Thanks to YOU and this community, we’re going to be able to stick around through the end of 2020! We hope you know that you really made a difference in a big way. Each and every person who gave $5, $10, who joined A+ or bought a shirt or sticker, truly mattered.
Before we were honestly sure that this was going to be the case, we still dreamed big and envisioned better futures for this publication. Our first ever virtual town hall: What’s On Our Gay Agenda was conceived to answer YOUR questions and give you a chance to see what’s going on behind the scenes, in our brains, and in terms of what our leadership WOULD DO if we only had the funds. Well, you’ve decided to fund us and we are incredibly grateful and so you can expect some actionable goals to be achieved in the future, my friend. But until then, please enjoy this glimpse into what we spoke about when we could only hope.
…And speaking of this being our FIRST ever time trying to host something like this: it all seemed to go smoothly, until we had a technical difficulty AFTERWARDS. We were able to capture and transcribe the first 23 minutes of this town hall, but a bug prevented the last portion of the event from recording. Listen, Crowdcast has been nothing but lovely to us — we submitted multiple help tickets and spoke with several helpful folks, but in the end they weren’t able to retrieve the unrecorded section. Crowdcast has told us they’ve fixed this bug and, as people who are also always trying to improve, we get it: sometimes stuff just breaks! I included some notes for the important questions that weren’t captured in the recording, which appear below the transcript. In the future, it will always be our goal to actually have each virtual event recorded in full and we’re sorry that this was not recoverable.
Transcript of the first 23 minutes:
The virtual event, “What’s On Our Gay Agenda?” opens with laughter from Kamala Puligandla, Editor in Chief in the upper left hand corner, Riese Berndard, CEO and CFO in the upper right hand corner, Dr. Carmen Phillips, Deputy Editor in the bottom right hand corner, and Nicole Hall, A+ & Fundraising Director in the bottom left hand corner.
Kamala: Hi Everybody!
Riese: Oh! Now we’re live?
Carmen: Yeah, we’re live.
Carmen: Hi people!
[There’s a moment where the recording cuts out, but Nicole’s just introduced herself and is asking if everyone else can, too.]
Riese: I’m Riese, the CEO.
Kamala: I’m Kamala. I’m the Editor in Chief.
[Video cuts out, but Carmen also introduces herself as Deputy Editor]
Kamala: Nicole do you want to say how it’s gonna work?
Nicole: Yeah, I do want to tell everyone how it’s gonna work. So, we collected questions ahead of time just to make it easier, and I’m going to be reading the questions off for everybody and they will answer in conversation. It’ll just go: I’ll read a question, they’ll answer, I’ll read a question, they’ll answer, and we’re gonna have three different groups. So, this is the first group, and the second group is gonna be Rachel, Vanessa and Xoai, and then the final group is gonna have Sarah, Riese again and Heather.
Riese: I hope the light is still good again later.
Nicole: You guys have LA light. Okay.
Carmen: You’re like “Oh, the light.” I’m like the sun’s going down over here.
Riese: It’s radiant.
Nicole: It’s over, over here.
Carmen: Oh that’s true. Detroit: we still have sunset. The sky is currently purple, which none of you guys came here to know, but it’s cool.
Riese: Thanks, Carmen! I appreciate that.
Carmen: Love giving updates on the weather.
[All laughing at once about the weather]
Kamala: Nicole, please…
Nicole: I’m trying to read a question. Okay. So —
Riese: It’s seventy-five degrees here.
Carmen: We’re sorry Nicole.
Riese. It’s. Seventy-five. Degrees. Here. Seventy-five.
Carmen: We’re sorry, everyone. Nicole, please —
Riese: It’s seventy-five. Degrees. Here.
Carmen: We’re very serious gay professionals.
Nicole: Sounds nice.
Kamala: We’re all weather reporters.
Nicole: We’re pivoting to weather. Um…
Riese: Oh God, that’d be great. I have so many thoughts.
Kamala: First question! First question!
Nicole: Question! When did you all start creating media on your own? What format did you work in?
Kamala: Ooh! Who wants to go first?
Carmen: I can go first ‘cause I feel like both of you actually have careers in media and I don’t. So, I feel like, might as well get this out of the way.
Riese: We’re not starting in childhood?
Carmen: No I did not. In fact I think I might be the only senior editor who did not keep a diary as a child or a journal because I hated the fact that I couldn’t keep up with it every day. So, I quit it because I didn’t like having missing days.
Kamala: A determined ethos.
Riese: Perfect is the enemy of done.
Carmen: I got into media by the Autostraddle comments, which is an actual fact. I used to write a lot of very in-depth television commentary in Heather and Riese’s recaps and they were really patient about it for a really long time. That is a fact about how I got started. I was finishing my PhD at the time in Black and Latino history. I pivoted out of that because it was causing me a lot of depression, which is fine because we made it through, and around the time I was like “wow I cannot do this with my life” Heather emailed me and was like “You seem like you like television. Would you like to recap Orange is the New Black?” Which is the first thing I ever wrote, in a media setting, ever, in my life. And that was a little over three years ago, three years ago last June. And that’s how I got my start in media!
Kamala: Yeah, Heather. Good call.
Riese: Who goes now?
Kamala: You should go now.
Riese: Um…well, I first started making media in the mid-80’s. I made a newspaper for my neighborhood. It had recipes and it also had weather, so, to bring it back around. And just like little stories about things happening in the neighborhood. Then I advanced from there. I also made a newsletter for my family, just about things happening in the family with my grandparents and stuff. And I think that was probably my first big journey into media. Around like ‘86.
Kamala: Your like family media is where it’s at.
Riese: Yeah, yeah. I just want to write about people I know. I want to share information. I like making stuff. I’d also make programs for plays that didn’t exist and cast all my favorite actors.
Kamala: You should still do that. Like, that would still be cool.
Carmen: Oh! I wrote three pieces of One Day at a Time fanfiction. So, it exists.
Riese: Ooh! What was your name. Where did you post them?
Carmen: I am never telling that. It does not exist.
Kamala: You have to tell. You don’t have to tell on this, but maybe at a different time.
Carmen: It’s not, it’s not great guys.
Riese: I’m gonna figure it out.
Kamala: I feel like Riese will figure it out.
Carmen: It’s Kamala’s turn.
Kamala: I wrote a lot of stories when I was younger. I made up a lot of stuff, and I continue to do that to this day. I used to write little books. I also had a newspaper. I had blogs. I also used to make films and video. I just I don’t know. My mom was like, “I don’t know why you think you’re so important,” but that is what I’ve been doing.
Riese: Yeah, this also means I have a lot of stuff. Like I have several huge boxes of a series of novels I wrote when I was seven.
Riese: Yeah, mine was about a baseball team of little monsters.
Carmen: Wow. Mine was about Evil Queen and Maleficent having sex, so.
Kamala: Oh, woah. Okay, so we’re gonna find them later.
Carmen: You’re literally. I’m going to go and delete them.
Riese: I’m going to find them tonight.
Kamala: Okay that’s it.
Nicole: Next question? Alright. Okay, so, this is from someone who says, “I am so excited about the vision for this website. In particular, I appreciate what Kamala articulated in her letter from the editor, a fresh new vision for Autostraddle about centering intersectional Black and Brown queerness, and recognizing the multiplicity of identities and struggles our community experiences. My question is about the how-will-we-bring-this-vision-to-life part of the letter. Full disclosure: I’m a white, queer, disabled, non-binary woman. I’m wondering: as you set goals to increase representation from writers and artists of color on the website, what steps do you plan to take to center queer writers and artists of color who also hold other marginalized identities.
Relatedly, how are you building flexibility into your implementation of Vision One so that it can shift and grow to be interconnected with your other visions in mutually supportive, non-linear, non-hierarchical ways? And do you have any sense of a timeframe for when other parts of your vision might be ready?”
I’m gonna put this one in the chat, too, because it’s long, but good — solid.
Kamala: No, it’s a good question. I’m gonna talk to some part of it, and then I think that Carmen can talk to other parts of it. Yeah, softball question right there. One of the things that we were thinking about when we were creating multiple parts of the vision was that we do want them to intersect and we do want them to be in conversation, so I think that’s an inherent part of the vision, and I think, especially, when we’re talking about vision one, we we are thinking about all people of color, which includes trans people, which includes people with disabilities. It includes people in other countries. It includes people of all varied interests. So, I do think we are thinking about that, even within our measured, numeric goals. Um and I think we plan to think about those goals when we make goals for the next ones. Which is why I didn’t do them all at once, because we wanted them to build off of each other, and I think, timeframe-wise, this fall, we just all want time to build them together. Yeah.
Carmen: Um, I think can I build from there?
Kamala: Yeah, go.
Carmen: I think that is 100% right. So, when Kamala and I first started imagining what we wanted to do with Autostraddle in our new chapter, the first thing we did was, or the first thing I did was, I looked at the original Autostraddle mission statement which is still on our website right now. And I highlighted everything in pink that I believed in wholeheartedly. And then I sent it to Kamala and I was like I wanna build from here. And one thing that Kamala sent me while we were building it was this one definition of intersectional feminism that really spoke to me. And the number one reason it kind of rang in my heart was thinking of people of color not as a monolith, and thinking about what does it mean to have people of color who are disabled, people of color who are from other countries, who have different experiences beyond ours.
We just hired a writer today from the Bahamas I think? Who is going to write about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, so I think the thing that really matters to me is not just thinking about queer and trans people of color as a singular group, but as a group that has a lot of intersections of marginalized identities and struggles and how we’re able to push all of that forward. I don’t know if that answered all of those questions. On non-linear and non-hierarchical ways: I believe in collective work and responsibility, which you’re also going to see in my letter when I finish writing it. It doesn’t ever work if it doesn’t have all of us on it, and that’s all of us on leadership team, that’s all of us on the Autostraddle team and our writers, that’s you guys reading along and sharing it. I believe that work is done in a group if it’s gonna matter at all, and that’s what I hope to bring as leadership to this website.
Riese: I think that’s also something that when we were interviewing candidates for Deputy Editor last year that Kamala’s vision was very collective, and that was something that appealed to all of us about it and really put her close to the top of the pile.
Carmen: Sure did.
Riese: So yeah, it was definitely something I’m excited to see what you guys do.
Kamala: Me too. I’m excited.
Riese: We’re working now on a lot of the accessibility issues within our website. Some of them we already had structures in place, but we weren’t really enforcing them so we’re working on that. We’re also working on — I’ve been transcribing podcasts all day. We’re working on parts of the website where we can do better in a lot of different ways and working with our tech team to implement different plugins and stuff like that that will make our website more accessible to more people.
Kamala: Do you feel that covers it all? Should we move on?
Carmen: I feel like that was such a long question I’m not sure we even did it all.
Kamala: Yeah I think the last part was about how the pillars won’t be in an order, and yeah, they’re together. We’re thinking of them as a group of things we’re focusing on together and they’re not separate. I think we carry those things with us a lot. Like a lot of us hold many different identities at once and we’re thinking about that.
Carmen: I think of the pillars and the visions — we’ve only just started — as structuring a house. I imagine it like we’re building a house right now. And we have a really strong foundation and we’re building walls up. And I think — well maybe not a house. Autostraddle’s already built a house. Maybe a second floor.
Carmen: This analogy’s failing really quickly.
Kamala: We’re putting in appliances.
Riese: We’re building an addition.
Kamala: We want a dishwasher.
Carmen: Thank you Vanessa for seeing the house. I appreciate this. So that’s it and one of our writers, Ari, has something on their Twitter bio which is “I’m happiest when the answer is ‘both and’” and that’s something I’m trying to keep in our energy and space, with what Kamala was saying.
Nicole: That’s fantastic! So! Next question? We ready? So, this one is: Riese can you explain what your role is now that you are no longer Editor in Chief, what do your two other jobs look like?
Riese: Well, I’m still CEO and CFO, so I’m working a lot on a lot of different projects that are kind of behind the scenes, like SEO stuff, overall budgets that I create and give to individual departments, setting financial goals, setting traffic goals, stuff like that. I’m trying to do at least 50% of my work on writing. I just want to write more for the site, so I’ll be doing a lot more of that. And also another big project right now is reorganizing the site to make it more search engine friendly and also so that people can find the content that they’re looking for because it’s not really easy to do that right now and it hasn’t been really organized, so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also working on a book in my free time, so, yeah.
Carmen: Wanna hear about the book! Wanna hear about the book! Someone in the chat should ask about the book!
Riese: It’s a long story. It’s a long story.
Carmen: Yes, Sheila. Thank you. Sheila wants to know about the book, too. Let me know if you have time at the end. Thank you!
Nicole: Yeah we can save that one for maybe for the end. That would be great. I think we have time for one more question from you all. Another one that came from a reader. I hope that they’re all from readers: “As a trans man who formerly identified as a lesbian, I have long enjoyed the content on Autostraddle. Do you have any plans to create content to help trans men feel included in the community?
Carmen: That’s the answer to that is yes. Some might have more to say, but the strongest answer I have for that is yes. I think for me at least, something that I was really passionate about and that I think Autostraddle did something that was really important in the last ten years, which was that they said that trans women have space on our website, and that Autostraddle’s stance is that trans women are women and trans lesbians are lesbians and trans bisexual people are bisexual and so on and so forth. And I think that when we think about a larger conversation that is still happening in lesbian spaces and queer women spaces that this is an important stance. I also believe, it’s part of my vision at least, that that’s not the only stance we can take. My queer community definitely involves having trans men and nonbinary people and that’s my everyday life and I think that’s most of our everyday life and that’s an everyday life I want reflected on our website when people open it and they can feel like ‘that looks like me.” That’s what I have to say about that.
Kamala: No, I agree. And I know that some other question mentioned that our language was weird in the vision and I think that part of it is that we want to include everyone and we want to pointedly include everyone, and that sometimes means language is exclusive when you use it to be specific so it’s been really hard to figure out what exactly to say. Yes we want trans men on our website. They’re a part of our communities. And also we want to recognize that there is a lot of history and culture for and by lesbians that we also want to maintain and that there is a place for nonbinary people here. We want to reflect the diversity of people who are here and that are in our communities and who we love. And also we’re still working on the language for how to say that in a succinct way.
Carmen: The thing is both of us talking about that took three minutes and we don’t have that much space when we’re writing, but we’re working on it. Yeah. And it’s true. I also want to shout out Xoai who is going to be in our next group. She’s been doing a lot of really cool work. I’ve seen at least a handful if not more just from this summer alone of pieces that were by trans men that really meant a lot to me. Excited to see that continue to grow as well.
Nicole: I think we have room for one more if that’s okay. Are you all okay?
Nicole: “Autostraddle’s recent hires have been fantastic. It’s exciting to see Autostraddle moving in the direction of more specialized editorial staff. Has there been any discussion around bringing some sort of global editor on over in the next couple of years considering that 40% of AS readers live outside the U.S.?”
Kamala: Who wants to take this one?
Riese: I think that if we had full robust funding — yeah, absolutely, that would be in our plan. We’re looking for a lot of ways that we can make our international readers [feel seen] because that 40% is split between dozens and dozens of countries, even when we’re thinking about time zones for events, thinking about how we’re embracing our international readers, and making content with them in mind, and having writers from around the world. I would love to have that at some point, but it will probably, just to be frank about finances and stuff, I don’t think it would be this year. But that sounds really interesting.
Carmen: I was going to piggy back on that, but I’m actually going to pivot to Kamala because I’ve talked a lot, and then I will —
Kamala: You have not!
Riese: No, you haven’t!
Kamala: I was just going to say that I think that a lot of things we would want someone to cover globally, we would also want to cover in other areas. So, like, parsing out the singular identity of someone as being international is just one way that they might be and we can also fit international perspectives into other kinds of content and that’s a huge priority of ours, too. When we talk about diversity, we do mean everyone. We’re just trying to figure out ways to do it. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to set really granular goals with that with metrics right now, but we are carrying that in our heads as we go around and do stuff and talk to each other and give each other feedback.
Carmen: We think that part of that and we’re hoping that you’re seeing it and if you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll continue to see it moving forward. We’ve done more international television coverage in the past few weeks and that is something that will be continuing moving forward. We’ve also done more — I don’t if Bailey’s on the chat right now — but I know Bailey signed up for the event, but has been killing it bringing us stuff that has been happening in Europe, in London and stuff that has been happening for QTPOC across the pond. And I really appreciate it.
Riese: And Sally.
Carmen: I think that Sally’s been doing that as well as Riese just said and that is something I hope to continue to see us growing. We can still do queers on the street. Another thing I want to be thinking about with global is not just Europe or Australia but what is happening on the continent of Africa, what’s happening in the Caribbean. I’m very invested in understanding that, and I think that is something we’ve been trying to pull more from as well.
Riese: It’s also something I’m thinking about in the re-organization of the site is that’s definitely a type of content. Sort of like we’ve discussed, you don’t always know from the title of the personal essay that this is somebody talking about the place that you’re from or a place you’re interested in reading about, so we’re trying to think of ways to signal that for everybody. And also within the TV team right now, we are building an immediate plan to cover a lot more international programming. That’s something we talked about earlier this week, and we’re moving on that.
Carmen: Yeah, we are! Yeah, thank you Kayla! Can I have 2 minutes for Riese’s book.
Riese: It’s a long story, it really is!
Riese: It’s based on a true story and it ends with me starting Autostraddle because I was sad.
Carmen: I want to read that book!
Kamala: That’s a good story.
Carmen: Yeah, I want that story!
Riese: It’s about a friend who was a big part of our lives for a while who did a lot of stuff with us and turned out to be a liar about everything.
Carmen: Fun, well the lying part isn’t fun.
Riese: Yeah, it’s like a scammer story but she didn’t steal anything, she gave us stuff.
Kamala: That’s very gay.
Carmen: That’s a good pitch, you should write that one down.
Riese: Yeah, emotional scammer. I had to process a lot of fake deaths with her.
Kamala: I also have a book based on a true story, too.
Carmen: Yeah Kamala has a book too! Sorry when is that coming out? I talked over you.
Kamala: October 19th.
[Talking all at once about the book’s release date which is October 19th]
Riese: Tell us what it’s about!
Nicole: Kamala, you should drop a link to your book in the chat!
Kamala: I should! [Note: Here is the link to the book.] That’s a really good idea. Um, it’s about me, a version of me when I was 25 and biking around Chicago, trying to reconnect with my friends, but they were all growing in different directions. And then also it’s a friend love story, and there’s another love story, and there’s a lot of going to parties and talking to people.
Riese: That sounds great!
Kamala: I think it’s pretty fun!
Carmen: That sounds really effin’ gay. That’s the gay agenda.
Kamala: Yeah, that’s my gay agenda which is going to parties and talking to people which is a little hard right now.
Nicole: Thank you all!
Carmen: Oh my God, yay! Is this it? Do we say bye now?
Nicole: Yay! Alright! And I also just want to point out that we are fundraising right now. You can hit that button down at the bottom of the screen to go to the fundraising site, and if you want to see more writing on the site, more freelancers, more work, that’s how you make it happen.
Carmen: Yeah, it is.
Kamala: Yeah, we need that.
Carmen: I hope this answered questions and if you have more, if you want to leave them in the chat, we always want to hear more from you guys in figuring out how to build our community for all of us.
Nicole: Thanks all!
Riese: What do I do?
Nicole: I’m taking care of it, it’s good. Next up we’re going to have Rachel, Vanessa and Xoai. I am bringing them on-screen right now. Hi!
Rachel: Hey, Nicole you’re killing it.
Nicole: Hey everyone.
Rachel: It’s good to see you guys.
Nicole: Yes, thank you.
[Here the recording cuts out]
Again! I am so, so sorry about this! Unfortunately, I can’t transcribe what I don’t have recorded, but I did my best to get you notes below about the questions given to the next two groups.
Group 2: Xoai, Rachel, Vanessa
A note about the below: For ALL questions related to wanting to see more folks of a specific identity or intersection of identities, you can always pitch Kamala or the team. Because when it comes to making sure we’re bringing you writing from people of diverse and intersecting identities…the answer is yes we want to!
Q: Going forward, how are you going to center stories of bisexual women, specifically acknowledging, validating, and celebrating queer women in relationships with men?
Notes from a discussion with Rachel in response to this question:
- We are focusing on creating content that includes a spectrum of bisexual experience and voices, rather than a monolith, and that includes bisexual identity in larger conversations and as part of discussing other lived experiences as well – because it is tied in with all our lived experiences! Our community is huge, the largest group within the LGBTQ acronym, and we would love to host forums for conversation and multiplicity that reflects that, and includes bi women dating men as part of that conversation as a matter of course, without singling them out and thereby implying they’re an aberration or ‘other’
- We’re prioritizing as well material realities and impacts of both identity and marginalization – for instance, when we see high rates of intimate partner violence or social isolation for bi people, how does that connect with the realities of dating men, and also layered realities like the fact that statistically a bi person is more likely to ID as being trans or of color than a gay or lesbian person. I’d would love to center the way that these things play out in terms of our material experiences and needs!
- We’re exploring new avenues for connection with each other and within the community and mutual/peer support, which is key for addressing isolation and alienation; bi women dating men can meet each other (and other bi people).
- Pitch me! (Pitch Rachel!)
Q: For Xoai, You wrote a letter recently that outlined some of your goals or vision for your role at Autostraddle. Who are your biggest dream “gets” or your biggest dream projects to bring to the site for any kind of work?
Note from Nicole: Xoai spoke, among many other things, about wanting to engage with trans stories from around the world and also about de-centering white and/or western ideas/narratives around trans people. She had an idea, also, for a global travel show centered on the experiences of trans people that would be really awesome to see come to life in a post-pandemic world! The best I can say without being able to provide a transcript is to watch Xoai continue to work and bring us incredible pieces like those that have published on this site since Xoai joined the team.
Q: How are you going to center fat people, especially superfat people, on Autostraddle? It is amazing to see more fat-related content such as Anatomy of a Mango and What I Wore. And I hope you will continue to publish even more fat content.
Note from Vanessa: “We have published quite a bit of content written by fat people over the years, although there is of course always space for more and room for improvement and I personally would love more superfat people writing things for us. We also hosted a “Fat, Erotics, & Embodiment” workshop with Jules Pashall for Shelter In Our Place 2, and I’d LOVE to work with more fat and superfat folks on community programming.”
Here are some links Vanessa wanted to include for you:
PHOTOESSAY: Shoog & Zaire on Proving the Divinity Of Fat Folks
PHOTOESSAY: Merqueen of the Springs
Like a Little Act of Vengeance: F*cking While Fat
Fat Liberation Is the Future
Proudly Black, Fat, Queer and Making a Home for Myself in Cosplay
An Ode to Fat Tomboy Femmes: Effortlessly Cool Plus-Size Outfits
Fatventure Mag Is Here to Reshape the Way We Tell Stories About Fat People and Adventures
Rebecca Alexander Is the Queer Fat Woman Behind AllGo, an App That Will Change the World for People of Size
Countdown to Baby T. Rex: Loving My Fat Mama Self and Itchy All Over (33 Weeks)
Fat-Booty Butch Wears Leggings — Confuses World, Confronts Self
Fat, Trans and (Working on Being) Fine With It
Another Note from Vanessa on the question regarding including trans men at Autostraddle that was also answered by the first group: “As the community editor, my plans include making sure Autostraddle’s community is inclusive to every single queer person who wants to be here, and as a cis woman, my plans include listening to trans people about what they want and need from Autostraddle. I don’t have a formal plan to create content that helps trans men continue to feel included because I’m not sure what that looks like from my limited cis perspective – but I am very very open to being in dialogue with trans men about what y’all want and need. Please email me (vanessa [at] autostraddle [dot] com) – can be with pitches, but can also just be with wants / needs / hopes / dreams / etc.”
Group 3: Heather, Sarah, Riese, and Nicole
Notes: This group mostly talked to YOU, our community, about the fact that we are working to do these things that you want us to do and to bring you the content and stories from folks you want to hear. We can’t do any of this without your support, though! Heather pointed out that since July 2019 (and before then, too), we’ve been working to transform this space, to make it bigger and better and we’re so close to FINALLY bringing you the Autostraddle that you’ve been telling us you want!
Heather was also VERY COY about not revealing her plans for TV coverage in the fall, so I guess we’re all just going to have to wait and see.
We’re REALLY EFFING THRILLED to be able to say that you’ve funded us through the end of 2020 because we are setting up our leadership and team for to do the things that you want to see us do. If you want to hear more about that, Carmen wrote a bit about what’s next in her thank you letter. And in general, THANK YOU for getting this far in this post, thank you for reading, thank you for being here and participating in the process of talking about what we want this community to be — for all of us. Thank you for your trust.