Before I jump into my gay essay, let’s talk about how I’m here to ask you to support Autostraddle’s member drive. We need 300 people to sign up so I can keep recapping Yellowjackets and Killing Eve and whatever the next stabby gay show is! And so I can keep doing my whole damn job, too! So, buzz buzz buzz, sign up if you can, and read on!
I recently rewatched all of the Matrix movies so I could write about them with Drew for Autostraddle. A monologue from Agent Smith in the first movie stood out to me:
As you can see, we’ve had our eye on you for some time now, Mr. Anderson. It seems that you’ve been living two lives. In one life, you’re Thomas A. Anderson, program writer for a respectable software company, you have a social security number, you pay your taxes, and you help your landlady carry out her garbage. The other life is lived in computers, where you go by the hacker alias Neo and are guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for. One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not.
For a long time, I lived two lives. One in the world and one in computers. I know a lot of people for whom this is true. Maybe this is or was true for you. I have several close friends who I met over a decade ago because we held this in common. We’re all queer. Back then, that queerness was a closely guarded secret in our “real” lives, so elusive we could barely touch it ourselves. In our online lives on tumblr dot com — arguably the realer lives — our queerness was alive, even if we couldn’t yet name it.
I like to say I was “gay in the tags,” burying my desires in the light gray hashtags that lived at the very bottom of blog posts. They were not subtle. Think: #boobs, #girl crush, #alison brie, #lesbian o’clock. Naming queerness in a tag was safe. It could be read as a joke, as something inconsequential.
As with all internet kids, I used to lie to the people in my corporeal life. I made up an elaborate tale for my parents when I took the Megabus from Ann Arbor to Chicago to visit an internet friend. I told my friends in my dorm I was studying late when really I was seven-way video chatting on a now-defunct site called TokBox with friends who I’d never met irl until four in the morning. I “dated” two women I’d met online, and the relationships mostly unfolded on screens. In my other life, I dated men and tried to convince myself I liked it. In my other life, I could touch and smell and see people, but I didn’t feel seen, not in the way I did on tumblr, where we were all connected by our queerness that was somehow latent and wild all at once.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that almost exactly when I started writing for Autostraddle in the fall of 2015, I also stopped using my tumblr regularly. I’d recently semi-blown up my life. Or, at least, that’s what it felt like to me. Throughout my senior year of college, I’d come out to a handful of people in my “real” life, almost always at odd hours of the night after bad undergrad “cocktails” of our own design. Then I decided to go out and come out with a bang. Just a few weeks before graduation, I booked a theater space on campus and put on a one-woman standup comedy show, inviting pretty much everyone I knew in Ann Arbor. On stage, I said I was a lesbian. My boyfriend at the time was in the audience. It was all complicated and strange.
That relationship ended, and I moved to Los Angeles, and I left Los Angeles, and I moved to Chicago, and somewhere along the way, I stopped needing alcohol or the remove of a stage to say the words “I’m gay” outloud. I started going on dates with women I didn’t keep secret. And when Autostraddle announced they were looking for new writers, one of my best friends — who was also one of those double-lives tumblr friends I’d met but who had crossed over to becoming an irl friend, too — sent the call for writers to me. She said it was a perfect fit. Just a year before, no one would have known that.
At Autostraddle, the lines between my two lives disappeared. I was writing the things I wanted to write and being the dyke I wanted to be.
I mentioned that post about the Matrix movies at the top of this letter, because it’s exactly the kind of writing I think is only really, truly possible at a place like Autostraddle, and it’s exactly the kind of writing I was doing on my little tumblr for a very small but intimate audience of weirdos like me. Collaborative, queer, nerdy, and passionate writing. This is the kind of writing you can support by joining A+.
I mean, writing with a queer and trans lens about a wildly popular movie franchise with a fellow queer friend who I met online and have only hung out a coupla times in person with but who I feel like gets me on a deep and personal level and who I could text about heartbreak or a bad movie I watched or my rambly thoughts on art or relationships or idk like different kinds of cheese?????? It’s a dream job, a dream life. It’s the perfect merging of my two selves into one coherent me.
Perhaps you are one of the many, many people who read my Yellowjackets recaps every Monday morning a few months ago. I strongly believe that that work of mine could not have existed anywhere other than Autostraddle. Sure, we didn’t invent recapping TV. In fact, I recapped television at other outlets for seven years before becoming a full-time employee at Autostraddle. But the last time I had the sheer amount of creative control, space to experiment and play, and freedom to use my own voice in a television recap the way I do for these Yellowjackets missives was, well, when I was recapping episodes of The Vampire Diaries for free and for fun on my own tumblr in 2011.
Just being gay in the tags never would have been enough. Living two lives was more exhausting than I realized. Autostraddle let me be gay in the main text, baby, and as corny as it sounds, I found myself here, in the words I put to page and in the friendships I made. And I want other people like me to find themselves here, too. When you join A+, you’re helping pay it forward for someone else. We keep Autostraddle majority free to read. Nearly everything I write for this site is accessible to anyone who needs it, all because readers like you care.
And now as an editor, I get to work with so many writers to find and explore their voices, and do you know how fucking rewarding that is! I’ve only been here for about four months, and I’ve already had the chance to edit so much incredible work from ultra-talented writers. The pieces that are the most rewarding for me to work on — creative nonfiction and lengthy personal essays — take the most time and, frankly, the most money. Without the financial support of our members, I would not have been able to make a miniseries like Time Zones Week happen.
I feel like Autostraddle is still a place where I can experiment and play and discover new parts of myself as both a writer and a lesbian, two identities that are inextricably connected for me.
The Autostraddle team is growing, and I am so excited about bringing new writers into the fold. Autostraddle became a bridge between me and myself when I was brought on as a new writer back in 2015, and it feels surreal to be on the other side of the team writer application process. But expansion also comes with a price tag — literally. In addition to the current membership drive, we’re also doing a mini fundraiser for Autostraddle’s 13th birthday. I keep making 13 Going On 30 jokes, because Autostraddle is turning 13 the same year I’m turning 30, but it also feels right that the site and I are both hitting milestone years in tandem. Choosing to support Autostraddle now allows us to keep building bridges for writers who are still figuring out who they are and what they want to say.