When Autostraddle started in 2009, I knew I wanted to make work to show you that you weren’t the only one — that no matter what it was you were doing or feeling, wanting or thinking or afraid of, you weren’t alone; that if you could feel and think and do and want it, so had someone else. I wanted you to feel like you were part of a constellation of honest greatness. Weird, fumbling, confused, regretful, sometimes transcendent greatness. I thought I was only doing this for you and for them, the greater us. I didn’t understand yet that you were what I needed the most.
I haven’t written anything really real in years; I barely remember how. I had to dig through the oldest posts I could find so I could prove to myself that I’d ever said anything out loud, just so I could write this! In all honesty, I’ve pulled back from you as much as I could for a long time now, since late 2018, for all the (not great) reasons that people retreat from the things they used to find strength in. I stopped pitching the kind of projects that I thought could bring people together, like the Queer IRL photo galleries. I stopped writing my advice column, doubting that I was the best person to be helping anyone, given how empty and defeated I felt. I mostly stuck to doing link roundups and updating spreadsheets. Sharing my real life through personal pieces like These Shirts suddenly felt too risky, because what if everyone could plainly see what I was working so hard to hide: that I was miserable, constantly panicked, and had all but given up? That I’d made myself so small, tucked myself into a little box so that someone else could be the main character of my story. I didn’t know how to get out of it, or that I even could, you know?
If something like this has happened to you, I’m truly sorry for us both. I do think it’s made us better, though. I think we’re less likely to get that small again, don’t you?
I mean, I fucking hope so.
But back to Autostraddle.
In early 2019 I started to realize, with increasing panic, that I was abandoning what I’d once seen as my life’s purpose: to show you you. Everything I’d written or helped plan, every project I’d had a hand in, every resume I’d combed through, every new team member I’d onboarded, every submission I’d considered, every advice question I’d plucked from the inbox, had been in service of one thing: making sure we could all know that you existed; so you could stand there — either through your own words or someone else’s — and be witnessed.
So what was left? It felt impossible to imagine where I could fit in at Autostraddle anymore, and I weighed the pros and cons of leaving daily. I wanted to scrub myself from the internet, walk away from everyone who’d been there those 10 years and every declaration of self I’d ever made. I couldn’t see a way to reconcile who I’d been with what was left of me that summer.
Then, because all life is ridiculous and terrible and wonderful, I found myself sitting on a delightfully cold cement floor surrounded by the aftermath of someone else’s decisions, feeling out of options and in dire need of witnesses; in need of a lot, actually. I was fairly sure I was all alone, though, because that’s what happens when you’ve become quite small and hidden. I reached out to one friend, then two, and they both looked directly into my glassy little face and told me I was still there. That they could see me just fine and I was, in fact, right where I’d left me. Right there.
Asking for help, for witness and for space, is like an out of body experience for me anyway, but then actually receiving it? Having that space carved out and held open? The promise that it would be there, that it had been there, in fact. I thought I’d need to cut my ties and scorch the earth in order to survive, but what I needed was to be seen by the same people who’d always seen me.
I stopped thinking of it as starting over, and started embracing the precious notion of building onto what was already there. I looked at everything, even Autostraddle and my work here, from a new angle: growth.
We’ve seen so many brilliant writers and creators come through this place, each with their very own wild, enormous ideas and goals — for themselves and for Autostraddle — and I’ve felt so honored to work alongside them and be just a small part of their creative growth. How deluded of me not to recognize that we’ve all grown here, including me, and what a privilege it’s been. What an incredible gift it is to keep growing here, making more and more space for ourselves and each other, getting sharper and softer, still fucking up and still learning. Autostraddle was right where I’d left it. Right here, because you kept it alive and running when I couldn’t. The words “thank you” are too fucking small for this.
I need you; I can say that now. I need this place in a way I couldn’t have wrapped my head around when we started 12 years ago. I still can’t believe I ever felt big enough and real enough to say anything out loud to anyone. Sometimes I can’t believe that any of us ever feel that big, but then I remember that we have to. I have to and so do you and so does every writer we publish and all the writers who’ve yet to pitch a single thing. Autostraddle has to exist — its archives and its future — because it’s still necessary. It’s as necessary as you are.
Autostraddle started right when I needed you the most, maybe right when you needed us the most. Maybe you’ve outgrown us, or will eventually, or maybe you’ve come back to this place after realizing you need it in a different way now. We want to be here for all of that.
We don’t want to pack this in. We don’t want to stop doing this work.
And so I’m asking for you to help again; for you to help keep this space alive and growing. We’ve moved mountains in increments of $10, $25, just chipped away at it. The thing is we won’t stop doing this work because we can’t stop doing this work. It’s too necessary. Will you give to our fundraiser or join A+? Will you do this for yourself, for a space you may need right now or may never need in the same way again — or that you might have to come back to, for new reasons, a year or more from now? What about for someone who’s like you were when you first found Autostraddle, who’s feeling now the way you felt then? Will you help them be seen?
Thank you for anything you can do.
This is beautiful and real and so you and I love you always.
thank YOU 💛
I’m here because I needed a place that accepted and embraced trans women. I have been an A+ member for years and will continue to be one.
Love you Laneia. You are pretty special.
love u brandi !
Oh, Laneia. As a fundraising appeal, this absolutely kicks ass.
As a piece of art, it feels like shaking out bedsheets and finding stuff that’s been hiding in there. Thank you so much for sharing your truth. “I still can’t believe I ever felt big enough and real enough to say anything out loud to anyone.” is especially relatable having now a year and a half of writing paralysis.
It’s very good to feel seen. Thank you for this world you made for all of us. <3
thank you alayna 💛
i love you (AND YOUR WRITING) (and your eyes that see things in such a specific beautiful/honest way) so much forever
Nice to hear from you! Thanks for sharing.
I’m joining the chorus of people who loved this letter and love you and are constantly awed and mystified for the ways you see the world. It’s a humbling joy to read your words, to work alongside you, all of it.
„I haven’t written anything really real in years; I barely remember how.“
I relate so much and feel so seen through your letter. Thank you for your voice and for keeping Autostraddle alive.
thank you !!
This is maybe a weird thing for someone who doesn’t actually know you to say but it’s also just true: I really missed you during your quiet time.
Laneia! I noticed we were hearing from the real you a lot less and I hoped you were ok. You’re important. We see you. Thank you for letting us see you.
thank you 💛
Same; Laneia has always been one of my favorite writers here and this article is a new favorite. It takes so much strength to give up your beloved professional community in order to heal. Respect and well-wishes!
rey thank you! 💛
Laneia! Your voice almost disappearing left a little hole in my heart, and I could feel the desire to leave, so hoping that you would return. From somebody who endlessly struggles how to be big enough to say some things out loud – I’m overjoyed to read from you! Welcome back however, whenever you can, we’ll be here.
this means so much, thank you!
It’s good to hear from you, Laneia! I’ve been following Autostraddle almost since the beginning—I think I started reading in 2010 when I was just a baby queer in college. There have been times when I drifted away, but I keep coming back for just that thing, the way you show us we’re here and we matter.
will 🥲 thank you for this
Thank you for this essay, Laneia, it’s always nice to hear from you.
So my cat pressed the space bar before I was finished, I just wanted to add that I wish you a rich and fulfilling creative future, here or elsewhere, whatever feels right for you. I’ve always really enjoyed your presence and I’m sorry I took it for granted, you are and always have been essential.
@queergirl – comment award because this is such a lovely, thoughtful comment and also because the cat submitting the response too early is like the queerest thing ever.
donna thank you ! and please say hello to your cat for me 💛
Laneia, even if everything else that was written on this website was somehow burned out of my memory, there is one line that would remain there, and it’s one that you wrote in an advice column several years ago that rescued me from a decade-long straight crush, and that I have since adapted and applied to many other types of relationships in my life, thereby improving the quality of said relationships immeasurably.
In short, your words have literally changed my life, and you have always been real and needed. <3
the fact that i know exactly what line you’re talking about has just broken my heart apart and glued it back together 💛 i’m glad you’re still here chandra
Laneia, your writing has always been some of my favorite on this site. I think you have a great voice. I look forward to reading your work as you make your way back 😊
thank you ! 💛
This is beautiful, raw and real.
💛 💛 thank you!
Add me to the chorus of readers who noticed your absence, and missed your words. I started reading Autostraddle regularly around 2011; I was 31 and had a kid and in a way it felt almost like I was too old to be here? Most of the people seemed younger than me, or just in a different place in life. But then I found out that you had kids too, and you were here and writing beautiful things that I could relate to, and it made me feel like I belonged. So thank you for being here, and being you.
ava you’re still one of the people i think about when we’re talking about queer parenting content and how necessary it is. thank you for being here 💛
How did I just now see this reply, 2 weeks later? I blame the kids. ;)
Seriously though, knowing that you’ve seen me and think about me makes me feel very warm & fuzzy. All the love to you Laneia. 💗
Ah Laneia this is so so good. 💖 Similar to what Chandra said above, there is a line you wrote years ago that still sticks in my mind and has become a steady anchor for me when I’m awash in self doubt over any number of things. I appreciate you so much, and your voice— thank you for writing this, sharing your process, and I hope you can bask in this collective appreciation here in the comments and let it buoy you. 🌟
thank you linnea !! 💛 this means so much
Laneia, your words dropped into my inbox, and reminded me I hadn’t visited in a while and that I was missing out. I moved to a part of the country a few years ago that’s queer friendly but has very little queer community, and I’ve been missing it like I can’t fully describe. You reminded me that community can be virtual as well. I re-upped my A+ membership and promptly dropped down a rabbit hole for an hour, reading recent posts. Thank you for giving us all this space.
As someone who ALSO suffers endlessly from Imposter Syndrome, I feel this. Feel your feels, and don’t quit.
I’m not much of a commenter in general, but I wanted to say: your writing here has always been among my favorite. So many of your pieces have resonated with me. I noticed and your absence and missed you. Thank you for sharing this.
I love you. <3
I am so very much in that space right now, it’s not even funny. But I guess the first step is recognizing that.
I read this and then had too many feelings about it and didn’t comment but I’m back! Just like I keep drifting away and coming back when I need this space most over the last 3-4ish years that really been SO MUCH for me. I’ve missed you and you’re writing and your brilliant community ideas that have brought me so much joy in the past! And like Chandra mentioned above, there is absolutely some advice of yours stuck in my heart changing me for the better ALWAYS! <3
AND. AND. AND! many of the A Camp crafts I made in your workshops still hanging in my apartment, collages and the i dont remember what you called them but stick with beads hanging down that I feel very attached to! <3
you have always been one of my very favorite autostraddle writers and it was so wonderful to hear your voice again. i hope you do what feels right for you, but for me, selfishly, i hope that involves more writing. you have such a clear and loving and vivid and unique way of seeing the world, and your advice columns were always my favorite. thank you for sticking around i’m so grateful to see it!