No One Else Is Going to Look Out for Us

Before I get into my essay and what likely amounts to some (juicy?) oversharing, I need to say that I am writing this because of our member drive and fundraiser. We need less than 75 people to join A+ to make it to our goal. Will you join? We can do this if we do it together!

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It’s never a good time to fundraise. Right now is actually the second time I’ve been knee-deep in a fundraiser and had something go wrong such that I couldn’t use my shower. Currently, it’s leaking onto a joist; Sadie, my girlfriend, and I have waited a week for the plumber to come out so we aren’t paying emergency dispatch fees. (Don’t worry! We do have sinks and hot water and who doesn’t love a sponge bath?)

Another time, I was working for someone else — an immersive theater company with this real trip of a white cishet Artistic Director — and considering applying for the A+ and Fundraising Director role here at Autostraddle. Sadie and I also couldn’t use the shower (unless we wanted ice cold water) because we had our gas shut off that chilly October of 2019 because of a bunch of tiny little leaks in the ancient pipes of our house, which was in as good of repair as we could afford when we bought it — and the gas company would not turn it back on until it was all resolved.

That wasn’t the worst part of that time, though. That fundraiser came after our theater company made the devastating decision to close a show early. We’d put a year’s work and over $400,000 in grants I’d written into it! The main problem and the reason tickets didn’t sell, as far as I could tell? The script was uncreative, unoriginal and just downright bad. By that point, the majority of my coworkers were ready to move onto the Christmas show and the end-of-year fundraising appeal, and frankly, we were all sick of the Artistic Director putting all of his heart and all of our meagerly-paid hours into the dreams and creative practice of this writer who was a “charismatic” cishet white guy my age who Clearly Sucked At Writing. On top of it all, the playwright and AD made the choice to include a couple of queer characters in the play. But the Artistic Director and Creative Principle (who were husband and wife) and the playwright were all straight! However, three of the people working there who weren’t in charge of artistic decisions were queer. Were we ever asked our opinions on queer characters when these straight people wrote them into stories? No, we were not. Was there a super uncomfortable lesbian subplot in the play that could have used a couple of more queer eyes on it? Sure was! Were there myriad additional issues like this? Absolutely there were. Are you wondering if I spoke up? I sure did. I repeatedly did. Which takes us to what happens next.

Immediately after the October 2019 fundraiser event for this organization/theatre company, during which — again, I remind you — my girlfriend and I (and Mya who is a very hairy dog and did not mind) had no gas heat, the Artistic Director — wounded as he was by his mediocre show not blowing peoples’ tits off — fucked off for a full six months. He didn’t come to work once and in fact went to Hawaii, instead. Yes, the board did pay his salary — which was funded by all of us who were still actually working — during this entire time. Meanwhile, the rest of us worked hard to sell out our Christmas show (we did!) and raise more money than we ever had before with our end-of-year fundraiser (we also did this!).

Then, in March 2020, after he came back, the board declared the wife of the husband & wife founders the new Artistic Director. Even as my boss (not her) and I worked to establish an artist-in-residence program that would help pass the mic, the new Artistic Director decided to lay five of us who’d had our reservations about her competency [see above, among other things] and ethics off. She was cleaning house and starting fresh, regardless of all the work and long hours and skill we’d just put in, regardless of our dreams for ways to do things better in the future. While sitting across from her at a stained plastic fold-out table, I told her she didn’t have to let us go because we had the money. I would know. I’d raised a lot of it.

“You realize you’re taking away the jobs and the health insurance of five people at the start of a pandemic and you don’t have to, right?”

She looked at me with her blue eyes, hands clasped to her heart and told me, “I have to do this for me.” Over the next week or so before my final day, she shared links to initiatives like the local food bank’s early Covid relief efforts on our company Slack. Was she rubbing it in?

By the time I applied to Autostraddle, right after that fundraiser event in October of 2019, I’d just taken my first shower at home in eleven days after having our gas service restored. I was the kind of exhausted where you don’t feel like you’re in your body. But I was determined: I didn’t want to make more cishet white men’s dreams come true. This application was a part of a gradual but steady movement I’d been making over years, to slowly but surely divest from everything straight and patriarchal and white supremacist and to put my energy — whenever I had a choice — into the queer community, into the trans people and women I cared about. More than anything, I wanted to turn my energy toward making the dreams of queer and lesbian and bisexual and trans people like us come true. I still do. That’s pretty much all I want to do.

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In March 2020, Autostraddle needed money BADLY. Our advertising had bottomed out due to the pandemic’s spread. And so I went from part-time to full-time in order to do the more-than-full-time work of leading that first pandemic fundraiser. I’ve been here since.

And the things I’ve seen at Autostraddle have changed me for the better. Each time the people here at Autostraddle do what’s right and uphold the values of this space, I believe in what we’re doing even harder. Those straight people that spite-fired me and my amazing coworkers at the start of the pandemic? People like that are never going to look out for us. They’re only ever going to give their resources — their time, their energy, their reputations — in service of people who they see as being like them.

When I came onto Autostraddle at the start of the pandemic, our CEO Riese created a no-questions-asked Writer Relief Fund. She made sure my higher-risk partner could get on my health insurance. I watched the editors pick up work for each other as Heather got sick, as writers got sick and as some of my coworkers had to deal with family becoming terrifyingly ill. Autostraddle writers published helpful guides and content to keep our morale up and to help us connect. You all came together to fund this space and keep that work going, and two years later, you’re still here, and you’ve made me more determined than ever to focus my energy on This Community Right Here.

Here, in this queer space, we can make our own rules. We can be as kind, as nurturing, as weird as we want. We don’t have to conform to industry standards that disrespect writers or readers. We can hold each person and guard their light with all the fierceness that responsibility demands, and we are honored to be able to share that shining, brilliant queer light with you, every day. We can do that work because of you and because of our A+ members.

The day-to-day life of working at an indie queer media site isn’t always glamorous. I joked with my girlfriend that, yes, one of my favorite authors may follow me on Twitter but that doesn’t change the fact that we have mushrooms growing in our bathroom. (PLEASE HURRY PLUMBER LOL — do not panic y’all the mushrooms are in not on the joist itself. We just have a moisture problem.)

At Autostraddle, we aim to be Queer with a capital “Q” — we are always striving to lift each other up, to lift this queer community up, to lift writers up and to do better each and every day.

Thank you for anything you can do, because if we do this together, we can meet our goal. We can keep doing this work. And, on top of it all, HOW ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE WRITING IS ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD. You wouldn’t think this would be an outlandish request, but I know firsthand how rare that is. But the writing here is really, really good, you all!

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It feels like I have been waiting my whole life to work in service of incredible queer writers and here I am, asking, will you help keep this space around for as long as we can manage? Joining A+ is the number one best way to help ensure that we’ll make it through another year.

Will straight people as a whole ever truly invest in queer stories as told by and for queer people? No, I don’t think so. No, in fact, it’s up to us. We have to do it ourselves.

No one else is coming to save us. No one is going to swoop in and do it all for us. As much as we love Batwoman (and I personally really do!) the only real-life heroes we have are each other.

The people who have the power to keep queer media alive and maybe even thriving are already here. They’re all around us.

Those people are people like you.

So, will you join A+?

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P.S. If you’re already an A+ member, will you consider chipping into the membership pool or giving us a gift to help keep the lights on?

P.P.S. This publishes the morning the plumber is supposed to come. WISH ME LUCK.


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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Nico Hall

Nico Hall is Autostraddle's A+ and Fundraising Director, and has been fundraising and working in the arts and nonprofit sector for over a decade. They write nonfiction and personal essays and are currently at work on a queer fiction novel. They live in Pittsburgh with their partner, Sadie. They are also a gardener, project queer, witchy/wizardly human and are currently mourning their lovely senior rescue dog. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram as @nknhall.

Nico has written 112 articles for us.

19 Comments

  1. I, too, have spent so much of my life working for theatre companies with flagrantly absent directors and bad artistic choices. I love hearing about the relief you got working here. No one is coming to save us, but I do feel a little saved reading Autostraddle dot com.

  2. You are a wonderful writer and a wonderful fundraiser. Thank you for the many, many things you do. Thank you for sharing; we are all so lucky to have you with us. Hoping hot showers will be in your household’s very near future!!

  3. I’m already a member so I donated to the membership pool. I love that that program exists because I can donate to Autostraddle AND give a gift to a fellow member of the community at the same time! Love love love. ❤️

  4. Hey! A mostly silent reader here. These pasts years have caught me in a difficult place financially, I have been working into improving my situation, and this year if everything goes ok I will see those efforts come to fruition (fingers crossed). I will be subscribing to A+ this year as soon as I have a clear picture of my finances, or if things go sideways (because I don’t live in the States and in my country economy can be volatile) at least I will be able to donate more than past years, as long as the possibility is still open in April/May.
    Thanks for everything that you and everyone else do at Autostraddle!

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