As we come to the end of a week celebrating our 10th anniversary, it was only fitting this week’s Huddle was dedicated to where we all were when AfterEllen.com made its debut on the world wide web. What’s most apparent is we were all influenced by some form of pop culture.
Karman Kregloe: Back in 2002, I had a crappy commute to an unfulfilling job as a writer for a company that conducted fundraising campaigns for non-profit organizations. If an annoying telemarketing call asking you to give money to a museum, opera house or liberal political organization interrupted your viewing of Alias, there’s a chance that I wrote the script from which the pleasant (yet slightly desperate) caller was reading. I had been out of college for a few years, having obtained my M. A. in American Studies, with an emphasis on lesbian representation in pop culture. Upon graduation, my father had snorted, “You’ll never find a job with that degree.”
I don’t think I discovered AfterEllen.com until around 2004, while surfing the internet and avoiding doing my research on which acclaimed tenor would personally sign your tote bag if you forked over some cash for the Annual Fund. I was immediately hooked and told everyone I knew about the site, nagging them until the visited it and reported back to me. One of those friends met AE founder Sarah Warn at Sundance that year and decided that, if we ever met, Sarah and I would have a lot
of useless lesbian pop culture trivia to talk about. And she was right! Sarah and I eventually “met” over the phone and she hired me to help with uploading duties. (Back in the olden days, we published five posts per week. The workload was monstrous.) She gave me a crash course in HTML coding and my first writing assignment, a profile piece on then Sugarland member Kristen Hall. I haven’t looked back since!
Mia Jones: Gosh, 10 years ago I was a different person. Hell, I was big enough to be two different people. I had been out of college for a year, was trying to put my life together after my Dad passed away and was in a relationship with a woman who I am not with now, but who took really great care of me.
If I’m not mistaken, this was also right around the time I met Trish Bendix for the first time. I was looking to start writing for magazines and after meeting some ladies at a DIY trunk show who had just started a publication called Pistil, I began my career as a freelancer and later that year had the opportunity to start writing for Venus magazine.
The first time I can recall visiting AfterEllen.com, it was around 2003 or 2004. I was at my day job and had gotten to the homepage from doing a Google search for some famous person’s gay daughter. I can’t remember who it was, but I remember the woman she was dating was stunning! The site itself was completely different than it is now. I remember thinking, “Wow! Well this certainly isn’t flashy!” but I also recall thinking, “What a fantastic idea! I wonder what Ellen thinks about this!”
Dorothy Snarker: Ten years ago I was futzing around the internet looking for information on my two favorite things: pop culture and gay women. So, you know, the more things change the more they stay the same. When I happened across a site different than all the GeoCities homepages floating around with picture galleries of Ellen and Melissa. No, this site had news and analysis and a mission. And I thought, hell yeah, I like this site.
So I stayed. I started as a reader, then as a lurker, then as an commenter. And the site began to feel more like a community – and oasis, in fact. Then, after years of reading quietly, I sent a message to Sarah Warn herself to let her know the site had been mentioned on Stephen Colbert’s show. I was excited, because AfterEllen.com wasn’t just a website, it was our site. So I wanted to share “our” accomplishment with her. She responded back similarly excited.
And then a little while later, out of the blue, she asked if I’d like to try writing for AfterEllen.com. She’s seen my blog and read some of my comments and apparently didn’t think I was a complete idiot. So I did. I wrote my first post on Feb. 4, 2007. And I’ve been writing posts here ever since. Through the years what has kept me here and made me proud is that it continues to be “our” site. Here’s to another 10.
The Linster: Ten years ago? I’m lucky to remember 10 days ago. But according to my profile, I’ve been a member for nine years and three months — and I know I was reading before I signed up — so I’ve been around for much of the journey. In 2002, I was way out of the closet, never to go near it again (except during tornado season). In fact, I was one of the people reporters called for comments because I was willing to have my name in the paper as a lesbian. I was quoted in an article about Ellen coming out that my mother, living in another town, saw. She was not delighted (I was out to her, but she wasn’t “out” to her friends).
At the time, the main way lesbians connected about TV and pop culture topics was through Yahoo Groups. I was part of the All My Children group, TheAllGayRecap, where I met and became and eternal fan of ScribeGrrrl. I stalked, er, followed her to AfterEllen.com and eventually she agreed to let me blog. Once I got in the door, I handcuffed myself to Ms. Snarker and refused to leave.
Lucy Hallowell: Ten years ago I was out, dating my wife, and getting ready to graduate from college and move on to the weird world of law school. I honestly can’t remember how I discovered AfterEllen.com but I read it then and returned to it often, even in the days when you could go days or weeks between postings of new content.
I had watched the “Puppy Episode” on the TV in my parent’s bedroom because I was too afraid of what my parents would know if they saw how much I wanted to watch, how closely I followed every second of it. Just watching it and wanting so badly to watch it felt like an admission I wasn’t ready to make, yet. That episode, obviously, changed the world and AfterEllen.com was the place that was chronicling the change.
AfterEllen.com, even once I was out, was a place for I could fill that want, that craving, for more gay things: more gay things on my television or in my books or in my magazines. It filled that void that opened when I left my little group of gays from college and the site became a place I would return over and over every day. It was the little lesbian escape from my law school world which was devoid of other gay ladies.
In 2007, while I was working for a giant law firm, I submitted to try to be a blogger on the site. I got turned down but I still have the email from scribegrrrl telling me I made it to the finals but didn’t make the cut. It’s embarrassing, but indicative of how much the site means to me that I kept that rejection as a souvenir. That I get to write for the site now fills me with the disbelief and joy Charlie must have felt when he found that Golden Ticket awarding him entry into a place he could only imagine from the outside.
Ten years has brought me many changes, girlfriend became wife, we both became moms twice over, we’ve moved to three (about to be four) different states, but AfterEllen.com is still the place I visit every day and where I drink up the content like greedy Augustus Gloop sucked up that chocolate river.
Ali Davis: Ten years ago, I was fast approaching my one-year anniversary working as a video clerk in a store that moved a lot of adult films, and I was sinking into the terrifying thought that I might be a career video clerk. I couldn’t see my life changing in any way. I didn’t know that I would stumble into getting to read journal entries about working there on This American Life just three months later, and certainly didn’t know that by the end of the year I’d not only have health insurance again, I’d be working in a job I loved, researching, writing, and producing an online video game.
So remember that “It gets better” can apply to a bunch of other areas of your life too.
As with so many other things, I was a late bloomer when it came to AfterEllen.com; I don’t think I found the site until 2008. I was an immediate fan, though — I don’t think I had ever found a site that was so bi-friendly before, and that was a revelation.
So I stuck around.
Bridget McManus: In 2002 I was living in Harlem, New York with four boys (it was horrible), working as a bartender in Times Square and 60 pounds heavier then I am now. Damnit Trish, why did you make me think about this awful time in my life?
I didn’t discover AfterEllen.com until 2007, when AE writer Dara Nai interviewed me for an article about lesbian comedians who you don’t know but should. (Unfortunately, most people still don’t know who I am. I blame Dara.) Three months later, I met Dara and Karman (my wife-to-be) at a comedy club, where they were “scouting” me to shoot an AE vlog. They jumped me into the AE gang and the rest is history!
Courtney Gillette: In 2002, I was 19, and loved slam poetry, The Butchies and Manic Panic. I had one year of New York City under my belt and, after an adolescence in small town Pennsylvania, was thriving here. The city was like a queer wonderland: there was Eileen Myles in line at the post office! There was Meow Mix, the lesbian bar of Chasing Amy fame, where friends and I flocked every Thursday night without fail. I was the loud girl who threw the word “dyke” around liberally in my college classrooms, bought copies of On Our Backs at the feminist bookstore Bluestockings, and never missed a Le Tigre show.
While the internet had played a huge and awesome role in my coming out (thank you, Righteous Babe Records mailing list folk, whereever you are), I didn’t start reading AfterEllen.com until years later. I knew about AE, and loved that there was a lesbian pop culture website in the world, but I really didn’t get to know AE until a few years back, when Liz Feldman started her This Just Out series. Those videos killed me! Smart and hilarious, and so gay, it was the kind of queer entertainment I’d always been seeking. If you had told me ten years ago that there’d one day be prime time television featuring lesbian high school students, or a badass butch news anchor on MSNBC, or that I’d be writing for an awesome site like AfterEllen.com, I don’t think I would’ve believed any of it. My life is still a queer wonderland, it’s just gotten so much bigger. Happy birthday, AfterEllen.com!
Trish Bendix: Ten years ago I was a freshman at an art school in Chicago. I worked at a record store where I discovered Sleater-Kinney from a poster for their album One Beat and a friend introduced me to the music of a twin sister duo called Tegan and Sara. I started to develop a very intense sort of friend crush on this girl, who would kiss me during games of Truth or Dare. That’s the closest I’ll ever be to pining for a straight girl. Mostly it started me on a path of realizing I was gay, although that wouldn’t be solidified for me until the next year. After that, my life became all about lesbians and I haven’t looked back, even when old boyfriends send Facebook messages saying they hope they didn’t do anything to “make me go to the other side.” Nope, you were powerless against Carrie Brownstein, boys.
Music was a large part of my life, and I wrote reviews and conducted band interviews for local magazines and newspapers. My interests in interviewing band with queers and more female members began to outweigh interest in those comprised of five straight guys, and life just progressed in a very naturally gay kind of way, leading me to discover Curve magazine via an issue with Le Tigre on the cover.
Marcie Bianco: Ten years ago I was on the precipice of coming out — although I never had a coming out moment. I was working for Professor Marjorie Garber, an eminent Shakespeare scholar and author of books on sexuality and cross-dressing, and was in the midst of my first queer theory course with Heather Love. I knew I didn’t like guys and I knew I was attracted to women — hello, professor crush(es)! I had begun to openly flirt with other female students on campus, but my senior year of college was consumed by Shakespeare — and, for anyone who knows the Bard, they know that that’s basically screams THE GAY. So, I was just a little puppy at the time, ensconced in academia, with no knowledge of lesbian culture (or AE, for that matter), other than Ellen and Ethridge.
Grace Chu: I was collecting unemployment in a post-9-11, post-dot-com bust economy, living in a closet in Brooklyn, and applying to law school in an attempt to make adult decisions. The closet was actually a walk in closet, and I was paying $300 a month to live there. It was very Harry Potter.
Dara Nai: In 2002, I was a few years from discovering AfterEllen.com, living in a too-big house in New Jersey with my then girlfriend, and managing all the live television broadcasts for the Boston Red Sox. I hadn’t yet written jokes for money, met Jane Lynch or Kristen Stewart, or heard of The Dinah. I didn’t know much about entertainment lesbians because I suspect there weren’t that many running around saying they were lesbians. Besides, I was too busy talking to my friends the ol’ timey way — in person — because no one had invented Facebook, Twitter or texting yet. Oh, and I basically looked the same. ‘Cause Asian don’t raisin.
Where were you in 2002?