Ten Things I’ve Learned In My Four Years at Autostraddle

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It’s been four years since I had my first piece published at Autostraddle. Four years since I got off the subway and read an email from Heather Hogan telling me she’d like to publish an essay that I’d originally only written for my 100 Tumblr followers. It’s been four years since my life changed forever.

If coming out as trans gave me a second adolescence, then Autostraddle has been my high school. And since I’ve been writing here for four years, that would make me a graduating senior. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving, but I have been reflecting on how much I’ve changed, how much I’ve grown, how much I’ve learned. Whether you’re a staff writer, an A+ member, or a casual reader, Autostraddle has impacted so many of us in this way. It’s why we’re asking you to join A+ during our member drive through November 12!

So I thought I’d look back on my queer education, look back on the past four years and this website that is so much more.

10 Things I’ve Learned In My Four Years at Autostraddle:

1. Sometimes you can’t do something, until you do it

Mere months after being staffed, I pitched a profile of my favorite poet Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. No one at Autostraddle asked if I’d written a profile before, no one questioned whether a queer trans woman with no journalism experience could fulfill this pitch. I didn’t know enough about media at the time to realize the rarity of this trust. I felt so uncertain of my own ability — I’m not sure if I would’ve insisted had I received any pushback. But with encouragement I was able to write the piece. That’s Autostraddle. Yes, we’re smaller than other publications, but that allows risk. There’s a reason why so many titans of queer media had their first byline at this site.

2. Dating is fun!

As stated, many, many times on the site, I didn’t date as a queer person or a woman until I was writing for Autostraddle. This messy journey was documented in real time. Why did so many cis women reference Silence of the Lambs on Tinder? What would happen if I joined a trans only dating app? How does one “date in a pandemic”? I studied our dating coverage, while writing my own. Alone, this would have been daunting. Together, we had fun. There is no fear I had, not shared by others. No misstep I was the first to take. I turned toward our other writers, I turned toward our readers, and I made up for decades of queer romance.

3. True friends love you back just as hard

Not everyone gets to work at Autostraddle, gets to meet our ever-changing staff of some of the best queers alive. Not everyone gets to make the friendships I’ve made. But being on staff is not the only way Autostraddle forms friendships. From in-person community events, to virtual pandemic hangs, to the comments section and Discords, so many of us have met the people we love through this site. The people I’ve met here have taught me how it feels to be loved, to find friends that give and receive in equal measure, who love me most when I’m most myself. Autostraddle isn’t just a media publication, it’s a community.

4. Educating is a gift, not an assumption

Over the years, I’ve written for publications other than Autostraddle. Most of these sites required definitions for words like “cis” and didn’t allow for casual references to queer culture. (I’m still sad I had to cut a Fun Home reference out of an essay for Cosmo.) It’s not just that Autostraddle is a site made by queers, for queers. There’s an understanding that even though we all have different vocabulary, references, and experiences, those gaps can be filled in by the reader. Again, it’s about trust. It’s an allowance to not constantly be explaining yourself. It’s a de-othering.

5. There are so many lesbian movies — like so many

One of my goals when I first started writing for Autostraddle was to update the all-time lesbian movie list. This pitch has become a years-long, on-going project. Initially, I thought I could see everything, become a perfect scholar of lesbian cinema. Throughout this process I’ve learned that isn’t possible. There will always be more to discover. And what a gift! What a gift to never run out of queer films, to never replace curiosity with mastery. I never want to stop learning.

6. Sex can be a lot of different things

The third piece I published at Autostraddle was about learning to experience sexual pleasure. This was simply a first step. It would take years for me to truly internalize the fact that I deserved to experience pleasure, that it was even possible for me. The freedom as a queer trans woman to write about sex was equaled by the importance of reading other queer people on their own sexual journeys. Most of us are taught shame, but queer people are especially discouraged from exploring the capacity of our bodies and our connections. Autostraddle has always been a place where we can fight that shame together.

7. Dykes and faggots are the same

When I started at Autostraddle, I was eager to prove that I belonged in lesbian spaces. But as time passed, I realized the true gift of queer community is how varied we are in our identities and experiences. Yes, I belong in lesbian spaces. But Autostraddle has worked hard over the years to be a place for lesbians and every other type of queer. There is so much variance alone in people who are lesbians! The less focused we are on limiting who deserves certain labels, what those labels mean, and who belongs in our spaces, the stronger we can be.

8. Making a podcast actually takes a lot of work

This is a fairly specific one: podcasts are more than just talking into a mic! There are so many moving parts that have gone into To L and Back and Wait, Is This a Date? But every challenge has lessons, and Autostraddle has always been such a comforting place to receive those lessons. Sometimes our endeavors take more work than we expect. It’s worth it when we’re collaborating with people we care about and working toward something special.

9. Meet your heroes

During my time at Autostraddle, I’ve been lucky enough to interview so many artists I admire. Go back four years and tell me I’d get to talk to people like Céline Sciamma, Alice Wu, Jamie Babbit, Daniel Sea, Jen Richards, and Jinkx Monsoon. Autostraddle has not only given me these opportunities but trusted me to create my own interview approach — to prioritize long-form conversations over conventional press. I have learned so much from these artists, it’s like being paid to take a master class. And what’s really special is how many interviews have led to further conversations, even friendships. There’s no need to separate the art from the artist when you learn how many great people make great art too.

10. We are all we have

When the pandemic began, Autostraddle created a fund for writers. No questions asked — if we needed money, we could get money. This is how I paid my rent that month. Autostraddle may not have the most money or the most resources. But there’s a stability, a loyalty, that I’ve found matters more. Autostraddle is the only publication that understands being paid $100 on time can mean more than $200 three months later. And if they could pay $200 they would! I have had to write a lot for Autostraddle to keep it my primary source of income. But I’ve done that because I know our resources are as properly allocated as they are limited. I’ve done that because I would rather the limitations be financial than be limits on my work, my voice, my personhood.

Autostraddle has continued against all odds because of your support. Every fundraiser is a reminder that as much as Autostraddle means to me, it means that much to you. As much as Autostraddle has taught me, it’s taught you. Every fundraiser and member drive is an opportunity to come together and celebrate what this place means to us and what it’s done for us. And, if you’re able, will you do what you can to make sure it’s still here for us, and here for every baby queer with lessons to learn?

We’re having a member drive right now to help keep Autostraddle around in 2023. Will you help us out and join A+?

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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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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. Her writing can be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Thrillist, I Heart Female Directors, and, of course, Autostraddle. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about trans lesbians. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew Burnett has written 308 articles for us.

14 Comments

  1. Drew, so many of your pieces are my faves here on AS but also like just my favorite pieces of writing on the internet ever (!!?) your interview with Daniel Sea was transformational and just a goddam template of how to conduct an interview. Thank you for all your hard work and generosity in your writing. 💖 I’m continually excited to see what you do!

  2. Thank you Drew for four fabulous years!
    “I never want to stop learning” is a mantra for us all to live by.
    Loving what you said about coming out as trans being equivalent to adolescence, I can totally relate after being out as non binary since 2017, which makes me 5 years old even though I’m 49 in human years, LOL.
    I’ve been lurking around here for just over a year but have read everything you’ve written with much enjoyment. Looking forward to more – I love reading trans experiences, our voices deserve to be heard!

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