Kelly Ragowski’s “Personals” app embraces the queerness of personal ads

Sixteen years ago, Anji Fipps posted a personal ad on, “The Online Lesbian Community.” “Hi all,” she wrote. “This is my first time posting to the list although I have responded to a few posts. I just wanted to do alittle intro. [sic] I live in wonderful South Carolina. I am 29 but try not to act it.. lol.. I have kids and I just got out of an 8 yrs lesbian relationship. I am looking for friends to chat with, email, maybe even visit one day.. I live in a small town so meeting new people isn’t easy.”

The most recent update to Fipps’ bio states that she is 40 and in a happy relationship—but if she were still searching for love, she would have found a home at Personals, an upcoming queer dating app. Inspired by vintage personal ads, the service encourages less represented groups within the LGBTQ community like “QPOC, people with children, 40+ crowd, rural queers, people with disabilities, people with chronic illnesses, [and] asexuals worldwide” to join and find love and community.

Personals began as a spin-off of Kelly Rakowski’s Instagram-based education project, @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y, which served to promote “dyke imagery [and] lesbian herstory, from pop culture to high art.” @herstorypersonals, now simply @_personals_, is a virtual backpage of distinctly queer personal ads that echo the personal ads from the iconic lesbian magazine “On Our Backs.” A far cry from the image-based sterility of services like Tinder and Bumble, @_personals_ is unique, quirky, and distinctly queer, full of “nonbinary nature witch[es],” “aspiring Latinx daddies,” “plant obsessed brown femme[s] with soft butch haircut[s]” and the like…

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