Riese Bernard has been my hero for so long. Maybe the same is true for you?
She’s brilliant, for one, and she’s also hilarious. She has a genius brain, a huge heart, a creative soul, and she’s a diehard Shenny shipper. Riese is the co-founder and CEO of Autostraddle dot com; she’s the reason we’re all here! She has done so much for the queer community, for queer media and the way we all tell our stories in 2018 and the way we all connect and live and love and know one another, and honestly, I’m just gonna say it: she so rarely gets the credit she deserves. And I’m not saying that because she’s my boss or my friend or because I’m dramatic; it is simply true. But Riese doesn’t let that stop her – she just wakes up every day and keeps doing her damn job, no matter what’s going on in her personal life and no matter how many people make wildly unfair bad faith assumptions on Twitter and no matter what the fuck else is happening, Riese shows up for Autostraddle. She leads the revolution and she doesn’t stop and I often wish she knew how special she is to so many of us weirdos.
Which is why I’m so happy and excited that Riese Bernard is featured in Them’s Queeroes 2018 series! The project, put together in honor of Them’s first ever New York City Pride, features individuals who have served as inspiration to the queer community this year. “These are the modern-day queer heroes we so desperately need,” the Instagram caption about Them’s project reads, below a beautiful poster featuring all the queeroes being honored this year. Riese’s profile is headlined, “Where would queer media be without Autostraddle? We don’t want to know.” (The answer is queer media would be worse without Autostraddle, just saying.)
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For our first ever New York City #Pride, we’re so excited to unveil our big project, #Queeroes2018. Comprised of the individuals who inspired us the most so far this year — #JanetMock, #TravonFree, #HayleyKiyoko, #JillSoloway, #NicolaFormichetti, and beyond — these are the modern-day queer heroes we so desperately need. We’ll be honoring some of them tonight. Thanks to @whotels and @healthysexual. Art by @artbycheyne
The profile includes an extremely cute interview with Riese, wherein she divulges that her super hero name would be Laneia (!!!), amongst other heartwarming things. The opening intro speaks bluntly about why Riese is on this list of queeroes: “Despite the corporate world’s puzzling reluctance to buy advertising in lesbian media, Autostraddle has managed to survive using a subscription model, creative merchandising, community fundraising, and a whole lot of dedicated bloggers. The world needs Autostraddle. And for making it all happen, Riese Bernard is our Queero.” To which I will say, as I believe the kids are saying these days: EXTREMELY SAME.
When you see people work so hard, all the time, behind the scenes… and then see them get recognized in beautiful ways for that work? It fucking rules. As does Riese.
Riese is in excellent company with this group, hanging out on this queer superhero poster with her BFF Hayley Kiyoko, Raquel Willis, Janet Mock, Lena Waithe, Chani Nicholas, and Lindz Amer, to name a few.
Them debuted the series yesterday, on June 20, and ran profiles of each queer hero as well as hosted a dinner in New York City to honor them. Riese, in typical fashion, was pretty low key about the whole thing. She did not announce the honestly extremely exciting news on Slack, our virtual office space, and she didn’t send a group text with all-caps sentences ending in a million exclamation points to every single human in her phone, as I would have probably done. Nope, Riese just posted the Queeroes 2018 graphic to Instagram with a short caption: “Look it’s me! the blonde in the green tank top looking very severe and proud to be here!” That’s how I discovered the news, and I immediately got emotional and hopped on my computer to gush about Riese with everyone else who works here.
RIESE IS MY FRIEND AND MY BOSS AND MY HERO (sorry i think the word Queero is weird) AND I AM SO PROUD OF HER 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 https://t.co/cYiMmuxD8Y
— vanessa 🔪🔪🔪 (@vanessapamela) June 21, 2018
The Autostraddle staff, in contrast to our fearless leader, was decidedly not low key about the news. We were all very, very excited and also kind of crying because we were so proud, you know?!?! “Riese excuse me but this headline…made me tear up,” Molly Priddy, Autostraddle staff writer and Hot Soft Butch wrote to our Slack family channel at 5:20pm yesterday, linking to Them’s tweet that showcased the article about Riese. “Ok, good! I wanted to make sure that we were all talking about this and celebrating Riese and sharing this on Twitter, glad to see that we’re already on it,” Carmen Phillips, Autostraddle staff writer and Official Resident Janelle Monae Expert wrote back. “I cried, when I saw it,” was my personal contribution to our feelings atrium, and no one was surprised.
Carmen and I continued talking about our love for Riese via DM on Slack and she said, “I can never say thank you enough or repay Riese for what she’s given me, but I’m happy that for today at least, Riese Bernard is getting her damn due!” After I finally logged offline for the day I attended a Gemini zine crafting party (listen, we are who we are) and Sarah Sarwar, Autostraddle Design and Business Director and Noted Gemini, was in attendance. I asked what she thought of the exciting news and she said, “My boss started a revolution and has inspired countless humans in our beautiful community. Translation: my boss is infinitely cooler than your boss! I’m glad she was recognized for the genuine badass she is!”
— Tyler Ford (@tywrent) June 20, 2018
Something you probably know about us here, if you’ve been paying attention, is that we have a lot of feelings, and something else you probably know is that we love each other so much. I truly do not believe this empire, this unbelievable community Riese has created, would survive without all of the love we have for one another. I think that’s our secret ingredient, I think it’s why people who work in traditional media have a little bit of a hard time understanding exactly what the fuck is going on at Autostraddle dot com. Like yeah, we’re a media company, and yeah, we’re changing the world, and yeah, we’d love someone to invest a lot of money into our website so we can keep doing our work and not have to fold because of larger mainstream queer websites popping up left and right with a lot more capital than we have (yes, I do see the irony, ahem, anyway), all of those things are true, and also…we’re here because we love each other and we love you and we love being queer and we love being together. It’s special.
Natalie Duggins, Autostraddle staff writer and My Personal Number One Source For All Things Related To Elections And Politics, wrote this when she shared the article on Twitter: “Riese gave me a space to be me long before she ever gave me a job.” And that’s the thing, you know? That right, there is the fucking thing.
— natthedem (@natthedem) June 21, 2018
RIESE CREATED THE SPACE FOR US ALL TO BE HERE, DOING THIS SPECIAL WORK, CREATING THIS POWERFUL COMMUNITY, AND NOW SHE’S BEING ACKNOWLEDGED FOR THAT AND IT MAKES ME SO, SO, SO HAPPY.
So, okay! Now you know how we feel about this great news and this cute interview. I’d love to hear how you feel! Head on over to Them to read Riese’s full profile (and the profiles of the other queeroes featured!), and then come back here and leave a comment! You could tell me how Riese has changed your life, or how much you love it when Riese posts photos of her dog Carol on Instagram, or how cute Riese’s hair looks, or which Riese essay you think about weekly (mine is this one), or how happy this whole situation has made you, or really anything you want!
I leave you with this excerpt from the Them piece, which is perfect advice from our fucking fearless leader in response to Them’s question, “What are your words of advice for young queer people who aspire to be Queeros?”
Read books. Know your herstory. Be authentic and open and be nice to your friends and open-minded to your not-friends. Don’t get too caught up in The Discourse or Twitter/tumblr infighting or Facebook out-fighting. Damn the man, save the Empire. Join A+. Be authentic. Love against all odds, and there will be odds! Incredible odds! Your friends are more important than anything. You can dress however you want, it’s fine, you look great. Eat vegetables.