Once a leading pop culture website for queer women, AfterEllen has devolved into a hotbed of anti-transgender rhetoric since editor Trish Bendix and other writers were ousted by Evolve media, which purchased the then-10-year-old site in 2014.
In the years since Bendix’s departure, under the leadership of Memoree Joelle, the site has increasingly leaned into trans-exclusionary radical feminist or TERF territory. Now, the editors of other sites for women in the queer community have banned together to denounce TERF sites like AfterEllen, according to Buzzfeed.
The editors of Diva, Curve, Autostraddle, LOTL, Tagg, and Lez Spread The Word released the following joint statement on Tuesday:
"Following further vitriolic attacks on trans people in our media, the world’s leading publications for lesbians are coming together to send an unapologetic message of support and solidarity to the trans community.
DIVA, Curve, Autostraddle, LOTL, Tagg and Lez Spread The Word believe that trans women are women and that trans people belong in our community. We do not think supporting trans women erases our lesbian identities; rather we are enriched by trans friends and lovers, parents, children, colleagues and siblings.
We strongly condemn writers and editors who seek to foster division and hate within the LGBTQI community with trans misogynistic content, and who believe “lesbian” is an identity for them alone to define. We condemn male-owned media companies who profit from the traffic generated by these controversies.
We also strongly condemn the current narrative peddled by some feminists, painting trans people as bullies and aggressors – one which reinforces transphobia and which must be challenged so that feminism can move forward.
We are really concerned about the message these so-called lesbian publications are sending to trans women and to young lesbians – including trans lesbians – and we want to make in clear this is not in our name.
As the leading publications for queer women, we believe it is our responsibility to call out scaremongering conspiracy theories levelled at the trans community, and make it clear that DIVA, Curve, Autostraddle, LOTL, Tagg and Lez Spread The Word will always be safe spaces for the trans community.
Forty years ago, to be a lesbian was to be questioned and persecuted. Today things are better for cis lesbians but there are still places where to be a lesbian is difficult or impossible.
So it is for trans men and women, as well as non-binary people, many of whom identify as lesbian, bisexual, gay or queer. We know something of these struggles. And just as they and other allies have supported us, so we must support those among us who are trans, or risk ending up on the wrong side of history.
The sooner we stop focussing on what divides us and instead focus on our commonalities, the stronger we will be to confront the other injustices imposed on us.
We won’t be divided.
Editor, DIVA magazine
Publisher, DIVA magazine
CEO and Editor-in-chief, Autostraddle
Publisher, Curve and LOTL
Eboné F. Bell
Editor-in-chief, Tagg Magazine
Founder and publisher, Lez Spread The Word
Anita Dolce Vita
Owner & Editor-in-Chief, DapperQ"
While the letter does not explicitly name AfterEllen, Diva editor Carrie Lyell confirmed the site’s staff are among those the letter addresses.
“While not exclusively directed at AfterEllen, their writers and editors are certainly among those we are referring to,” Lyell wrote in an email to The Advocate, without naming other sites the editors were criticizing.
Early in AfterEllen’s new editorial team’s tenure, the site ran an anti-trans article about “reclaiming the L.” The writer asserted:
"There’s an idea floating around on Twitter and, increasingly, in offline spaces too: that lesbian women are transphobic if we will not consider having sex that involves a penis. And that idea needs to die, because it stems from misogyny. Women have spent the last few thousand years being conditioned and coerced into having sex that involves a penis – it’s part of patriarchy, and highly disturbing to see this coercion continue underneath the rainbow flag."
An article posted earlier this month from a writer who identifies as transsexual and titled, "Girl Dick, the Cotton Ceiling and the Cultural War on Lesbians, Girls and Women,” dug deeper into TERF rhetoric:
“As comically ridiculous as it may seem of Zinnia Jones to be talking about his ‘girl dick’ or Riley Dennis suggesting it is ‘cissexist’ to be attracted to people with only one type of genital or that your dating preferences are an act of hate, or Roz Kaveney claiming that ‘trans women’s penises are not male penises’, don’t be fooled by the deep-rooted homophobia which lies at the heart of what these men are trying to do, which is to make it unacceptable for women to be able to set their own intimate and sexual boundaries.”
But it was a tweet with a video from lesbian YouTuber Arielle Scarcella that spurred massive social media backlash toward the site.
“Dear Trans Women, Stop Pushing “Girl Dick” On Lesbians,” read the headline for the video, which was also the caption for the tweet.
— AfterEllen.com (@afterellen) December 2, 2018
Nonbinary comic Rhea Butcher lambasted the site and other social media users soon followed to tweet support for trans people.
You don’t represent me or my friends and your website is a sham
— rhea butcher (@RheaButcher) December 5, 2018
— Dragon Queen (Punch Nazis) (@Jenn_Tayla) December 6, 2018
Oh, looks like it’s time to stick to only autostraddle
— Sabrina (@DGblackhole) December 4, 2018
Can you stop pushing this harmful belief that trans women are trying to force cis women to sleep with them. it’s gross that a site for lesbians would would give an outspoken transmisogynist, an even bigger platform.
—assigned dyke at birth(@Marxinco) December 6, 2018