We Don’t Need to Explain Every Line of Ourselves

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I’m writing this late on a Thursday evening, well past dinner time, and just before my eyes shut for the night. I’m lying in bed, one of my cats nudging her head against my hand in need of stitches and my dog Bowie staring at me with loving affection. I’m exhausted, but excited at the chance to sit and finally write this all out. I took one last cursory read through a thread on the Autostraddle Slack where we talked about pop stars and pictures of our pets in equal measure.

It’s kind of fucking weird to be excited to work late and yet, here I am. Happy to have the time.

Before I wrote for Autostraddle, it was a link in the Daily Reads bookmark folder on my web browser. Every day I logged on, read one of Kayla’s columns on food or Carmen’s thoughts on things like Harley Quinn and thrilled at the opportunity to have a site I could rely on to always offer something to satiate my need for a site that felt like a second home. A place that always felt like there was something for me. Maybe it’s that place for you as well. We’re asking for your support to help keep the walls on this second home for all of us.

I’ve written for a lot of places in the short time I’ve been a writer. I am a trans woman, and when my career began I was a Trans Woman Writer, which meant that my voice felt stifled in a lot of places. My words were to be reactions to news, and not expressions of my personality. Often when I would pitch and propose ideas, I was met with confusion. Why would anyone want to write this, and worse still, who would read it?

I had to answer both of those questions a lot and at the end of the day, a lot of pieces were left unwritten.

Once I started to establish my voice, I thought this process would become easier. Surely with a bit of prestige in my back pocket my voice would carry more weight. And somehow I still felt myself answering a lot of the same questions, and leaving a lot of pieces that I think people would have loved to read as scratches on a notepad.

When Autostraddle was looking for new team writers, I put my name in the running despite feeling like a snowball taking her chances in hell. But I heard back, did an interview and somehow, miraculously, was brought on board. A dream, literally a dream come true.

Before I was onboarded, I had gender affirming surgery in Montreal. Lying in my hospital bed, I thought: “I should write about this, so people can read it.” Hopped up on painkillers, lying in an adjustable bed, I emailed a pitch to a prestigious outlet and was surprised to get a reply saying “we love your work, would love to work with you.”

This was the beginning of a long and painful road — both the surgery recovery and the process of working on the essay I’d pitched. Every line I wrote was met with endless questions. I felt like the first trans person they had ever met. Alone, on an island. The stifling feeling came back. In the time it took my editor and I to work on this essay though, I started working at Autostraddle.

I talked through my feelings on this piece in a private Slack channel with the editors here, and felt seen and heard in ways that assuaged my fears about being difficult to work with. I pulled the essay at the prestigious outlet and felt my heart breathe a sigh of relief.

The thing that Autostraddle — everyone who writes and edits and reads and comments here — does without ever saying as such is provide a breath of relief for us all. We don’t need to explain every line of ourselves, whether we are reading or writing or commenting together. It’s nice to have a home where we don’t need to explain ourselves, where we can freely express the deepest parts of ourselves.

I mean, I wrote about Shirley Temples. And any other publication would have brought me into the ring to fight about why it doesn’t make sense. But I pitched it in Slack to Kayla, and we talked about ginger ale for like ten minutes and then she said “can you get me a draft in a few days?”

It is nice to feel so supported, to know that my ideas will be heard and listened to. The support you get as a writer when you can talk through hurdles in our work is a welcome change from what I have experienced elsewhere. I never feel worried when I bring an idea forward. More than anything, when ideas spring to the front of my mind, I eagerly await dropping them into Slack, knowing that we’ll talk them through, and maybe we’ll talk about our favorite high-end ginger ales or the fact that there are too many unnecessary U’s in my work because I’m Canadian.

Autostraddle is the rare space where we all belong together. Writers and readers and lurkers all as one. We deserve the opportunity to provide no explanation for who we are, what we love and the feelings we need to get out. In a media landscape that’s increasingly scarce when it comes to places where queer people can be multi dimensional together, Autostraddle is a beacon of hope.

I’m always happy to work late when the work is Autostraddle because it is the thing that thrills my heart the most. I love to write, to read everyone’s comments (sorry I don’t always reply, I have anxiety!) and to read everyone else’s work. I love logging onto the Autostraddle Slack and talking about everyone’s work on the site, or pets or ginger ale or whatever. It’s a community.

When I came out, I lost a lot of who I thought were my community. The beautiful thing that happens in this life is we can find new communities, new places to belong. That place, for me and for a lot of us, is Autostraddle dot com. Come here and be together with all of us, let us not offer explanations for who we are and experience no judgment. The only way we can do that — to sustain a place that doesn’t center straight people or ask trans and queer people to explain themselves to a straight audience — is through reader support. To do this, to keep a house like this alive with the lights on for all of us, we need more people to join A+. Will you be one of them?

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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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Niko Stratis

Niko Stratis is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in outlets like SPIN, Bitch, Xtra, Catapult and more. Her work primarily focuses on culture, the 1990s, queer/trans topics and as often as possible where all those ideas intersect. 

She wrote that piece about Jackass that you liked and also the Gin Blossoms one. 

She is also the creator and host of V/A Club, a podcast about movie soundtracks.

Niko lives in downtown Toronto with her fiancé and their dog and 2 cats. She is a cancer.

Niko has written 30 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. “We don’t need to explain every line of ourselves, whether we are reading or writing or commenting together. It’s nice to have a home where we don’t need to explain ourselves, where we can freely express the deepest parts of ourselves.”

    Yes! Like I was pitching my Halloween essay and I had to text a friend, “is it gay to write about your ex-boyfriend?” and she was like “yes” but also, crucially, as my editor, Kayla wasn’t the one asking *me* that, and had in fact explicitly given us permission to pitch stuff that wasn’t necessarily centered around queerness in a simplistic or very obvious way.

    Anyway yes, Niko! Love this.

  2. “When I came out, I lost a lot of who I thought were my community. The beautiful thing that happens in this life is we can find new communities, new places to belong.”

    Ouch this line really getting me right now. I have lost some of my friends in the past few years as I have leaned more into being genderqueer and started being more open about my mental health. In the life we can find new communities, I really have to believe this. Thank you Niko and thank you Autostraddle.

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