I Focused My Time on Proving Her Wrong

Thanks to an outpouring of support, we made our fundraiser goal in JUST FIVE DAYS!!! Thank you if you’re an A+ member or if you donated. This support means that Autostraddle can survive through January, that we’re okay for now. But as we look ahead to an actually pretty scary 2023, we have to acknowledge that we need more monthly A+ members on our side in order to continue to keep this space around. So many of our incredible writers and team members wrote posts for the fundraiser, and we’re going to run them through the 12th, during our Monthly A+ Member Drive. If you sign up at the $6/month level or higher as a monthly member before the midnight PST on the 12th of November, you’ll get a bonus pack of 4 stickers, too, on top of the usual perks. So, what do you say? Will you join?

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I’d never heard of Autostraddle until I started dating my very first girlfriend. I’d just moved to Leeds, England, I’d just come out to my family and friends back home, and this whole gay thing was trial by fire. My then-girlfriend idolized Autostraddle, and because of that, I quickly found myself falling deep into Autostraddle rabbit holes every night. Within a few weeks of dating, our morning routine consisted of tea, toast, and discussing Autostraddle posts from the previous evening. I learned so much about queer culture – and myself – even from Autostraddle celebrity news, film reviews, and vapid fluff. I remember thinking to myself: How have I gone this long without knowing about Autostraddle? If I would’ve known about this in college, maybe I would’ve felt comfortable enough to come out sooner.

Understanding my own gender and sexuality was a slow process in my early 20s, and it didn’t help that I was heavily involved in Catholic, heteronormative, slightly-right-of-politically-moderate circles whether in my social life, at work or at school. Even though the internet was a fully functional thing in 2015, I never saw it as a resource hub like I do now. I had no idea I could find community and discover new parts of myself through social media. As naive as it sounds, this just never occurred to me. I was surrounded by heteronormative culture and (mostly) straight people for most of my life, apart from a few gay cis male friends I had in college. I certainly didn’t know any genderqueer folks or queer femmes. There was no one around me to point me in the direction of discovering my own queer identity. Had I discovered Autostraddle sooner, I might’ve been reassured that my “questioning” phase was enough for me to show up to a Rainbow Alliance meeting. I may have felt like I was actually “queer enough” to join the campus LGBTQ+ smaller group. With the help of a place like Autostraddle, I would’ve known that everything I was feeling was normal. I could’ve even discovered places to go in my city where I could see people like me. Hell, I could’ve even become gay internet friends with you.

Moving to Leeds for graduate school was a bit of a rebirth era for me. I was going to be free to be queer because no one knew who I was or had any expectations of me. Within a month of moving, I came out to my parents and started seeing this girl from Tinder, all without ANY community in this new city, having NO emotional support. I especially had none from my parents because they wouldn’t speak to me after the coming out situation. I was figuring out how to navigate things like “having sex for the first time” over a debrief call with my very straight best friend thousands of miles away. I was queer and completely isolated.

I went to this specific graduate program in Leeds because I wanted to be a writer and, at the time, eventually get my PhD in writing, to give myself permission to claim the title of “professional writer.” I didn’t think I could claim this without letters behind my name, or some extremely lucky big break from a big time magazine. Sure, I was studying Queer Theory and Emily Dickinson with straight white men, but Autostraddle provided me with what I was really searching for under all that fancy academic language and “queering” of extremely vanilla British novels. Autostraddle offered queer support, queer guidance, queer representation, and an opportunity to discover my queer identity. You, the readers and supporters of Autostraddle, helped me discover–and further claim–my QTPOC identity.

Autostraddle was the go-to source for so many questions we had as a queer, interracial, multicultural couple from different classes and experiences with mental disorders. Even on an individual level, I was coming to terms with my sexual and racial identities all while confronting my very prevalent and undiagnosed mental illness. Eventually this phase of self-discovery proved too much for such a hard relationship, and my then-girlfriend and I went through an extremely painful and long breakup. When I say extreme, I mean that my support system forced me to fly back to the States because they found out I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or doing any schoolwork for weeks on end. Most of this period is blacked out in my memories, but I do remember crying for 8 hours straight on the plane home, knowing I’d never see her again and that I would return home to live at my parents’ house (who I’d just come out to), finish my dissertation remotely, and search for jobs. I mention all this to say that Autostraddle’s content was quite literally my lifeline for this post-breakup season. In my small town in Ohio, I had no queer support system and I certainly couldn’t lean on my parents to understand, or even tolerate, what I was going through.

I probably read every article in the Breakups category on Autostraddle. I followed a bunch of our writers at the time just to feel like I had queer friends I could relate to. However, the thing that really got me through was a podcast that Riese had recently released: To L and Back. Sure, on the surface it’s just an L Word recap podcast, but I clung to these episodes every week. Those 40-plus minutes gave me a familiar, safe, gay space to just listen to friends talk about gay stuff. It was also where I first learned about all the in’s and out’s of the queer LA scene, which ended up helping me out six months down the road. This podcast brought a little light into a time of my life where I was seriously close to the very end of my rope.

One of the earworms that kept looping over and over in my brain was a conversation my ex and I had one night when we were nearing the end of the honeymoon phase. She knew I wanted to be a writer, so she introduced me to Autostraddle. I immediately knew this was the kind of writing I wanted to be doing. I didn’t know how to put my writing style and interests into words until I found Autrostraddle, and then it all made sense. I remember telling my girlfriend at the time, “I’m going to write for them someday,” to which she replied, “You can try but it’s pretty competitive. I don’t think you’ll ever be good enough to write for them” (or something to that extent). From that moment on, I pursued my writing career with a fierce vengeance. The more issues we kept having the more it felt like she really believed I could never do something like be a writer for Autostraddle, so when we eventually broke up, I focused my time on proving her wrong.

Over the course of the next 6 months, I probably pitched them 5,000 shitty pieces (ok, an exaggeration, but it was a lot). I didn’t really understand how they hired writers at the time, so I was basically throwing noodles at a wall until something stuck. I got an extremely tiny freelance gig writing 300-word pieces like “Woman In Hospice Turns 102 Today” for a local paper that paid me $15 a piece. I made a website for the first time. I started my own podcast. I wrote for many blogs weekly FOR FREE. I hustled like no other until one day Autostraddle announced that they were hiring a full-time editor position. This was my big break. I spent WEEKS working on this application. I probably sent it to every gay friend I had to read it over. Part of the reason I put my whole being into this application is obviously because Autostraddle is the best, but I also saw this job as an opportunity to get me out of my Ohio town and to a place where I could be my queer self, a place like Los Angeles.

When I didn’t get the job, Riese wrote me this wonderful personal email back that really made me feel seen. I soon realized: I don’t need someone or something to save me, I can go to LA and grow into the writer I know that I am. In a pretty frenzied turn of events, I went out to LA to visit a friend and then just decided to stay and make it work. I knew about a few of the queer spots from To L And Back, and from following half of Autostraddle’s writers, and I knew moving there could give me the opportunity to finally be queer, do queer stuff, and write queer stuff, even if it wasn’t for Autostraddle. I stayed in Los Angeles for the community and life I created for myself, but Autostraddle is what gave me the push I needed to actually make my dreams a reality.

I now write for Autostraddle. I’m fully out to everyone in my life. I have a solid community in LA and I have faith that I can make a new community all over again in Orlando (where I recently moved for family matters). I know what my writing is worth and learned to accept nothing less. Had you not supported Autrostraddle, I may not have found any of this. You gave me the tools to work towards who I was and what I wanted to be. Your support will continue to reach people like 21 year old Em: an isolated, small-town Ohio girl with no professional writing experience, no queer community, and no hub of resources at her immediate disposal. Becoming an A+ member makes a real, tangible difference in others’ lives. It’s the continued support of the A+ community that directly led to me realizing over time that my voice matters, my identity matters, my growth matters, that I matter. If this one decision can change a course of even one queer life, isn’t it worth it?

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I hope that my very sappy, but very real anecdote proves how Autostraddle was a place of comfort I could rely on during my darkest moments. Autostraddle was there for me every time I needed support. They were there for me even when I thought I wasn’t “good enough” to be a writer. This was made possible by people whose support we can count on. Your A+ membership will help keep us here for when you need us, when others need us, or even when it’s 3am and I’m crying over a heartbreak and I need us. Your loyalty could literally save someone’s life, help them learn how to have safer sex, help someone come out, or simply help someone make friends. Thank YOU for making an investment in me, in others like me, and in people like us.

And hey, right now, until the 12th, monthly members who sign up at the $6/month level or higher get some additional fundraiser limited-edition bonus stickers as thanks! All A+ Members get bonus content, bonus Saturday games and access to the A+ Discount Marketplace where new partners are added on a rolling basis. Not to mention, every A+ member gets the deep satisfaction of knowing they’re a part of helping indie queer media survive.

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Before you go! It costs money to make indie queer media, and frankly, we need more members to survive 2023As thanks for LITERALLY keeping us alive, A+ members get access to bonus content, extra Saturday puzzles, and more! Will you join? Cancel anytime.

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Em Win

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Em now lives in Los Angeles where she does many odd jobs in addition to writing. When she's not sending 7-minute voice messages to friends and family, she enjoys swimming, yoga, candle-making, tarot, drag, and talking about the Enneagram.

Em has written 23 articles for us.

5 Comments

  1. I am from a small town in indiana and I understand this so much!!

    Also WHAT THE HELL with yr ex telling you you’ll never be good enough for something!!! i’m so sorry it was all so hard, but that’s an incredibly wrong thing to tell someone you ostensibly care for. also way to go your support system and you having one!!!

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