LGBTI authors have been urged to put pen to paper and tell the stories of our lives — or risk people from outside the community doing it for us.

That’s the call from Robert Tait, one of the judges of Australia’s largest LGBTI writing competition, which announced this year’s contest theme on Sunday at a Sydney Pride Festival event at Stonewall Hotel.

Writers, professional and amateur, from Australia and New Zealand, have until September 1 to write no more than 750 words to be considered for the 2015 OutStanding short story competition.

Stories must have relevance to the LGBTI community and should reflect this year’s theme that is, quite simply, “deep”.

Prizes, including Mardi Gras “experiences” and writing courses, are up for grabs and the winning stories will be published in the Star Observer.

Tait said the competition, which is a decade old and was once under the umbrella of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, had “struck a nerve” with writers and they hoped to surpass the more than 100 entries received last year.

He said it was important that LGBTI people continued to make their voices heard despite the gains made over the years.

“The big danger now is we’re going to be wholly assimilated and we can’t let that happen,” he said.

“We’ve become a currency in popular culture and because of that people are telling our stories for us.

“They’re dictating about how we should behave [and] it’s not from us so it’s important we maintain the right to tell our own stories.”

Tait, author of novels including Perfect Gay Marriage and Trashtown, said a highlight was sifting through the entries.

“It’s thrilling because we hear voices you would never read in New Idea or on the breakfast show or in Federal Parliament,” he said.

Writer and therapist Ash Rehn won last year with Mothers, a tale of family and intimate relationships embracing both gender and sexuality.

Rehn said he was honoured to have won 2014’s top prize: “It’s incredibly encouraging because you don’t necessarily get any encouragement [and] you get a lot of knock back letters so to get a prize like this is very inspiring.”

Patron of the OutStanding competition and Sydney independent state MP Alex Greenwich said the contest allowed LGBTI writers both in cities and rural and regional areas to share their stories.

“When the stories are all read out that is just such a wonderful event,” he said.

“You’ll have stores that will turn you on, stories that will make you laugh, stories that will make you cry — it’s really beautiful.”

More information about the competition and how to enter can be found at the OutStanding website or become a fan on Facebook.

To read Outstanding’s winning entries from 2013 and 2014, click here.

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