Gurl, I’m Queer as Fuck; or, Why Autostraddle Sucks

by Joanna Poppyfield, undergraduate student

Recently, I penned a post on STATIC entitled “Sex and Cis-tems of Oppression (NSFW) in which I opened up about my sex life, sexuality and gender identity to analyze veiled transphobia that affects the choices many people with regards to their sexual and romantic attractions. I got a lot of positive feedback, which surprised me somewhat, but I was thrilled to receive it.

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 10.47.33 AMA wonderful, amazing web editor of STATIC asked if she could contact other blogs on behalf of me to see if they would publish my piece. I agreed — I want this conversation, and other conversations about how ableism, racism, classism and other –isms can negatively influence how we experience sexual and romantic attraction, to occur in as many spaces as possible.

So she emailed a bunch of different blogs, some we never heard back from, others wanting to publish. And a few days ago, she got the following email from one of the editors at Autostraddle that made me want to vomit.

“Thanks so much for getting in touch with us! This piece is amazing — really thought provoking and definitely a topic that isn’t discussed enough. I’d love to publish something along these lines on Autostraddle, but I don’t think this particular piece is the best one for our readers, as it appears to relate exclusively to the experience of straight trans*women. If the author had discussed her experiences with the queer girl hook-up scene, it would be a perfect fit for AS. I hate to turn down this offer though! It’s such a fucking great topic and the author’s writing style is a perfect fit.”

Hold up, gurl. Did you just call me straight? (or insinuate, or however you want to put it) The last time anyone thought I was straight was never.

I intentionally did not reveal my sexual orientation in my first paper (I didn’t feel that it was very relevant or necessary in the work), but let me be more explicit now.

As far as my gender identity goes, I’m trans*, preferring to identify as a female or feminine of center organism who lived as a male. Which, if I didn’t make obvious enough in my piece, is really fucking queer. (To clarify, I would consider myself a part of the queer female community in large part because of my gender identity.)

I identify as bisexual. Yes, the word isn’t perfect, but it works for me. Here’s why- I tend to be attracted to two different types of people, those whose gender and sex/role is masculine of center, and those whose gender and sex/role are feminine of center, and the way I experience attraction towards those groups is totally different.

More importantly, I identify as queer in the way I express my sexuality and sexual and romantic attractions. By virtue of being a trans*woman, I’ve iconoclastically smashed the heteronormative dynamics of sex and relationship in my personal life. I refuse to constrain myself to the ideal of a 50s nuclear family, reserving sex for marriage and letting a masculine of center partner dictate how things go in bed.  I’ll fuck who I want, how I want, when I want, where I want, and I’ll play with myself whenever I get the urge.

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 10.47.39 AMIn other words, I’m queer as fuck. Just because the majority of my romantic and sexual interactions have happened with men (not for a lack of trying, I might add) does not negate my queerness.

So, now that we’ve established that I’m really queer (as if I needed to, and is if it wasn’t obvious from the piece already), let’s take a look at Autostraddle’s mission statement, to see if my piece falls in line with what they purport to be about.

“Autostraddle’s girl-on-girl culture is rooted in basic social values and ideals — we want women to feel good about themselves, we want equality and visibility for all marginalized groups and ultimately, we’d like to change the world.

We seek to be a fresh, energizing voice for queer women, one that takes the reader seriously and encourages intelligent discourse, one that entertains with funny, uncensored & brutally honest conversation & content and one that also provides photos of hot girls.

We endorse an “it takes a village” approach to the GBLTQ webiverse. We encourage community and support amongst women on the web and do not encourage competition between websites or other media outlets. We believe change is best accomplished when we are working together as activists, artists and thinkers.

We’re here to listen, to change and we do not ask what our users can do for us, but what we can do for our users!”

Let’s go through the check-list.

Visibility for marginalized groups: check

Fresh, energizing voice of a queer woman: check

Takes the reader seriously and encourages intelligent discourse: check (I’ve been told)

Entertains with funny, uncensored and brutally honest conversation and content: check

Provides photos of hot girls: double check

So apparently this piece, by my own calculations, has passed the ‘Mission Statement test.’ Why on earth, then, was it rejected?

It seems to me like there is a huge double standard in the queer female community that Autostraddle embodied in my rejection; that the only way you can be a queer woman is if you are a cis-gender woman who is exclusively attracted to presumably other cis-gender women.

Regardless of the fact that I am really fucking queer (albeit not obviously in turns of my sexual orientation in that piece), the fact that the majority of my sexual and romantic attractions were with men negated in the editor’s view my queerness, at least in terms of my sexuality (which it seems is the only type of queerness they care about) and was therefore unfit for a queer, female blog.

But it’s a blog for lesbians! What’s so bad about keeping it that way?

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 10.47.46 AMFirst off, Autostraddle states in its mission statement that it is a blog for, by and about queer women — not lesbians (despite the “girl-on-girl culture” references everywhere that make my blood curdle). Can we please get over the biphobia that can afflict many parts of the queer female/lesbian community? Just because I like guys too, and just because the vast majority of my sexual and romantic experiences have been with men, does not mean that I’m not also attracted to those feminine of center and that I can’t claim the label ‘queer’.

Secondly, even if it was a blog for lesbians, what is a lesbian? A cis-woman who is only attracted to cis-women? Regardless of how specific the sexual orientation group is, there will always be people who are transgender who fall into that group, whose experiences as the intersection of that sexuality and their transgender identity are totally and completely valid. Excluding or negating trans*women’s experiences just further invalidates us and our experiences like the rest of our fucking cissexist world does.

In a follow up email that the editor sent to Holly and myself to clarify her remarks, she stated, “For our trans* readers, Autostraddle is an incredibly unique place where their trans* status AND love-of-ladies is addressed and embraced, and if the first piece we ever published directly about sex with trans* women was about sex between trans* women and cis men, we’d be setting an unfortunate precedent by immediately denying trans* women the same targeted information our cisgender readers have obtained from our site” and that “Autostraddle is a “girl-on-girl culture” website and we won’t run a piece involving dating/sleeping with men unless that piece is also explicitly addressing some sort of queer/bisexual/pansexual identity.”

First off, let me repeat myself- being trans* identified is “some sort of queer/bisexual/pansexual identity.” But I get her point — she refers strictly to having a queer sexual orientation.

To some degree, I understand where she is coming from, but I don’t buy it. I understand that it’s important to have a space for girl-on-girl culture, but it doesn’t seem to me like Autostraddle fits that bill to me. What does this piece about Beyoncé and the Super Bowl have to do with “girl-on-girl” culture? Or this post about making home-made mayonnaise? Or this piece about gay male boxer Orlando Cruz?

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 10.47.53 AMAnd what is this fuckery about including a piece in a blog supposedly for “girl-on-girl” culture written by a trans*man who is on the writing staff at Autostraddle about issues surrounding trans*male sexuality and dating? According to the writer’s own profile, he is (trans*)male identified, which means he does not fit the purported “girl-on-girl”/queer female culture of Autostraddle. And yet this (transmisogynist) article of his about the struggles of trans*men dating other women was posted on the blog, when mine, written by a queer female, about roughly the same topic except inverted, was rejected.  (If you want to read a great post about the problematic nature of queer female/lesbian inclusion of trans*men but not trans*women, read this excellent post by Jos on feministing.com.)

To repeat, I think that there should be a space in which queer females can revel in “girl-on-girl” culture. That seems like an incredibly valuable thing. But Autostraddle is not that space. To pretend otherwise is delusional. Editors of Autostraddle, next time you try and reject one of my pieces on the grounds that it’s not queer enough for you or that I’m not the right type of queer, please don’t hide behind (and insult) your readers, but be honest about the transmisogyny, cissexism and biphobia that you and your blog often embody.


“Joanna Poppyfield” is really fucking queer, and don’t you ever try and paint her otherwise. She loves blue herons, black-bellied plovers and red phalaropes and sunny, long afternoons and her favorite vegetable is the Chioggia beet. 

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30 thoughts on “Gurl, I’m Queer as Fuck; or, Why Autostraddle Sucks

  1. MmmmHunty says:

    AS bends over backwards enough as it is and they’re constantly walking on eggshells for thin skinned crybabies.

  2. esqg says:

    It’s one thing for some trans people to say they aren’t comfortable under the queer umbrella, or to participate in queer communities and ask that the language be “queer and trans”. It’s quite another–read, unacceptable–for cis people to take that as an excuse to imply that people who are gender minorities somehow belong less in a queer community than those of us who are sexual minorities.

    To expand on that slightly: when trans people are not explicitly included, they may feel excluded. There are lots of times when people say “queer” in one breath, and then say something that is only about sexual orientation and does not include gender identity. That is a reason to say that “queer” is not a good enough word in itself to mean “queer and trans people”. Not a reason that cis queers should not have to be upfront about when they’re talking sexuality versus gender. (In fact since gender and sexuality are so much in interplay with each other, the expectation of consistently neat divisions into “sexual orientation” vs “gender identity” don’t make much sense to me personally, and the more conversations like this go on, the more I get the sense that too many norms are being projected on people).

    Furthermore, if one wishes to claim any ties of “queer” to a political history of queer activism, one must recognize that among the strongest, most invested leaders at the roots of queer activist movements, there have always been trans women. And their contributions have consistently been underrated and outright ignored by most cis queers, including the ones who write the histories, and the HRC. Enough said, I hope.

  3. StanfordAlum says:

    Hey Joanna, awesome article! I really enjoyed reading it and how it reminded me of my past experiences. Please keep writing, the world could use some learning from your experiences. Being a man who is OK with dating anyone, I can’t see why anyone’s genitals should matter. It is unfortunate that in the real world, this is not the case. Either way, good luck with everything!

    However, it does make me uncomfortable that you answer to people who ask about your sex life from a mechanical perspective. I know they’re curious, but it’s still out of line… I would ask any cis friends to describe their sex lives for me… But then again, that’s just me.

    And about this article, it really sucks the way AS kinda rejected your piece for questionable reasons… Please don’t let their ignorance get you down. There are plenty of sites out there, and you have other articles yet to be written that may be a better fit.

    About their X-on-X policy, yeah its close-minded but you know… Sometimes just because a magazine is about girl-guy stuff (matching your article), it doesn’t mean your article is going to be a good fit either. Think Maxim, Playboy and FHM…

    • StanfordAlum says:

      And by “would ask my cis friends”, I meant WOULDN’T. Heh.

    • JPoppyfield says:

      Thank yo for the encouragement and positive words. About my response to their question, my cis/trans friends and I talk about sex, abstractly and mechanicallyy, all the time. I’m of the opinion that we should be comfortable talk about sex, and even though his question was insensitive (probably should have prefaced my answer with that) I feel totally justified answer as I did.

    • Rose (@composerose) says:

      Rejecting a piece that’s all about dating men on a site that’s about women dating women doesn’t mean “ignorance” about what “queer” means. It means the site deals with a specific type of “queer.” Autostraddle also doesn’t publish pieces by gay men, that doesn’t mean they don’t think gay men can be “queer.”

      • Rose (@composerose) says:

        And to clarify, I hope that I didn’t suggest that a trans* woman who dates men is the same as a gay man. I know that! I’m just giving them as another example of someone who is queer who doesn’t necessarily get their stuff published on Autostraddle because of that, and it’s in no way an invalidation of their queer identity.

        To put things more specifically: I’m a bisexual woman, and I write for Autostraddle. I’m well-aware of the fact that if I did a piece that was all about my experiences with men, that it wouldn’t be appropriate for the site and they wouldn’t publish it. Because it’s a site about WOMEN DATING WOMEN. So even though I date women, if I only addressed my experiences dating men, as your piece apparently did, it wouldn’t be appropriate. But that wouldn’t be because they didn’t respect my bisexuality – if I wrote a piece about dating both men AND women, and differences between them, or whatever, they would publish it. Just as they recently published a cross-post by a bisexual blogger about her experiences with both genders.

        Respecting someone’s queer identity doesn’t mean that they have to post every single thing a queer person writes because they’re a “queer” site.

      • JPoppyfield says:

        They said they are a site for queer females. For me, my trans*ness allows me to identify as a queer female, thus my experiences are applicable for their blog. If they’re are a site for sexually queer women, that’s fine, like I said, and I’d never even try and post that piece in the first place. But if they’re a blog for queer women, that would include me, and for them to say that doesn’t, that I’m not queer because of my trans*ness, is hurtful.

      • Rose (@composerose) says:

        Did you read my comment carefully at all? As a bi woman, I am also a “queer female.” And I just explained that if I wrote an essay about my dating experiences with men without mentioning ones with women, that would not be appropriate for Autostraddle. The point is, just because you are a queer woman doesn’t mean everything you write is appropriate for a “queer woman” site. (Especially when you’re working with a different definition of “queer” than Autostraddle is, a definition we came to when criticized for using your definition by other trans* people in the past. What makes your ideas about what “queer” means more legitimate than anyone else in the trans* community?)

      • JPoppyfield says:

        Rose, I actually didn’t get a chance to read your second comment where you clarify your remarks because it hadn’t been published by the time I had written and submitted my remarks. Here are my thoughts:

        1. I’m not saying that being trans* means you’re automatically queer, in the same way being bi or a lesbian or pan or whatever makes your queer. Queer is an elective identity. But for me, my queerness is by and large derived from my trans*ness, and Autostraddle CANNOT negate that experience of mine. So if Autostraddle is a queer female blog, as a queer female, either “by right,” or by elective identity, I qualify for that blog.

        2. I’ve never understood that line of logic. Some queer women date men. It is a valid and important part of many people’s identities and their interactions with queer culture. If this is a blog for queer women about queer women by queer women, why would ignore that huge aspect of many queer women’s lives? That would only happen if Autostraddle was a blog for girl-on-girl culture only, which is not the same thing as a blog for queer women. So which is it? Like I said, many, many times, if Autostraddle is a blog for girl-on-girl culture and action ONLY then my piece wouldn’t belong on the site. But if Autostraddle is a blog for queer women, which it says on the website many times, than as someone who identifies as a queer female, my experiences as a trans* women with regards to men are totally valid for your blog.

        3. What makes their experiences and opinions so much more important than mine and my friends? I’m not saying that everyone who is trans MUST identify as queer. And I would never try to define someone’s identity for them, which I realize it comes across like I do in my essay (like I said, I’ve never met anyone before writing who’s trans who’s ever expressed that opinion) but the reality is that for me, my transness creates my queerness. And i don’t care what your readers say or what definitions you operate under- you cannot deny my queerness. And posting a piece by a transwoman who makes it clear that I identify as queer because I’m trans will not negate anyone else’s queer/nonqueer id.

        If y’all had told me from the beginning that that was the definition of queer y’all worked under, I would not be so upset. But this entire time y’all have negated my queer identification, which is why I get so angry and combative. Autostraddle, Riese, Laneia, y’all need to do some thinking. This reveals a huge problem at Autostraddle that y’all really need to deal with. You need to find a way to reconcile the various definitions of queerness people in the queer and trans communities have for your blog, so that you are more inclusive and validate everyone’s identification (including all the nuances, which it seems like you’re having a really hard time comprehending). Secondly, you cannot be both a blog for “queer women” and a blog for “girl-on-girl culture,” because for so many people, “queer female” does not have the same implications that you think is does.

        Also, in the same way that not all trans*people id as queer or think transness gives you the rights to id as queer, being a lesbian or bi or gay or pan or what ever does not automatically mean that you are queer id’d. There are many LGB people I know who do not identify as queer, although in the broad sense they consider LGBness to fall under queerness. My point is that queer is an elective identity, and as such, it will be hard for you to create a definite definition of the word without offending, not including or imposing unwanted identifications on people. So either be a more inclusive queer women blog (which you’ve said your were in many of your emails and on your website) or be a blog for girl-on-girl culture ONLY, and get rid of all of the references to being a queer female blog.

        I personally think Autostraddle would be a much better blog and a more inclusive blog if you were a blog for queer women. However, I completely understand if that is not your intention. But get consistent, know your shit, understand nuance and don’t invalidate people’s identities.

      • esqg says:

        @Rose: I’ve gotta ask now, would you reject a piece by a bisexual or pansexual woman writing about having different kinds of sex with men and women? I hope that’s an obvious no. But would you reject a piece by a self-identified lesbian about having sex with men, before or after coming out? Would you also reject a piece by a queer woman about dating masculine-of-center people, and the gender dynamics that might come up, whether they were women or men? There would be very good reasons, beneficial to women who have sex with women, for such pieces, even if they did not all center around that experience.

        There are benefits to women who have sex with women of reading Joanna’s last piece on this blog. Let’s be real, trans women of all orientations are part of many queer women’s communities, and when they’re not, it’s because queer cis women have implicitly or explicitly shut them out. And things like, “Often, the fear and stigma of being with someone who has an atypical body type, especially the fear and stigma about having sex with trans*women, clouds a person’s ability to allow themselves to be attracted to that person.” That REALLY applies to women who are attracted to women. Not only that, but it’s one of the best articles I’ve seen written on the subject, and AS would be lucky to have writing like Joanna’s. And no, I don’t know her at all.

        So, are you really sure everyone at AS would stick to your guns in all other cases of articles “about dating men”? I would like to see responders from AS show that commitment to self-education and inclusivity that I had come to expect of the magazine.

      • Rose (@composerose) says:

        esgq: I think I’ve made it abundantly clear in my comments here that Autostraddle would publish and, in fact, HAS published articles about women’s dating experiences with multiple genders, and that the articles that are not considered appropriate by the editors (one of which I am not – I’m just a writer) are ones that are exclusively about dating experiences with men, with nothing about dating women. I am bisexual, and I would feel uncomfortable if the site required me to reject the part of myself that is attracted to men in order to write there. But I made it very clear in my comment that that is not what is going on.

        The editors here would speak better to the rest of your comment that I can. But all of us might be inclined to respond to these in better length if there were more people here engaging with us in good faith, rather than trying to find . Because when my comment says this:

        So even though I date women, if I only addressed my experiences dating men, as your piece apparently did, it wouldn’t be appropriate. But that wouldn’t be because they didn’t respect my bisexuality – if I wrote a piece about dating both men AND women, and differences between them, or whatever, they would publish it. Just as they recently published a cross-post by a bisexual blogger about her experiences with both genders.

        I can’t see how you can ask “I’ve gotta ask now, would you reject a piece by a bisexual or pansexual woman writing about having different kinds of sex with men and women?” if you read my comment unless you’re reading it very selectively. And I’m kind of annoyed now that I have to repeat myself because people are seeing what they want to see rather than what I actually wrote.

      • esqg says:

        All right, I have re-read your comment. Part of the reason for my objection, which is that the article was not “exclusively about dating men”. It gave only brief mentions to lesbians and other female-oriented people, that is true; but it is about having a transsexual body and how sexual expectations work, and that is an important topic in queer women’s lives, one in which lesbian culture is influenced by other norms. Honestly, I am incredulous that you read Natalie Reed’s work and you don’t get that. You have not addressed Joanna’s point that Autostraddle does not advertise itself as a site about “women dating women”, the reason why that part of your argument is not credible.

        From Autostraddle’s submissions and contact page, emphasis mine

        General Submission Guidelines
        Features: We accept submissions for feature articles (1,000 – 3,000 words) on topics related to queer, feminist or “outsider” culture. We’re looking for smart, well-informed opinions expressed in a funny and conversational tone. Stories should be relevant/timely and have a specific angle that makes it an Autostraddle story rather than something that would appear elsewhere. Stay away from academic or “bloggy” style writing.
        We’re especially interested in “on-the-ground” journalistic features (stories for which the majority of information for the story is gathered far far away from your desk/laptop) as well as pieces from disabled women, trans* women, women of color and women over 35.

        The bold is for “the article seems to qualify”, the italics for “what exactly does this mean?” Does it mean what you are saying about ‘women dating women’ in contradiction to all the rest of the page? Or does it mean AS editors go with whatever they happen to want to decide is “queer enough”?

        From the about page:

        Autostraddle is an intelligent, hilarious & provocative voice and a progressively feminist online community for a new generation of kickass lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies (and their friends).

        All that is about WOMEN dating WOMEN? What am I missing here?

  4. internarmy says:

    And we’re not “hiding behind our readers” — all four of us editors are cis, so all we can do is listen to our trans* readers and do what they say. (Or, I guess, what we thought they said.) With the exception of my personal opposition to anything written from a conservative political platform, every other editorial decision we make, w/r/t what would work on AS and what wouldn’t, is a reflection of what we hear from our readers. Of course this method offers lots of room for us to make mistakes, but in the end we’re really just hoping to make queer-identified trans* women feel like they’re being heard.

    Also, re: Beyonce and Mayonaise… yeah, totally, we do write about those things. We write about lots of things that happen in the news, crafts and food, and sports. But we have different expectations/requirements for personal essays and for articles about sex than for other work. I don’t know how to respond to “I’m not buying it,” you know? But I’m really sorry that we seem to have messed up here, it wasn’t our intent and I apologize deeply.

  5. riese says:

    Hi!

    We’ve been told over and over again by our transgender readers that being trans and being “queer” are not one in the same, that queer is strictly a sexual orientation, and that the fact that the two are often conflated is a huge problem in the LGBTQ movement. We were told it was wrong to think “being trans* identified is “some sort of queer/bisexual/pansexual identity.”

    We used to conflate “queer” and “trans”, thus a transguy writing about dating women on our website, but have since been informed that we were wrong to do so, that doing so was denying his gender identity and somehow implying that his trans* status automatically makes him “queer” and not binary-identified. He doesn’t write for us anymore and we’re not taking on any new trans male writers for that reason.

    We were under the impression that including an article by a trans*woman writing strictly about heterosexual experiences without mentioning a (sexual orientation) queer identity would receive the same criticism from our transgender readers — that we were implying trans bodies are inherently queer and cis bodies are not, because we wouldn’t ever publish something by a straight woman talking just about having sex with men. If we were wrong and such a piece would be welcomed and embraced by our trans* female readers then by all means, bring it on!

    -riese

    • JPoppyfield says:

      Hi Riese,

      The claim your readers make to me is absolutely beyond foreign. As a trans* activist and as a person who has many trans* friends, I’ve NEVER heard anyone in the trans* community EVER disidentify with the word queer for that reason. Yes, sexuality and gender identity are conflated to often, and often times when I tell straight people I’m queer, they think I’m a lesbian because I have passing privilege. But, the way I see it (and this is speaking for myself), gender variant and sexually variant people have a common history- before the numerous identity terms came into play in the new millennium, we were just one big group, fighting for our right to exist, our right to be happy, and for liberation from an oppressive society. (trans* people- what is your take on this?)

      I think the problem with the trans*guy writer is not that he is trans and trans doesn’t equal queer, but that he is a trans GUY writing on a queer FEMALE blog. If Autostraddle is a queer female blog, than having a person who is male identified, regardless of his cis/trans identity, is insulting to all transpeople, because you’re working under the assumption the the gender identifier that he was born with, female, is the only one that matters, and therefore that me, a transwoman, would be excluded, because you care about the identifier given at birth, in my case, male. See my point? The problem is not whether transness=queerness, but what types of trans identities fit into the category of “queer female.” (also, he’s still listed on your website as a current writer, which gave me the impression he still wrote for you)

      As far as trans bodies and cis bodies being queer, I’m not going to make any blanket statements because the trans community is so diverse, and obviously there are some people who don’t believe trans* bodies are queer inherently, or else they wouldn’t have told you. I think the biggest thing is that as much as I would like to think queer stands for LGBTQPAIP etc, queer is, like all of those other terms, an elective identity. I CHOOSE to identify as queer for all of the reasons I explained in this article. And when you guys were denying my queerness in your emails, to be incredibly honest, I was hurt. It felt really shitty. I identify as a queer female. There may be other trans*women who are straight who do not identify as queer for whatever valid reason they have. But their identification does not invalidate my identification as queer (which I made very obvious to you).

      If you would like to publish my post now that you understand that my identity as queer is valid, be my guest. Hopefully, you can learn from this experience and treat other trans queer female identified writers with more respect in the future.

      Best,

      Joanna

      • internarmy says:

        Hm, a lot to think about / respond to, but I wanted to address this first:

        “you’re working under the assumption the the gender identifier that he was born with, female, is the only one that matters, and therefore that me, a transwoman, would be excluded, because you care about the identifier given at birth, in my case, male. ”

        Hm, well, no. We don’t think that. I don’t think that and I’ve never thought that. Firstly, we do have trans* female writers and two trans* women on our A-Camp team, and hope to acquire more transwomen as writers this year (we have an upcoming initiative to make that happen) because our main trans* writer, Annika, is leaving the internet. But Sebastian hasn’t written for us for over a year. We made a lot of mistakes back then, a lot of mistakes.

        I feel like assumptions about our motivations when publishing various trans* writers is the source of a lot of the conflict and hostility — and I totally understand why these assumptions are made, as historically that’s an accurate representation of why/how lesbians have excluded trans* women from their spaces, but that’s not where we were coming from.

        We don’t think Sebastian has a shared femaleness with us, or that all that matters is his gender assigned at birth! There were a lot of queer women in relationships with transguys who had asked us for a transguy writer, and it seemed like transguys were a big part of the queer female community (I realize now that’s an oxymoron/invalid), so we found one. We weren’t picking a trans guy INSTEAD of a trans girl, we were just ignorant, and I feel like that preference is inherent in the trans misogyny argument. After his first post I spent a lot of time attempting to educate myself on these issues to avoid making those mistakes again, and part of that was finding Annika, and also all of us making a more clearly-defined policy w/r/t sexual orientation of our writers.

      • HI Joanna, I’ve read both your pieces and I can say that, as a woman who’s trans myself (and at this point in time, really only has sexual intimacy with men), I’ve had many of the same feelings. As someone who’s been post-op a good number of years, I can honestly report that, surgery or no, you will likely get the same reactions (just from a slightly different groups of guys). It’s really not the penis, but the bodily/social gender history that freaks guys out. While I’ve encountered a few men who prefer to be with post-ops, it’s likely that more men potentially attracted to trans women would rather they be pre-op. For myself, I got bottom surgery because of me, my emotional needs and not because of them. So… meh, it’s their problem even if it makes my romantic life more complex (and sometimes barron).

        As to Autostraddle, I’ve posted responses to many of their trans-related pieces for the past 3 or so years. I was probably one of the persons who harangued them into hiring trans women to write for them (which they did… and they were both queer ID’d as well). FYI, I am NOT queer ID’d, even if I know there are many persons who, by my history and altered body would consider me so. But I don’t care how society views me, nor people in the queer community, nor straight guys… my concern is entirely with myself and who I understand myself to be. To be fair to them, I’ve protested a number of times when they’ve ID’d their readership as gay or queer and assumed that entirely covered trans persons. It doesn’t. While I admit, at this point in my life I’m not really into “girl-on-girl” action myself, I feel I have a right to comment and give food for thought on trans-involving threads. (and no, I don’t bother with the threads about Beyonce, which are on Autostraddle for their own girly salacious needs). I’m not the only trans woman (or other persons on the trans spectrum) on there who has complained about queer being used as a shorthand for including the trans community, there have been quite a few. I could imagine that had something to do with their concern about your piece?

        I know a lot of trans women of a wide variety of ages who don’t consider themselves queer nor do they consider being trans some kind of subset under the ‘queer umbrella.’ Some of that might be generational, but certainly not all, because I know a number of trans women in their 20s who think that way too. It has far more to do with how one relates to the concept of being trans, and even to being a woman and one’s body. I know many trans women of color who don’t like the word queer not one little bit. And I also know trans women who do consider themselves that way. Just being honest (and not judgmental I hope) if I read your first piece and never knew your reaction to the rejection from Autostraddle, I wouldn’t have any idea from it that ID’ing as queer is important to you.

        Autostraddle is far from perfect, but I also think they have made very sincere efforts to be more trans welcoming (that go way beyond having a trans guy do trans 101). They’ve supported me on some threads when I’ve made some comments which went against the “ra-ra we’re queer cis women… isn’t that great and cool.” All I can say is, I get that feeling rejected sucks, but just because your first piece wasn’t a good fit (about which I kind of agree with them) maybe there are other topics about trans/queer sexuality which would be a good fit? Maybe you’re past all that now, I don’t know. Please do value your identity, writing and experience, but don’t expect that everyone is just waiting to reject you, you’ll miss a lot of ultimately valuable opportunities that way.

      • JPoppyfield says:

        @internarmy

        Regardless of your motives, this is the impression I, an occasional reader, got from browsing your blog and being rejected by Laneia TWICE because she/y’all didn’t validate the fact that I, a queer trans female identified person, had an identity that was acceptable for your blog. You need to think about how us readers will perceive your actions. I could care less about how many staffer you have- if you tell me that me being trans female identified is not good enough for a queer blog and yet find listed under your writers a trans*guy and an article about essentially the same topic I wrote about, except by someone who is not female identified, what I’m going to take away from that is that you don’t recognize my femaleness because I was assigned a male gender/sex at birth. So even if you recognize our shared femaleness and his maleness, or have trans female staffers, or what not and so forth, your actions did not/do not make that clear, and even seem like you believe/d the opposite. And as my dad always told me, actions speak much louder than words.

        I think the biggest problem though is that we have very different definitions of what the word ‘queer’ means. For me, and for everyone trans* I’ve met and talked to (Regina excepted), they have considered being trans as being queer in the broad sense of the terms. For me, it was incredibly obvious that I was a queer identified person, because I’ve always assumed (as with everyone else I knew who was trans) that being trans was included in being queer. I understand that Autostraddle understands this very different, and rightly so- many trans* people I’ve learned today don’t with the trans in the broad sense to be included in the word queer. But that’s not the case with me. And when I made that obvious to Laneia, and she still told me my piece had no business being on Autostraddle, I became hurt, because she was invalidating my queer identity in what seemed to me a very arbitrary manner.

        Regina, thank you for enlightening me with your perspective. I’m glad I’ve grown from writing this. I actually was incredibly hesitant to post this- only with the encouragement of close friends did I right this and allow Static to post it. I originally thought that my piece shouldn’t be on Autostraddle, too, because it’s not obviously about girl-on-girl culture, but when it became more obvious that it was more a queer female culture site, not a girl-on-girl culture site, especially in Laneia’s second email when she stated that I had to be obviously queer/bisexual/pansexual identified to be published (which I thought I absolutely was), then I became angry and hurt at their rejection because it seemed to me like this piece would fit in perfectly with what Autostraddle is about. I try not to go through life expecting rejection, at least with regards to this. You’re absolutely right- when you do, you miss out on great opportunities, and just in general are much less happy!

      • Adele says:

        Joanna, I believe the emails you quote never deny your queer/female/trans* identity, they comment on how the experience you speak about on the original piece would read as a straight trans* woman because it does not include references or allusions to your queer identity or any relationships with anyone else apart from men within it. They didn’t reject you as a writer, they didn’t reject you because of your identity, they pushed back on that particular piece because its content didn’t fit. They literally said “If the author had discussed her experiences with the queer girl hook-up scene, it would be a perfect fit for AS.”

        It seems to me, through those emails, that your piece wasn’t rejected because of you, but because that particular piece spoke only about your experiences with men without any overlap or discussion of the experiences you have had as a queer woman trying to date/have sex with other women. While you can question/criticize Autostraddle for the errors they’ve made dealing with trans* issues, I think that does not apply to the reasons why they didn’t use that particular piece about the challenges of having sex with men as a trans* woman.

        They didn’t reject you or your identity. They rejected a piece that only spoke about sexual relationships with men without allusions to an interest in or relationships with women.

      • JPoppyfield says:

        Adele, I realize that that is why they rejected my article- that my piece only spoke to my interactions with men and made no overt references to my bisexuality and non-existent experiences with females. But like I said in the above essay, being trans* for me and all of my friends who are trans* is something we consider a part- a very large part for me- of our queer identity. And those references to me not being queer (as a queer girl, any hook up scene I participate in, in my view is going to be queered as a result of my participation/when Laneia told me I had to be queer/bi/pan id’d to be published, which to me seemed like i obviously was/etc) were invalidating my identification as queer as a trans*woman.

        Again, if Autostraddle is a blog for queer women, from my perspective, that would include trans* women regardless of their sexual orientation, because (at least at the time) I considered being trans to be queer inherently. So the perspective of a trans* woman (read: queer woman) and her interactions with men w/r/t sex would fit perfectly for the blog. If, however, Autostraddle is a blog for sexually queer women, then my post would definitely not be a goof fit, and I wouldn’t care if they rejected my piece on those grounds. But to me, queer can include being trans*, at least in the broad sense of the terms, (maybe that’s a less popular opinion that I had thought, but to me, my queerness largely comes from my transness, which isn’t to deny others the fact that their transness does not warrant id’ing as queer, just to speak to my experiences alone) and as AS says that it’s a queer female blog, my piece seems to me and many others like it met all the requirements to be accepted.

      • internarmy says:

        Btw, internarmy is me, riese, I guess the name attached to my email address in wordpress.com is “internarmy” because of some training blog we set up in 2009 or something. Beyond that I would likely just echo the points made by Rose, Regina and Adele.

    • JoLi says:

      Riese, Autostraddle’s for queer women, correct?
      It’s really transphobic to have a trans man write on your blog, because you’re calling them a queer woman in order for them to qualify and denying their gender identity as a man.
      That has nothing to do with rejecting a trans woman’s piece because it doesn’t have a gay relationship in it.

      • internarmy says:

        As I said (and explained in depth) upthread a few times, we fully realize now that publishing sebastian’s stuff was a mistake and against our mission. we no longer have any trans male writers now, haven’t for over a year, and don’t plan to hire any. but we have been publishing work by trans* women. We listen to feedback and respond to it, and that was a big learning experience. He’s a great writer, of course, but we have evolved since then.

      • internarmy says:

        or, rather, “mistake” is kinda a severe way to say what i mean to say, which is basically that we’ve changed/refined our editorial direction since then, entirely in response to feedback from trans* women readers and, consequentially, our own self-education. it’s a decision we made about 1.5 years ago and have been consistent with since. we were making decisions guided by ignorance, and we can admit that now. (publishing the post about dating women as a trans guy was just a mistake though, i think all-around, for everybody involved, for many of the reasons that have been mentioned here. we fucked up.)

      • internarmy says:

        shit sorry that sent before i was done. i just wanted to add that we don’t respond to submissions that we’re rejecting, ever. we only write people back if we like their stuff and would like to see revisions of the submission or, barring that, more work from that person on other topics. we wanted to read more of your stuff, joanna, or a revision. that’s why we we wrote you back in the first place.

      • JoLi says:

        @internarmy

        1) You don’t get to tell people they aren’t queer for being trans.
        2) I’m not Joana

  6. I would definitely call myself a member of the “Autostraddle bandwagon,” and I think that piece highlights a real problem with Autostraddle and in the queer community. Transmisogyny/biphobia/cissexism often pop up in the comment section of AS, and this piece could’ve been used to combat transphobia. (See comment section here: http://www.autostraddle.com/how-do-you-know-if-youre-on-a-date-with-a-lesbian-or-if-youre-just-two-pretty-girls-hanging-out-155880/)

    Bravo to the author for calling bullshit.

    • Rose (@composerose) says:

      If you think AS has a higher-than-normal number of biphobic and transphobic commenters compared to other lesbian-oriented sites, I would think you must not spend a lot of time on other sites. What I see in these AS threads are one or two biphobic/transphobic assholes who are usually not regular commenters, drowned out by many, many more supportive commenters, many of whom are regulars. To give one example, that’s not been my experience on the AfterEllen forums (a fact I don’t hold against AE writers – they are not their readers).

      It’s pretty much impossible to run a queer-lady site and not encounter at least some hatemongers. For one, people who hold those hateful attitudes seem to believe that inclusive sites shouldn’t exist. Secondly, as Natalie Reed pointed out in a post about getting trolled by radfems, the bigots know that they’re slowly losing and a bigot in her/his death throes is the angriest kind. We HAVE banned some persistent assholes, but we can’t anticipate everyone.

    • Anonymous says:

      I definitely noticed comments bashing penises in general, you know, how would that make Transgender (queer or otherwise) individuals feel? the answer, not good at all.

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