2018 was a year in which many things seemed unstable and the world felt like it was constantly shifting under our feet; it was reassuring to have the constant of queer people willing to share their most precious and complicated selves through writing with the rest of us. We published a lot of incredible personal writing this year, and our 2018 themed issues Bad Behavior and But Make It Fashion brought us a lot of new writers and new writing. We’re proud of everything we published this year and the writers who published with us. Here are 20 pieces from 2018 we think stand out in particular.
This essay gets so beautifully at the ways our queerness and how we relate to it (or other queer people) is inseparable from who we are and where we come from — in this case the land, our dads good and bad, and our complicated histories.
“Before I lose you entirely, let me lay down the basic difference between birding, and birdwatching.” You might think that an essay about birding isn’t going to work its way inside you and live there. I would invite you to find out you’re wrong.
One of the most lyric pieces we published this year, the language and images here will leave you stunned for days. It’s an exploration of the complicated and vital sisterhood between trans women, and how “love becomes familiar in these liminal encounters,” the “long lost aunts and cousins and grandmothers and sis’s, time-travelling girls who have initiated the Butterfly Effect.”
It’s hard to describe what this essay is about — different places that become home, the way we rely on food for constancy and comfort when those things are threatened elsewhere, but maybe most of all about the feeling of washing dishes and having the girl kiss your neck as she walks behind you.
This essay is so thoughtful and engaging in the stakes it brings to thinking about presentation and how presentation impacts existing, moving through the world in and fucking with a body. Also, it’s really sexy! Truly something for everyone here.
It’s not enough to say that this will break your heart and put it back together again, but it’s true. So many of us grew up alongside Beyoncé and grew up with her music; Carmen had her first love and her first heartbreak to Beyoncé very literally, and the story of her falling and rising afterward is so worth your while.
I think we’ve all admired KaeLyn’s transparency and vulnerability about the process of becoming a parent. This essay brings that same honesty to parenting itself, and all the things she wasn’t expecting as an adult adoptee who’s now a parent.
This year we published some really incredible personal pieces that use visual storytelling in one way or another to explore a story, and this essay really stands out as one of them. It’s deeply affecting for any queer person who’s thought about what their family might look like, and the illustrations are both sweet and haunting.
Sometimes a piece comes through in submissions that sparks an immediate conversation among the editors, making sure we’ve all read it right away so we can talk about it. This was one of them. It’s unforgiving and unforgettable in the best way.
Reneice writes so beautifully and incisively here about how painful femme invisibility can be — how at its core, the pressure she felt to present more “visibly queer” was pressure to “alter my body solely because I’d been convinced I wasn’t enough” — and the power she found in actively owning her style and presentation.
This was so moving when Audrey read it at camp, and continues to be so now — it does incredible work illustrating the power in the relationship between our clothes and our bodies and our histories, and why these matter so much to queer and trans people.
I don’t know if Laneia thinks of these as personal essays, but not including them here would feel criminal. This series is one of the most special and unforgettable things we’ve done this year and also ever. The fragments of shared history tied in with These Shirts are exactly what Laneia does better than anyone on earth, turning what in anyone else’s hands would feel mundane into something transcendent and piercing.
Part of what got explored in our Bad Behavior issue were the implications of who “gets” to be “bad” — what behavior becomes “bad” depending on who’s doing it. What happens when a teenage girl takes on the foibles and flaws of a cowboys, “people who are difficult to love and refuse to commit, people who give their loved ones songs instead of expensive gifts, people who are misunderstood and prone to die early or disappear in other ways, people who love dingy barrooms as much as they love wide-open spaces, people who know they’re right but are too proud to waste any time trying to prove it?”
Questions of gender, body and self are complicated, and this essay beautifully refuses to attempt to answer them, but instead takes us on a journey through vignettes that explore and expand into the present.
There’s breaking rules handed down to you by culture or community norms, then there’s breaking commitments you’ve made to yourself and to others, like promising to love them most and then failing. This is a heartbreaking, beautifully honest piece about what happens when finding the love you deserve means breaking somebody else’s heart.
I am never more in awe of the breadth and depth of Heather Hogan’s talents and generosity than when she writes a personal essay like this: unsparing but also endlessly compassionate, looking at difficult experiences clearly but with tenderness. This essay from Heather in particular can only be described as a gift, and an exploration of what a gift it can be to give up on the ideal of goodness.
One of the first pieces published in our Bad Behavior issue, this essay on breaking rules and literally breaking into houses got to the heart of so much of what that issue was about: “existing incorrectly, but damn it, I was there.”
Al read this piece out loud at A-Camp X and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It’s a really resonant meditation on the ways that our relationship as LGBT people to cis patriarchal masculinity ultimately impacts (and is healed by) our relationship to queer masculinity.
This essay feels like the best explanation for why A+ exists; it’s deeply personal and involves a level of trust and intimacy that it would be difficult to imagine granting to the entire internet. It’s the kind of generous, expansive work that diehard Autostraddle (and Autowin) readers would appreciate in a way that no one else ever can. It’s also a precious piece of Riese’s brain and heart, and as you would expect, it’s something you’ll carry with you for a long time.