I am one of the many individuals who used the site AfterEllen as an explorative sexual playground. AfterEllen was one of the only sites of its kind, a voice to a community that, during high school, I was just beginning to learn that I was a part of. When I first began to explore my sexuality, I gravitated towards television shows that featured queer women, because I related to the struggles and triumphs of LGBT women exploring their sexuality. I felt that I finally had an outlet for what I had been experiencing internally for years, and shows like The L Word, Skins, and even Pretty Little Liars (although I had read the book series long before it came to the silver screen) were monumental during my teen years. Growing up as a queer-identifying female can be extremely challenging in a heteronormative culture, however, AfterEllen proved that there was a place for people like me within the online community.
As I got more immersed in the queer blogging culture, I began to expand my interests to films, print magazines, and music that celebrated queer women. I can remember begging my parents at the age of 16 to let me attend a Tegan and Sara concert in Montreal, QC, and creating collages of the beautiful queer women that I saw within the pages of Curve magazine. But through it all, AfterEllen remained at the center of my sexual exploration and to learn that this Friday the site will be shutting down, I feel as if a part of my adolescence will go with it.
Writer Sarah Warn created AfterEllen during April of 2002 and for 14 years, it acted as the Internet hotspot for queer women in the media. The site quickly became the biggest entertainment news source for women within the LGBT community, catching attention with the annual Hot 100 poll and March Madness brackets, which featured a ranking of the hottest queer women in Hollywood. This site not only introduced its viewers to countless television shows, films and books that featured the narratives of queer women but created an online network for women to exchange experiences and ideas.
AfterEllen is by no means the first online magazine to fold due to the evolution of online writing. “Every week, it seems, news breaks of another site laying off dozens of beloved writers, as sites with big time capital — the Buzzfeeds and Vices of the world — suck up more of the market and more of the advertising money,” writes Heather Hogan of Autostraddle in an article responding to AfterEllen online farewell. Despite technically being competitors in the same niche market, both AfterEllen and Autostraddle have worked as allies in order to compete against the moneymaking machines of the online editorial world. As sites like Buzzfeed and VICE grow larger and expand into new markets, they have the power to eliminate small-scale competition. Sites such as AfterEllen and Autostraddle have had major advertisement setbacks over the last several years and have had to invest time in events and merchandise in order to stay afloat. Holding onto a niche community and providing exclusive content is no longer a financially sound option for many small-scale publications, even if they are considered the pioneers of that particular market.
AfterEllen will be leaving at a pivotal time in queer media history, at a time where more queer women than ever are represented in the media. I would like to think that the site played a larger role in facilitating the need for more representation and I believe that the creators and editors would be proud to see how much progress queer women in entertainment have made. Yet the fight for representation is one that is far from over and it saddens me to see a site like AfterEllen go offline when there is still so far to go.
Queer women are not done fighting for visibility and despite the ways in which the media has adapted to include more diversity, there are still a lot of issues in the way that queer women are portrayed. One thing that comes to mind is the lack of queer women portrayed on reality television.
Sure, queer women have been a part of numerous ensemble casts, however, there aren’t any reality shows currently on air that exclusively centralizes around queer women. We had The Real L Word from 2010 to 2012, however, queer men have countless programs such as RuPaul’s Drag Race, Finding Prince Charming, and Queer Eye. We know that we will always have Ellen DeGeneres (the namesake of AfterEllen) but Ellen is only one person and there are countless other queer perspectives that have yet to be featured on screen. Therefore, while we are sad to see AfterEllen cease to produce content, the real tragedy falls in the fact that queer women will continue to fight for visibility in the media and AfterEllen won’t be there to report our accomplishments as a collective community.
Photos Courtesy of AfterEllen and Showtime
More from BUST