While everyone in the majority of queer world was fuming over Milo Yiannopoulos’ OUT feature, something more important was happening in gay media news: the leading online venue for queer women had closed.
The site in question is AfterEllen, an online destination for queer and same sex oriented women that has been an online mainstay for basically as long as Ellen has been out of the closet. AfterEllen boosted in notoriety in the mid-aughts thanks to an acquisition from Logo. A few years ago the site left the Viacom family and, last week, long time AfterEllen writer and editor Trish Bendix posted a eulogy for the website, noting that it was seen as not-as-profitable to “white heterosexual men, which is important to note because not only is this the story for us, but for a lot of other properties.” While the site’s (straight male) general management has refuted the claim, digging into the comments reveals the truth: the AfterEllen as canned. An era has ended.
The story has been circulating around too, as The Daily Beast dedicated time to the subject last week and The Cut offered a take this morning from Claire Landsbaum. She highlights some important things.
That’s an important distinction: “an unmistakably queer women’s space.” As queer women — and LGBT people in general — move gradually out of society’s margins, mainstream sites such as BuzzFeed, Mic, and theHuffington Post have devoted entire verticals to LGBT content. Meanwhile, queer women are covered not just on niche blogs, but in outlets like theNew York Times. “We’re leaking into the larger culture,” former Daily Dot LGBT reporter Mary Emily O’Hara said. “This is what happens when you don’t have to fight for your marginalized identity anymore.”
Ultimately, AfterEllen’s demise was about cash flow. Even though queer women tend to make more money than straight women, advertisers buy into stereotypes when it comes to marketing to them. “They tend to believe that lesbians are poor and wear L.L. Bean clothes and drive Subarus until they break down on the side of the road,” Thomas said. And although the typical company wants to appear “progressive” by marketing to LGBT buyers, they’re much more likely to advertise on sites that attract gay men.
Does this sound familiar? Queer spaces, especially for queer women, disappearing: why does that sound familiar?
Because it’s happening offline, everywhere. As I wrote for ATTN: earlier this year, gay bars—spaces for LGBTQ persons to meet and congregate and learn from each other—are vanishing for myriad reasons, potentially because the queer experience is becoming normalized or because there simply aren’t the financial resources to keep said spaces alive.
Does that sound familiar? I’ve seen this happening in Los Angeles for the past near-decade that I’ve lived here. The queer events and spaces for queer women have faded, all forward facing venues becoming closed door affairs. It’s a multi-layered tragedy. Outside of Otherwild, permanent, physical places for queer persons and queer women are fading. They need to be supported everywhere, online and off.
As another queer space closed, it’s cute for us all to look back and say, “…if only we had shared!” Stop this from happening now by making an effort. Use your money to support queer/queer female businesses in the same way you should be supporting other minority businesses and people: give them your time and resources so that they may continue. Talk to people about them. Spread the love. A few places to start online, if you’re looking: Autostraddle, Everyone Is Gay, The New Civil Rights Movement, BGD, and Pride‘s absorption of Shewired are great. To take it further, visit the LGBT subreddit and Towleroad.
It might seem hopeless when queer mainstays like AfterEllen shut down but we can change it. Online and off, too.