As legislative attacks on trans and queer people continue to escalate in the U.S., queer media is indispensable: It represents a breadth of experiences, community-building efforts and emotions outside of fear.
But recently, there’s been a community call-out for one of — if not the major — digital queer publication, Autostraddle.
When the team’s three subject editors announced their Autostraddle positions were being eliminated on May 22, the organization didn’t initially provide context.
Autostraddle readers and members expressed confusion on Twitter about the move — especially since the publication had just run two successful fundraisers in October and March, asking for support to ensure it wouldn’t shut down.
The loose ends were presumably tied up the next day: Autostraddle CEO/CFO Riese Bernard apologized and said the decision was necessary due to the financial landscape, with the cuts part of the organization downsizing.
But one of the editors whose position is being eliminated, Ro White, said in the comments that the statement left out some crucial context: They, and the other two subject editors, had met with three members of Autostraddle leadership in mid-April to discuss concerns about job security, since the fundraising language about the publication shutting down was not shared with staff. They received the news about their position being cut via Slack DM.
Earlier this week, a coalition of staff writers and freelancers alike published a statement sharing persistent concerns, calling the firing “worryingly retaliatory” and expressing worry about organizational structure, support for marginalized (particularly Black and trans) readers and staff, and more clarity about Autostraddle’s finances.
Though Autostraddle published its financial reports for members, it did so months late and with the polite request that the graphics not be shared with non-members — rather “enjoyed as a family.”
The demands by writers bring to the forefront critical questions for newsrooms and readers: What should accountability — to the readers who donate and to the staff whose positions are preserved by them — look like when funding structures rely on community donations? And how should values-driven media have those values reflected in their masthead?
As one user on Twitter put it: “… They’ve decided to specifically eliminate a Black editor, a trans editor and a fat editor. Autostraddle becomes a little more white, a little more cis, a little more thin.”
It’s not a diversity win, this month or any month, for a queer publication that explicitly values transparency in its code of ethics to muddle its word and sidestep questions about a plan for stability — evasive behavior also seen by large media ownership conglomerates.
Shelli Nicole, Vanessa Friedman, and Ro White — the three Subject Editors who were terminated — explained their individual experiences on Twitter. Their Venmos are shared in the writers’ coalition statement with permission, if you’d like to support them there.
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