On Monday, I posted a brief note explaining that I’m stepping down from my Editor in Chief role after today, and that Karman Kregloe will be taking over as AfterEllen.com’s new Editor in Chief.
The over 300 sincere and thoughtful comments you all have left on the announcement since then have rendered me nearly speechless (no easy feat!). Although I can’t respond to all of them individually, I have read every single one, and it makes me really happy to know how much the site has meant to so many of you.
When you run a large website, it’s easy to get worn down by the negativity that’s the inevitable result of anonymity and a diverse readership. AfterEllen.com’s community is actually far more civil than most online communities of this size, but even so, the increase in comments on the site over the last few years that contain or express unnecessarily inflammatory statements, personal attacks, unrealistic expectations, and a sense of entitlement have definitely contributed to my burn-out.
So I was surprised and heartened to read so many supportive comments this week, both about my decision to leave, and about Karman’s new role. It’s great to leave on such a positive note, and it gives me hope that you’ll help Karman, Trish and Harpy keep the tone of the discussion on the site respectful, even during disagreements. Thank you for that.
For my final BLWE, I thought I would mention a few of the articles I’ve written over the last 7+ years that have meant something to me, and explain why. I hope you enjoy (or at least don’t mind indulging) my trip down memory lane.
The Right Time: Lesbianism in Middle-Class Black Movies (June 2, 2002)
This was one of the first in-depth articles I wrote for AfterEllen.com, back when I was only publishing new content on the site a few times a month. At the time, I chose this topic because it wasn’t one I had seen covered anywhere else yet, and because it gave me an excuse to write about Love and Basketball, which you all probably know by now is one of my favorite movies (Sanaa Lathan and women’s basketball in the same movie? What’s not to love?). Largely because of it’s subject matter, the article was reprinted online, in magazines and in a book.
But articles like these take a lot of research, and as I began publishing content on AferEllen.com daily, and the work required to run the site grew significantly, I no longer had time to write these kinds of articles. At least I have this one (and a few others) as reminders of what’s possible when you have sufficient time, energy, and passion.
This was the second piece I wrote about The L Word (the first one was a report on Showtime’s plans to make the series). This was back when the series still called Earthlings, Pam Grier‘s character was going to be a lesbian with The Chart tattooed on her back, and Scott Bairstow was playing Tim (before he was convicted of sexual assault against a minor and replaced by Eric Mabius).
It’s not a particularly in-depth piece, but I enjoy re-reading it to wonder what might have been, and for the comedic value of seeing how I unintentionally foreshadowed what was to come when I wrote that Ilene Chaiken needed to "give viewers a little more credit — we don’t need to be hit over the head with a corny, cliched prop every week to get the message."
How Buffy Changed the World of Lesbians on TV (June 6, 2003)
It was difficult to encapsulate and examine the impact of the entire Buffy series on lesbian visibility in a single article, particularly given how much of it was ground-breaking and controversial, but it was fun to try!
Even more fun? Putting together the photo collages.
TV’s Lesbian Baby Boom (Jan. 3, 2003)
This was not a fun article to write because it was about such an annoying trend, but it turned out to be an article I would refer to over and over again in the following years. Six years later, the lesbian motherhood storyline is still being used by network television to desexualize and normalize lesbian couples for heterosexual viewers.
It’s probably good that I didn’t know then how right I was when I called it "the trend that wouldn’t die."
Lesbian Friends: Legacy of a Sitcom (May 1, 2004)
I’m a big fan of the long-running NBC sitcom, and this gave me an excuse to re-watch some of the episodes and call it "work." But I also enjoyed writing this analysis because Friends is a time capsule of sorts reflecting the evolution of attitudes towards female homosexuality between 1994 and 2004 — a "barometer of America’s mixed feelings about women who sleep with other women."
You can literally see American society’s slow, two-steps-forward, one-step-back march towards acceptance of homosexuality over the decade in the way lesbians and lesbian storylines are portrayed on this sitcom. No self-respecting Professional Lesbian could let all that data go unmined!
It’s often difficult to recognize a tipping point — the moment(s) when a a previously rare phenomenon becomes rapidly and dramatically more common — until well after it’s happened, but when I wrote this piece exploring the relatively new concept of being publicly out without ever actually saying the words "I’m gay" (or bisexual), I felt like I was writing about a tipping point as it was happening — and one that was leading to positive changes in lesbian/bi visibility. Either event alone would be cause for celebration, but combined, this was a Professional Lesbian’s dream.
The fact that this phenomenon is clearly here to stay a year after I wrote this column makes it even better.
Celebrating Lesbian Marriage (Nov. 10, 2008)
When I wrote this piece shortly after Prop 8 passed in California, it was my way of fighting back against the invalidation of our relationships. It was just an article, not a protest march or legislative victory, but the best and only tool available to a writer to channel her frustrations into something useful is her pen (or in my case, a special concave ergonomic keyboard that looks like something from a Star Trek set).
Besides helping me feel less helpless, profiling these couples was an opportunity to highlight some wonderful women, and remind us what we’re fighting for.
Visibility Matters: Entertaining the Future (Oct. 26, 2009)
I’m including my last article as Editor in Chief because it’s about the progress we’ve made over the years (a nice change from all the articles I’ve had to write about the setbacks we’ve suffered), and because it’s about the large role the internet is playing in the evolution of lesbian/bi women in entertainment.
Although writers and editors on sites like AfterEllen.com can effect positive change by shining a spotlight on the queer women and content that deserves more attention, you can contribute just as much, if not more, by creating online content — web series, video blogs, written blog posts, downloadable music, even tweets — that promotes, includes, or represents lesbian and bisexual women in a positive (or at least not stereotypical) way.
So don’t let me down — keep on creating, or get out there and start!
One last request before I go: Be nice to Karman and Trish, or I’ll devote all my future Visibility Matters columns to depressing lesbian entertainment trends. Or The Real L World: Los Angeles. But I repeat myself.
— by Sarah Warn