Get In Here and Meet Kylo Freeman: For Them’s Founder and Autostraddle’s New CEO

We’ve got some pretty big changes coming up at Autostraddle — a new, bright, hopeful chapter that began as the smallest seed of an idea last winter, has been through months of conversations and considerations and meetings and consultations and adjustments, and is now finally becoming a reality. Autostraddle is being acquired in an equity-only deal by For Them, a New York-based company “driving the queer revolution through products and services that function as direct links to queer wellness, radical self-expression, authentic connection and human experience.” Their first product, launched in 2021, was The Binder, a chest compression garment designed for safe, all-day wear and comfort, created in collaboration through fit tests with 500+ trans and non-binary humans. In addition to developing future product drops and services, For Them recently launched their membership program, The Playground, as well as a podcast network. And now they have acquired this very website.

Kylo petting their dog in a chair

For Them Founder + CEO Kylo Freeman

For Them’s founder and CEO Kylo Freeman will be our new CEO.

Carmen will remain Editor-in-Chief, and all our editors are staying through the transition. The website will continue to exist and thrive and serve lesbian, queer and trans communities. After facilitating the changeover, I’ll be stepping out of leadership and shifting my focus to editorial, under Carmen’s leadership, as well as working with Kylo on product development and Brand Partnerships. We won’t be fundraising anymore, but Nico will continue running A+, which will remain our primary source of revenue.

You can expect A+, like so many things around here, to get even more awesome in the coming months and years. Together we’ll be building a fuller community experience, including events and an app.

There’ll be a lot of practical information coming out in the coming months, but for now on this webpage we wanted to kick off this merge in the most Autostraddle-ish way possible: with a very incredibly serious interview!!!

This interview was conducted over the Zoom app, led by Riese (Co-Founder) and Carmen (Editor-in-Chief) and aimed at Kylo (our future CEO, who by the way is also an actor which is relevant and you will find out why).

Also present on the Zoom in a peanut gallery capacity:

  • A+ Director Nico Hall
  • ForThem’s COO Em Chadwick
  • ForThem’s Social Media & Comms Lead, Motti.

Also you should know that even though ForThem is in New York and that’s where Kylo and Em live, Kylo and Em are from the U.K. This will come up in the interview so just be prepared is all!


Riese: I want you to know first of all that I prepared for this interview, like I do for all celebrity interviews, by familiarizing myself with your body of work, which for me meant watching two of your episodes of New Amsterdam—

Kylo: No you didn’t. Don’t say that.

Riese: I did!

Kylo: That’s embarrassing!

Carmen: That is how Riese prepares for interviews, but also I did not realize that you were in New Amsterdam and now I have to see your episodes.

Kylo: Oh god. Was it the one where someone’s leg was bent at a weird angle and I grabbed it and said some medical jargon I didn’t understand and then fixed their leg, was it that one?

Riese: No, so far you’ve only had one line, and in the first episode you didn’t have any lines at all—

Kylo: My Mum was like, “you don’t have any lines?” and I was like, “you didn’t see all the face acting I was doing?”

Riese: But then in the next episode you said something mean to Lauren’s girlfriend about her privilege.

Kylo: Oh sure.

Riese: Which I thought was a little harsh.

Kylo: I’m sorry.

Carmen: Kylo, I’m going to start with the main thing our readers will want to know about you as CEO, which is …. when did you know you were gay?

Kylo: I think I always knew in my bones and soul, but I had the bravery to admit it to myself maybe when I was 16, and then I eventually started telling people and exploring what that meant when I was 18.

Riese: Was there something that inspired your revelation at 16?

Kylo: Oh yeah. [laughs] Yes. She’s very straight and has a husband. But I should first say that my gender is interesting to this too, because that was also something that was really alienating for me when I was very young, being asked to wear anything feminine, but I didn’t really understand it. Which’s where my passion for creating representation across multiple communities comes from. But I conformed and got pushed into the mainstream, heteronormative society of Liverpool and the UK, and then I met a woman that I felt very passionately about, and that was very confusing and I figured that it must mean something about my sexuality.

Riese: Along those same lines, when did you know that you wanted to start a queer company?

Kylo: I’ve always wanted to start a queer company, but when did I have the resources and the privilege to do it? I mean, not until I was almost 30.

As I started to really understand my sexuality and my gender I could really see the ways that we’re very underserved and underrepresented across so many areas — from products and services to community. So I’ve definitely been passionate about doing it for a long time.

My first company was a production company focused on underrepresented folks behind the camera. That’s because I was getting booked as an actor, and there was a big push for diversity on-screen, but we didn’t seem to have that same diverse talent behind the camera, or writing the stories. I think For Them is solving the same issue, which is: how do we serve underserved folks in the community?

Carmen: That’s great. And I think that’s gonna lead right into my question, which is — when did you know that you wanted to buy this company and why? What do you think sets our company apart from everything else out there?

Kylo: Um, don’t be scared, Riese, but I’ve known of you for a long time. I’ve known Autostraddle ever since Autostraddle was made accessible to me on the interwebs. Autostraddle also told me about The L Word, which blew my whole mind wide open, and it was cool to keep going back to Autostraddle to keep up on what you thought about the episode that I’d watched.

I think Autostraddle genuinely — it’s cheesy to say, but it helped me come out because it helped me understand that there’s so many queer folks out there living lives that are cool and interesting and full. You all have such a unique voice and a strong connection with your community.

So I’ve been a massive superfan, and a genuine fan ever since I could remember. Then I got the pleasure of meeting Riese and we just got on really well. We realized that the way we think and the way you all think is very similar in terms of mission and what we’re trying to achieve and what’s important. I think that’s really, really rare and I haven’t come across that a lot in the business world, of two people driving towards the same goal from a different angle. Then I met the whole Autostraddle team and in terms of mission, in terms of ethos, the whole team’s incredible. And it just felt like it was a very easy decision from my end, to be honest.

Riese: I love that!!!! Okay, so. When you were little, did you dream of owning a website that recently published an article called, “How Many Times Did I See Black Swan in Theaters While Closeted? An Investigation”?

Kylo: It was my one and only dream.

Riese: Follow-up — how many times have you seen Black Swan?

Kylo: Actually, a lot. Actually a lot.

Riese: Really?

Kylo: Yeah, I’ve seen it a lot, it’s so sexy. I can’t say that enough. So thank you for the article, thank you to Black Swan. It could do with a little more diversity in the cast, but that’s the lens I’m always driving with. But it’s sexy and important.

Carmen: I think objectively both of those things are true. I think the readers are gonna love knowing that you think it’s sexy. We all agree there.

Kylo: Excellent.

Carmen: I actually have a serious question, which is, what are your dreams for Autostraddle for our employees, our writers, our readers?

Kylo: I don’t know if this term resonates for folks that haven’t done improv, but, but it’s just: “yes, and.” Everything that you’ve achieved, I’m in awe of, I think it’s so incredible. You have this amazing 14-year year base, and I’m not trying to disrupt that, and I’m really excited to be able to provide that to our members, and for Autostraddle members to get all the perks that our members have, access to our products and services, and to hear from them what they want, and to invest in those ideas.

And here’s the thing: I’m a builder. I’m a CEO. I can build stuff. I haven’t built a successful editorial business, and that’s why I wanted to go out and seek the advice and collaboration of people who have done this really well. I want to give it more structure and resources and grow it to the point that you dream of. I think because we’re all naturally driving towards the same mission, not much will change. We’re just saving and bolstering that queer archive that we care so much about.

Carmen: I do feel like this fits right into my question which is, what has been the most exciting and the most surprising thing about working with these weirdos?

Kylo: Who are the weirdos? You all? Us?

Riese: Autostraddle. Our team.

Kylo: We’re pretty weird too, so, it doesn’t feel that different? I’m used to working with an all-queer team that has amazing creative ideas that are a little bit out of the box, so it feels like a perfect fit from my end. I’m also just super-excited to have more than just one person on our team who can write, which is Motti. Motti would like to sleep a little more and write a little less I think.

Motti: Kylo hired a Brooklyn stand-up comic to run comms for the company.

Kylo: That’s right, and I regret nothing. Hm, what was most surprising? I think I’ve been surprised how well we fit together. I feel that is quite rare, right? Like, I could genuinely hang out with all of you. I don’t know that that happens a lot at work, you know?

Riese: Probably not, but what do I know? I work here.

Carmen: Okay, my next question is, should our readers be terrified that our site is gonna turn into Binder Sponcon overnight, or will we keep the editorial independence that they have come to expect and adore?

Kylo: Certainly the latter. Please educate me, what is Binder Sponcon?

Riese: It’s sponcon about binders.

Carmen: Correct.

Kylo: Sponsored content about binders. Oh, okay! I think the queer community is much more than binders, although I think binders are a good parallel to how underserved we are and that’s why For Them started out manufacturing a binder. But totally, editorial independence will be kept, you’ll continue to foster an audience of lesbian, queer and trans people. Carmen will be at the helm, and I just hope that we do even more content with more folks in the community. But no binder sponcon — well actually — you’re not even gonna do one? Maybe one. I’m not saying none.

Carmen: Maybe one.

Kylo: Not on day one.

Riese: Maybe day three. Binder Day.

Carmen: You’re joking but we will make up holidays.

Riese: Yea, like “It’s Great To Be Gay Day.”

Carmen: Which is 100% made up and does not happen at the same time every year, it happens when we decide it happens.

Riese: Yeah I love that. We sold a lot of stickers for that holiday.

Carmen: We sure did.

Riese: Okay my next question is, I’ve noticed that (ForThem COO) Em puts two question marks at the end of an ask in Slack. Is that a British thing? Or do you think it’s meant to connote urgency? Or to give me a heart attack every time she asks me for something?

Kylo: I don’t believe it’s a British thing. I think it’s probably to note urgency.

Riese: Okay wow, so there is a lot of urgency then.

Kylo: But is that urgency being communicated well with those two question marks? It’s probably a habit. I mean, Em?

Em: I have nothing to say for myself other than being haphazard with my keyboard.

Kylo: I think it’s a habit. When Em types on her laptop, fire comes up from her keyboard. And the way that she reads her screen is flying upwards and down and left and right and it will give you a full-blown panic attack if you are anyone but Em.

Riese: It’s true. Whenever we’re on a meeting and you’re doing something on the computer, your eyes are darting all over the place.

Carmen: Oh my God, like full-on Matrix?

Em: Trinity is my absolute idol, so I’m into that.

Carmen: Okay, speaking of British things, can you say something British for our British readers?

Kylo: Well, I was gonna say “good day gov’na” but it’s not 1800, so I don’t know. You haven’t heard the full Liverpool accent, which is actually pretty specific.

Em: It’s amazing and I love it. It’s like, “we snogged outside the chippy.”

Riese: Okay, let’s say we run into each other on a cobblestone street on our way to a Shakespeare play and you want to invite me over for tea tomorrow. What would you say?

Kylo: I’d say “hey mate, do you wanna grab some tea?”

Riese: Hm. [disappointed]

Carmen: This is great, I feel like I’m inside of Love Actually. My Beckham has been bent.

[Riotous laughter]

Em: That’s the reference of the century.

Riese: Okay real question: How do you plan to foster a positive company culture?

Kylo: So, ForThem’s been active for three years. I’ve built companies before this. I’ve also been in a lot of bigger companies where I felt like culture was not being fostered in a safe and good way. And so I have all of those learnings and I’ve basically tried to build a queer company from scratch. So a lot of that has stuff that’s non-traditional, based around structure that I think creates safety and openness and collaborative behaviors in the team, we’re very intentional about our values. So I want to continue as we’ve started. We take a lot of feedback from the team, you’re very collaborative.

I think that’s really all I have to do as a leader, is just listen to folks and try to strive to create a great environment for everyone. I know I’m not perfect. We just do our best out here.

Carmen: Okay. Riese told me that you don’t like reading Slack messages that are over two paragraphs long. Have you ever read an article on Autostraddle.com?

Kylo: Yes! [laughs] Okay, in my mind, publications and Slack messages are two different kinds of content, right? The wonderful and nuanced and interesting writing on the Autostraddle website cannot be compared to urgent two question mark slack messages, right? I’m a team member that just loves to hear people’s voices. I think as we’re asking folks to do things it just creates a little bit less friction. Riese’s slack message was like — some words were bolded, there were some italics in there, some underlines, there were paragraphs and bullet points, it’s like, structure. It’s like a love letter, you know?

Riese: A love letter about health insurance, yeah.

Kylo: A love letter about health insurance and I will not read it!

Riese: My next question is, which part of Autostraddle do you intend to torch first?

Kylo: [laughs]

Nico: Make sure that you write “laughs, but not villainously.”

Riese: “Laughs kindly and generously.”

Carmen: “Laughs, but not like a Disney villain.”

Motti: “Laughs, but takes out the flamethrower.”

Kylo: Nothing! I don’t plan to torch anything.

Riese: Okay. How do you plan to manage and leverage the company’s resources effectively?

Kylo: Look, indie publications are tough to run. Traditionally, Autostraddle has overspent slightly in certain areas, but that’s not due to any mismanagement of funds, but rather, because they’ve struggled to balance their ethics around fair wages and providing opportunities for new talent with the realities of maintaining sustainable revenue streams for a mid-size media company. It’s unprecedented how long Autostraddle has survived on just a boot-strapping model. So what we’re going to be doing is building a scalable budget that over time can grow in a way that still feeds the business. I began my career and education in finance, I was originally an auditor (!) and then became CFO for various startups. Being an entrepreneur in residence at prehype helped me match my financial background with skills of how to build sustainable companies. So I’m bringing a lot of knowledge and experience to the table, but I believe you’ve done an amazing job with the very limited resources that you’ve had.

Carmen: So what are you most excited to see happen in the new Autostraddle x ForThem merger?

Kylo: I want to nurture what you’ve already built, but then create even more opportunity for more underrepresented queer writers, and venture into more podcasts and into new queer IRL spaces, too. We’re building your puzzles into an app. I know that’s something Riese and I talked about early on, moving into the areas that your audience has been asking for for a long time but you haven’t had the resources and human power to do it. I think that’s really exciting because to me, you’ve already told me what folks want, right? But you haven’t had enough people to be able to drive towards it. I’m just excited to drive towards those things that you would’ve done if you’d had all the resources in the world, you know?

Carmen: I think that’s a great answer.

Riese: Okay, next question – do you remember what snack I got when we went to that co-working space in February, on the day we were looking through our finances? Like, I remember the snack was kind of a weird concept, but I don’t remember specifically what it was.

Kylo: Yes, I do, because I remember feeling like it was just quite a surprising choice. Because it was lunchtime. You got some sort of granola yogurt thing, is that right?

Riese: Oh, I did. But also I got like, a bowl of some sort of potato something?

Kylo: Yeah exactly.

Em: And there was this big pot of sauce and it made me feel sick when I looked at it. It had a bad texture.

Kylo: It was a pretty unique choice. It made me even more excited for our conversation because it made me think wow, this person is different.

Riese:Yeah, exactly.

Kylo: This person thinks outside the box, you know?

Riese: Uh-huh.

Kylo: Like, there was avocado toast on that menu —

Riese: Yeah, I could’ve gotten that.

Kylo: There was pizza on there — there was… anything but that. I actually really enjoyed that choice.

Riese: That means a lot to me, thanks.

Nico: “There was anything but that.”

[laughter]

Riese: I don’t think I ate it though.

Kylo: You did not. Which was even more interesting.

Carmen: Okay, last question: what are you most nervous about when it comes to running Autostraddle?

Kylo: So my goal is and has always been to serve the queer community, and my worry is that we as a collective won’t have all the tools we need to get it right every time — there are so many perspectives to consider and validate, and then, so many opportunities to make mistakes. So I hope we have the opportunity to learn from them. But I think with a larger team, and lots of different queer folks’ perspectives, we’re gonna get better and better at this stuff over time. We have a really diverse team too — across race, gender — I think that’s why it’s important to stay as collaborative as possible, right? This is not a dictatorship. I’ve learned so much from my team that I knew nothing about before. This is a real collaborative team, and the more we lean into that, and listen to everyone’s voice, the more we’ll be able to get closer to serving folks right every time. I want to keep learning, you know, as we go.

Motti: This is especially hard for Kylo because they are an 80-year-old man. Sometimes they need to be told what’s cool and hip and stuff.

Kylo: That’s true, you can put that in.

Riese: What do you think is cool and hip?

[pause]

Riese: Do you wanna ask Motti?

Kylo: [looks at Motti] Bum bags?

Riese: Bum bags?

Kylo: Bum bags! Bum bags and slippers. I know you call them fanny packs—

Carmen: Ooooh oh my god, I was like “what are you talking about?”

Nico: “Fanny Pack” would have different implications across the ocean.

Carmen: Ohhhh right because “fanny” across the ocean—

Kylo: Right ‘cause fanny is a vulva, so.

Riese: It sounds to me like a colonoscopy bag.

Nico: It sounds like maybe a preparatory instrument.

Motti: An enema for bottoms! Called a “bum bag.”

Riese: That’s good!

Kylo: Look at this product development we’re doing on this call!

Riese: My last question is, have you seen Suits? Meghan Markle is in it, and she’s married to the prince of your country. Harry. Prince Harry.

Kylo: I have seen Suits. Yeah. She is married to the prince of our country.

Riese: She’s very pretty, right?

Kylo: Yes, she is very pretty. And it’s a shame that we have lost her as an actor, but it is a privilege that we have gained her as a princess. Meghan, I love you.

Riese: [to Nico] Do we have any other questions we need to ask?

Nico: You gotta work in member support.

Riese:“We will collapse without ongoing member support.” Can you tell that to our readers?

Carmen: “True or false—”

Riese: “True or false — we still need massive member support to survive? Please don’t cancel!”

Kylo: So, hi, A+ members. Welcome. Your wonderful member dollars will still be driven to the same awesome place that they were driven to before, so all of your membership money will sustain our wonderful queer writers. They will create queer content, and Autostraddle as a whole has its own budget and that’s where 100% of your A+ dollars will go. We have a membership program as well, and those programs will eventually merge and you’ll have access to even more cool perks and features than you do now.

Riese: That’s great, thank you!

Kylo: Okay. So last point, I’m from Liverpool and we are very passionate about our football team. And our sort of statement for the football team is “you’ll never walk alone.” And I just wanna get that in there.

Carmen: We’ll make it work.

Kylo: There’s a song around it, I’m going to send it to you. You have to sing it with your hands above your head screaming.

Riese: I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and what we say is, “Go Blue.”

Carmen: I also grew up in Southeastern Michigan saying “Go Blue.” But famously, I pretend not to know sports, but I would like to officially announce here that I am going to come in second place in the Autostraddle WNBA Fantasy league this year.

Kylo: Whoa.

Carmen:And that is only after a year of learning basketball.

Kylo: Oh, that’s amazing.

Carmen: Knock on wood. Watch, by the time this is published, I’ll get knocked out of second place. But knock on wood.

Riese: You’re winning now, and this moment is all that matters.


Addressing Your Privacy Concerns

Apologies that we didn’t pre-empt the concerns that we’re seeing around data collection and privacy. We want to address those concerns now.

In terms of the data Autostraddle has on A+ members: we have the name and email you signed up with. If you have received perks, we have your address. This is very similar data that any online shop might have for you. We do not have access to your credit card or other payment information, as that is encrypted via third party payment processors and we don’t have any ability to access that information. To be perfectly clear, advertisers have asked Autostraddle in the past for more reader data, and we have not collected it nor sold it.

For Them, similarly to Autostraddle, collects name, email, phone number device information and payment info (via a third party processor), as well as address when necessary for shipping products. The “gender tracking” on the app is not referring to any kind of biometric data tracking, but rather to a reflection style feature of the app. The app allows you to track how euphoric, confident or joyful you feel on any given day in a kind of personal diary, for your own personal use. It also allows you to track your outfits. None of this data is medical or biometric. Location is not tracked. We never, ever ask about medical procedures, HRT, diagnoses, medical history or anything of that matter. If anyone wishes to download their information to review, bring to a therapist, etc. then they can download their history. Other than that, this information is not shared with anyone. Users also have the option to delete their entire profile at any point they deem necessary. None of this data is sold to third parties, and never will be, nor would it be useful in any way in terms of salability to third parties. These features were developed through conversations and work with beta testers who requested these features be made available to them in the app and this “tracking” is the end product in and of itself, and is not intended as a means of scraping data. All data is encrypted and secure.

A+ members will be able to opt in as to whether they download the app and they will be able to opt into using any individual features within the app. There is no way for us to force you to download the app, and since the website will still be accessible as a website, it will not be necessary to download the app to continue to read and access A+ content. The merging of the memberships may involve migrating our data to a more secure and advanced system, but that’s not in order to sell it, but rather because we might have the chance for the first time in 10 years, to use a member database that is not made out of tape and bubblegum. Mostly, the “merging” of the memberships was just our way of communicating that members of both companies are going to start receiving each others’ perks and benefits. For Them is going to be releasing new products in the future, and for example, A+ members at the Silver level and up are going to be getting discounts on those products. For Them members will get to read A+ content. We’re working on building out the tech that will allow all this to happen smoothly, but that does not involve in any way selling your data or obtaining data from you that you don’t willingly give us.

We also want to close by addressing the concerns around the following phrase in For Them’s privacy policy: “Finally, we may also share your Personal Information to comply with applicable laws and regulations, to respond to a subpoena, search warrant or other lawful request for information we receive, or to otherwise protect our rights.” While this is absolutely standard language when it comes to privacy policies (you’ll find this in many other queer apps’ privacy policy for example), we want to assure you that unlike certain other media companies we shall not name for legal reasons, we will not blanket comply with information requests, but will instead take any such requests (or orders in the case of subpoenas and warrants) through our legal team. Keeping our community safe is our priority.

We will not harvest or sell user data to third parties. For Them’s physical products and the app are our end game. Autostraddle will continue to create content which is also our end game. Our end game is not data harvesting. Ultimately, whatever we’re doing, whether it’s making gender affirming products or lesbian content, we’re here to serve our community. Our legal team is currently reviewing an updated privacy policy that addresses all the above concerns in greater depth. This will be published within the week. We hope this was clarifying and helpful, but do feel free to thread any questions.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3200 articles for us.

177 Comments

  1. “what part of Autostraddle are you going to torch first?”

    This is INCREDIBLY INSENSITIVE TO THE PEOPLE WHO LITERALLY DON’T WORK HERE ANYMORE.

    Reaching out today to enquire about all of my work being taken off this website, i don’t want to be associated with this any longer.

    • I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for all of the staff, past and present who put so much time and heart into the site, and now feel disrespected. I don’t know the details here but just want to say- Sincerely, all the best to you and thank you for your contributions

  2. This is absolutely a terrible decision. My expectations were low, but damn, this is bottom of the barrel. Did you even think about the legal privacy aspects of biometrics data? Did you look at the terrible products they sell? God, this company puts your marginalized audience at greater risk.

    • Genuinely curious if I am missing something- I’m not familiar with ForThem outside of seeing random ads on IG/etc. How does the company put the “marginalized audience at greater risk”? Not being snarky- I am interested to know your thoughts.

      • Hey! I, personally, have a couple concerns, as someone who works in data.

        First, companies that aggregate and store deeply personal and sensitive data ought to be extremely transparent about the steps they take (or don’t take) to secure that information. For example, hospital and behavioral healthcare systems holding sensitive medical data have to have specific safeguards in place to protect that information, because exposing it could be harmful to some people (this is part of “HIPAA compliance”). So far, For Them’s web presence doesn’t seem to address, in detail, the steps they take to secure users’ personal and biometric data, which is often just as private as therapy or medical records.

        Second, in this political climate, we have seen a couple efforts by right-wing actors to compel companies/apps to release sensitive data (i.e. location data to place someone within range of an abortion clinic). In many more cases, we have witnessed right-wing actors indicating that this is a step they *would like* to take, and that they are investigating how to make it possible (i.e. Virginia republicans voting to shelve a bill that would make it illegal for law enforcement to seize menstrual tracking data stored on an electronic device).

        Third, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that marginalized groups are statistically more likely to become entangled with law enforcement and more likely to face harsher legal penalties for offenses.

        When you have a political climate where right-wing actors are actively searching for ways to access your personal data (menstrual, medical, gender, etc.), and when the rights of individuals to have autonomy over their bodies are being eroded (overturning of Roe, anti-trans bills across the country), you want to encounter tech that is transparent about what it will and won’t do to protect your data.

        For Them, a company that prides itself on elevating marginalized voices and creating a space for queer and trans people to engage with their own gender experiences, is not being transparent with this information. It doesn’t seem to address, in detail, the harms that could come to folks who use their application.

        Perhaps they address this in their terms of service or members-only community materials, but I personally feel that a company trading on radical imagery, a queer/trans user base, and a tech-forward approach to “the revolution”, should be *much* more up front about these details, given the current political climate.

        • Adding to clarify, it is because of the disproportionate ways that marginalized groups are impacted by law enforcement/the carceral state that For Them’s biometric data collection practices may impact these groups more than others. However, *everyone* is negatively impacted if this kind of data is poorly managed.

        • firstly thank you so much for this detailed feedback about the importance of a more detailed privacy policy and mapping out your concerns, they’re working on that and we’ve added more information to this post about it.

          ForThem doesn’t track or collect any medical or biometric data — after the term “biometric” was flagged today as concerning and inaccurate they’re removing it from their copy. The “gender tracking” is a feature of the app where users can opt in to reflect on how they feel about their gender and well-being on any given day, for their own personal use. This data is not shared, let alone sold, to anyone. It’s a feature requested by users and it is the product, it’s not a plan to harvest data for this product.

          There are so many straight cis people running media and consumer goods companies that use queer voices and queer people to earn credibility and seem cool but they don’t actually come from those communities and therefore don’t understand the concerns those communities face — one of the first things Nico asked Kylo about when they met was data encryption and privacy, and they appreciated the question and knew it was incredibly important to their users as well.

          • I’m glad this is being corrected, but if the term biometric was being used in error… that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either.

          • Thanks for addressing this, Riese! I imagine the last couple of days have been pretty stressful, so I’m especially grateful that you’ve taken some time to respond to comments in this thread.

            I’m not insensitive to the fact that Kylo is a member of the communities most impacted by this kind of data collection and exploitation. I think I just hold a higher bar for companies that want to take my queer dollars and use words like “revolution” in their marketing.

            I’ve been able to see how Autostraddle strives to meet that high bar, which is why I opted to become a member. In the past, I’ve been put off by For Them’s marketing and lack of privacy-forward messaging, but haven’t had a reason to discuss it.

            I appreciated the update on For Them’s privacy policy that was posted the other day. I guess I’m just not moved by statements that their app and privacy practices are industry standard, or in line with what other companies do. I want people marketing to my community to go above and beyond and really think about what we might find important, especially if a company’s leadership is a member of that community. It’s troubling to witness when this doesn’t happen.

  3. I feel pretty mixed about this decision. On the one hand, I’m thrilled that A/S will continue on and that the writers and staff who are still with the company will, presumably, have access to stronger benefits, pay, and work/life balance. I love Autostraddle, and am grateful that it has a new infusion of resources.

    On the other hand, I can’t really deny the bad taste this leaves in my mouth. Maybe I’m being too critical, but something about companies that commodify the “gender revolution” has always given me pause.

    I get that the slogan “capitalism will not save us” can only go so far when you’re an indie media company that needs money to survive, so I’m willing to give some grace here. But For Them doesn’t even post pay rates/benefit info on their job listings, which is, like, Step 1 for a genuinely “progressive”, employee-first company. What the hell??

    I won’t even touch how disheartening it is to see this news so soon after the gross mishandling of the Subject Editor restructuring. I understand that the timing likely didn’t work out to preserve these positions, and I believe leadership probably did explore every avenue it could at the time. Just, to move forward without acknowledgement of the shittiness of this past year feels like glossing over a move that damaged a lot of folks’ trust in A/S.

    I truly hope for the best with this partnership, and I look forward to reading Autostraddle for years to come. I just hope that the site continues to push the envelope when it comes to critiquing capitalism, platforming marginalized voices, and assessing its own internal politics and structure.

  4. I’m happy AS isn’t shutting down, and that this is a queer company, not a hetero-media acquistion. Looking forward to seeing what resources, bigger team etc does for Autostraddle team and site!!!

  5. Just: what the fuck. Reading this is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
    I am really sorry for every writer who works or used to work here.
    Full support to every writer who was fired (via Slack! never getting over it) or who resigned. Full support also to those who cannot yet. If you set a collective emergency fund, I will absolutely be contributing.

  6. I cannot express fully how relieved I was when I saw the news in my inbox! I think I had just assumed AS would not survive the year and tried to preemptively grieve that loss, but now I feel so hopeful for the future.

  7. Others have about covered it- I’m glad for people to still have jobs, but I find the idea of monetizing trans people’s biometric data (!?!?) and positioning any app as possibly more knowledgeable about gender than we ourselves are deeply, deeply offensive and will be discontinuing my A+ membership when those programs merge.

    • hi hihello!

      i’m also very glad for people to still have jobs. <3

      so, the FT app doesn't monetize trans people's biometric data. we understand the confusion but have added some copy to this post to clear that up. basically, there is a feature in the app (requested by their users) to record information about how they feel about their gender on any given day, like a gender journal. it's just for personal use and the data isn't shared or sold. it's not a vehicle to harvest data, it's the end product in and of itself.

      when the programs merge, no a+ member will be automatically added to their app or to that specific feature, you can opt in to the app or to any specific feature on the app.

  8. My main hopes for Autostraddle are that it 1) continues to exist , 2) is able to pay its employees a living wage , and 3) has new leadership that’s experienced in running companies (no offense meant to Riese, merely a factual statement). It seems like this merger ticks all of those boxes, so yay! Sure, Autostraddle is not perfect – it’s run by humans who make mistakes. But I love it a heck of a lot and I’m relieved to have hope that it can survive and even thrive.

  9. I am hopeful about this news! Congrats, AS, on finding a path forward.

    I would love a bit of clarification on the following comment (in the context of talking about the current team and culture at For Them): “Motti would like to sleep a little more and write a little less I think.”

    Is the idea now that AS writers/editors will jump in to help Motti out, in addition to their AS duties? Or will more capacity be brought on? Or…?

    • I appreciate the concern but this was just a light hearted joke about the life of a copy writer! The AS writers will not be doing writing or comms for For Them, and if I want to write something for AS, I will go through the same processes as anyone else who seeks to write for the publication. I am okay and so excited about this new opportunity for everyone! – a well rested Motti

  10. This seems like good news to me. Kylo has experience building and managing companies, shares our values, and seems committed to maintaining editorial freedom at Autostraddle. This wonderful site gets to continue to exist, and hopefully become a less stressful place to work. I’m a bit lost by some of the negative comments, as I was not familiar with For Them before today. What is the allegation regarding monetizing biometric data? Are there other specific concerns about For Them, along the lines of the comment above about how they don’t post salary/benefit info on job listings? Or is it just that some folks are ideologically opposed to partnering with any for-profit company, regardless of whether our target audiences and missions are substantially aligned?

    Anyway, I for one welcome this new development, and am feeling cautiously hopeful about the future of the site.

    • I flagged the lack of pay/benefits info above, and am also concerned about data sharing. I work in tech, and these aren’t trivial concerns when a company purports to a) stand for justice for marginalized groups and b) foster an empowering and healthy work culture.

      A lack of pay transparency and a lack of forthrightness about how data collected from marginalized groups is stored/shared are both HUGE red flags for me when looking for my own employment. Why wouldn’t I raise these issues when a company I really value has entered a partnership with a company I would have reservations about working with myself?

      Additionally, I’m confused about your dismissal of these concerns as simply people being “ideologically opposed to partnering with any for-profit company.” Why is my ideology so easily brushed aside? Queer people are irrevocably harmed by capitalism as a system, and QTPOC harmed even more so. I stand by my irritation and concern about this new partnership, which I view as a risk to Autostraddle’s continued coverage of alternative and, at times, radical viewpoints.

    • I’m also curious about the specifics of how FT intends to collect/sell trans people’s biometric data. I’m pretty sure the above posters are referring to FT’s subscriber exclusive gender-tracking app:

      “For Them offers the first gender-tracking app for real time gender evolution using biometric data from daily mood and identity check-ins.”

      FT doesn’t provide any disclosures about this, and I don’t think the information is available unless you subscribe (lol) or reach out to them directly. I think Autostraddle’s staff is a little credulous about this genre of tech grift, considering their positive coverage of Pokemon Sleep, another app where users pay to have their biometric data sold to third party companies.

      I am… concerned. But relieved (???) AS hasn’t totally imploded. Does it suck that FT is a weirdo tech company that banks on the commodification of “revolution”? Yes. Do we also live in a hellscape that is rapidly and ceaselessly crushing independent news/media until there is nothing left but AI word salad and legacy reactionaries who platform the ghouls that literally want to kill us? Also very yes.

      Oh. I think I just upset myself and am no longer relieved. Now I’m just sad we couldn’t raise enough money to keep AS independent and pay everyone fairly and not see anyone fired via Slack (🫠). I don’t understand! We met all the fundraising goals! Where did it all go wrong…

  11. Deeply disheartening. Things were bad before and my reading of AS had already waned, but I think this might just be my last article. Reader since 2009 – we had a good run! I wish you had done better by your people.

  12. I’m disappointed that this news was shared via this lighthearted interview instead of actually and seriously addressing what it will mean for Autostraddle. It comes across as insensitive and callous.

  13. One important thing we need to know is For Them’s financial situation, especially since this was an equity deal. Is the business sustainable already, or is it on a limited runway of cash? How long a runway?

    And what’s the plan to manage a company that does… binders, an app, podcasts, media, and events? That’s a really disparate lineup with little functional overlap — my first reaction was bafflement, honestly — and it’s hard to do well even when focusing on just one of them (as we know too well here). I really want reassurance that the plan is more than just bringing on new management and trying to get bigger fast enough to make the numbers work out.

    I also echo most of the comments above: critical, positive, and bittersweet.

  14. I hope to see an actual serious article soon about what this acquisition will really mean for A/S in terms of content, scale, programming, and longevity. This “announcement” is a misstep from a site that has previously worked so hard to be transparent and forthright about mistakes, hard decisions and real issues. Hope to see this new access to resources and capacity pay off in a wonderful way that banishes some of those doubts we all seem to be feeling judging by the other comments, but for today, it does feel like something has been lost.

  15. I feel really icky about this. I understand that surviving under capitalism isn’t easy and most of us compromise our values sometimes to get by, but…partnering with a company that’s funded by venture capitalists??? Ethically gross AND doesn’t seem like a smart business decision? I was super confused by the statement in today’s newsletter that Autostraddle’s archive will be preserved “for generations to come”… how is this being ensured? If For Them loses funding/fails to turn a profit for investers and goes under, won’t Autostraddle and its archives go down too? What if they’re acquired by a larger company that doesn’t care about Autostraddle’s mission? Many venture capital companies are essentially created to be sold.

    It’s a different situation, but I keep thinking about how excited some people in the podcasting industry were when Spotify acquired Gimlet, and how now a lot of Gimlet staff have been let go while Spotify supports Joe Rogan’s show. What’s to stop something like this from happening with Autostraddle?

    I really don’t understand how this aligns with your values and why you’re not addressing the problems with VC anywhere.

    • Agreed. Yes, we live under capitalism. I still wish that AS had approached this announcement of a partnership with a for-profit company with ties to VC more seriously.

      I found myself scanning the statements of the current staff (from the A+ email announcement) looking for anyone expressing reservations or caution about the new arrangement. I get that a company needs to present a united front during mergers like this, but the lack of transparent dialogue around what it means to be absorbed by a for-profit company in this day and age makes me more concerned than if these issues were raised for discussion.

    • The Defector article that was published about this yesterday makes that exact point-

      “For Them, as a media company owner, is a total unknown. That they’re actively trying to maintain work for queer writers and editors points to good intentions. But when the writing and editing isn’t necessarily the company’s main business, there’s always the threat that, after a bad quarter, Freeman could look at the numbers and ask, simply, ‘Wait, why are we doing blogs?'”

      And you’re right; of course right now they’re going to say no, that would never happen, but.

      I don’t know. My understanding is that this was all mismanaged badly enough that it was this kind of sale or shut down, but damn I wish it could’ve been a worker-owned-and-run venture and that it had happened before all of this blew up. It feels to me like the damage has been done. There was a palpable change after everything went down earlier this summer, and I don’t know that it will get back to what it was. But I do hope the history is preserved.

    • 🥳🥳🥳

      I read this news and was so happy for Riese and the staff team at Autostraddle. What a nightmare it must have been feeling like you’re carrying the weight of multiple people’s livelihoods in an increasingly unsupportive media environment while trying to provide decent work (with all the caveats of what that can actually be in America in 2023). I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

      Then I dove into the comments which I thought would be celebratory too but damn. It feels that Autostraddle and Riese in particular are being held accountable for the fact that living under capitalism means providing good work for marginalized populations and having a sustainable business model is nearly impossible. Sure it would have been nice to not have to sell it to be worker owned or to not take a risky risk. But when you’re trying to make sure as many people as possible stay employed in a capitalist market you have to choose the best from unappealing options or just close entirely. This feels like the perfect being the enemy of the good and is what makes so many queer spaces cannibalize themselves. The Autostraddle team are people who’ve been overworked for more than a decade trying to find their way out of an impossible situation and I wish the community could offer some grace. How are they supposed to be perfect? They’re tired and the world is burning. They have to sell to someone or all the peoples writing we’ve loved for years, not to mention their benefits (for health issues we’ve read about too) go away. It’s a shitty situation but heaping blame onto the team and auditing every choice that you can never fully understand seems like the wrong way to channel our collective disappointment about the state of the world.

      I tried to go back and like some comments but had to log into WordPress and got confused.

      • em84, yeah, I absolutely agree with your comment here. My own frustrations are related to the feelings of futility I have about this acquisition. I am also specifically upset with the team’s decision to come out with a blanket upbeat and cheerful tone, as I am used to frankness from such announcements.

        I don’t agree with bashing the team or leadership for this decision, and I’m grateful that they will have more resources both personally and professionally. I do, however, support critiques of how this information was communicated, and I support concern about the lack of frank discussion around what it means to be acquired by a for-profit company that generates value by marketing to queer people. These are conversations worth having, even as it is true that Autostraddle’s acquisition may be a very positive thing for the folks working there and reading its content.

  16. Unfortunate! Their website is like, COVERED in info about For Them’s values and mission, but they only sell like one expensive sports bra and a version of Daylio that would tell me trans cliches and eventually get me arrested for gender crimes probably. Why do you need biometrics to track gender? A truly baffling move in a long line of baffling moves, bummed to be a subscriber.

    • At least Daylio has an actual privacy policy and is clear about where data is hosted (and Dailyo’s better than most of those apps, as you can host locally).

      I can’t find anything about the For Them app’s data protection or privacy, and if I were an A+ member…I’d personally be nervous about what’s going on with my user data in the future. Privacy and data protection are critical for queer and trans folks, the For Them opacity is concerning to me.

  17. So you went from grifting employees to grifting queer readers trying to find community with a 3 year old company in its like 4th iteration it sounds like and no secure funding source. Really reads like a high school editorial and not Autostraddle, this is glib and offensive

  18. It’s great to hear that the new boss is not just a member of our community but also a longtime reader. And Liverpool fan, thats important too, to understand the character of a person ;-)

    I think a lot of us (not only those who came here from AE) are scared by this news. Especially combined with the current SAGAFTRA strike and the renewed focus on worker rights and apparent handling of those so far by ForThem, not to mention the implications for usage of our data and future funding.
    And what does it mean really, that this acquisition was “equity only” but then theres also going to be a new CEO and there will be “restructuring” (more like, there already was, not too long ago)?

    I think maybe an interview about these topics specifically would help soothe those fears or at least make the decision more transparent, preferably on video since it helps to see the face of the person speaking to ascertain their sincerity.

    More transparency about what ForThem actually does might also help (I know people could do their own research but come on, people gonna people).

    I’m sorry we’re giving you guys a hard time over this and I understand thats probably more than a bit frustrating since noone would care more about this website than the ones sacrificing their lives essentially to run this.
    I really think everybody is just scared and scarred and change is horrifying when it happens to sanctuary spaces. Hope and blind trust is hard when the world is burning, but please everyone, stay kind and brave.

    As we all know, fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
    Sorry, not sorry *cough* Kylo *cough*.

    • I really appreciate your gentle approach to this issue and the empathy in your comment. Agreed, much of this concern and frustration does come from how much folks care for and feel seen by Autostraddle as it currently exists.

      I do feel a bit defensive of my own views reading your remark: “I know people could do their own research but come on, people gonna people”. It might be a little presumptuous to assume that folks expressing confusion about For Them’s business model and future plans haven’t done their research.

      The marketplace is full of flash-in-the-pan “lifestyle” companies that seek to diversify into every facet of consumption and disrupt the status quo. If asked to completely articulate the direct benefit these companies offer me, the consumer, or society at large, I would struggle. It’s a pretty basic question that ought to have a reasonably basic answer (“what does this company DO?”), and it can feel unsettling to have that basic idea so obfuscated by marketing and references to “the gender revolution.”

      I agree that many folks, myself included, feel scared. But I would argue that I am not “just scared,” as you’ve supposed. I think folks are justifiably bothered by what could be seen as a lack of transparency and a glib, cheerful announcement that seems to sidestep many reader/membership concerns that could have been identified and addressed with a few moments of reflection.

      Again, I appreciate your comment, and I hope to come off as conversational rather than too defensive or aggressive. I regret if I have missed the mark!

  19. As an activist, a community volunteer and a union member, hearing Venture capitalist backed takeovers co-opting “revolution” is grotesque.

    Reading a flippant interview over such serious subject matter, making jokes in the faces of those who were discarded, is grotesque.

    In a time that the US is brimming with fascism and is already systemically unsafe for LGBT+ people, collecting gender data is grotesque.

    The fumble of a niche but ultra loyal community is impressive. AS, I will mourn what you have meant to me in the past but now that decisions and beds have been made, this post has left me entirely numbed to any feelings I had for you.

    Oh and also, if channelling Liverpool FC, that means ploughing money into the women’s side for one commercially successful season, then obliterating their finances, their facilities and their staff, and giving all their resources to the already absurdly financed men’s team.

  20. Trying to stay open minded, but this is really concerning, for all the reasons expressed in the previous comments. My A+ subscription just renewed but I’m seriously considering cancelling now. Truly wish it hadn’t come to this, but it’s hard to have faith in the direction things are going.

    • Hi tetsubin! We added an update addressing the privacy / security / data concerns raised in these comments. I hope it’s helpful, but if not, please do feel free to ask more questions. Thank you for being a member <3

  21. There’s a lot of uncertainty in this announcement for me. I had never heard of this company before today. Kylo says they plan to torch nothing about Autostraddle, but if there a now vulture capitalists in Autostraddle’s chain-of-command… Well, vulture capitalists aren’t known for their gentle touches. I had planned to become an A+ member after I finally managed to snag a job in my field and felt in a better place financially. This acquisition makes the likelihood of me ever getting that membership uncertain, especially if there’s biometric data involved that could be sold, as I see other people mentioning.

    For now, I will wait and watch.

    • Hi Rachel! Just here to say that we included an update above to address data & privacy concerns. While “biometric data” was stated in For Them’s copy at one point, it actually isn’t accurate. Neither they nor Autostraddle collect any biometric or medical data. I hope that clears at least that aspect up!

      • I had also wondered about where the biometric data concerns came from, but it is listed on the ForThem faq page:
        What do you do with my biometric data from the gender-tracking app?
        We take our users’ privacy and security seriously, and that includes their biometric data. We employ state-of-the-art security measures to safeguard your information and ensure that it is only used within our app to help track your gender journey.

  22. The biometric data mining app supposedly helping someone with their gender is atrocious.
    I’m glad I cancelled my a+ membership when y’all fired people over slack and fumbled everything. I echo hoping I can opt out of my data being shared.

    I’ve been reading for at least 12 yrs and commenting frequently during most of that. Now I wish I could mass delete all those personal comments.

    I wish I could say I’m surprised but I’m not given the other decisions lately. But I’m now done reading this site for good.

    • Hi Jay, I’m sorry to hear all of this. I do want to mention that the subject editors were not fired. The subject editor positions were ended and they were all invited (and it was the hope) that they would stay on as writers.

      When it comes to data, we included an update above to address data & privacy concerns. While that was stated in For Them’s copy at one point, it actually isn’t accurate. Neither they nor Autostraddle collect any biometric or medical data. While that was stated in For Them’s copy at one point, it actually isn’t accurate. I hope that clears at least that aspect up.

      Wishing you well <3

      • nico, i think focusing on the semantics of whether or not the subject editors were *technically* “fired” really shows how much all of you are missing the point. after expressing concerns about the security of their positions and being reassured by leadership, the subject editors were informed just a few weeks later (via slack!) that their positions were being eliminated. while this might not fit some legal definition of firing, you’d have to be pretty dense to not understand why that felt like a firing, for concerned readers and probably also for the subject editors. being offered the “opportunity” to stay on as writers also does not make up for what was done here — if that was really a good offer, then why did all of them choose not to take it?

        also, i have seen you/riese repeatedly say that for them isn’t actually collecting biometric data. if true, that’s definitely for the best, but i have seen no attempt to address what it means that you’ve now been acquired by a company that uses techy buzzwords seemingly without any understanding of their meaning. just saying that the biometric data thing is inaccurate is really not as reassuring as you all seem to think it is.

  23. Yeah, I think this is it for me. I had already held out my membership a couple months longer than I was comfortable with.
    I don’t think that any queer and/or trans person should place their trust in any company with a nebulous privacy policy that collects data on people’s transitions in this political climate. This seems shortsighted at best and dangerous at worst.

    Vague VC promises and Instagram therapy marketing speak aren’t really inspiring a lot of confidence in me either.

    Related, I keep getting an error page when I go into my account to cancel my membership. Is anyone else having this issue?

    • I’m having the same 404 issue.

      I’d also like to remind Autostraddle that some of their readers and A+ members live in the EU, which has way more stringent privacy laws, and that sharing data like this without letting people opt in, and without even an opt out, may not be okay…

      • Account management does appear to be fixed now.

        I was only cobalt level, but I signed up a year ago because I was excited about the communitybuilding aspects of the site and I really liked its literature coverage. I am not interested in using my little gay dollars to fund Silicon Valley ethos when I can avoid it (and increasingly often, it feels like we can’t!) We’ve seen where it leads with platform after platform.

        At the end of the day I’m just sad about it all.

  24. This was a very weird interview for announcing such a huge decision. The choice to use a lighthearted tone and not address the months of upheaval and lack of communication during that time feels out of touch. Or maybe I’m out of touch with the site.

    This is yet another post from top leadership that poses more questions than it answers. Are these the folks that recommended firing the subject editors? Is that what the strange reference to February was about? I have no idea and I am too tired to try to figure it out. I canceled my A+ membership after months went by with no follow up from the May post. As much as I love that there is now a QTPOC CEO, I didn’t get any information here that would make me change that decision.

    I feel like I grew up with this site, but it also feels like Riese did not. You created something great, but to get the recognition as a serious CEO and founder for that you also have to accept the responsibility to treat it seriously. You’re held to higher standards because you set the standards for transparency, communication, and accountability in your vision. You’ve asked for financial support and many of us have provided it for years. But there have been too many missteps without communication and transparency. And too many attempts to just move on without accountability.

    I hope the site does well and the new leadership thrives, but this post does not give me any confidence in that future.

  25. I have been a devoted Autostraddle reader since 2010, an A+ subscriber since the program started, and even literally met my spouse because of Autostraddle. I am cancelling my A+ subscription today because this travesty of an interview following on the heels of treating your editors and writers like shit is so devastating. The glib tone is beyond insulting and the trajectory towards biometric data tracking (gross????) is truly alarming. RIP Autostraddle.

  26. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who’s horrified that AS are selling out to vulture capitalists. When they sacked many of my favourite writers in the most terrible way possible immediately after completing a successful fundraiser, I did suspect that it was the beginning of the end. Unfortunately this announcement confirms my suspicions.

  27. I wonder if Them (them.us, owned by Condé Nast) will sue For Them and make them change their name. Previously, For Them had a good legal/copyright defense (selling a physical product, binders, is categorically different than being a queer media company), but now by acquiring Autostraddle, For Them could pretty easily be confused with Them. Just makes ya think.

    • i literally had to re-read the announcement email headline several times to understand whether this was “them.us” or not!! i have no idea about the legalities, but it is legitimately confusing.

      also, i read that email this morning and only now clicking through on this interview and WOW!!!!!!!!!! i cannot comprehend how every step of every thing for months is being fumbled so hard. so. hard.

    • I misread the title of this article and literally thought “okay, merger with Them isn’t too bad” googled, realized it was owned by Conde Nast and thought oh no, then read this interview and was even in for a worse surprise.

  28. Like many here I’ve been reading basically since I came out, and got A+ even when I couldn’t really afford it. After this announcement I’ve cancelled my subscription and will no longer be reading. This is beyond irresponsible, it’s dangerous for your readers living in places where they face state-sponsored violence for being queer (which now includes many US states – did you really not consider this?)

    • I read the A+ email this morning and was excited for Autostraddle to get some help. After reading the comments here, I’m a little more reserved and concerned. It is a great question of why an informative, formal post wasn’t posted first (like the email) and then a sillier Q&A post. In the end, if Autostraddle doesn’t turn into a trash bag site like AE, this could be a good path forward.

  29. Good thing I use VPN whenever I do anything on my phone or pc. Data mining when people are literally being killed in the US for being LGBTQ or an ally is beyond gross. I already stopped interacting here, just popping in occasionally to skim an article or two because the mood had taken a sharp downward turn and it wasn’t fun anymore. It’s a shame but companies do what they got to do to survive, there is no loyalty to the people that helped get them there, so why should anyone retain that loyalty in return?

  30. Echoing a lot of comments here to say I’d like to be hopeful, but such a change after over a decade deserves careful, transparent handling – this sort of interview is for weeks down the road! My A+ membership doesn’t renew til January, so I’ll be paying attention – but as this stands, I don’t know how I’d feel about renewing.

    Also, co-signing the data concerns and not wanting my data transferred – and as someone in the UK, i’m not sure where the stricter laws over here would even leave that…

    • Having reread it, I’d like to say i’m critically optimistic? All my comments still stand but all the hearts seem in the right places – and I do love Autostraddle and know this has all been a lot of work!

  31. Huh. I’d like to know more about this decision. I have to believe that a lot of thought was put into this, but what do the financials look like? Seems like we’re getting the message that AS will be safe for generations to come but also that our membership is more important than ever? Also there won’t be any more fundraisers?

    It’s hard to believe that selling binders plus the existing (apparently unsustainable) financial structure of both companies will cover the cost of running FT and AS combined. Maybe we’re missing a piece or the puzzle here, I hope. I’d also like to know more about this equity partnership thing. What is FT getting out of acquiring (bailing out?) AS? Do they have a major sustainable cash flow outside of their membership? Are they going to continue to be an apparel business with a blog (and AS) on the side? If they are planning to change their business model, how can we know that it will succeed? What risk assessment went into this decision? Lots of questions and I’m hoping for an article with an article with some real answers and transparency.

  32. First I want to first you all for all the work you’ve done over the years, you’ve been a significant part of my life, and helped me meet many cool folks.

    I share the many (SO MANY) concerns listed above, and while I’ve given this place so many chances to grow and change, this is the point for me to part ways. I was extremely disappointed with the editor layoff early this year, but I thought the only way for things to improve is for me to keep supporting you all. I no longer think that’s the case, and while independent media is in a bleak state, I hope other places arise soon that will treat their writers/editors/readers much better that how you are treating us all right now.

    Best of hope for your future, but I’m taking my support either directly to writers or to places with a better vision.

  33. Hello! Apologies this took so long to get to you all, but there’s an update about privacy concerns at the foot of the interview above, now! Thank you so much for your questions! 💗

    • As someone who has privacy concerns about all of this, I appreciate the update.

      But with all due respect, I really think that you (general “you” directed towards everyone involved here) should have anticipated the privacy concerns that were inevitably going to arise around the news that AS is merging with a VC-backed tech startup that collects trans peoples’ personal information. Considering AS’s reader demographics, it should have been a really easy response to anticipate.

      It’s concerning that you didn’t clarify the privacy implications of the merger until several people commented about it. And considering that this is just the latest staff-to-reader communication problem, it doesn’t inspire confidence in clear communications about critical site news going forward.

  34. Hmmm. This strikes me as a really strange move that maybe is coming out of desperation? Losing independence is always hard, but I would feel much safer if AS were being acquired by a bigger / established media company instead of… a vague “gender revolution” company that has only existed for 3 years, sells 1 product and has an app that seems like a privacy nightmare?? I don’t get it. Were there not other takers? Completely understand that staying fully indie was not sustainable, but this feels (from the outside) like it doesn’t really solve the problems. And yeah, I share others’ concern that an app storing biometric data for trans and queer people is…not a good idea in this climate! Look at who’s on the Supreme Court, look at how virulent and violent and rampant the transphobic violence is. ALLIES are being murdered for having a rainbow flag. All it takes is one bad ruling on an internet privacy case, and folks’ most intimate data is up for grabs.

    I also agree that the tone of this interview was pretty wild given the conversations back in May around the subject editor layoffs. We’re not humorless around here but this interview does not come off as professional, thoughtful or sincere at all. It’s disappointing that AS cannot seem to take the note that the community wants some serious adult leadership and accountability regarding its future – not because we don’t love it, but because we do.

    I’m sad. I hope this goes well. But I’m not that optimistic.

      • exactly what I was thinking! I just checked out For Them and everything about it seems so sketchy, just a lot of coopting of queer lingo, sentences that don’t make any sense, coopting of radical terms..it does not look like a trustworthy company (not that VC should ever be trusted anyway) and its quality does not match Autostraddle’s at all. Autostraddle has helped me since my babygay days, I respect and value its writers, and their decision to sell to this company is just baffling to me and makes me wonder what prompted it, bc they must be truly desperate.

  35. Just echoing that there were so many better ways to share this information than this bizarre and flippant interview. I realize it was meant to be fun, but it comes off as confusing and distasteful.

    The team could have used this as a beautiful opportunity to create informative visuals and really empower readers with the information they need to understand the decision and direction.

    I think the way this was communicated is part of people’s unhappiness with the news. It’s just strange.

    • In follow-up – I just read the announcement email and it was 300% more informative than this interview/article. And in a much better tone and taste.

      I think that email should have been the website announcement as well. It is so much better than this interview!

      Wishing everyone the best of luck in this transition. Kudos to Riese for her hard work and for stepping down as CEO. Usually founders have a hard time with that.

  36. I just saw the email about the merger/acquisition (?) that went out this morning. While it does not address all concerns, it does include answers to many questions being posted in the comments. Is there a reason that email hasn’t been posted and pinned to the top of the website so that this “wild” (Emily’s description above feels accurate) interview isn’t the only or main source of information for readers?

    • You’re right! I just read the announcement email and it was 300% more informative than this interview/article. And in a much better tone and taste.

      I think that email should have been the website announcement as well. It is so much better than this interview!

      Wishing everyone the best of luck in this transition. Kudos to Riese for her hard work and for stepping down as CEO. Usually founders have a hard time with that.

  37. I really wonder how management thought this was going to go over with the readers? Much like the choice to fire editors over Slack, this is yet another decision that was poorly thought out and shows flawed leadership. I do genuinely hope this allows Autostraddle to continue writing about queer issues but this is a journey I cannot follow you on. Regardless of whether For Them is a “good” company or Kylo is an effective CEO, at the end of the day For Them is controlled by venture capitalist funding. I think if this was 10 years ago I might not have been so put off but we know what VCs have done to this country. We’ve seen how they’ve completely destroyed our infrastructure. This is one area that it is correct to be principled about. I know you all did what you felt was right to ensure the survival of Autostraddle but I’m not confident this will work out in the long run. I would also encourage everyone to see what former writers and editors have been saying about this decision, I share their frustration with how everything has been handled in the last year. I am genuinely heartbroken to end my A+ membership – I have been a member of this community and a regular reader for a decade, and this was one of the last old-school websites that I consistently visited. Maybe Autostraddle will prove me wrong and get even better! Either way, I think my time supporting this site financially has come to an end.

  38. Echoing the countless people here in saying that this interview is so flippant and offensive to folks who had their careers uprooted. The fact that Riese and Laneia are still going to be working at AS after their rampant unprofessionalism would be enough to get me to cancel my A+ subscription, but in conjunction with the company that now owns AS? Yeah, I’m done. There’s no guarantee that data won’t be sold beyond the app company saying it won’t (which they could easily change), and the statement that any law enforcement inquiry will be dealt with by their legal team doesn’t inspire any confidence. This also is in complete contradiction with what is being said on social media, where spokepeople for the app have stated they would comply with cop requests for information. If they take as much care with their app and data as they have with this announcement, I can’t trust them with anything.

    I’ve read AS since 2011 and been an A+ member for years now, but I can’t in good conscience continue to support this. I was willing to wait and hear what the plan would be, but this is unacceptable.

  39. I don’t have Twitter, is there a way I can find out what former and current writers have been saying about this? I used to receive the A+ emails but recently unsubscribed, even though I am still a member. Very confusing!

  40. I read the A+ email this morning and was excited for Autostraddle to get some help. After reading the comments here, I’m a little more reserved and concerned. It is a great question of why an informative, formal post wasn’t posted first (like the email) and then a sillier Q&A post. In the end, if Autostraddle doesn’t turn into a trash bag site like AE, this could be a good path forward.

  41. Oh.

    I very recently joined as an A+ member after being a somewhat more than casual reader for several years as I became more comfortable with my own queerness. As many have already posted, this seems like a very nonchalant approach to an introductory interview and overall a worrisome changeover as, at its core, venture capitalism isn’t at all progressive and, in the long run, extremely damaging to anything it touches.

    I’m also frustrated to read about behind-the-scenes issues. I wasn’t aware of them before this and am saddened to learn about them now.

    I’ll still visit, but I’m canceling my subscription. Thanks to all of the writers and editors that made this site so enjoyable to read and helping me become comfortable in my own skin. I hope y’all find success with all that you do.

    Best wishes for AS’s future.

  42. How much will Chloe Freedman affect editorial. What’s stopping this brand from turning this site into Goop for lesbian & trans community? Tech Crunch article or was it business week called them goop for the queer.

    • I’m sure you’re not trying to be insensitive, but Kylo’s instagram handle is @chlo3freeman, so the person listed in the TechCrunch article is the same as the person being interviewed here; there’s not some conspiracy. in a queer space it shouldn’t be too surprising that trans people often change their names

      • ah I didn’t realize that. I just assumed there was a personnel change or two ceos. I’m so used to reading stories about companies run by cis het people that didn’t cross my mind.

  43. jesus christ, y’all. sure, this was not #1 on my list of ways for AS to be saved, but the reaction here is so intense. I genuinely don’t understand what other perfect option AS has that they’re missing. people want this to be an org where 1) no one works overtime, 2) everyone is paid fairly w/ benefits, 3) there’s a large and diverse group of writers and editors, 4) there’s consistent and always free content, and 5) there’s complete and absolute moral purity in how they stay afloat financially.

    for real – and this is a genuine question – *where* is the media organization that is doing this? I guess Mother Jones? though they have literally millions of readers, so they’re not really comparable.

    • Honestly tho, it’s not even that Autostraddle can’t be all the things you named. It’s that this is the latest example of AS (and especially Riese) showing time and again that they aren’t seriously considering the impact of their decisions on their readership or their workers. Why is this glib, unserious interview the way they announce this major business change? How did everyone working on this think it was a good idea when comms issues have been identified as a MAJOR issue very very recently??

      How did no one flag the thing about biometric data, which is now being backtracked? Either For Them had a plan to collect biometric data that’s been scrapped with this backlash OR they *didn’t know what biometric data means* but included it as a buzzword in promotional materials. It does not inspire confidence either way!!

      If this plan had been introduced with an acknowledgement of the gravity of the change, I’d be worried and curious about the unknown but willing to see how it pans out. But for me, this interview is the final straw after giving a lot of grace and leeway for AS to figure their shit out.

      • “OR they *didn’t know what biometric data means* but included it as a buzzword in promotional materials. It does not inspire confidence either way!!”

        I think it might be this one. The impression I’m getting is that the leadership of For Them know how to speak to venture capitalists and startup bros in order to get them to sign cheques (and buzzwords are part of that), but they don’t know how to organically build community and they’re oblivious to what messaging will land well with ordinary queer people vs what will cause people to balk.

        I feel like they hope to help Autostraddle with money, and in return they hope to get access to a real community and help with authenticity from Autostraddle.

        I hope for all of our sakes that it works out well. It’s become increasingly obvious that the old business model wasn’t sustainable for anybody.

        But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t worry me that the new CEO seems confused about what community truly is. For Them says on its insta that community shouldn’t be defined by shared consumption, and that much is true, but community isn’t defined by shallow zine aesthetics or paying $6-$15 a month for a 30% discount on binders and ‘the chance’ to give a brand feedback on its product development either.

        Community is about *coming together, sharing experiences, and working towards the collective good*, not paying a corporation to be marketed towards.

        • “Community is about *coming together, sharing experiences, and working towards the collective good*, not paying a corporation to be marketed towards.”

          THIS. Right now, it feels like AS will become a commodity due to the nature of it now relying on VCs. I hope I’m wrong.

          • I’m about to be reductive, but AS already is kind of a commodity, though? like, it’s a product that people are paid to make. yes, it’s one we really enjoy that enables or facilitates community, but it’s not like, just a lil blog someone’s running from their basement, it *employs* people

      • I get that re: the tone, the vibes, communication, I’m just also hearing a lot of criticism about the choice itself. and what I was really asking was, what would it be for AS to “figure it’s shit out”?

        • Not sure why I am unable to respond directly to your responses above so I’ll do it here.

          While yes, it can be considered a commodity from a certain point of view, its independence allowed the commodities to develop organically *from* the site, not building a product and then trying to sell it, if that makes sense?

          But I’m really referring to the term commodity on a macro-scale. VCs, no matter how well-intentioned from the get-go, are not meant to foster community. Their most important goal is to make money. Yes, there is editorial independence right now, but what happens when investors decide that that strategy is not profitable for them anymore? I hope my evening ramblings make sense.

          • yeah, I definitely get the worry and – after reading the Defector article someone linked in another comment – am understanding much more the responses people are having. I didn’t have a full enough scope of the issues at hand, but I’m also now feeling much more resigned about AS’s future.

            I still think there’s a risk in juxtaposing AS as it exists and VC organizations as diametrically distinct though- maybe it’s because I never saw AS as a “community” (I paid for it, they don’t have a mutual aid program, the A+ special issues felt like a “cool kids” club to me, I never went to A-camp), that I was less put off by this turn of events. yes, a VC will stop funding something if it’s not profitable, but AS was going to close anyway because it can’t make the money it needs to sustain itself- which is different than ‘making a profit’ for sure, but isn’t irrelevant. I just got these twinges of the moral purity sensibility that I think is sometimes too common the left, and to me AS has never been morally pure.

            I don’t know, it’s all a bummer. I hate that it’s going this way, and will be sad if it becomes something unrecognizable.

          • Hey Kelly – For Them investors have backed and funded Kylo’s community-centric mission and have no operational control over decision making within the business.

            Kylo owns the majority share of the company, and is leveraging this institutional capital as a way to accelerate their vision of a queer focused company and team that has the resources to solve historically unserved queer problems. As a black trans person, they know what it means to be an under-served person whose problems have historically had less/no funding than their cis-het problem counterpart. This is the driving force behind their company and their decision to use external funding – without this they would not have been able to bring this mission to life.

            Their goal is to create what the community needs and wants – this started with safe affirming products, resources and community space. And this now extends to the preservation of a precious queer archival resource like Autostraddle. AS will keep editorial independence.

            I hope this answers some of your concerns and worries!

  44. “A love letter about health insurance and I will not read it!“

    I know people have different styles of communication, and especially being neurodivergent myself I’m trying to empathize here, but like. Y I K E S !!! This seems like an incredibly bad omen idk

    • truly we were just joking around, kylo has been doing backflips to ensure our staff has the best health insurance possible, it’s a top priority that everybody is taking very seriously

      • It’s less about the health insurance part (though it is unsettling that they would joke about that so carelessly) and more about how they said they don’t like to or won’t read long messages from people they work with? I admit I’m biased – I express myself much more clearly through text and despise voice messages – but this really stuck out to me. It feels like a giant red flag that this person seems very difficult to communicate with, when they’re supposed to be the CEO for a company/website where lackluster communication has been one of the top issues pointed out by the community.

  45. It’s very clear that tensions are high amongst the community regarding this announcement. On the one hand, I am excited to see that Autostraddle won’t be closing down, which was a major concern just a short while ago. There seems to be some solid ideas, like the app, that might see this community reach out even further to members far and wider than before.

    However… do we all remember what happened when AfterEllen sold to another company? I’m watering it down of course, but a similiar thing happened to what was arguable one of the best sites on the web at the time for lesbians news & community.

    I’m willing to stay for this next chapter. Autostraddle has always done right by us as a community, so far as I know. And while I can see there’s potential for disaster here, there’s also a chance for a brighter future for a staple of lesbian culture that WE CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE. So let’s try and give Riese and the team all the support we can.

  46. I am very worried to hear that Autostraddle is being acquired. And being acquired by a product company. It is unknown, and therefore scary. I feel like I’ve seen things in the past where a cool place gets acquired, and sooner or later dissolves into that company and loses all it’s coolness. Especially with a company that sells products. You use “aquire” and “merge” both, multiple times. Which is it for you philosophically? I get that legally it might be one or the other, but that doesn’t matter. What is it to you guys? Is For Them the big daddies who must be obeyed? Can autostraddle choose to leave in the future?

    • Are the concerns of the writers who left in droves being taken into consideration? Even though they’re gone now, they were part of our community, and many of them for a very very long time, and it matter a lot to me how they feel about this. I don’t think we are done addressing their concerns with Autostraddle, and I would like talks to continue with them, if they are okay with that, and to listen to their input. I still haven’t given up the hope that maybe if their concerns are addressed enough, some of them might come back. I miss them.

    • Another worry: I’m worried that since Autostraddle is merging/being acquired by a more generally queer company, that it will become a more generally queer space. I really treasure Autostraddle as a link to a specifically wlw flavored community. I’m a nonbinary bisexual, so I travel in like all queer spaces, but sometimes I want to be in the equivalent of the wlw room, and sometimes in the mlm room, and sometimes on trans room ya know? If For Them wants to create queer media for audiences outside of Autostraddles current desired audience, I’m all for it, but would like it to be housed separately because I love having this atmosphere. I don’t want to see Autostraddle changing itsslice of queer pie it serves, but I think it would be real neat if For Them eventually served an Autostraddle pie, a Trainstraddle pie (all trans all the time), a Submarinestraddle pie (bdsm), a Scooterstraddle pie (idk) etc.

    • Some positives I see!!!
      I’m really excited for the CEO to be a person of color!
      I’m excited for Autostraddle to have more international ties! I think it would be really cool if Autostraddle became more internationally focused (hire someone out of India to start maybe?)
      I’m really super excited for someone with a background in finance to be in the lead!!! That is so good and necessary! Autostraddle has been lacking in that sector, I’m so excited for budgeting know how!
      I’m excited for the addition of more possible revenue streams (though also scared tbh)
      I think the addition of more people with experience in the acting / tv / movie industry is really really exciting! Autostraddle has made forays in that direction for a while, and I think it’s even better poised now for that! I think this could really help the Autostraddle awards!!! (I forget if you already did, but maybe you can move into awarding more behind the camera roles too, since that’s a specific area of expertise for Kylo Freeman?)
      Also, Kayla mentioned offhand once hat she and her fiance were writing a pilot episode for a tv show together, or something, maybe this will help tha somehow?
      I’m excited that Nico won’t have to worry about fundraisers and work themself to death over them
      I’m excited that since it’s already an international company, this might offer more freedom for the existing people to move if they desire, and also perhaps hire people internationally
      I’m excited for the wonderful exotic fruit that cross pollination always brings (by which I mean, I’m sure the collaborations with this new set of people will spark exciting new projects!)!
      Overall, I’m scared, but hopeful, and excited

  47. Maybe it’s because I don’t have social media (does the AS profile count?) and therefore didn’t follow the Fundraiser then Firing Fiasco outside of AS, or because I’m tired of being whipped into a rage, or because I don’t even want to work 40 hrs in a week let alone the # it usually takes to run a small business, but…

    I’m mostly perplexed by all the intensity.

    Having been fairly bitter and rageful at the kyriarchy since college, I understand strong feelings about ethics. Especially if it feels like one of the few queer safe havens is changing and I am unsure how it will all play out.

    Having also found myself being neurotic over any little thing that I actually *can* control in this modern hellscape, I wonder if some of this is about lashing out at people who are actually listening? Who feel more reachable than the faceless, heartless, male-owned, male-run, and male-centered companies?

    I am honestly not sure why every user/member feels like they deserve to know every single business detail, with graphics, or why the previous and current explanatory communications and visuals don’t feel like an effort to address concerns?

    I could be missing something as aforementioned!

    My own 2 questions are:
    –What is meant by “phone number device information” when talking about collecting data?
    –Will my payment name be used for this collection, or my profile name, or both?

    Thanks, all!

    • I would also be perplexed if I had not witnessed all of the AS racism/workplace toxicity scandals in real time… I think the most intense reactions are from readers who are tired of getting their hopes up and choosing to forgive and support and fund this site only to be met with more of the same. When AS introduced the new subject editor roles, I desperately wanted to support what seemed like real, substantive change. Now I feel like my subscription only enables the worst behavior at the top, with other employees receiving a fraction of the pay and none of the stability. I’m unsubscribing for this reason.

      If you really want to know more, this defector article can get you up to speed:

      https://defector.com/autostraddle-is-spiraling-toward-a-shutdown-or-a-sale

    • I think a lot of the intensity you’re seeing is a lot of people’s last straw, and I would encourage anyone who is taken aback by the tenor of the comments section to believe that there’s a reason for it. What has happened this year absolutely gutted the trust and confidence many of us had in AS; you can tell how many readers decided they were done even before this week. And that’s not just because It’s A Shitshow Out There when it comes to the media landscape- it *is* an absolute shitshow, *and* there was bad decision-making and lack of transparency and failure to anticipate very foreseeable fallout. This did not have to go down in a way that resulted in the losing a dozen writers, many of which were doing the kind of work that gave people hope that AS was actually living up to what it promised. But it did, and that mattered, and of -course- that was going to mean that any kind of sale or merger was going to be met with increased scrutiny. The skepticism–from a portion of the readership that was previously very willing to extend good will and benefit from the doubt–was earned. So to launch this in a glib, cheeky way.. well. As someone else said, it sure doesn’t feel like the room is being read. I think attributing that to all of these people at once simply needing to rage against the machine is, yeah, a misunderstanding.

      In terms of asking for details and transparency, I had the same reaction in the thread where the subject editor eliminations were announced. And then I thought about it and realized, you know, yeah. This is actually not the same as, say, donating to a charitable organization. We have been actively encouraged to think of this place as ours. We’ve been asked repeatedly for money to sustain a community that matters to us, and given it. Some of us, you and I included, have put a lot of time and thought into our engagement. We’ve received graphics and numbers over time, via those annual reports, that were offered as a show of transparency- and when you present yourself as being transparent, people get to take you at your word.

      Anyway. Especially if you’re not plugged in elsewhere, I kind of get it. For a long, long time I was in the place of optimism, benefit of the doubt, etc. when people were cranky in the comments. That is how I roll when it comes to communities I’m a part of and it sucks to have to admit to myself that I don’t believe in what’s going on here anymore. But this doesn’t feel like other times to me. And if you are plugged in other places, you’ll see things like former writers hinting that they are afraid to speak publicly about their experiences for fear of the damage it would do to their careers. You’ll see that older Defector piece, including Riese’s own responses and non-responses, and also the screenshots the reporter posted of the For Them PR team trying to strongarm Defector into taking down her Monday followup because she scooped it before they wanted to make the announcement- which is not how journalism works, which you’d want a company that just bought a media company to know. You’ll see the For Them people backtracking in real time because, bafflingly, an all-trans and queer company utterly failed to anticipate how their messaging would be received by this community in this landscape. I can’t look at all of that and all of this and still conclude that everything is fine. I do think that all the mismanagement from earlier this year was a critical error. I think it’s tragic that it was preventable. What AS has been to me and so many of us for years is irreplaceable. I’ll probably hang out a little in the same way that a lot of us are on Twitter knowing that it is already dead. But damn, it’s a shame.

      • Thanks to rev, hihello, and Donna for sharing info. I see that this whole situation is and has been a mess.

        I see how nonwhite and/or non-cis staff and readers were disappointed, hurt, or rageful. I see how staff with 1 or more fewer marginalizations than them did not always discover their blindspots quickly enough nor always react to feedback well.

        I have recent experience holding back white tears when engaged by a Black man about an interaction we’d had that had triggered him. Having been actively unlearning racism for years and literally reading “My Grandmother’s Hands” that week, I was baffled that such a reaction could occur against my will. I’m glad I did not cry *and* I misattributed my own trauma reaction to gender/power differentials –past and present– rather than melanin. I’m sure they were all in the mix but I knew within that same day that internalized racism, bone-deep, was present as well. It was a clear indication to continue its eradication until Earth burns or fascism bans all therapy and education.

        (Ditto to anti-transness, though I haven’t found much of that in myself yet. Keeping an eye out!)

        This is a long-winded way of saying that it seems to me that a tired leadership team could easily make these mistakes on a larger scale and with greater impact, regardless of intention. I saw over the years and currently see attempts at course correction, and also I see how hard it might be to mend damage already created.

        I’ll be thinking about my next steps and wishing everyone much love and healing.

    • The Defector articles do a more thorough, balanced job of outlining criticisms than these comment sections. I found Shelli’s comments particularly illuminating.

      We do live in a dire media landscape, and some critics have failed to see that context. Queers like to cannibalize ourselves and there are always so many bad faith comments that it can be easy to dismiss others as crying wolf.

      At the same time, Riese and at least one other white staff member have evidently exhibited repeated Alice Pieszecki-style leadership behaviours, which has led to a lot of valid alienation. I wish so many talented people hadn’t gotten hurt here over the years and I don’t blame them if they can’t handle this jokey exchange when the wound of the subject editors debacle still stings. I hope Riese can separate the conflict from the abuse, meaningfully cede power, and continue writing. I don’t want to lose a site with Carmen as EIC but whether For Them will make that possible long-term remains to be seen.

  48. Many commenters have pointed out but I just want to echo it:

    The tone of this interview is bizarre, out of touch, and so dismissive of the concerns readers (and writers) have been bringing up the past several months! After everything that happened in May, I downgraded my membership and opted to support some of the former AS writers on their respective Substacks. I was encouraged by the promises of more transparency from Autostraddle leadership, but after today I’m sadly even more convinced it’s time to cancel and just support writers directly where possible. I’m so disappointed it’s come to this, and I’d love to be proved wrong, but damn this post just feels like such a slap in the face and an indicator of the unseriousness at the top.

  49. As a longtime A+ member and someone who reads this site literally like the daily news, I’m really disappointed. Like everyone else, I have concerns about For Them (largely: is their business model sustainable and HOW. it feels like a wellness scam).

    And honestly even more than that, ESPECIALLY after some of the best writers Autostraddle has ever had were let go in such a disrespectful way…..a jokey lighthearted interview was not the way to share this news. It feels dismissive and somehow patronizing.

    I hope that leadership realizes we are saying these critiques BECAUSE we love Autostraddle and we want better for it and for the writers who make it happen. I had hoped that after the debacle with the subject editors that there would be some self reflection but maybe not? I hope that’s something you’re able to do.

    Just really disappointed and sad about everything.

  50. I get it, how from a For Them perspective the tone of this couldn’t have been one of mourning. But I am sad. This feels like the end of an era, although one that has been ending for a long time. I loved the personality cult version of Autostraddle, even though I can now recognize the ways that it was never inclusive of all queer women. Riese and Laneia and Rachel and that version of the team felt like the cool older friends who said “come sit with us.” I have moved on from that moment, don’t need Autostraddle in that way any more. I’m still grateful, and hope that all of the Autostraddle staff are able to move on gracefully as well.

  51. I don’t comment here much. I just read the articles and pay my A+ membership, but I felt compelled to comment because of how poorly this was handled.

    The way this was announced was terrible. This post is completely out of touch. This post doesn’t take any of the concerns of your readers seriously. It’s clear that leadership is willfully ignoring the absolute turmoil that has been going on with site and ignoring the fact that the community and the readers know this stuff has been happening and people are rightfully concerned.

    You need a communications manager or community manager, and you need to listen to their advice. They would have anticipated the data privacy concerns, armed you with messaging, and counseled you against this weird interview format. This is not how you announce an acquisition.

    You need to reassure your readers and your paying membership, and this is not how to do it!

    Also, I am an A+ member and have been for years. I opted out of editorial emails, but something this huge should be part of an email to all users, not just to subscribers.

    And finally, I think it is just very odd that a binder company that has barely been around is acquiring Autostraddle. What do they know about running a media company?

    Also, there is a lot of competiton in the binder space. The single product they produce is not unique to the scene. If they can’t innovate on a product, how can they innovate to bring Autostraddle to the next level?

    These are the questions and concerns you should be trying to lay to rest, not having dumbass jokey Zoom calls!

    Do better.

  52. I’m really concerned for the future of the website, so I’d like to know if its past can be stored. Are there digital archivists or librarians here who know to get this website scraped and stored somewhere accessible to the public?

  53. Hey AS staff, just wanted to let you know that I thought this interview was hilarious and very historically on-brand. Thanks for your patience (as always) navigating the comment section and allowing people space to publicly react and grieve. Isn’t the comment section on this site always a fun time? <3

    PS: I think the concept of a gender/mood app sounds kind of neat (and I'm a trans person on HRT living in the Bible Belt)

    • Hey Lauren! Thanks for your support and your kind words to the AS team. Yes, the concept of the gender/mood app came from requests we had within the community, and we have lots of users who love it and get value from it! I hope you’ll get to try it out at some point to see what you think :)

  54. For Them is supposedly “driving the queer revolution through products and services that function as direct links to queer wellness, radical self-expression, authentic connection and human experience.”

    that’s…not really a real sentence. what is, for example, a “service that functions as a direct link to human experience”.

    I love AS, I don’t want it to become a word-salad buzz-word machine.

  55. I don’t know much about company mergers and business models for media companies, and I’m definitely not able to see the future. However, I don’t see how cancelling an A+ subscription at this time is going to in any way help Autostraddle, or the writers that work for Autostraddle, or ourselves who want to keep enjoying reading this wonderful website. I understand that in order to launch a transition, one presents this transition in a positive way. The fact that the writers that the AS team is happy about this development tells me a lot, because I trust that the people whose work I love are trying their best. I’m upgrading my A+ membership to support Autostraddle, both now and in the future.

    • Thank you for upgrading! I’m of course here to field any requests for cancellations, but you’re absolutely right that it’s not helpful to cancel as Autostraddle is still reliant on reader support to run and we will continue to be indefinitely. <3 Sending you love!

  56. A major concern I haven’t seen addressed in the comment section is that AS being acquired by a “wellness” company with a super inaccessible website raises a lot of red flags when it comes to AS’ commitment to disability justice, accessibility, and fat liberation. “Wellness” as a buzzword (and “For Them” seems to be entirely made of buzzwords with no actual substance) generally tends to be full of ableism & harmful ideas about bodies in general.

    I also read that Kylo previously proposed a line of gender-related NFTs during the height of NFT-grifter backlash in the For Them Discord from a previous member, and that seems to confirm the concerns that Kylo is ill-equipped to be in any kind of leadership role (see also the “we didn’t know using “biometrics” all over our website/social media/press releases would mean people thought we actually meant biometrics we don’t actually know what that word means” issue).

    • Truly also happy about it? On a personal level, I’ve never wanted this place to shut down and have put a lot of myself into it over the past four years to stop that from happening <3

  57. Mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, this is one hell of a blaze, and I’m enjoying the warmth of the flames. On the other hand, this might be such a massive blaze that it consumes everything, and then where will I go to hate-read other queer people doing and saying horrible things and also being wrong or half-wrong about nearly everything?

    I love a good garbage fire, so if this does lead to an end to the spectacle, I hope the end in question is at least appropriately dramatic. Either stabilize or show me a supernova, y’know? Go big or go home.

  58. While I really hope this works out, I’m disappointed that Autostraddle didn’t take this opportunity to become a worker-owned co-op (or embrace a different more equitable business model). We should all know by now that the revolution will not be VC-funded.

    I hope that at the very least, For Them and Autostraddle employees are able to unionize! Even if FT/AS have the best of intentions, workers here (and everywhere) need and deserve a union. We love formal workplace protections, collective bargaining, and worker power! If For Them is indeed as revolutionary as they claim, they will support and encourage unionization efforts.

    • exactly!! <3 there is power in a union! I just think it's sad that AS, a place that offers so much valuable radical critique of the status quo is now VC-funded. and I think it's sad that this is posited as though there was no alternative route to take, like for example a worker-owned co-op like you said. there is an alternative to all this bc there has to be one!

      • I agree that this would have been the dream scenario (at least from the outside looking in as an extremely pro-co-op, pro-union person). However, I’m inclined to believe prior AS statements on the decision not to go this route, where staff and leadership described concerns about workers taking on enormous financial risk in acquiring a struggling indie media company.

        In that situation, I’m not sure I would personally choose to take ownership, and take on the financial liability, of such a company. It’s still a bummer, though. Just, a bummer that I wish was being treated like a little more of a bummer, you know?

    • Worker owned coops are NOT A MAGIC SOLUTION to a failing business!!

      I’m not excited about For Them but there are good reasons to not pivot to a worker-owned model. I won’t speculate on why AS didn’t go this route, but it is an incredibly complex and labor intensive process that also requires significant financial investment. It’s possible the opportunity was simply not available.

      I do hope AS/FT workers unionize.

  59. Also! Slightly unrelated, but I bought a For Them binder off of IG a while ago, and its… fine I guess? Nothing particularly innovative or revolutionary. And their fake-empowering sizing system is so confusing (and implies that I would feel bad buying a 3XL or whatever? I don’t!). Just give me a normal size chart and measurements! Idk, it just doesn’t give me a ton of confidence in FT’s ability to run a media company.

  60. I do want to add that I am grateful for Autostraddle and have been a long time reader since it started. Reading other people’s perspectives and experiences has been insightful and fun!

    I know Riese and other long-term employees receive a lot of criticism- seemingly rightfully so – but Riese I do thank you for having this dream and making Autostraddle a reality. Also kudos for realizing a need to step down as CEO and for figuring out a plan for Autostraddle moving forward.

    Wishing everyone the best of luck. Here’s to queer and trans community and media that is inclusive and rooted in anti-black, anti-indigenous racism moving forward.

  61. 🥳🥳🥳

    (Accidentally posted this as a reply earlier)

    I read this news and was so happy for Riese and the staff team at Autostraddle. What a nightmare it must have been feeling like you’re carrying the weight of multiple people’s livelihoods in an increasingly unsupportive media environment while trying to provide decent work (with all the caveats of what that can actually be in America in 2023). I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

    Then I dove into the comments which I thought would be celebratory too but damn. It feels that Autostraddle and Riese in particular are being held accountable for the fact that living under capitalism means providing good work for marginalized populations and having a sustainable business model is nearly impossible. Sure it would have been nice to not have to sell it to be worker owned or to not take a risky risk. But when you’re trying to make sure as many people as possible stay employed in a capitalist market you have to choose the best from unappealing options or just close entirely. This feels like the perfect being the enemy of the good and is what makes so many queer spaces cannibalize themselves. The Autostraddle team are people who’ve been overworked for more than a decade trying to find their way out of an impossible situation and I wish the community could offer some grace. How are they supposed to be perfect? They’re tired and the world is burning. They have to sell to someone or all the peoples writing we’ve loved for years, not to mention their benefits (for health issues we’ve read about too) go away. It’s a shitty situation but heaping blame onto the team and auditing every choice that you can never fully understand seems like the wrong way to channel our collective disappointment about the state of the world.

    I tried to go back and like some comments but had to log into WordPress and got confused.

    • Thank you so much for writing this so thoughtfully! I’ve had the same exact feelings and have been trying to figure out how to express them.

      When I read the email earlier this week I was so excited for Autostraddle, the writers and leadership team, and this community. I was so happy that everyone working at Autostraddle can now take a deep breath and focus on what they enjoy doing instead of living and working under the threat of closing.

      I understand that people are upset about the transition. Change is hard, especially when it’s happening to a website that means so much to all of us. But I trust that the leadership team has exhausted every option. For alternatives listed in the comments, I’m sure these avenues were considered. It’s difficult to run a small indie media company in the best of circumstances.

      Autostraddle means a lot to me and obviously to a lot of us and I’m happy it will continue to exist.

  62. It seems like the people most critical of this are the same people who were calling on Reise to step down as CEO and owner of autostraddle.

    How did y’all imagine that occuring without a sale? Do you think other companies were lining up to purchase AS and the team got to pick?

    Did people miss that Reise personally signed for the $200,000 PPP loan that Autostraddle was struggling to pay back and would be held responsible for it personally if it wasn’t?

    People saying you want Autostraddle to be a worker co-op… I’ve started a co-op. it sucks and it’s hard and when you’re in a co-op you’re fucking responsible for that business if it flops. Do you think that each individual Autostraddle employee should be responsible for that PPP Loan debt instead of Reise? just go ahead and transfer that debt to Carmen and Heather Hogan? I’d rather get a regular paycheck.

    Maybe the Autostraddle team doesn’t want to own the damn business. it’s dangerous and it sure doesn’t seem very rewarding.

    If you wanted Reise to step down and AS to keep existing and employing people this is how that happens, unfortunately 🫤

    I hope y’all will be better to Kylo and For Them than you’ve been to other leadership. maybe an actual capitalist will be harder to bully and have less of a soft empathetic, vulnerable underbelly to tear apart.

    • I 100% agree with your take on why a worker’s co-op likely would not have worked out well in this scenario. I don’t think folks asking Reise to step down after the mismanagement of the Subject Editor restructuring are somehow morally barred from concern and frustration about this announcement.

  63. I had never even heard of For Them binders until now & I’ve been wearing a binder since 2017 (tried out 4 different brands as well). Anyway, out of curiosity I went to check out their website but it wouldn’t even load. So WTF? If their site doesn’t even work then what else won’t work?
    Also, the gender data mining thing sounds pretty uncool, not to mention extremely unsafe in these scary times. What a shame, I have enjoyed Autostraddle a lot after discovering it a few years ago. I hope that someone can save the all the articles for posterity somehow, it is a significant queer resource.

  64. Sigh. I’m hopeful AS will live long enough to do more of the work that’s drawn so many of us – and been so important to so many – but I agree with others that this doesn’t feel like entirely good news. One of the reasons I have loved AS is that I trusted and valued the perspectives of many of the writers. To see so many of the ones I specifically came here for speak out – I still find myself trusting them. Thanks Niko and others for making your opinions known. I won’t cancel my A+ but I will likely not renew.

    Strongly agree that there needs to be someone who helps the team strategically and sensitively announce things.

    Very much recommend following as many beloved writers via their newsletters.

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