PERSONALS App Brings an Old School Dyke Dating Format Into a Hot New Future, Thanks Instagram

Have you heard? Your favorite queer personals account on Instagram is cha-cha-changin’! We’ve been following Kelly Rakowski’s wildly popular passion project, formerly named Herstory Personals (a spinoff from the queer history instagram h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y), since its inception, and we were excited to learn Rakowski has big new plans for the project. She’s changed the name from Herstory Personals to PERSONALS, to create a more inclusive community, and is hard at work building a text based dating app for queers that will function entirely separately from Instagram.

Though I’ll be the last to claim the mystique of the swipe left / swipe right dating apps are gone, you and I both know that our odds of

  1. finding someone you’re attracted to
  2. someone who’s attracted to you and
  3. ready to start a conversation and will maintain it past the initial what’s up,

is low. I’m assuming it’s low for the straights but I don’t talk to them so I wouldn’t know, but if it’s tough for them, then my God! How’re we even finding each other?

PERSONALS aims to be a new answer to that question. Open only to our community, the instagram was inspired by the smokin’ hot personals section of now-defunct lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs, excerpts of which were often posted on the  h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y instagram. PERSONALS brings back the text-based ads of yesteryear with a modern twist — you read the text first, and have the option to find the ad’s author on instagram if you’d like to see more.

Countless couples have already found each other on the PERSONALS Instagram, so imagine what could happen if we had a whole app to ourselves, free from Instagram’s censorship and built entirely by queers for queers.

So, we chatted with Kelly to talk about her plans for PERSONALS and their upcoming launch party.


AS: I know you’ve changed the name to be more inclusive, what lead you to the name PERSONALS?

KR: Personals seemed like the obvious solution, just omitting the herstory prefix. I wanted to keep the reference to the past which inspires the current model, newspaper personal ads.

Aside from making a donation or being a lawyer who can help with contracts, what other skills can one offer to help get this app going?

The number one task to get the app built is spreading the word. Tell your queer friends, your lovers to follow @_personals_! And once the crowdfunding campaign is live [tomorrow], donate – if you are able to – or even better, share the Kickstarter page with friends.

How will the app complement the Instagram account? Do you think this will be an example of how the queer community can bridge social media with IRL, so to speak?

With the app you will be able to access PERSONALS 24/7, write personals whenever you feel, scroll through ads sorted by location or gender expression or relationship needs. The app will use Instagram handles as usernames but you also have the choice to remain anonymous. On Instagram PERSONALS will continue to post users personals, highlighting what is going on inside the app. It’s my desire to create a queer space outside Instagram/Facebook megaplex, a place where we aren’t censored for using hashtags – Instagram has censored all location tags for Personals, eg: #personalsnyc #personalseurope – and words we like to describe ourselves – dyke, for example. Instagram will also be used to promote happenings on PERSONALS app, build community on both IG and PERSONALS.

contributed by PERSONALS

What will the app be similar to, if anything? 

In a way, the app will be most similar to texting friends since the app will be text based. The beta version or the first version of PERSONALS will be stripped down to basic functionality, you’ll write personals, organize by locations, identities, what you’re looking for. It will flow a lot like PERSONALS Instagram, scroll through endless posts, or sort for fewer using tags.

Do you know when it’ll be ready for use?

After funding is secured, the goal is to have a solid beta model by September.

I hear there’s going to be a party in NYC on June 13 to support PERSONALS as well as a the first issue of a newspaper with PERSONALS. Could we get more details about that?

Yes! Please come! On June 13th, the PERSONALS app will kickoff its crowdfunding campaign. I’ll raise money on Kickstarter to pay for the designer, developer, and additional costs along the way. None of the funds will go to me, I am working on this without pay – 100% of money will go to building this app. The party is at Honey’s in Brooklyn. Exclusive to the NYC party PERSONALS is printing a limited edition free newspaper on actual paper with actual ink with 100 LBTQIA+ NYC-area personals written exclusively for this party. JD Samson is DJ-ing, among others!

contributed by PERSONALS

There have been lots of PERSONALS stories that have made me believe that there’s good out there (thank you!). Do you have any favorite PERSONALS stories or stories that have given you hope?

Aww. Yes, the stories are so sweet. I was scrolling through the personals that will be included in the newspaper last night and I can’t help to have warm and fuzzy feelings. It sounds a bit much but I feel love for everyone who writes a personal. Everyone has something special to add, we are all so different, yet so similar. It’s like PERSONALS is sewing together a text based rainbow quilt or something. I’m in awe of people down to travel (hundreds of miles, sometimes across oceans) to meet each other. Distance does not stop a dyke/trans/queer heart! Recently someone posted pics of themselves on a weekend long first date in the New Mexico desert. Only yesterday my friend texted me to thank me for a hook up care of PERSONALS (and she’s meeting the person again this week.) Non-stop action on PERSONALS.

What do you hope will come from this exciting change?

I hope to build a queer app that brings people together in a solid way, a dating/community app that thinks about queers first and is not looks based. PERSONALS is about getting to know the person through their personality, interests, passions – seeing, and relating to their full self. There’s many different directions I see PERSONALS growing, I’d like to build a media component, advice columns, interviews, book reviews, meet ups. @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y and @_personals_ evolved organically (though work and focus) but its truly a passion to build of community full of knowledge and love.

contributed by PERSONALS

Is there anything else you want to tell PERSONALS followers?

PERSONALS encourages a wide range of people to submit – people of color, people with children, 40+crowd, rural queers, people with disabilities, with chronic illnesses, fat bodies. PERSONALS is run by one person – me. Over the past couple years I’ve spent hundreds of hours calling for submissions, formatting personals and posting, even keeping up with the DMs. I truly love doing this. I am not a tech bro but I am passionate about design, and building a product that will be successful for our community. I’ve been a designer and photo editor based in NYC for 13 years, and as a Taurus will do everything in my power to bring this app to life. Rah rah!


Are you ready for this dream to become reality? There are a lot of ways to support the project. If you’re in NYC, PERSONALS is hosting a party to kickoff their crowdfunding launch TOMORROW, June 13, and you should go! Donate to the project here.

If you’re a lawyer and want to help with contracts or have any other skills that could help the project, email them at hello@personalspersonals.us. Keep an eye out for the crowdfunding launch and sign up for the beta program here. If you aren’t already, follow _personals_ and h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y on Instagram.


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Alexis Smithers (Lex Lee) is a black nonbinary person creating on the East Coast. They've volunteered for Winter Tangerine and currently are a Web Development Student at Bloc. A 2015 Pink Door Fellow & 2016 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer, you can find more of their work on their website and listen to them scream about poetry & other interests on Twitter.

Alexis has written 15 articles for us.