The Autostraddle Yearbook: A Decade Of Gay Work

memories

Look, I have so many great memories of Autostraddle, yet the one I want to tell now is really random and definitely not like the best memory but it’s still something I think about, apparently. It’s 2014 and I’m at my first ever Shakedown, Autostraddle’s yearly senior editor retreat. At the time, it was me, Rachel, Laneia, Riese, Alex and Grace up in a cabin on a mountain for a week where we launched A+ and I think recorded a podcast that was probably never published?? We definitely launched A+ which was not met with the enthusiasm and support we had hoped for but that’s a whole different story!

On one of those days, I think we were taking a break from work and Riese, Rachel and I were sitting on the couch in the downstairs living room and I’m not sure where everyone else was at this point. I think I was on Twitter and I saw that everyone was talking about John Legend’s new music video for “You and I” featuring Laverne Cox and Tig Notaro. I think I asked Riese and Rachel if they had watched it and then they were like no so we proceeded to watch it on my laptop. The music video is a bunch of individual frames of women and girls intimately looking at the camera as if they were looking at a mirror at themselves. It’s almost too hard to hold their gaze because it feels like you’re intruding in on such a private moment, gaining glimpses of how they view themselves in the world. Women and girls go about their days, getting dressed, working out, going to school. Some women are laughing and smiling and some are crying. At the end of the video, Rachel and I had shed a few tears and felt really emotional about the video. Riese, however, was so perplexed that we were crying and did not shed not one tear. And that’s it, that’s the memory I wanted to share! In Riese’s defense, I recently watched the video and I did not feel the same emotional pull that it had in 2014 so I think Riese is just way ahead of her time.

Yvonne Marquez
see what intern emily & intern laura doodled on riese’s bed one night in 2010 while we were all talking about our dreams

My favorite article I wrote for AS was a response to the finale of the Legend of Korra. I remember watching it that night (Dec 19, 2014), and freaking out when Korra and Asami walked into the spirit portal together, and immediately emailing the AS folks to see if I could write about it. It was the fastest turnaround I ever did.

SJ Sindu

“I really loved being part of the Autostraddle team, but one moment in particular stands out for me. When I was facing a horrible and sudden personal tragedy in 2014, a bunch of the team sat up with me, chatted with me, and kept me calm. It’s not the happiest memory, but it meant the world to me.”

Mari Brighe

“Loved the big gay brunch at Pican (RIP) in Downtown Oakland!”

July Westhale

see brunch month

In 2014, someone plagiarised a personal essay I’d written for Autostraddle. They changed the photos to make it more salacious (yes, *salacious*) and laid out my connection to the Overlords, a conservative organisation that I was beholden to. The plagiarised version went semi-viral in some of the the worst corners of the internet back home at a time when tensions about LGBTQ rights were at a peak. I e-mailed the Senior Editors, title: “Hi I am in a bit of trouble”. That turned out to be an understatement.

This episode essentially ended my time at Autostraddle, so y’know, it’s not a *good* good memory. But the folks here helped get me through it. The Senior Eds were on top of the situation from day 1, taking the plagiarists to task. I don’t think my fellow writers were 100% aware of what was going on but the staff channel was a lifeline nonetheless — knowing that some very excellent people were living their best and bravest queer lives even as it felt like mine was collapsing in around me. I moved to New York later that year, and while I could no longer be a regular contributor online, my Autostraddle community materialised irl in homemade pizza and bad lesbian movie nights and spoken word open mics. I would not do it again (esp not the spoken word), but I would also not have given up any of this for the world.

So my brief time as an Internet Gay(tm) taught me that sometimes when you spill your heart out onto the internet, some fucknuggets will stab it onto the end of the pitchfork and try to burn down your door. But so many more, especially those here, will carry it with them in their own. Part of my heart still lives here, and I’m glad for it.

Fikri Alkhatib

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74 Comments

  1. True story: my senior year of high school I signed everyone’s yearbooks “You know how I feel about you” which I didn’t realize was harsh until recounting it years later to new friends. I almost commented “Autostraddle, you know how I feel about you” but then I realized maybe you don’t.

    When I opened this yearbook I scrolled immediately to 2014. 2014 is the year we met, AS, and it was also the year I was desperately falling in love with the first girl I ever fell in love with. It’s also the year that Faking It came out, which is what brought me here. I watched Faking It because I knew it was about a girl falling in love with her best friend, and then I needed to read everything about it and luckily Riese was recapping it or who knows where I may have ended up. In 2015 I went to A-Camp where I had gay sex for the first time in a tiny bunk bed and then in the back of a Subaru (I KNOW), and where I met the first queer people my age who didn’t go to my school and know everything about how I’d had my heart broken over and over by the same girl for two years. When Riese and Laneia asked me what I was leaving at the bottom of the mountain and I said “my straight best friend” everyone in my cabin shook their head knowingly and I felt like actually maybe I wasn’t an idiot after all. I was still doing finals that week, which I tried to blow off for camp, but I ended up needing to submit something and Chelsey let me use her laptop to do it, and I’ll never forget how kind she was about it when I felt like the biggest dweeb alive. I read a horoscope in the A-Camp Bee that I can recite from memory and got part of tattooed on my hip the day after I came down from camp–“You have to understand– when it hurt to love her, it hurt like light hurts your eyes in the middle of the night, but I had to see.” Sarah wrote that, and I’d never felt so understood in my life.

    Autostraddle, you gave me a place to go every morning to read about news that mattered to me. You gave me silly quizzes and deep personal essays and one million crushes. You inspired me to write more, to try more, to say more. You introduced me to so many people, and in turn I’ve tried to introduce you to anyone who will listen to me. When my ex, now living in NY, cut all her hair off for an Autostraddle article, she told me she knew Autostraddle was “my thing” but she couldn’t pass up the haircut. I wish I could claim any bit of AS, and the community you’ve created for me and around me. I am so thankful every day that you exist. We’ve known each other 5 years now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Now that you know how I feel about you, THX FOR THE MMRS HAGS etc etc

  2. Dear Autostraddle,
    So glad we got to know each other! HAGS!
    -Caitlin

    (ps when the first cute girl in junior high put HAGS! in my yearbook i assumed it was an insult and was devastated for all of third period before learning it meant have a great summer, at which point i swung wildly over to elated/gay panic)

  3. I read the Heather Hogan fortune cookie and instantly started crying so, you know, Happy Monday.

    I don’t have a lot of words for this particular thing on this particular day except I really love y’all, please keep taking my money forever.

  4. Wow. I went right to 2013, the year I think I started reading and why yes, I recognized so many writers and pieces.

    I still think about Gabby Rivera’s Big Booty Butch essay – so well written and it took me somewhere I wasn’t expecting to go. Much like AutoStraddle.

  5. This was an amazing trip down memory lane, so many names and faces that I hadn’t thought about for years. I love hearing about the history of this site and seeing how much it means to so many. This must have been a lot of work to put together, thanks to everyone involved.

    However you missed the most important staff member of all – where is Tinkerbell????

  6. Dear AS,

    holy cow we’ve known each other since 2010!! I mean, I was too shy to talk to you until like, a year ago, but I remember you all the way back then and we’d see each other around. I think you really got on my radar around 2012? and ever since then I’ve just been watching your success and cheering you on from the sidelines. i should have sat with you at lunch more and struck up a conversation!! but i’m so so glad we’re friends now and I can’t wait to see you at camp!!!! see u soon, HAGS!! haha xoxoxo you rock

    (i didn’t have a yearbook until college because i was homeschooled, so thanks for giving me a chance to write in your yearbook ^_^ those early pictures are *so* 2009… the haircuts alone! props to everyone who worked on this beautiful retrospective.)

    • (As I’m reading through the pages, I’m realizing that it was more like I was aware of AS in those early years but it was on the periphery for me for a long ass time and I only started reading regularly in 2014, when I followed Heather Hogan here. Reading that fortune and HH’s musings… I’m so glad things turned out the way they did. ❤️)

  7. Dear AS,
    I’ll never forget when we met freshman year! September 2009. It felt like you were already so much older and cooler than me then but I guess you were just a freshman too! A froshwomon, is that how we talked back then? Anyway, love you! So glad we have sat together in the cafeteria every single day since then. Stay cool!
    Love,
    me

  8. Omg. Today is my birthday and I’ve had three glasses of wine and half of a huge cupcake and I just read this whole thing and now I’m SO EMOTIONAL. This is like when I started crying when my friends and I were signing each other’s yearbooks senior year of high school. I just can’t get over how much Autostraddle has given me in the past 7 years. It’s the little things, like recipes, music and TV recommendations, and celesbian updates. And it’s the big stuff…the confidence to come out to my family and friends, the solidarity after I went through my first real breakup, and the exhilaration of going to A-Camp. And most of all the feeling that it’s more than OK to be gay, it’s actually the best thing ever. Because now it’s like I get to be part of the #1 coolest club in the entire yearbook.

  9. This was really cool and awesome to see autostaddle’s history and how it’s evolved, also really funny to think in 2009 I was 9, I was an innocent kid who had no clue yet. So glad to have found this wonderful place.

    • we talk about it in the yearbook!

      we’d like to bring it back, but we had to stop b/c like so many things we did in the beginning, it cost money and took a lot of time and you can ask a bunch of people to do that once or twice but taking on that huge money/time expense year after year is a lot. so basically doing the kind of shoot we’d want to do now costs more than we ever made selling calendars, so we’ve been actively trying to find sponsors to re-launch the project.

  10. This is amazing! And I am only on 2009!

    Incredible job on the format!

    It feels like a cross between an oral history and that Tonya Harding museum that those crazy people made in their tiny NY apartment.

    In case you were in any doubt, this is the greatest compliment I have ever paid in my life.

  11. You guys are all sooooooo amazing and the work you’ve done is epic. You rock <3

    Can anyone tell me if Kate/Kade is still writing on some online medium out there? Butch Please has always been one of my favourite columns.

  12. Ok now I need to sign the yearbook for real:

    Dear Autostraddle,

    You changed my life. I would say “never change,” like we used to in school, but that’s not right. What I really mean, is, keep growing and changing and evolving and being your glorious, organic self. Whatever you become, whatever the way forward is, we support you, and will always honor what you did for so many of us. I am so proud to have my own little photo in the freshman class of 2017! Thank you for being you, and for showing me that I didn’t have to hide any parts of me – that I could be my own glorious, complex self among a bunch of queers, and that that people would want to know what person. I love you!

    – Darcy

  13. So grateful for this, thanks for making it. I’ve been reading since nearly the beginning – Autostraddle is inside me, it’s made me who I am. I love you all so much, and it’s been an incredible treat to be reminded of so many alumni that moved and inspired and taught me so. many. vital, things over so many years. This yearbook must have taken so much work, blimey! Yet one more example of how hard you guys work giving and giving to us. Thank you.

  14. I have been reading autostraddle since 2009. When i first discovered it, i was living in my parent’s house in st. louis. i was desperately seeking queer community, but way too shy to go meet people in real life.
    from the very beginning, i was drawn in by the incredible and personal writing by riese and others.
    I went to the first (and second, and fifth) A-Camp. i loved getting to meet the writers i had been following so faithfully. I have grown up with autostraddle, going from a 24 year old still figuring shit out, to now, a 34 year old, frankly still figuring shit out.
    AS has been like a close friend, i can lose touch for a while, do my own thing, but you’ve always been there when i need to feel connected and like i am a part of something.

    Thanks for being a friend.

  15. I’m sooo grateful to you all and for the amazing work you all have done! The yearbook has been an amazing thing to read through. I probably ran across AS articles in my college period (2009-2 013) but only because I serious AS follower in 2014, so I guess my relationship with AS was a slow burn. Thank you for helping me be the best version of myself <3

  16. This is so wonderful and feels so lovingly made. Thank you for all the hard work this must have taken, and also for everything you do for us all out here on the internet. Happy birthday, Autostraddle, I hope there are many many more birthdays and memories and articles to come!

  17. Ugh thank you for bringing me back to the days of Kate Severance. Butch Please being around when being a newly Figuring-It-The-Fuck-Out queerdo helped me out in so many ways.

    Even though now I’m just a 7 years older Figuring-It-The-Fuck-Out queerdo.

    What a trip reading about the pop culture and political climate and going back and rereading their letter to Baby Butches and about getting their first butch haircut.

    I don’t identify as butch anymore and I’m a little less lost than I used to be, but that Autostraddle writing was fundamental in me discovering some things about myself and making me feel not alone in the process. I found a lot of confidence and comfort in between the lines of so many of these articles.

    Thanks for all the writing since then and all the writing you will do!

  18. dear autostraddle,

    thank you for all the memories!!!!!! This is an incredible piece of hard work and live and art — just like so many things you’ve created over the years. I started reading autostraddle I think daily in 2013, when I was in high school, even though I didn’t realize I was gay until 2015. In retrospect, wild!! anyway I have treasured so many personal essays and pieces of autostraddle writers and editors lives and pop culture and advice and laughter and everything else that makes autostraddle the wonderful home and community it is. You guys showed me what queer adulthood and love and marriage and friendship looks like and I’ll never stop being greatful. I was so happy when I graduated college and could join A+ and when I upped my subscription in January. HAGS and thanks for the memories!!!!!

    love,
    em

  19. Dear Autostraddle,
    This yearbook is absolutely the coolest, greatest, loveliest, and gayest thing I have EVER seen on the internet!! Over the past week, I have been starting from 2009 and journeying through the herstory of this loving community into which I’ve somehow accidentally stumbled. There are just no words… I hope that we will all exist for ever and ever, and that I can somehow be a part of it. You all are goddesses, and I “worship” your boundless creativity!! :) Much love!

  20. i’m so late to commenting on this because i like, was overwhelmed by how much i love it and how much i love us for a long time? and now it’s april 3 and i’m like…okay it’s been almost a month since this published, is now the time to comment? i guess???

    thank you riese and laneia and sarah and cee for building this gift for us. thank you readers and writers and lovers and fighters for keeping this space alive. i love everyone and i wish i could say more but that’s kinda all i’ve got. i love us for forever.

    xoxo have a great summer see u in the fall jk see u right here for 4eva

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