Another blow to LGBT media: Lesbian blog AfterEllen will shut down on Friday

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Bil Browning

AfterEllen Editor-in-Chief Trish Bendix has announced on her personal site that the blog will be shutting down on Friday. The beloved site has been publishing for over a decade and has always been the top spot for lesbian news and entertainment.

Bendix, who won the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence in LGBT Media in 2015, said the closure is a financial decision. The award is considered one of the top honors given out by the organization.

“Here are the facts: Evolve Media purchased AfterEllen from Viacom two years ago,” Bendix wrote. “They gave us two fiscal years to become their LGBT property and profit in that space, and they found we are not as profitable as moms and fashion. And, yes, ‘they’ are mainly white heterosexual men, which is important to note because not only is this the story for us, but for a lot of other properties.”

“At the very same time, queer women and culture is being celebrated on the Emmys, in the legalization of both mothers being included on their newborn’s birth certificate, and our namesake, Ellen DeGeneres, being one of the most well-known, well-liked and undeniably profitable television and lifestyle personalities of our generation,” she continued.

“Somewhere, there’s a disconnect. AfterEllen is just one of the homes lesbian, bisexual and queer women will have lost in the last decade. It was a refuge, a community, a virtual church for so many. I’m not sure that some people outside of us can really ever understand that.”

LGBT media has been in a state of upheaval over the past few years – especially for online outlets. Many longtime bloggers have shut down or sold their sites; some have moved to other corporate-owned properties. LGBT print outlets, historically always teetering on the edge of financial insolvency, have also suffered as up-to-the-minute blogs damaged the weekly or monthly publications who couldn’t report news as quickly.

Noted bloggers Pam Spaulding (formerly of Pam’s House Blend) and Jeremy Hooper (Good As You) have mostly taken their thoughts on LGBT issues to social media. Spaulding cited health and financial reasons for closing her popular site; Hooper, who’s blog hasn’t been updated since February, adopted a baby with his husband and wanted to spend time with his family.

“Your best bet for hearing and/or interacting with my musings is to follow me on Twitter,” he wrote in October of last year. “Why? Because that’s the one creative outlet I can stealthily handle from my phone while on daddy duty with an increasingly aware toddler.”

Multi-contributor blogs like AMERICABlog and Bilerico Project also wound down recently as their founders moved onto other projects. John Aravosis, founder of AMERICABlog took a job at the United Nations, but has recently returned to the site albeit on a diminished frequency. Bilerico Project was purchased at approximately the same time as this site, LGBTQNation, and the two were merged together by the new owners, media company Q.Digital. The company also owns the popular gay lifestyle blog Queerty and travel site GayCities.

“I often joke that I’m the one asking ‘the lesbian questions’ in a room full of journalists or reporters or critics that aren’t looking for the answers that I am, that we as a community deserve,” Bendix wrote.  “And even though mainstream visibility has grown and larger publications have verticals now where they focus some of their attentions on LGBTs, AfterEllen was still the one place completely dedicated to queer women in media, entertainment, pop culture and our depictions therein. We are frequently cited, linked to, asked for comment and utilized as a resource for those who find us to be the only place that has, for so long, been the authority on ourselves.”

The expansion of many more mainstream websites into traditional LGBT reporting has had a huge influence on the loss of independent publishers. While sites like AfterEllen, Pam’s House Blend, and Bilerico were the first blogs to pursue and publish articles from lesbian and transgender authors, the allure of a large readership and potential viral recognition drove many contributors to LGBT sections of larger corporate properties like the Huffington Post‘s Queer Voices vertical or Buzzfeed‘s LGBT news division.

“We need to support one another, because support from anywhere else is not guaranteed,” Bendix wrote in the announcement. “Support queer women, women of color, trans women—give other deserving women your money, your eyeballs, your attention. Donate to their Kickstarters, visit their websites, advertise in their pages, buy their albums, go see their films in theaters, purchase their novels, frequent their businesses.”

The closure of AfterEllen will be devastating to the online lesbian community,  but thankfully Bendix’s future looks bright. She notes that she is currently working on two books and has “started to dip my toe” into television writing.

LGBT Media Pioneer Sarah Pettit blazed the way for those who followed her,” Adam Pawlus, executive director of NLGJA said in a statement to LGBTQNation. “Her legacy continues, in part, through the NLGJA Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for Excellence in LGBT Media and those honored, like Trish Bendix, whose work continues to pave the way for women in the newsroom.

“AfterEllen has been an amazing outlet for lesbians and LGBT people in general for over a decade. It will be missed by many.”

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