They say you learn your first lessons about how to be a person from your family, and that applies to chosen family, too. Today we’re sharing something we learned from watching another Autostraddle staffer that’s made our life better and brighter. Tell us about something you learned from someone in your life and how it’s helped you!
Laneia, Executive Editor
I’ve learned so much from these brilliant weirdos!! I think the most recent thing has been meditation, which I started practicing in earnest just in the past several weeks, but the reason meditation even started seeming accessible to me at all was because Heather told us what a difference it had made for her. And y’all! It really has made a fucking difference!
Oh and Yvonne’s sweet potato tacos. We’ll always have those.
Heather Hogan, Managing Editor
This is a very easy question to answer because I spent a significant amount of time in my mid-twenties reading Riese’s blog and and memorizing her The L Word recaps. My main dream back then was that I would one day maybe maybe maybe have enough courage to tell one other person that I’m gay. I was closeted and miserable and commuting almost three hours a day to work a 9-to-5 as an office manager and bookkeeper for a company that employed exactly zero other women. I learned a lot about how to write from Riese, and a lot about story from Riese, but more than that I learned about the freedom of being an openly gay person from Riese. It’s not hyperbole to say she was instrumental in empowering me to come out, and once I was out, to pursue my dreams of becoming a writer, which I now do full-time for the company she owns. Life is sometimes so magical.
Heather Hogan does not suffer fools, and as of about a year and a half ago, neither do I. It feels great! I recommend it! So much time and energy saved! So many possibilities! I’m sure at least 60 percent of the staff will cite some Heather-related epiphany for this roundtable, which only proves the point that you can have a low bullshit tolerance and still be beloved by those around you. It is a delicate, blissful balance that the world needs more of, and I can only hope to achieve it half as well as she does.
I got my first Passion Planner because of Laura Mandanas and I owe her my life for it. I’ve recommended and even gifted it to many friends and colleagues since I started using one two years ago. I just got my beautiful dated 2019 planner in Ocean Blue and I’m so excited to start using it for my weekly spreads and planning and visioning in the New Year!
Laneia taught me how to take my cheese boards to the most epic, delectable, instagrammable level ever and I will be forever and ever grateful. And so will all my friends who get to eat the cheese boards. Seriously, last year someone who needed to stay home to work decided instead to come to my party after I posted my cheese board to our facebook group the day of. That’s power. Laneia gave me that power. What a hero!
I honestly have spent at least five years rearranging my life according to staff writers on Autostraddle and their fucking spectacular writing and advice and existence. Two that I can name right now are Kate and their Butch series that taught me so much about being a tender butch that I still practice daily (and that I can be iffy with my gender and still claim butch) and Alyssa just from this past summer. I was going through some archives to jog my memory for this roundtable and I remember at camp, I was really frustrated that I couldn’t help with something and Alyssa told me that it’s alright that I can’t help right now, soon, there’ll be something I can help with perfectly and it’ll all be okay regardless. They said it in a significantly more poetic way, but it really helps me a lot. I think I internalized it and tried to put it to use when I came back home. A big part of why I stayed at my old job is because I thought I could protect other girls even if I couldn’t protect myself. But, I couldn’t and I always felt worthless and terrible because of it. What Alyssa told me this summer just helped me accept that I can’t force myself to be the kind of helpful that other people need. I can only do what I can and be at some kind of peace with that. I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself, and use Alyssa’s saying along with what my therapist has told me nearly every week (sometimes several times a week) for years: people need people. When I remember that, I feel less like I need to be everything so I can save the world and more like someone who can do some things and can fit with other people who can do other things and that doing those things when we can will be enough. (Also every staff writer that ever wrote a Glee recap basically got me through high school especially when Santana came out. Boy was I alone, but not really because you all were here!)
Valerie Anne, Writer
I’ve learned a lot from having Heather as an editor and friend over the years, but one thing that clicked for me like a light switch was when she told me I had to stop apologizing for existing within my writing. Every time I wrote a recap, I would open it by apologizing for my feelings, every time I wrote something that wasn’t a recap, I would spend a paragraph justifying to the reader why I was qualified to write about it. Once she pointed it out to me, I noticed it everywhere. Even after a paragraph of dissecting my feelings about a scene in a recap, I would have a line of apology for it — even though that’s sort of the point of recaps, and something anyone reading my recap probably already knows to expect. And even if they don’t, too bad, they can stop reading if they want to. Being more aware of this and owning the fact that I’ve worked hard to earn the right to write critically about TV and not have to explain it every time I start a recap or review has helped me write with more authority and lean into the experience I have, and not apologizing has opened up more space for me to make more points (or jokes). My writing is better for it, and I’ve been able to apply it to some other areas of my life, and pass the advice on to others when reviewing their writing as well. Such simple advice, and yet so impactful and powerful.
Vanessa, Community Editor
This is in a friend context, not a work context, but whenever I’m texting Rachel about something emotionally intense she asks in what I can tell is her very calm, deadpan voice: “How does that make you feel?” and it always makes me feel so cared for! Like, she’s listening, she wants to help me get to the root of the issue, she loves me, and she wants to know how I fucking feel. It’s such a useful and also caring question, and I have taken to using it in my life with other people I love and care about, and they have reported it also makes them feel really cared for! So, 10/10, would recommend asking the people you love, “How does that make you feel?” when they tell you something emotionally intense, and say a little thank you to Rachel in your brain when you do it!
It had been a tough year and it had taken my writing voice. I was choking out an essay and Yvonne championed me through that thing like she wasn’t actually leading me across a bridge to a new land and away from a fire. Her edits were so kind and thorough, and it helped me actually build a better essay while also getting a better idea of how I actually felt about the thing I was writing about. I’ve gotten the same kind of edits from most of the editorial team, and in a world where we have to fight tooth and nail to get anything published so there’s pressure to get it right immediately, this is a balm to my actual soul. So I guess what I learned is that a good piece of work takes time, and other people, if they’re the right people, make you so much better than you were on your own.
I started thinking about my butchness in context and with love because of this column which btw lead to me exploring my masculinity/gender a lot more openly and confidently which inherently lead to the point of my life in which I am today so… no big deal.
Riese gave me the gift of being able to see the gay angle in any piece of media, clothing item, food item, person, or idea and I think that’s beautiful. After a decade of running a LGBT website, she can now efficiently and immediately fine-tune any scenario to meet a gay need, and after spending enough time with her, digitally or in person, this rubs off on you. This has ground me in a superior reality and I hope to pass on this gift to others.
Stef, Vapid Fluff Editor
Dr. Lizz Rubin’s article about how to look and feel less gross after flying has become my red-eye flight bible. I work nights so I generally prefer red-eye flights; I stay up all night and then sleep on the plane. Now whenever I get off a cross-country flight and kill the guaranteed half-hour between deplaning and actually receiving my checked luggage by going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth, washing my face, putting my contacts in and doing my makeup, I emerge ready to deal with my life. It seems like really obvious advice, but for me it changed the game.
Quite literally everything Carolyn has written about sex and submission is inspirational and aspirational. My love of being a submissive, and the fact that to many people on the internet I’m “that bitch who writes about bottoming” is 100% because of reading her writing about it.
Rachel, Managing Editor
Writing this is so stressful! I’ve been writing for Autostraddle in some capacity since I was 21, and reading from its very first days; it’s not an exaggeration to say that the adult person I grew into was largely formed in the crucible of Autostraddle. I learned everything, literally everything, from all of you! Trying to talk about one thing feels like choosing a favorite child. One thing I do think about a lot was how much I grew in my understanding of approaching news coverage thanks to Yvonne. She came to this job with so much more j-school knowledge and news reporting chops than I ever did, and I learned so much watching how she approached a story, how she organized information within it, how she worked with sources and got to the heart of why a story mattered. For a long time we worked together on weekly news roundups, choosing what stories to link to and which coverage of them to work with as a source, deciding which should be the top story and how it should be discussed — it was so instructive, and so valuable to me; there are few more intimate things than sharing a beat or a story with another writer, and I’m so grateful for it and for Yvonne.
Carmen, Associate Editor
I tried – I really tried – to answer this roundtable. The truth is that I have no way of explaining what I’ve learned from an Autostraddle staff member because my entire life changed for the better because of this website. My story is a lot like some of you reading this. I stumbled across Autostraddle when I was still in the closet. This space, and generations of generous people writing here, held my hand through not only my coming out – but through my depression and the worst years of my life. I found light again because of Autostraddle. I believed in myself again, despite every sabotaging instinct that I had, because of these people and this digital home that we have all built together.
After years hiding of out in the comments section, Heather Hogan gave me the opportunity to contribute to the TV Team. A few months after that I was hired as a writer. Roughly a year later, Riese offered me the opportunity to work here as an editor. It was a life that I once wasn’t even brave enough to imagine, and now it was now being offered to me.
Carolyn and Riese taught me everything I know about lesbian sex. Laneia taught me how to get organized. Rachel got me into therapy. Dr. Lizz Rubin taught me fashion. Gabby Rivera made me prouder everyday to be a queer Puerto Rican. Heather Hogan… doesn’t even know it, but saved my life.
I’ll wrap it up. I’m not unique. Autostraddle has been there for all of us when we needed it most, in its own little (and big) ways. Instead, I’ll end with these words from Heather Hogan in 2012 – written before she even started working here – that I had taped to my bedroom mirror for years:
“I tell everyone when I get to Hogwarts it will be Hufflepuff, but my secret hope is Gryffindor. I tell everyone it’s my empathy that will sort me, but my secret hope is valor. Not because I think I’m brave, but because the deepest, most desperate hope of my heart is that courage, like magic, is hiding somewhere inside of me.”
Autostraddle helped me find courage and magic.