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Eulogy for the Living: On Losing AfterEllen and Queer Women’s Spaces

Eulogy for the Living: On Losing AfterEllen and Queer Women’s Spaces

Over the last 10 years, I’ve published a lot of very personal things on AfterEllen. I’ve written things people didn’t agree with. I’ve written reviews of work created by peers that they didn’t necessarily love. I’ve written about being married and then not. I’ve published interviews that were painful to get through and worse to relive during the transcribing and writing process. But nothing has been as difficult as what I’ve had to write today.

After 14 years, AfterEllen as we know it will be effectively shutting down as of Friday.

Here are the facts:

Evolve Media purchased AfterEllen from Viacom two years ago. They gave us two fiscal years to become their LGBT property and profit in that space, and they found we are not as profitable as moms and fashion. And, yes, “they” are mainly white heterosexual men, which is important to note because not only is this the story for us, but for a lot of other properties — large-scale media outlets, lesbian bars outpriced by neighborhoods they helped establish, housing in queer meccas like Portland that is being turned into condos and AirBNBs.

At the very same time, queer women and culture are being celebrated on the Emmys, in the legalization of both mothers being included on their newborn’s birth certificate, and our namesake, Ellen DeGeneres, being one of the most well-known, well-liked, and undeniably profitable television and lifestyle personalities of our generation.

Somewhere there’s a disconnect. AfterEllen is just one of the homes lesbian, bisexual, and queer women will have lost in the last decade. It was a refuge, a community, a virtual church for so many. I’m not sure that some people outside of us can really ever understand that.

Evolve has decided to keep the site and its archives alive for now, with a promise of periodically publishing freelance pieces in the future. I am not sure what that will look like, as Friday is also my last day, after 10 years of contributing writing and eventually coming on to work full-time as a blog editor, then managing editor, and, for the last two years, as editor in chief. I feel so grateful and so, so lucky to have been a representative for lesbian and bi women for a decade. I often joke that I’m the one asking “the lesbian questions” in a room full of journalists or reporters or critics who aren’t looking for the answers that I am, that we as a community deserve. And even though mainstream visibility has grown and larger publications have verticals now where they focus some of their attentions on LGBTs, AfterEllen was still the one place completely dedicated to queer women in media, entertainment, pop culture, and our depictions therein. We are frequently cited, linked to, asked for comment and utilized as a resource for those who find us to be the only place that has, for so long, been the authority on ourselves.

I’ve had such incredible mentors and colleagues at AfterEllen since the beginning. Sarah Warn, the creator of this site who saw a need and met it and inspired thousands of women to feel like they deserve property visibility and representation, and should demand it. Karman Kregloe, who worked tirelessly after Sarah left to ensure the mission of the site remained despite the changes in the media landscape and shifts of LGBT issues and acceptance in the world at large. I am indebted to them both for their establishing of somewhere that I know I’m nowhere near alone in feeling was a safe space, long before I even began contributing to the site. Working for a year with Dana Piccoli as staff editor was also a dream, and the site was made better by her contributions.

Since 2002, AfterEllen has published the work of queer luminaries and tastemakers like Kate McKinnon, Jane Lynch, Jack Halberstam, Linda Villarosa, Angela Robinson, Ariel Schrag, Nicole Georges, Lux Alptraum, Liz Feldman, and Jenni Olson. We’ve interviewed everyone from community figures to A-list stars, writers, directors, producers, actors, novelists, poets, activists, doctors, scientists, professors, creators, artists, gurus of all kinds who had something to say about lesbian culture. AfterEllen gave them the place not just to say it, but to have a conversation directly with the readers; the community.

I’m overcome with loss, but not just for me, for my community. For every single woman who has ever come up to me, tweeted us, sent us an email or a Facebook message or written a blog post about how much AfterEllen has meant to them at some point in their life, I am grieving this with you. We had so much ahead of us — more than ever before — and I’m sorry there won’t be an opportunity for us to do that work together.

I want to thank the writers for every second of themselves they’ve poured into not only the time and space it takes to write about things so inherently personal, but the passion they’ve done it with. I encourage any single one of you who have any capacity to hire them to do so. I will vouch for any of their talents while quietly mourning the fact I am no longer able to work alongside them.

To the readers: You have been faithful, challenging, enlightening, accepting, educational, entertaining, and at times forgiving. You have been the best readership an editor could dream of, and any other site would be lucky to have you.

So what now? I can only hope that Evolve will continue to keep the site alive for the AE archives as promised for as long as the internet exists. There are so many stories that only exist on our site that could never be replicated elsewhere; the hard work and voices of so many queer women. As for me, I’ve been working on a novel for the past three years I’m hoping to find a publisher for as well as non-fiction book that is very closely related to the kinds of things you’d find on AfterEllen. I’ve also started to dip my toe into television writing and will continue my advocacy for LGBTs and women, no matter where I end up next.

I will miss waking up every day to provide you with the Morning Brew and editing the work of brilliant writers who never lacked in ideas and opinions and enthusiasm. I will miss the daily discussions about topics and issues so vital to our existence. I will miss being synonymous with a site that has been so much of my free time and personal life for almost 10 years because now I’m going to find out what I am without it, and you will, too.

The last thing I will leave you with is that we need to support one another, because support from anywhere else is not guaranteed. Support queer women, women of color, trans women—give other deserving women your money, your eyeballs, your attention. Donate to their Kickstarters, visit their websites, advertise in their pages, buy their albums, go see their films in theaters, purchase their novels, frequent their businesses.

Queer women are worthy. We are worthy.

I am sorry they would not let me post this on AfterEllen and hope that everyone who needs to find this explanation will.

Yours in solidarity,

Trish Bendix

TRISH BENDIX is the former editor of AfterEllen. Trish Bendix

Source: Advocate.com
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