answer line. Insofar as quiz bowl is a means of transmitting knowledge, taking one word to explain a lens through which the entire body of work of that artist/author/scientist/etc is at least subtly affected is pretty damn economical.
Is it really relevant?
Yes. The interesting thing is that quiz bowl already empirically acknowledges the relevance of a detail like "Where _x_ person was from". Tossups on countries or cities based on important people who live there abound in nearly every subject, because it's acknowledged that living in a certain place and contributing to that place's legacy is relevant, interesting, and noteworthy. By the same token*, living as a black person in America or living as a gay person in the 1920's is similarly notable and deserves to be mentioned. Ultimately, you can not divorce the intersection of the lives of the people you're tossing up with their work - while this doesn't excuse making tossups entirely biographical, obviously, it also means that things as formative as sexuality or race should be absolutely acknowledged.
*(please note that I am no way suggesting you write tossups on _gay people_ that go "one person of this sexuality wrote a novel...")
How do we go about fixing this?
Ultimately, applying this to question writing isn't really going to cause any massive changes. I'm not saying that "every single TU/Bonus about a minority needs to mention their minority status, otherwise it is racist/sexist/homophobic" - but it isn't really a huge deal unless you want it to be. For instance, take this giveaway from CO 2009 Lit.
And, after massive and ground-breaking changes...For 10 points, name this author of Myra Breckinridge and longtime feuder with Truman Capote.
Sarcasm aside, I don't really think it's a whole lot to ask for writers to devote 4-10 characters (if possible) to highlight the fact that the subject of their question is a member of a marginalized group. It's also not even fair to just view it as a "4-10 character sap I can't use to write clues" because their membership in a marginalized group, like their country of origin, is a clue in and of itself.For 10 points, name this gay author of Myra Breckinridge and longtime feuder with Truman Capote.
It's also possible to write TUs or Bonuses in a way that explicitly mentions their minority status more fully. Here's an example for a MPSS side event I produced earlier this year:
While this type of reference obviously takes up more space (and I am in no way saying "every Foucault bonus should have this!" or something), it's also something worth considering for people who are as profoundly affected by their marginalized status as Foucault.10. This work’s first volume, The Will to Knowledge, discussed the concept of biopower emerging in the Western world.
For 10 points each:
 Name this work that begins with a part titled “We Other Victorians”. It discusses the repression of the title concept, its “repressive hypothesis”.
ANSWER: The History of Sexuality
 This other work, inspired by the concept of Bentham’s Panopticon as well as the prisons of Neufchatel and Mettray, contained intense descriptions of discipline’s power over society that were ratcheted back in the later Security, Territory, Population.
ANSWER: Discipline and Punish
 This philosopher, whose own sexuality helped enable his fascination with conformity and society, posited that gender and sexuality were social constructs. He wrote The Order of Things and The Madness of Civilization as well as the previously mentioned works.
I'm curious to know what you all think of this. To my knowledge, it's a suggestion that hasn't been brought up much before, and I think it's a pretty easy fix for something I see as a fairly important issue.
I think it's important to acknowledge that quiz bowl as a whole has gotten really quite good in some areas at highlighting news and history for many marginalized groups. I've definitely noticed quite a lot of LGBT-related issues coming up in current events and history (as well they should) in the past year, and it's always been super gratifying to get questions on them. I think there's already an effort being made to be more inclusive and fair with the representation of various groups in quiz bowl, and I definitely appreciate that. Please share your thoughts and suggestions!