Kamala: I don’t have to remind anyone that this has been a really, truly unexpected year. For me, in addition to the loss and grief that we have all experienced, I am incredibly lucky to report that 2020 has brought some unexpected areas of growth and opportunity for me too. Some dreams I’ve been building toward my whole life have started to come into fruition. One of those dreams is my first novel, Zigzags, which came out this fall, and another is my novella, You Can Vibe Me On My FemmePhone, which is being printed on a risograph, right now, for the launch in January. I’m so happy to share them with the world and want to give them everything I’ve got!
It’s also been really strange to live in a time and place where, in some ways my weird, queer, mixed-Asian, anti-establishment art dreams are more viable than ever, while simultaneously so many lives are in peril and taking care of really basic human needs feels like a dream. As an editor, I wanted to grapple with this reality at Autostraddle. I am honored to have spent the last five months working on a vision for this site and figuring out what the role of Editor-In-Chief looks like — particularly when it’s not being held by the co-founder of Autostraddle.
I’ve been in so many conversations since I got here — the silly ones, the wildly creative ones, the really hard ones. We’ve been thinking about you, our readers, and what we can put on this site to entertain, inform, challenge, transform and bring you the warmth and hope of queer community. That isn’t easy to do. Sometimes these goals conflict or are at odds. They often require a tough decision. I’ve been impressed with the dedication of everyone on the Autostraddle team to doing this work, and really proud of what we have delivered you.
I was so pleased with our Asian Pacfiic Islander American Heritage Month and thrilled to have Xoai Pham’s work on it; making the A+ erotica series, S L I C K, with Sarah, Nicole and our writers/illustrators always brought us something surprising to discuss; getting to build a repository of mine and Carmen’s thoughts in This Checks Out and writing our 2020 election post showed me the beauty in our world more clearly; and I got to partake in my greatest joy, which is reading and editing the work by the queer writers who grace these pages and help sharpen their brilliant ideas.
However, as I’ve gotten to learn this site and community better, as everyone on Senior Staff has been wrestling with the pandemic and how to plan for a successful future, I am aware, now, that I am not the best leader for this project. I believe in the vision that we, as a team, set out this summer, and I know there is someone who can bring even more unwavering heart and focus, perhaps even more professional experience, to the goals we want to reach. I consider it a vital part of leadership to know my limits and to be responsible to them. So I have made the decision to leave Autostraddle and my position at the end of next week. I’m grateful to have spent this time with you. Next year, I’m starting a marketing position at the Women’s Center for Creative Work in Los Angeles, where my next book is being printed and I’ll have a little more time to write. I will be continuing to build queer futures, so I hope we meet again.
Rachel: Kamala joining AS was always such a bold and generous choice — the EIC position involves leading a team of writers with different backgrounds, goals and relationships to the site across dozens of states and multiple countries, time zones, and all through a remote office without ever meeting most of them in person, as well as serving a diverse readership that shifts month to month and brings with it a complex set of hopes and expectations based in queer culture, media, history and struggle. It’s a role that requires listening to every voice and honoring every vision while also providing a clear direction; being present and available to everyone while also modeling a healthy workplace and digital culture; showing up as a full, authentic person while also providing the stability and consistency that people look for in a leader, especially in difficult conversations and moments of crisis, when it’s hardest. Kamala signed up for all of this with us, and with no way to know that she’d also be at the helm leading into a global pandemic, national uprising, extraordinarily fraught election cycle, and an unprecedented economic crisis for the digital media industry as a whole. Chill!
In the midst of all this, Kamala has led with grace, generosity, and care; she’s coordinated and led our No Justice No Pride content over the summer; brought incredible freelancers and culture writers into the fold; and co-created a bold vision with Carmen to lead our little site into the future you all as readers deserve with our last fundraiser. Behind the scenes, Kamala has taken on creative and connective ways of leading through a pandemic. She and Carmen led a virtual version of our yearly IRL retreat; we’ve been able to raise rates for our team of writers; she’s moderated difficult conversations about coverage and editorial direction and listened carefully to form a way forward that’s in line with our values; she’s worked with SEO and tech experts to do the thankless but necessary work of navigating digital infrastructure and algorithmic mazes that are particularly harmful to LGBT publications. Most of all, Kamala has been an original, sharp, funny and brilliant writer. We’re all so happy she’s going to be able to devote time and energy to that work, and that we can continue to read it (and cover it!).
This feels like (because it is!) a big change in a year of too many changes; there’s also a lot that’s going to be staying the same. We’re continuing to build on the vision that Kamala and Carmen created and that you all deserve after choosing to keep Autostraddle around with our last fundraiser. We are continuing to closely monitor and evaluate our metrics and budget allocated to QTPOC writers to make sure they continue to increase; we’re continuing to build on accessibility infrastructure both for community members and for our staff; we’re carefully analyzing our budget and income to make sure we’re paying the highest rates we can afford to both our staff and freelancers.
As this year closes, there are a lot of things we all aren’t sure of, but we are sure of our values and direction, and our commitment to this community. In looking for future leadership in 2021, we’re seeking folks who can fulfill and build further our vision, and soliciting detailed feedback internally from our staff about what they look for in successful leadership so we can make the best decisions possible. We’re open to an expansive vision of leadership and the future of Autostraddle going into 2021, and while we don’t know exactly what it will look like yet, we do know that as always, this community’s values and priorities will be at the heart of it.
Carmen: Starting at the end of this year, I will be stepping up as Autostraddle’s interim Editor-in-Chief as we navigate these next steps.
There are very few places on earth that I love as much as I love our little corner of the internet, and I hope in all aspects of this job to lead with that love, care, and attention at the forefront. The last year has been a stunning marvel of unexpected events that turned so many of our lives upside down and uprooted so much for all of us. While wading through these uncharted waters, working with Kamala and the rest of our senior team has been one of my brightest and most consistent joys. In the midst of unprecedented global chaos, our team has dreamed of an even stronger Autostraddle — one that is rooted in the work of the collective and making room for more voices. We are on the precipice of making that dream a reality.
It’s an honor to wake up every day and work with the nearly 50 queer and trans creators who so wilingly share their talents and smarts to keep our website alive and thriving. I’m forever humbled that our community, including each of you reading this letter right now, has entrusted this team to tell your stories, to make you laugh and feel seen. That we are able to keep the lights on and pay LGBTQ creatives to tell their stories is a privilege. It’s a sacred trust — one that I never take for granted.
I’ve told this story many times by now, but I began reading Autostraddle when I was in the closet and looking for someone, anyone who might understand. It’s been the first thing I read in the morning for the last nine years (this month, in fact!) and the last place I read at night. I went from an anonymous account — one that only had my initials because I was so afraid someone might find out I was gay — to being an occasional writer, then joining the team, then becoming an editor — and for now at least, your Editor-in-Chief. Thank you for believing in all of us, for allowing us to hold your hand in this journey.
And so here we will be, tomorrow and the day after, working our asses off to make sure each day is better than the last. We wish Kamala the best of luck and send her all of our love on her next chapter. And a Happy New Year to us all.