Four Years Later

Though I’d been aware of Autostraddle for a while, I first really engaged with it when a friend suggested I apply for a Campership to attend A-Camp in 2016. I did, I got it, I attended – and it lowkey changed my life.

One of the workshops I attended that year was about how to pitch an essay to an an online media outlet. Of course, the first thing I did was pitch Autostraddle. It was a silly essay about reading a trans narrative into a Carly Rae Jepsen song, but they accepted it – my first ever piece of published writing. I used that experience to pitch other media outlets, and began to get published elsewhere. 10 years after graduating with a degree in writing, and a year after quitting my career as an English teacher, I was actually, for the first time, a writer.

A year or so later, I was hustling to make life work as a freelance writer and graphic designer and workshop presenter (and, like, food delivery person and countless other gigs) in an increasingly treacherous digital media landscape. I was barely scraping by. I moved into a pretty bad situation in the spare room at my mom’s house.

Autostraddle was the only consistent writing opportunity I had – and were the only ones who would publish the personal essays I wanted to write, the (what I thought were) important, culture-pushing critical essays I wanted to write, and the dumb gay stuff I wanted to write. And they paid on time, every month – not two months later, like a large publishing empire I won’t mention (just kidding, it’s Condé Nast).

Then I got lucky: I got a part-time, contract position at a non-profit. That turned into a full-time, salaried writing position and, just recently, turned into a full-time, salaried, managing editor position. It wouldn’t have happened without my Autostraddle clips.

The landscape has gotten only more dire since then. I don’t know what I’d be doing now if I had persisted in trying to make freelancing my full-time job. What’s wild is I get to write and edit full time, now, and it’s still about things I care a lot about – but I have a salary, and really good trans-inclusive health care, and I just moved into my first apartment and am literally living a life I wouldn’t have dreamed possible not long ago. I wouldn’t have any of this if Autostraddle hadn’t taken a chance on me four years ago.

There are countless other queer, trans, people of color like me who got their first start at Autostraddle. The sad truth is that publishing the boundary-pushing writing – or, alternatively, the fun, fluffy writing by and for us that is crucial for our mental health and survival, especially now – just isn’t profitable. When shit goes down, major corporations cut their advertising funding for sites like this one first.

I don’t know what the industry has to do to change. I think things like A+ are the future and might be the only way a site like this can survive. I’m lucky that I got the opportunity to move into a more stable career, but so many of my friends and loved ones haven’t been. I don’t know what else I’m able to do besides hope they’re able to figure out a sustainable way forward, too, and help to the degree that I’m able to. And tell everyone I can to give to Autostraddle and/or join A+.

The sad truth is that publishing the boundary-pushing writing – or, alternatively, the fun, fluffy writing by and for us that is crucial for our mental health and survival, especially now – just isn’t profitable. When shit goes down, major corporations cut their advertising funding for sites like this one first.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone who got something valuable from Autostraddle was able to pay, like, $5 a month for it? It’s wild that a site that publishes so much good stuff every day is completely free. $5 is less than most of us pay for the one streaming TV service we use that we actually pay for. But instead of lining executives’ pockets, it goes directly to paying a new up-and-coming writer to get their very first piece published. It could even be a springboard to someone like me of four years ago, a distraught trans woman of color recovering from a mental health crisis and wondering what in the world she can do with her life – so that four years later she can be a content trans woman of color, thriving with a great job in a field she loves.

I draw a direct line between that me four years ago and me today, and the line is Autostraddle. Your contribution or A+ membership doesn’t just pay struggling writers to publish work on Autostraddle, it gives them a step up into their future when almost nobody else would do so. Your support today means that four years from now, someone who’s currently hopeless is instead hopeful and thriving. It’s an investment in their future. At least, I mean, it was for me. Even though I don’t write for Autostraddle much anymore, I’ll always treasure it and what it did for me – and what it can do for the next me. And you can be a part of making that happen. Please do.

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Abeni Jones is a trans woman of color artist, educator, writer, and designer living in the Bay Area, CA. Follow her art on Instagram @abeni.jones or check out her website at abenijones.net. Got a music recommendation, a positive trans woman story/news item, or wanna book me for something? e-mail me by clicking here!

Abeni has written 63 articles for us.

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