We’ve done a lot of “End of Year” lists this year, 10 of them in fact! Reaching from television and film to music to even our own most read posts of the year. And as we bring 2021 to a close, we wanted to end our recap of the year’s best on a personal note.
We asked our editors to pick one thing published on Autostraddle[dot com] in 2021 that they had absolutely zero things to do with. Something that they loved purely as a reader. A lot of what happens behind the scenes of our scrappy indie media empire — haha — can go unseen, but Autostraddle is for most of us a job of passion and care. We got into editing here because we loved reading here. We hope you love reading here, too! And end of year reflections are a great time to honor that.
Right away we should also note that these are only SOME of our favorites! This is a curated selection, and by no means a complete list! For example, Carmen would want you to know that Vanessa’s series on grief has helped her cope with a lot of her own and that Ro’s “Yes, Some Of Us Use Dental Dams (And They’re Hot)” was the funniest, most straight forward and comfortable piece of sex education she read last year. And that’s just the beginning!
What were some of yours? Thank you for reading Autostraddle! This job has a lot of long hours and hunched backs and finger cramps and (ok, it’s the end of the year, we can be honest) cold cereal for dinner, but it’s also a lot of love and you know what? Being able to tell our queer stories, on our own terms? There’s no greater honor.
Thank you, always, for trusting us with it. We hope that we do you proud.
Carmen Phillips, Editor-in-Chief
Strapping As A Fat Femme Was My Black Queer Sexual Liberation
Written by Demetria Blooms, Edited by Shelli
It’s been nearly two months since “Strapping as a Fat Femme” first published, and the opening line stays with me still, “I’ve spent a lot of time in my twenties face down on fitted bed sheets, being strapped down while the person I was hooking up with moaned, sweated, and hovered over my fat Black body like that damn crane in prize machines.”
It’s a perfect picture! Vivid, hot, a little funny, and incredibly vulnerable. I saw myself in it instantly, to be honest. And I devoured the rest instantly. I had no idea when Shelli pitched strap week, we’d publish something that hemmed so close to my own experiences with sex (and I’m probably a little embarassed to say that outloud now but fuck it, it’s the end of the year) and I’m so grateful to Shelli and Demetria for doing it.
Riese Bernard, CEO
Daniela Sea On “The L Word,” Gender Identity, and Imagining Queer Liberation
Witten by Drew Gregory, Edited by Heather and Carmen
I think I’ve read this once a month or so ever since it was published — so glad that after so many years, Daniela picked this place as where they’d feel safe finally telling their story, that Drew conducted the conversation with such care and investment. I know it was a long project, too — lots of back-and-forths after the initial conversation, which isn’t necessarily a traditional way to handle publishing an interview but sometimes that leads to results as beautiful as this: careful, curated, expansive, revelatory. There’s just so much here: about representation and agency and our changing visions of gender and sexuality and media. It’s just a gift. Drew is an incredible writer of course, but I think this piece really highlighted not only that but her talent as an interviewer, at an intellectual level and an interpersonal level as well.
Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor
Everything That Matters Is Stuck in the Back of My Throat
Written and Edited by Carmen Phillips
I never had the great good fortune to meet Carmen’s Aunt Lorna, but her legacy shines so brightly through Carmen that I feel like I know her, just a little bit. Aunt Lorna is one of those people who always comes up really late at night, or in the middle of a long trip when we’d been sleeping in bunk beds for a week, or when either of us had had a couple of beers or glasses of wine. Someone so dear to Carmen that their hearts seemed to sometimes beat in sync. She passed away last year, and for Black History Month, Carmen wrote about her. It’s one of those essays that you can’t really describe, that you can only feel for yourself. It’s full of hope and heartbreak and love, love, love, love, love. It’s also one of those very rare things that you read someone saying about someone else that you feel about the person saying it: “She was small. Slender, not magnificently tall — though as a kid I thought she towered in her elegance. But no, she was small. And large. She was the largest woman I’ll ever know.”
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Managing Editor
I Still Can’t Believe “Friends” Was The First Time I Saw Myself On-Screen
Written by Drew Gregory, Edited by Heather
I’m a huge fan of Drew’s writing, and I’m also a huge fan of essays by queer and trans folks about pop culture and art that isn’t necessarily considered explicitly queer or trans. At the end of the day, we all connect to art in strange and complex and often unpredictable ways. Overly simplified conversations about representation and visibility sometimes don’t allow space for that. This Friends essay is exactly what I’m talking about. How many essays are there about the homophobia and transphobia of Friends? A million! And that doesn’t mean that’s not an important analysis/conversation. But I’m just personally more interested in work like this. It’s intimate and personal, and it complicates the conversation in a smart way.
Shelli Nicole, Culture Editor
On R.Kelly and the Question of Justice
Written by Dani Janae, Edited by Carmen
I am often wary when it comes to writing about rape, sexual assault and molestation, mostly because I have a connection to those things and sharing them with the world means I’m opening myself up for folks to comment on it and I don’t enjoy that aspect of it. But in this piece, Dani was able to take so many of the thoughts I often have about Black women and how we are treated, talked about and viewed if we are the victims of rape and sexual assault and how the justice given may not fully be that at all.
Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor
Love Is Not a Lie: In Sickness and in Health
Written by Heather Hogan, Edited by Laneia
I haven’t had many examples of long-term, committed queer relationships in my life, so anytime Heather writes an essay about her love life, I gobble it up like a gay Hallmark movie. Fortunately, Heather’s writing is much, MUCH better and much more honest than any Hallmark movie I’ve come across.
Like Heather and Stacy’s marriage, my relationship has been touched by chronic illness, with all of its relentless symptoms and its defeating interactions with the medical system, and it’s rough sometimes. I take comfort in knowing that there are other queer couples out there who are supporting each other through similar challenges. Heather beautifully illustrates what that support looks like and what love looks like in the midst of a health crisis. She also looks great in a bowtie.