This is a new tradition for us, started just last year. A personal note of sweetness in the flurry that comes with wrapping up a chaotic, hard working, never stopping 365 days of keeping Autostraddle running. We asked our editors to pick something published on Autostraddle this year that they had absolutely zero things to do with. Something that we loved purely as a reader. We know that a lot of what happens behind the scenes of our website can go unseen, but Autostraddle is for most of us a job of immense care. We started editing here because, just like a lot of you, we loved reading here.
Right away we should also note that these are only SOME of our favorites! This is only a curated selection, and by no means is it a complete list! For just one example, Carmen loved Vanessa’s work with The Radical Possibility of FaT GiRL Zine (it was one of her favorites of the year, even if it’s not on the list below) and has adored everything Nico has done with the return of our A+ personal essay series, which truly highlights some of our writers’ best work. From that series edited by Nico, Dani’s It Could Be Anything and Em’s I Was Supposed To Be Good At Math were both standouts. And that’s barely scratching the surface of everything we do here!
Maybe if you have some extra time this holiday weekend, you’ll snuggle up with one of our favorite reads. What were some of yours?
Thank you for reading Autostraddle! This job has a lot of long hours and hunched backs and wrist braces and finger cramps. It comes with a lot late dinners that are just slices of cheese on top of crackers. But it’s also love. Telling our stories, on our terms, requires so much love. And we are so honored to do it. We hope to make you proud.
Sending you love for this New Year,
Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor
To the Trans Kids Reading This – Keep Glowing
Written by shea wesley martin, Edited by Carmen Phillips
A horrifying amount of transphobic legislation was introduced this year, and much of that legislation has targeted trans kids. As a gender non-conforming adult who imagined a better future for the next generation, that hurts my heart, and there have been times this year when I’ve felt pretty cynical. But as always, shea came through with the most gorgeous, affirming letter to trans young people in June, and it helped me feel hope again. shea is such an incredible role model for young people (and, honestly, for adults like me, too!), and when I’m deep in my incapacitating despair, I read shea’s letter. Their words inspire me to put some positivity out into the world.
Brittney Griner Lost Her Appeal in Russian Courts, but It’s Not Over
Written and Edited by Carmen Phillips
When I wanted to read accurate updates about Brittney Griner’s case this year, Autostraddle was my go-to news source, thanks to Carmen’s coverage. While mainstream media was focusing on “drug smuggling” rather than naming the racism, homophobia, and anti-masc bias that led to Griner being wrongfully detained in the first place, Carmen was covering Griner’s case with compassion and heart, saying all the quiet parts out loud — even when the quiet parts were painful and personal. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to cover this and to get harassed online for that coverage. I’m grateful that Carmen was willing to put so much of herself into the process, and I’m so, so happy that Brittney Griner is home.
Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor
Edited by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
This feels like cheating because it’s not just one piece, it’s 12 whole gorgeous essays, but I couldn’t possibly pick a singular moment in this series as my “favorite” and also, the breadth of the project is part of the point when it comes to why I picked it. It’s no secret that Kayla’s food writing is fucking fantastic, but the reason I chose Diner Week to highlight here as opposed to any of Kayla’s individual food essays that she’s penned herself is because I want to call attention to something else she does so well: editing.
It is rare to have a good editor these days: budgets are tights and editors tend to acquire and publish pieces without giving much feedback to the writers, even at large mainstream publications — which is why it blows my mind that at Autostraddle, an independent queer company with the tightest shoestring budget in the game, we get to experience such expert editing when we submit our work. Kayla’s skill and attention to craft combined with her openness and enthusiasm when it comes to anything and everything weird makes her a DREAM editor, and her quiet care is evident throughout the 12 essays that make up Diner Week (not to mention literally ALL OVER THE SITE, but our assignment here was to pick ONE article and I’m already majorly cheating, so I’ll cut myself off here). Anyway, if you haven’t given yourself the gift of reading every word of Diner Week while inhaling a greasy breakfast sandwich and/or a dense milkshake at your favorite spot, I’ve got a perfect end of year treat for you. Bon appetit!
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Managing Editor
We Need QTBIPOC Land Healing Projects
Written by Gabrielle Lawrence, Edited by Vanessa
Because I run our publishing calendar, I pretty much know every piece coming down the pipeline for the website even if I have no direct involvement with it. Which is neat, because sometimes it means I get a little sneak peek at all the brilliant things coming our way! From the second I saw this project on the calendar, I was intrigued. And it did not disappoint! I was thrilled that I was able to help move some things around the calendar so that we could run it on Thanksgiving, because it was the perfect counter-programming to the dominant (read: white supremacist and colonialist) narrative about the holiday. It’s a tremendous in-depth work of storytelling and reportage about unsettling, land back movements, and QTPOC resistance work. For as long and layered as it is, it also functions as a primer and is totally accessible to people with less prior knowledge about some of these contexts and movements.
Shelli Nicole, Culture Editor
After A Bad Date I’m Worried I’m Unloveable
Written by Dani Janae, Edited by Vanessa
I think everyone knows that Dani and I are friends IRL, but before that, I was — and remain — a big fan of her work. Dani writes from several places, lived experiences, hope, care for Black queer women, and passion. When folks get to a point where they are feeling something and write in to seek an outside opinion or other eyes on the situation, it’s a pretty big deal. They are seeking your opinion so you’re allowed to say what you think, yet you also have to keep in mind that someone is on the other side of the computer in a wee bit of hurt so handling them with care is also key. It’s a fine line and in this answer I think that Dani not only handled it beautifully, but all the ways in which I enjoy Dani as a writer were present too.
In this question, someone is reaching out because they feel they might be unlovable. To feel unworthy of being loved is one of the biggest hurts, but just feeling unworthy alone is hard. As I read her answer, Dani addressed the actions of the person who perhaps triggered the feeling but more importantly, addressed the deeper feelings the LW was having. She spoke to the type of world we live in and move through as Black women, that sometimes self-love is going to be a bit harder to come by because of that but that in the end, you are always worth it and you deserve the things you want out of life and don’t ever have to settle. This was just a wonderful read and it made me remember (not that I ever forget) why I respect Dani so much as a writer and adore her as a friend.
Syd’s Album “Broken Hearts Club” Beautifully Captures the Highs and Lows of Queer Love
Written by Amari Gaiter, Edited by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
Amari and Music Criticism is a match made in heaven and it shows here and beautifully so. I’ve read works by Amari where they chat through lots of culture things, books, film, and of course music, but I loved this one so much because it shows how they are able to break apart an album and tell the story within it that I think the artist intended for us to. They were able to tell us the story, guide us through a reason why we should listen, and also extend the personal connection to the artist. I am not a music head, I enjoy it but my pop culture love leans more towards film and television, but whenever I read Amari’s critiques or reviews on music I’m wildly inclined to go and explore the album. I can’t wait to continue to follow Amari as a writer and so excited for them to further explore music in their work and take us all on the ride.
Nico Hall, A+ & Fundraising Director
Edited by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
I love a massive project and I love horror and I love that Kayla decided to throw Autostraddle into the ring in a year when Queer Horror Criticism was really having a moment. The blend of personal essay and film criticism in pieces like Long Live Eurosleaze, Black Girls Are Always at the Center of Horror, and Elm Street Was a Nightmare Before Freddy Made It One, represent some of the types of writing that Autostraddle publishes, that we make space for, that thoughtful editors like Kayla usher into the world. I also deeply enjoyed the investigation into this all but completely missing lesbian slasher, and the exhaustive project that ranking horror movie moments must have been for Kayla and Drew. I didn’t get to show as much love for this series as I wanted to during the time because it was happening during the fundraiser and prep for the fundraiser, but now, I am so happy to be able to say that Horror is So Gay is one of my favorite things to happen on the site this year and I look forward to it resurrecting itself / coming back to haunt us / returning as a possessed doll in 2023.
Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor
P-Valley Has Changed the Rules of Black Queer Storytelling
Written by Natalie, Shelli, A. Tony, and Carmen, Edited by Carmen Phillips
I really do believe that Autostraddle offers some of the smartest, most engaging TV and film criticism on the internet. And I believe it because even when I don’t write or edit our TV and film pieces, I read every single one of them. Sometimes over and over. This P-Valley roundtable is exactly why. This isn’t even a show I watch, but I could not get enough of the deep, generous, brilliant conversation between so many Black writers and editors on our team. They opened themselves up, and in sharing their own lives, contextualized the groundbreaking series in a way you’re not going to see ANYWHERE else on the internet. This is one of those pieces that fills me with gratitude to be one small patch of the glorious tapestry Carmen is weaving here.
Editor’s Note from Carmen: I also want to give credit to Natalie for this one. The roundtable was her brainchild, and because it landed during our A League of Their Own coverage — which was taking up a lot of my time — she went above and beyond to organize this and help bring it to life.
Homoerotic Friendships, Mosquita Y Mari, and the Things We Never Said
Written by Lily Alvarado, Edited by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
There is something absolutely mesmerizing about watching someone reframe the narratives of their past with new realizations about themselves, especially when those epiphanies come attached to stories. It’s like watching everything click into place in a way that is so vulnerable, admirable, and resonant. It’s the kind of writing that changes lives! That’s what Lily gave us here, digging into an old, complicated situationship through the lens of Mosquita Y Mari and her new understanding of being a person with autism. It’s a gut punch in the best way. Kayla is a one of the best editors I’ve ever met, especially for pieces like this.
What To Do With This Meaningless, Single Life?
Written by Himani, Edited by Vanessa
What you don’t see is all the work that goes into making our You Need Help column happen. Vanessa and our writers bring their full hearts, all the hard-fought wisdom in their bones, and so much compassion to bear on every question. I have so much admiration for the way Himani approaches advice, both in the YNH column and Into the A+ Advice Box. She’s not just writing words in response to someone else’s words; she is sitting with every question, internalizing it, wrestling through the best approach, offering her own struggles and vulnerabilities as context, amd truly wanting the very best for every person who writes in. This is her at her best. And this column absolutely would not be what it is with Vanessa’s infinite emphasis on community care.
Carmen Phillips, Editor-in-Chief
Edited by Shelli Nicole
In 2021, Autostraddle covered Sundance for the very first time. Drew Gregory set us up for immense success with her thoughtful, expert criticism and coverage. It became a level up in not only how we cover film, but how other media sites see us in their peer group. A tangible “we’re growing up” moment. In 2022, we went so far beyond even that.
This year Autostraddle not only went to Sundance, but we also went to Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, for short) and the Tribeca Film Festival — rounding out what I personally consider to be the “Big Three” and putting us into the kinds of spaces and conversations that are usually reserved for websites with triple our budgets and staff. Our Tribeca coverage, in particular, came from Shelli opening up doors from other film and film festival work that she does outside of Autostraddle. She made connections and brought them back to us, hustling and organizing screeners and coverage for an entire team of our writers, and followed through on flawless execution. And that was all before her gorgeous editing choices on the pieces themselves. One of Shelli’s strengths as an editor is developing full, large scale, packages. That combination of big picture thinking and detail orientation is hard to teach and here it was on great display.
Mira Bellwether, Author of ‘F*cking Trans Women,’ Has Died
Written and Edited by Ro White
I was originally going to pick a different piece from Ro for this roundtable (our Muffing 101 guide, published much earlier this year, which exemplified the kind of inclusive How To sex guides that has always been an Autostraddle strength and what I hope we’re able to dig even more into next year) — but then just this week, on the day after Christmas, Ro came into our editors’ Slack to tell us about the passing of Mira Bellwether.
Mira Bellwether, the author of the iconic zine F*cking Trans Women provided an invaluable service to our trans and queer communities, and for indie queer media. I was heartbroken to hear of her passing, but I was so proud to see Ro honor her work. Ro wrote a beautiful piece, with a quick and difficult turnaround, during a holiday week when we have a skeleton crew on staff. And because of Ro’s work, Bellwether’s wikipedia page was finally able to be officially updated with the news of her passing. In a way that felt like it’s own full circle. A material result of why the work that we do, that Bellwether did, matters. And I’m so grateful.