But that increased online visibility, along with greater societal acceptance in some parts of the country (not to mention gentrification, which prices out both queer people and queer businesses) have all contributed to the decline of LGBT-specific spaces — witness, for example, the disappearance of lesbian bars from every major city.
Therein lies the problem: Finding a queer date or even a relationship might be less complicated now than it was in the days of On Our Backs, but in the age of dating apps, the search for love and sex has been downgraded from a bar-going, club-hopping, social-energy-requiring activity to a mostly solitary pursuit.
“I was fascinated by how people wrote about themselves and what they desired in such a direct way,” she says.
“And then I was like, ‘We have to start doing this today.’”She put out a call for @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y followers to write their own ads; soon, she was overwhelmed.
But it wasn’t all photos of whip-wielding dykes and handcuffed femmes; it also published groundbreaking stories about queer life and culture, including some of the first reporting on the AIDS epidemic within the lesbian community.
Def gonna check out Nightcrush next time I’m up there.” From that point on, Dot waged a low-key but persistent wooing campaign, responding to Lula’s Instagram stories, liking her photos, and sending her pictures of flowers and sunsets.
In an era when being openly queer was dangerous, even illegal, the On Our Backs personals provided a safe, anonymous space for women to express their desires — the weirder, the better.
Some of the ads were blatantly horny (“Wanted: Frenetic Mons Grinder …
“It was the first time in my life that I was ever courted,” says Lula. Lula and Dot aren’t the only happily-ever-afters who met through @herstorypersonals: A little more than a year into its existence, the Instagram throwback to the days of lonely hearts ads has successfully matched dozens, if not hundreds, in romantic relationships, and connected countless others in various forms of simpatico queerness — from long-distance pen pals to mutual photo-likers to real-life friends and hookups.
The whole thing began as a lesson in lesbian history for Kelly Rakowski, 38, a photo editor at Metropolis.
In 2014, she started the Instagram account @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y, a hit reel of iconic queer imagery featuring portraits of Audre Lorde, candids from early Pride marches, and probably every photo in existence of Jodie Foster as a baby gay.