AfterEllen (or AfterEllen.com) was founded April 15, 2002 by Sarah Warn and Lori Grant, under their corporation Erosion Media, as a culture website focusing on the portrayal of lesbian and bisexual women in the entertainment media.[a] The site publishes entertainment news, interviews, and reviews; covers lifestyle issues and topics regarding the lesbian/bi community from a feminist perspective; and the political climate as it pertains to the community.
AfterEllen was bought by cable television channel Logo in 2006, together with AfterElton. Karman Kregloe became Editor in Chief of AfterEllen in November 2009. In October 2014, online publisher Evolve Media acquired AfterEllen from Viacom Media Networks, the parent company of Logo, and Trish Bendix became Editor in Chief. Bendix was fired by Evolve Media on September 20, 2016. On December 12, 2016, Memoree Joelle became the new Editor in Chief.
Lesbian Nation, a multimedia company owned by Memoree Joelle and business partner Gaye Chapman, bought AfterEllen on March 1, 2019.
The website reports on subjects of popular culture, such as books, celebrity, fashion, film, music, and television news; publishing articles, regular columns, reviews, recaps of television shows with lesbian and bisexual characters or subtextual content, and several blogs. Weekly vlogs became a key feature, the more popular of which included "Brunch With Bridget", "Lesbian Love", and "Is This Awesome?" The site also featured popular web series, such as the Streamy Award-winning and Webby Award-nominated Anyone But Me. In March 2008, AfterEllen was named one of "the world's 50 most powerful blogs" by British newspaper The Guardian for its "irreverent look at how the lesbian community is represented in the media. At the time considered the top website for lesbian women, that same year it averaged "over 700,000 readers" per month. In June 2011, it ranked as the second most popular LGBT website with 203,924 monthly visitors, after The Advocate. According to Karman Kregloe, in 2015 AfterEllen "averaged 1.25 million readers" per month.
In 2006, AfterEllen was acquired by Logo. In 2007, in response to the popular "Maxim Hot 100" readers contest for heterosexual men, the annual "AfterEllen Hot 100 List" poll of women in "film, television, music, sports and fashion" was created. The special feature ran until 2016.
In October 2009, Sarah Warn announced that associate editor Karman Kregloe would take over as Editor in Chief.
In October 2014, AfterEllen was acquired by Evolve Media and made a part of its TotallyHer Media subsidiary. Kregloe announced that the role of Editor in Chief was to be assumed by managing editor Trish Bendix.
In November 2014, TotallyHer Media announced the launch of The Lphabet, an original AfterEllen online comedy series that would "demystify terms from the lesbian and bi community".
In September 2016, Trish Bendix announced her departure on her personal Tumblr blog and stated that AfterEllen was shutting down, with only its archive to be kept live. TotallyHer Media denied the allegation by Bendix, calling it a "false rumor", and removed Bendix from her position ahead of her scheduled departure. Emrah Kovacoglu, General Manager of TotallyHer Media, explained that a drawback was triggered by the lack of "increased audience" and "enough advertiser support to justify continuing to invest at the same levels".
Memoree Joelle became Editor in Chief of AfterEllen in December 2016. Joelle promised readers that there would be a return to the website's original intention of maintaining a "feminist perspective" and staying "true to a lesbian/bi perspective", as well as "more racial diversity and age diversity". Soon afterwards, Joelle issued a statement in which she questioned the motives behind the increase in "attack" language directed at lesbians from members of the LGBT community, and the decline in interest within it "to hear the variety of perspectives in our community". Under her editorial direction, articles and essays which are political in nature have become more frequent.
In December 2016, Joelle added her personal signature and endorsement statement to the "L is out of GBT" petition on Change.org:
I'm signing because I see the word lesbian becoming a bad word under lgbt, in a time when it's trendy to be pansexual or fluid, etc which are all newly invented terms. I don't agree with the word queer being applied to me under this acronym as it isn't accurate, and I don't agree with all of the gender politics the lgbt acronym focuses on. Further, I don't appreciate being lumped into an acronym where the only thing we have in common is being minorities, as it is more apparent that it erases lesbian identity rather than supporting/including it.
Former AfterEllen senior editor Heather Hogan criticized Joelle on Twitter for doing so, accusing Joelle of promoting a "lesbophobia" movement on AfterEllen which, according to Hogan, was a disguise for "anti-trans, anti-bi" rhetoric. Joelle denied Hogan's accusations and described her reasoning as "a FORM of activism".
In 2018, after banning use of the controversial term "TERF" on its website and social media channels, publishing articles such as "Girl Dick, the Cotton Ceiling and the Cultural War on Lesbians, Girls and Women" by Miranda Yardley, and the op-ed "How I became the most hated lesbian in Baltimore" by Julia Beck, as well as for giving publicity to vloggers who criticized trans women activism in the lesbian community. AfterEllen (although not specifically mentioned) was by implication accused of transphobia in a general declaration titled "Not in our name" signed by representatives of nine lesbian and queer publications in which "trans misogynistic content" in "so-called lesbian publications" was condemned, including "male-owned media companies" that profited "from the traffic generated by [such] controversies". The trans-related controversy received coverage on mainstream mediaLGBTQ website NBC Out. In response to NBC Out's news story, Joelle and AfterEllen colleagues described the "Not in our name" statement as "a continuation of a false narrative that's been created to perpetuate division and anxiety within the lesbian community", and denounced the backlash launched against AfterEllen for addressing issues such as "lesbians [being] called 'vagina fetishists' with 'genital preferences'";[b]
repudiating the "idea that lesbians are not allowed to have an opinion, or feel anything for that matter. That we can't have any autonomy. That we must bow to groupthink at every turn or be subjected to homophobic slurs, attacks on our jobs, doxing." It was also revealed that AfterEllen "was invited...to sign the statement as well, the day after it was released."
In March 2019, Memoree Joelle announced the acquisition of AfterEllen on March 1 by Lesbian Nation, a multimedia company owned by Joelle and business partner Gaye Chapman. With this change in ownership, articles and opinion pieces concerning controversies affecting lesbians and bisexual women increased. "AfterEllen does not use the word queer to describe lesbians" was announced in an editorial addendum to a March 2020 article.
^Statement: L is out of GBT (April 2, 2016). Change.org. p. Reasons for signing. Retrieved 11 April 2019. @ https://www.change.org/p/hrc-statement-l-is-out-of-gbt. (The URL for Change.org is blocked due to spamming and cannot be linked with a citation template.)