I almost didn’t write my latest Autostraddle miniseries, BLANK With My Grief.
When Carmen told us she needed more writing for the website because we’d be stretched extra thin for the month of September, I initially thought to myself: no one needs a column about how Not Okay you feel right now. It was the very end of August. I was seated at my desk, trying my best to show up for all my tasks of the day. My mug of tea had gone cold. I needed to wash my hair. My phone burst with unanswered texts. My fingers hovered over the keyboard, wondering if I should pitch a column that would focus on grief: existing with grief, making space for grief, focusing on grief on purpose instead of avoiding it or pretending it wasn’t taking over my whole life. Would anyone want to read something so challenging? Did I want to open myself up that way for a bunch of strangers?
It was that question, of course, that made the decision for me.
My fingers slammed down on the keys of my laptop before I could think too hard. I wrote a quick pitch in my editors channel, the place on Slack where I talk through ideas with Carmen and Laneia:
“I’d like to do something sad/but also chill called like “[BLANK] with my grief” and it’s about trying to carve out time to actually “be with” my grief which is a concept I sort of like and sort of despise.”
Carmen said yes immediately. I started writing. I wrote the four pieces I am most proud of publishing this year for that miniseries, the one I almost didn’t write.
I decided to write it because I realized one of my initial fears wasn’t real. “Did I want to open myself up that way for a bunch of strangers?” I wasn’t writing this series for a bunch of strangers. I was writing it for you.
That’s why I’m asking for your support of our fundraiser today — because there is nowhere else I would have written this series, no one else I would have written it for. We haven’t been able to host IRL events for almost two years because of the pandemic. Most of our readers have only ever interacted with each other via a screen. And yet — we have built something real here. We have created a space that feels like home. There’s truly no place like Autostraddle. Will you help us maintain and expand our collective home?
Because I’ve worked at Autostraddle for years now — almost a decade — I’ve brought many different versions of myself to this website. At every turn, the senior staff and our readers have welcomed me to be the exact version of myself I happen to be at that moment.
Readers who have been visiting the site since its early days might remember a lot of the random things Autostraddle made space for me to explore: my obsessions with Grease 2 and True Blood, boozy popsicles and Jewish baked goods, the Lesbian Herstory Archives (twice!), long distance hiking, getting outside, breaking up, sex and dating and being a slut, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, investigative reporting on Important Dyke Drama, and of course — our community. Which is to say, all of you.
So now it’s 2021, and my dad died nine months ago. I’m really fucking sad. I’m depressed, maybe. I’m drowning in my grief. I don’t want to write about it for any other publication. I barely want to write about it for myself. One option would be to simply stop writing — but I don’t want to do that. Autostraddle — you, the readers — have welcomed and supported every version of myself I’ve presented you with since 2012. This is me, now. It feels safe and protected to write about grief here. It feels like maybe we all need to exist with grief right now, and I am comfortable being the person creating the container for us to inhabit together.
You created this space. You are the literal only reason Autostraddle still exists. You made a place on the internet where I can be honest about who I am and it still feels good, even in 2021. Wow.
I was first offered the position of Community Editor back in 2013, at the very end of the year. I had spent the entirety of that year creating the The Straddler on the Street column. I loved talking to people and I loved the community I saw in the comment section of the site (this was before social media and our comment section was robust in a way I know it will never be now, even as I am proud that we still have so many lively voices chiming in on the actual site) and I wanted to create something that would allow us to get to know each other even more. I loved the long weekly interviews I conducted on gchat with our readers so much at the time, and I will forever appreciate all the humans who gave me a glimpse into their inner worlds, but the column took about 6-10 hours to put together, and that was before any of us were able to be paid for our writing on the site. When I think about that version of myself — the 25 year old girl who got by on four hours of sleep a night, juggled a full time job in Manhattan with all the part time unpaid work I did for this website, and was so damn happy — I could either laugh or cry. That girl simply does not exist anymore.
The Straddler on the Street column symbolizes to me a different time in all of our lives — my own, the website’s, and the world at large. I no longer have the same energy I had in 2013; I would not change that chaotic time for anything, but I know that there’s no way I could volunteer that much of my time to this work anymore. And thanks to A+ — which is to say, thanks to all of you who are A+ members — as well as everyone who’s supported our fundraisers, I don’t have to. My ability to continue to work for Autostraddle as I’ve gotten older, more tired, sadder, and simply more in need of stability in my day to day life, comes directly from the monthly stipend I make for my work at Autostraddle. My ability to continue to hold space for our community and what we need is something people like you, A+ members and Autostraddle supporters, have provided.
My hopes and dreams for the upcoming months at Autostraddle are lofty: I’d like to bring a little bit of the energy of 2013 to 2021.
If Autostraddle is still the community space I saw so clearly and so brightly the year I wrote the Straddler on the Street column — and I believe it is — how can I continue to highlight our special community, to let you get to know each other, to encourage you to share the truest versions of yourself in the way you’ve allowed me to share the truest versions of myself over all these years? In some ways, this is a question — I am open to hearing what you, the A+ members who have made this year materially survivable to me even as I fall apart in every other way, would like to see from the Community Editor of this site. And in some ways, it’s a promise — I have a few exciting ideas for A+ members specifically in the works, and one tiny hint is to say I’m interested in bringing back a version of Straddler on the Street: A+ Edition. I also want to see more thoughts on grief from all of us. In allowing myself to write toward that truth, I heard from so many of you who are experiencing grief of your own. I believe we have created a space where it is comfortable to share in our sadness as well as our joy. Thank goddess for that. Thank goddess for you.
I feel hopeful as I write to you today. We are objectively in a better place than we were earlier this year, with more A+ members than ever, and more stability, too. That said, we do need more help. Our ad sales are still low and we still don’t have enough A+ members to completely fund Autostraddle’s budget. I am so excited about the growth we’ve been able to make, even during a truly terrible time. I can’t wait to meet our new Deputy Editor and Managing Editor, to work with new and old senior staff to create a community vertical that reflects what we have already created and also dreams big for what we can create together in the future. I am dedicated to focusing more and more on A+ members and what you want and need from the Autostraddle community. I hope, if you’re not already a member, you’ll consider becoming one today.
Autostraddle has stayed relevant since 2009 because we are very much not a faceless publication. We are real humans, doing this work through depression and joy and change and chaos, and you are here through the same. We can make it through January 2022 together, with your support. I believe in the power of this community, and I hope that if you believe and if you can afford it, that you’ll pitch in, too.