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.