The Publishing Triangle began honoring LGBTQ writers for their bodies of work a few months after it was founded in 1989.

The Bill Whitehead Award commemorates a legendary editor. Among the first book editors to be out in the late 1970s, Bill Whitehead rose to become the editor in chief at E. P. Dutton in the early 1980s. In 1985, he moved to Macmillan as editor at large. Over his career, he edited books in a wide variety of subject areas, including literary and commercial fiction; film; new age; and serious nonfiction. As an out gay man, he worked with such LGBTQ writers as Edmund White (on A Boy’s Own Story and States of Desire), Robert Ferro (The Family of Max Desir), and Doris Grumbach (Chamber Music). He also edited the work of the Sleeping Beauty trilogy of Anne Rice (writing as A. N. Roquelaure) and Lana Turner’s autobiography. He died of AIDS in 1987.

Each year, a panel of judges selects an LGBTQ author for the Whitehead Award, in celebration of their lifetime of work and their commitment to fostering queer culture. In previous years, the award alternated between a female-identified author and a male-identified author, but starting in 2020, Whitehead judges will consider authors who identify anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum.  The winner receives $3000 (one of the largest cash prizes in LGBTQ letters) and is invited to deliver an address on LGBTQ literary culture at the annual Publishing Triangle Awards ceremony.

Past winners are:

2019 — Jaime Manrique
2018 — Sarah Schulman
2017 — Michael Bronski
2016 — Eloise Klein Healy
2015 — Rigoberto Gonzalez
2014 — Maria Irene Fornes
2013 — John D’Emilio
2012 — Alison Bechdel
2011 — Alan Hollinghurst
2010 — Blanche Wiesen Cook
2009 — Martin Duberman
2008 — Katherine Forrest
2007 — Andrew Holleran
2006 — Karla Jay
2005 — Edward Field
2004 — Lillian Faderman
2003 — Christopher Bram
2002 — Jane Rule
2001 — Michael Nava
2000 — Doris Grumbach
1999 — John Rechy
1998 — M. E. Kerr
1997 — Armistead Maupin
1996 — Joan Nestle
1995 — Jonathan Ned Katz
1994 — Judy Grahn
1993 — Samuel R. Delany
1992 — Audre Lorde
1991 — James Purdy
1990 — Adrienne Rich
1989 — Edmund White