The Little Things Matter

“The little things matter.”

Nico, our Fundraising and A+ Director, reminded me of that yesterday. That it’s the little things that matter. They’re always so patient when the time comes to write these letters because it’s hard to be vulnerable, put your bare face on the internet, and ask for help. The very act of doing it, exposes what’s most tender.

Here’s what’s been difficult for me to write, because — even as someone who watched and lived through ebbs and flows of brutal conservatism and Reagan, two Bushes, and a Trump administration — it still feels difficult to wrap my head around: the attacks against queer and trans people in the United States right now are not like any that I’ve experienced in my lifetime.

The snap of time is cruel. I still remember the red, yellow, and blue of my childhood bedroom walls when Linda Ellerbee first taught me about HIV on Nickelodeon in 1992. Or the scratchy, worn wool of the couch, with puffs of stuffing breaking out of the seams, in my college dorm lounge as my home state of Michigan banned same-sex marriage in 2004. Running into the street in a sports bra, open flannel, and flip flops when the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013. And now this year, only three months into 2023 and already we are seeing nothing short of a demonstratively historic and petrifying wave (years in the making) of anti-LGBT bills sweeping across state legislatures, year-to-year increases in hate crimes that make it… it … it can be a whirlwind, to say the least. A life lived as a political volleyball in the eyes of people who will never even know me. Know us.

Right now, I’m supposed to be making the case for Autostraddle. This is what keeps running through my mind.

Earlier this month, Tennessee passed a ban on drag shows. At Autostraddle we’ve covered everything from local drag king shows in TaiPei to, yes, weekly recaps of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In schools across the country, book bans swell in popularity — with as many as 4 in 10 of those books being directly related to queer and trans people. At Autostraddle in the last year we’ve steadily, purposefully grown our LGBT books vertical so much that even Lambda Literary has taken notice. In just January of this year alone, two dozen bills seeking to restrict trans health care were introduced across 11 states. Today on Autostraddle, we’re publishing an advice column on gender feelings for our A+ members. It had 26 questions.

The little things, they matter. This is care work. It is community work. And now, more than ever, we need your help.

Autostraddle needs to raise $175k in the next two weeks, or we’ll be gone before Pride. It is that simple — and also that complicated.

Go to the fundraiser!

It’s complicated (or at least, it’s by design) that underneath structures of capitalism, queer independent media is never intended to survive. We don’t have access to the same resources in terms of advertising revenue that is so often granted to corporate backed, straight media. And we’ve watched as even the LGBTQ verticals at those venture-funded sites have suffered mass layoffs, often shutting down, when that funding dried up. We’ve also endured the closures of peer queer blogs, indie feminist magazines and websites. I want to be honest with you: I never thought I’d see the day when, after 25 years, even Bitch Magazine, a looming institution in feminist media, would be forced to fold.

Autostraddle just turned 14 this month. And I am scared.

But it’s also incredibly simple that we have the power to keep Autostraddle here. We can do it the same way anything that’s ever mattered to our community has been done, which is together. We’re asking you to keep this going brick by brick, dollar by dollar. Because what we are building is built post by post, writer by writer.

Together we are creating a space for queer and trans people in an increasingly hostile world.

What I’m about to tell you, you already know, but what has kept Autostraddle here is its heart. But heart means very little without grit. This week I got to watch a queer writer for whom we were once one of her first bylines, early in her writing career, interview Janelle Monáe. I quite literally could not stop smiling for hours, I nearly broke my face. Over the last two months I’ve watched as another writer learned ins and outs of WordPress security that frankly dumbfounds me, so that she could best communicate with our tech team to make sure that this year’s March Madness television contest was a fair fight for all the fans playing. In March, we published everything from A Transmasc’s Guide to Developing a Healthier Masculine Sexuality to an investigation into the best lipstick to sexily, messily kiss your partner (inspired by a celebrity Instagram photo). I’ve worked at least two weeks straight of 12 hour days — not including this one, I’m currently writing this letter at 10:35pm after a full workday and attending a virtual Yellowjackets watch party that’s in conjunction with this fundraiser. The hours of making the magic of Autostraddle are long, but it all counts. The little things matter.

Autostraddle is a home for queer and trans writers to hone their voice underneath the guidance of editors who get it, who care, who want them to be weird and free. Not many publications will publish a weeklong dedication to the nostalgia of carbonated beverages, but also not many publications are us. Because we are so much more than a publication. When other corners of the internet encourage queer and trans writers to mine their pain for clicks, because we are majority-reader-funded we have the space to just let them be themselves instead.

Because I love television, and because my love of television is also tied to what first brought me to Autostraddle so many years ago when I was first finding my way out of the closet, I want to close with this story. This week we found out that Prime Video is ending what was (in my opinion, and the opinion of many others) a truly special television show, the queer reboot of A League of Their Own, after only one year, deciding to bring it back for a shortened second and final wrap up season. On the surface, a canceled television show may seem like an unexpected note to end this letter, but because Autostraddle keeps our own independent television database, I can tell you that out of 700 television shows across history with lesbian or bisexual characters, roughly 20% of them are canceled in their first season. This trend has had an uptick over the last year or two, becoming its own hashtag #CancelYourGays (a play on a television trope you may have heard of, #BuryYourGays).

I’m telling you all of this because I shared the responsibility of writing our A League of Their Own recaps, and the week I spent last summer not sleeping to write them was one of the greatest times of my life. And this week, when it looked like the show was ending, fans turned back to Autostraddle.

To people who haven’t experienced it, who haven’t read it, it can be hard to explain but Autostraddle stands in the gap. Whether or not these television shows get made, we are here. To celebrate our stories, and to hold space when a lifeline you built for yourself is ripped away. What is happening, what we are witnessing, is a cutting away of queerness — on television by executives who devalue us, even when our shows perform comparable to the cishet ones that always seem to be granted second and third chances; in libraries across the United States; even our own clubs and the performance spaces where we were once meant to feel safe. But still, we have to value our own culture as queer people. Especially when other people don’t, especially when a large contingency would rather that what makes us great be stamped out for no other reason than because our mere existence is perceived as their fear or inconvenience.

But This? Autostraddle? This belongs to us — and I don’t want anyone but us deciding whether or not we get to keep it.

Will you help?

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 698 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. CARMEN how do you manage to speak directly to my heart every time? you make me want to work my absolute hardest for this place every single freaking day. thank you for being our inspiring, compassionate, hilarious, extremely dedicated leader – in other words, thank you for being you

  2. CARMEN!!!! Thank you for all that you do, every single day. I love working with you so so so much, and it is such a nice feeling to know we always have each other’s backs <3 <3 <3

  3. This so beautifully said. Thank you for your leadership and compassion Carmen. I’m so proud to be able to support AS.

    I’ve been reading AS a long time. I’ve seen other readers refer to AS as their older gay sister. For me, AS is more like my younger, cooler cousin. Encouraging me to try new things and not get stagnated or complacent. Recommending articles to read, songs to listen to and funds to donate to. Occasionally shocking me or making me gigglesnort in public.

    Lately I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed by the attacks against trans rights, reproductive rights, against our rights, period. So thank you for the reminder that little actions make a difference. And thank you for all of the things that AS does, big and little, for our community.

  4. CARMEN!!! 💜💜💜💜😭 Reading this and then scrolling down to the bottom of the page to the tracker and seeing that the fundraiser is at 77% of the way to goal !!!!! I just!!!! I’m overwhelmed, that’s the simplest way of putting it. 🥹 Overwhelmed with love and gratitude for this space and the people who make it run and the people who make sure it’s here tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. 🌈

  5. Saying “Yes” to these fundraising asks feels like an easy choice every time. It’s clear that that’s because you all do the hard parts: the vulerability of asking for money, the transparency about Autostraddle’s finances, the strategizing and planning and making the most of every dollar…
    Thank you for this space, for the work and love that you and everyone at Autostraddle put in to keep this space here.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you! AS helped me come out in late 2018 and I have been reading ever since. Hope you all are around for a heck of a lot longer! I was so sad and heartbroken when bitch folded. I was sure they would be around forever. Hope more spaces like this pop up, and in the meantime, we have to hold onto what we have.

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