Call For Submissions: “The Way We Were”

In February we did Art Attack, in March we did Here/Queer and in April/May we did On Camp. What are we gonna do in June?

Well, June is LGBT Pride Month, which is always a fabulous time to sit around and think about how proud you are of yourself for being gay. But it’s also a time to think about all the people that were gay before you were gay! Therefore Autostraddle’s June theme will be The Way We Were (a.k.a, “the Herstory issue”). Queer life has changed so radically from year to year that even two years ago seems like a whole different cultural climate. Whereas one generally wouldn’t consider the 90s to qualify as “history,” we do because so much has changed since then for LGBTs, and so much of even recent history gets lost when our stories aren’t told in schools. So we’re gonna use the term “herstory” liberally here to refer to the 20th Century and earlier.

We’re looking for unique, compelling stories about lesbian/bisexual/otherwise-inclined life in the 20th Century and earlier. This could take many forms — features, interviews, personal essays, reviews, top tens. You can also submit a Herstory Spotlight, which is between 400-800 words about one person, event/happening, or Important Thing (e.g., a book, an activist group, a play, a symbol). We’re especially interested in hearing from writers who have first-person narratives to share, a.k.a writers over the age of 40.

Want some examples of what we’re looking for? You’re in luck because we have some. Hurrah!

Examples from Autostraddle:

20 Years Ago Today in Gay History: The AB101 Veto Riots Would’ve Blown Your Mind

10 Great Places to Meet Lesbians If You Have a Time Machine

The Loving Story: New Look at Couple Who Challenged Law Against Interracial Marriage, Won

The Lesbian Avengers – Time to Seize the Power & Be the Bomb You Throw!

“Lavender Scare” Exposes The US Government’s Cold War Era Gay Witch Hunt

“Mädchen in Uniform”: Girl-on-Girl Culture Circa 1931

Examples from other publications:

The Secret Court – “In 1920, Harvard University officials suspected that some students were gay. So they kicked them all out.” (The Good Men Project)

Honoring Black Lesbian and Bi Women in History “In the midst of all this progress, it’s more critical than ever to remember those who came before us. These 10 African-American women – most of whom never had the luxury of living their lives openly – were just a few among many who paved the way for African-Americans, feminists and lesbians alike.” (AfterEllen.com)

The Slap of Love“On House Xtravaganza and the life and death of its house mother Angie Xtravaganza, one of the stars of the documentary Paris is Burning, which brought vogueing and New York City’s transgendered ball culture into the spotlight.” (Open City)

Three Questions for Lesbian Historian Lillian Faderman: Here are a few inquiring-minds-want-to-know queries about lesbian history that I asked Faderman, professor emerita of English at California State University, Fresno, in a recent interview. (Ms. Magazine)

+ Adventures in Feminstory: Djuna Barnes: “Djuna Barnes was a poet, novelist, journalist, and artist whose work was known for its unique prose rhythms, its sexual openness, and its fascination with the bawdy and grotesque. She lived in Greenwich Village in the bohemian 1910s, frequented the artists’ salons in 1920s Paris, and late in life became a cult icon and famous recluse.” (Bitch Magazine)

Send your story pitches to Laneia [at] Autostraddle [dot] com and cc Rachel [at] autostraddle dot com by June 1st. Include a resume and 2-3 writing samples (either PDFs from print publications or link to your work online). If you don’t have any writing/publishing experience and/or clips, we ask that you submit your entire manuscript (or most of it) instead of just the pitch.

Special note: One of the Top Ten Problems With Submissions is the problem of “tone” — specifically that we get a lot of pitches and articles that are written in a very academic tone. We like our articles to be conversational, unique, exciting, smart and accessible — but most importantly, FUN!  (Not all the “examples from other publications” reflect what we want w/r/t tone, the best gauge for that is the Autostraddle examples listed above.)


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Riese is the 36-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2554 articles for us.

19 Comments

  1. Wow! I’m so excited for this. I’m a real history geek, so this fulfils an unmet need for me. The whole city guide thing just made me want to travel.

  2. This sounds exciting, I’m looking forward to read everyone’s contributions and I’ll make sure to catch up on some of those articles I haven’t read yet.

    Question, though: can we submit stuff that isn’t a firsthand account? For example if it’s a time period where most people are dead by now or less famous events? I mean, especially if we try to find testimonies from people, though not necessarily as interviews or the writer’s own personal experience.

  3. I kind of completely expect someone to write about Lesbos and Sappho and all the ancient Greek lesbisexuals. I would, but I seem to recall an autostraddle policy of not taking work from under-18s, meaning I’m not elligible as a writer until September. Still, I look forward to learning more about our past! June should be interesting 😀

    • Since this is part of my field of studies, I actually thought about this when I first read the article! I might give it a try if I don’t have a lot on my plate/you aren’t eligible/etc

      • Oh, swing! I’ll go fire up my Word document and web browser then! But you should totally got working on it, A. – you’ll probably do a better job than I do!

        • Do it! I don’t know if I’ll have enough time because of finals, but I’ll try. But if in the end I can’t do it, better someone who likes the subject and how big of a mindfuck (can we use that word here?) it is, than someone who just checked Wikipedia on the spot or something. Plus your hair is awesome.

  4. Defo looking forward to this. I tried suuuper hard to have the subject of my NYC History paper revolve around lesbian culture in 1920s NYC, but alas the sources were limited and instead I focused on gay males. EXCITEMENT

  5. Autostraddle: I love you, but can you NOT continue the linguistic nightmare that is “herstory”. The word history derives from “historia” in Greek meaning “”a learning or knowing by inquiry; an account of one’s inquiries” and from “historein” meaning to inquire. The root of “his” comes from German. Therefore, by changing the his to her, you completely lose the idea of history and it becomes nonsense.

    I’m incredibly excited by the idea behind this, but you gotta drop the word herstory. It’s just icky.

    • great etymological lesson, but there’s also a lot of significance behind the term ‘herstory’. It’s not meant to be linguistically sound, it’s meant to critique practices of historicizing, particularly which stories and voices are left out.

    • I love etymology and I’m also a geek about it, but I think you’re missing the point — it’s supposed to be a pun of sorts. I don’t think people assume that History is called History because of “his”, simply that it’s often focused on cis straight mostly white males or something along the lines of that.

  6. riese i hope you know that in 10+ years, people will be writing about autostraddle (and you!) when they talk about queer herstory. you are writing it as it happens. i can’t wait to read that profile in 2022. <3

  7. Love it! I actually just read a book about Emily Dickinson’s correspondence with her sister-in-law/best friend/possibly the love of her life, Susan Huntington Dickinson, and it got me thinking some about queers in the 19th century. I look forward to June!

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