What’s The First Gay Thing You Saw on the Internet?

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In honor of the fact that we have some truly precious perks (that you can get right here as a way to get something cute with your donation to Autostraddle) the Autostraddle team got together and recalled the very first gay things we saw within the electric void in which we do our daily work — the internet. Every one of our perks counts toward our fundraiser goal, too! It’s a win, win, win! (You, us and the people who get to be in your glorious be-perked presence.) So while we celebrate just how darn gay the internet has been since its birth, we hope you’ll help us keep it gay by supporting our fundraiser. We’re fundraising to make it through January 2022, and it’s true, Autostraddle would not still be here without the support of readers like you.

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KaeLyn Rich, Writer

The very first gay thing I saw on the internet was…uh…oh wow hmm. This is embarrassing, but I think it was the fan page for The Rocky Horror Picture Show run by Sal Piro. That was also the first queer media I intentinally consumed when I was 12. (Thanks, VH1 Movies That Rock!) It messed me up in a mostly good way that only became problematic once I was a little older and had, you know, perspective. Eesh. This prompt is making me realize that I did most of my pre-coming out work the old fashioned way, with books from the local college library, The Puppy Episode of Ellen, and staring down my own internalized biphobia silently. My first post-being out gay internet experience was definitely, definitely some various feminist and bisexual communities on Livejournal. Lucky for you, I locked down my Livejournal, but kept a screenshot of my profile page and I seem to have been actively involved in “fufeminism” and had a very long list of interests that included such embarrasing gems as: alabama slammers, anti-bras, bandanas, butches, community service, cult movies, fishnets, global thinking, hummus, literary criticism, musical soundtracks, napping, pacifism, power femme, purple roses, queer theory, sandalwood, self-depricating humor, the vagina monologues, tiger lilies, tim curry, tofu, transliberation, veganism, women’s studies, writing. I really defined my online brand and ran with a cool crowd on Livejournal.

Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor

I was the first gay thing I saw on the Internet. Let me explain: several members of my fifth grade class created a GeoCities page titled, “Ro White Is A [gay slur]”. An anonymous student sent me the page over AOL Instant Messenger. This was one of many bullying tactics I encountered that year, but it was the first time that my tormentors used that particular slur. I didn’t know what it meant, and there’s a good chance that some of my bullies didn’t know either. It was a word that kids flung at anyone who seemed too weird, too smart, too fragile or too shy. I looked it up, probably by asking Jeeves. The definition was the second gay thing I saw on the Internet.

Later that year, I created my own GeoCities page. Unsurprisingly, my website was a fan page dedicated to the Broadway musical Cats. So I guess that’s the third gay thing I saw online.

Shelli Nicole, Culture Editor

Honestly? A lesbian porn that showed one of the actresses squirting. After that I just worked my way back from there. Then I started going into the gay male chatrooms on AOL to read their conversations, which was swiftly followed by looking for clips of more lesbian porn. My go to search term was something like “girls and sex NO PEEING”, because back then I obviously didn’t understand the joy of squirting. I remember I had looked for so much lesbian porn on the family computer we started getting pop ups to sign up for sites, and I lied and told my dad it was because he was opening emails from people he didn’t know.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Managing Editor

It’s honestly hard for me to recall what the EXACT first thing was, because I’ve been extremely online for what feels like my entire life, and it turns out the internet is a pretty gay place. But I’m gonna go with the rainbow paintbrush on Neopets, which despite being rainbow is not really gay in and of itself in my mind. Rather, my DEDICATION to trying to get the rainbow paintbrush was the thing that was gay. I was ready to give my life to my pet Lupe. I would do whatever it took to get him the coveted rainbow paintbrush!!!! I was clearly destined to become a Pet Gay. Also my username was topangaisdabomb6 out of reverence for, yes, Topanga Lawrence from Boy Meets World, so my overall Neopets presence screamed closeted angst. I reeeeally encountered Gay Internet Content™ shortly after though when I joined The WB’s official message boards and compulsively read Smallville/Charmed crossover fic and also participated in Charmed RPGs as Piper.

Nico , A+ Director

I also do not fully know what was the first gay thing I saw. Likely, it was some reference to “homosexuality” on some witchcraft site / forum or other, which was what I usually haunted in the early days of the internet. None of those are especially memorable because they would have been moments in passing, mentions of gayness, usually focused on cis men. Whenever I came across anything like that, I’d just stare for a long time like that would make the very sparse reference to all of queerness mean more, but you know, it didn’t help. It just told me I was obsessed with gay stuff. I think a close second might have also been a Willow / Tara Geocities fansite. I can still picture the red, glittering rose GIFs, twinkling, crackling with queer early internet energy. Finally, I have a very distinct memory of looking up the word “lesbian” because I had a crush on a (presumed straight) friend. Maybe I asked Jeeves? I don’t remember. What I DO remember is that I found a website that defined a lesbian as “a woman who is attracted to women who are also attracted to women.” To which I was like — I don’t qualify! I like straight girls! What do you call that?!? (It was a different time!) I have never been able to find this website again, so it must have not made it, which is fine. ANYWAY I sure am glad Autostraddle is out there for the queers of today, with all our actually accurate information, guides, roundtables — you name it. I still miss an internet that had more glittering GIFs in it, though.

lnj , Director of Operations

The first gay thing I saw on the internet was me googling “katherine moennig”.

Drew Burnett Gregory, Senior Editor

I was too scared to look up porn on the family computer, because I knew that porn = viruses. But for some reason I thought googling “hot girls” and then scrolling through these very sketchy websites that had thumbnails of random softcore videos was somehow not going to give the computer viruses because it wasn’t labeled porn?? I don’t know! I was young and horny and filled with shame and terror! These videos really ranged from truly PG to slightly R. The best of them were of two women kissing and this eventually led me to being a bit braver and searching “girls kissing” on YouTube. Maybe that’s why I’m still into the lead up plot part of porn — it’s all I had in my formative years.

Himani Gupta, Contributor

Haruka + Michiru! Sailor Moon was SO formative in my life when it first started airing in the U.S., back when I was just in elementary school. My sisters and I became so obsessed with it and trafficked the fan sites regularly when our family got a computer and dial-up. For years the U.S. release was stuck on an episode in the middle of the Rini season, and we wanted so badly to know what happened next. So of course, we turned to the internet to find out: the two lesbian scouts get introduced in the very next season, and it’s a few seasons later where we get the story of the trans Starlights. Reading about the original Sailor Moon on fan sites really opened my eyes to a whole world of viewing gender and sexuality in ways that literally did not exist in any other part of my life. (I stopped watching the dub before they committed the travesty of making Haruka and Michiru “cousins.”) Sailor Moon and all the internet fandom around it also introduced me to a world of anime, some of which also experiments with and subverts gender and relationships far more than anything else I had ever seen or read. I look back on all of this now with a much more nuanced and inquisitive lens (for instance, I’m really not sure how to feel about the Starlights and the different ways their genders are portrayed in the anime and in the manga), but I know for a fact that I would not be me and I would not be here today were it not for the early internet Sailor Moon fandom.

Carmen Phillips, Editor-in-Chief

The first gay thing I saw on the internet was the frequent gay erotic poetry that my high school boyfriend wrote about his best friend, Eric (the names have been changed) on LiveJournal in the early 2000s. I asked him about it at the time, and he said it was creative license. He also painted his nails and took me to see Rocky Horror Picture Show for Valentine’s Day one year and cried the first time we saw Rent on stage. But none of that is explicitly internet related, so let’s go back to this poetry.

Anyway, we’re both gay now. So.

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

The first gay thing I saw on the internet was that clip from Set It Off with Queen Latifah and her girlfriend on the hood of that car. It was very early in the internet’s days of existing, earlier than YouTube, early like AOL and getting a second phone line ’cause it was still dial-up. I thought I was having a literal heart attack watching that ten-second clip. My heart was racing, my chest was on fire, I was short of breath. I watched the clip over, and over, and over, and then Set It Off became the first gay movie I rented at Blockbuster. I shoved the DVD onto the counter sandwiched between Varsity Blues and Toy Story 2. I don’t know where the clip came from. I don’t know what site or message board it was on. I could never find it again, no matter how many times I asked Jeeves about it. Probably a good thing anyway. It took like ten minutes for a video of that size to load and I’d have been watching it every day.

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  1. Oh wow, this is taking me on a nostalgia trip. I’ve been on the internet so long that I’m not exactly sure – I assume it was meeting other gay people in chat rooms and forums, but it might have been looking up Ranma 1/2 information (which although might not ACTUALLY be gay, still feels very gay to me).

      • Ranma 1/2 is definitely one of the things that, for me, falls in the category of “anime that experiments with and subverts gender and relationships.” It’s really something to else to think about some of the things that these very mainstream anime and manga were doing back in the late 80s and early 90s. But as an adult, I increasingly wonder how this stuff is considered within Japanese culture, given that it was only earlier this year that the Japanese Supreme Court found the gay-marriage ban to be unconstitutional. I don’t know, but I do wonder how Japanese media that very clearly reads as a part of queer culture in the West is processed and considered by queer people in Japan and by the larger Japanese public.

  2. I WISH I could remember how I found my way to the site-which-shall-not-be-named where I was first introduced to Heather’s TV recaps in my junior year of college (Actually it was probably googling Glee recaps?). Somehow it took a year of reading exclusively gay PLL/rizzoli&Isles/Glee recaps to have any suspicions…

  3. All I can think of is the time I got my very own AOL account, and my mom set my account up with child controls, and then apparently tried to see what I could see with the child controls by going to a website called like “nearly nude Nancy” from my account and then did not know to clear her browsing history so I followed the link to the same site, which I recall having at least one very-slow-loading picture of a scantily-clad woman. But now I’m wondering if my mom knew I was gay the whole time? Like why wasn’t she searching for nearly-nude-Nathan?

  4. I am pretty sure one of the first things I saw was gay porn in middle school. This was around 1997 & was just getting the hang of searching Yahoo & the internet in general. At the time I had just discovered the internet could be used to find nudes & would look at everything. I think I was on some site that had a variety of stuff & started clicking everything like I normal would. It lead to some gay fetish porn for men that I didn’t understand at the time.

  5. I came out in 1991 so, like KaeLyn, I did most of my pre-coming out work the old fashioned way, through books and tv and weird flirting with / pining after supposedly straight friends. Plus Rocky Horror.

    I’m not sure I saw anything gay on the Internet in the early days – I used the Internet so much for work and grad school that I kind of missed the whole geocities and livejournal heydays.

    It may have been reading Dan Savage online or reading a review of an ff or mm romance on either Dear Author or Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The first article I remember reading on AS was the sick lit article – not the question, but fwiw.

  6. I think probably the first gay thing I sought out on the internet was fanfic of Becca/Chloe from Pitch Perfect. I may have seen gay stuff before, but that was the first gay thing I remember purposefully looking for.

    I hope Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow know that their shower scene changed my life forever!

  7. clips of Tila Tequila’s show, Shot of Love (Shot at Love?), which is the first video of girls kissing I remember returning to again and again. I feel like now I’ve heard lots of problematic things about her, but so grateful those clips found their way to youtube at one time.

  8. I don’t know if it was the first thing but I remember finding a Queer as Folk forum and I was obsessed with Thea Gill who played Lindsay, that I frequented. I started reading non-straight fanfic at this point too. I think I was either 18 or 19.

  9. I am also in the “some reference to “homosexuality” on some witchcraft site / forum or other” camp. The first queer thing I deliberately looked for on the internet (and I left my home, got on a bus and went to an internet café to do it because this was Long Ago) was info on lesbian bars in London – I found the now defunct gingerbeer.co.uk and had a thrilling summer of terrifying social anxiety nights out at the (also now all defunct) Vespa Lounge, First Out and (because who could then escape it?) Candy Bar. Heaven, too, and they’re still around. Three separate people grabbed my behind in the first ten minutes I spent there: ah, the olden days.

  10. God, I was hanging around gaying on the internet in the late 90s trying to find my teenage peers. There was this website called ClubLez or something, which basically found every single time two women made out in a movie/TV show and put screenshots and described the scene. Preeettty sure a dude made it, but God, I went through that whole goddamn website repeatedly and checked it for updates all the time, and spent all my part-time-job-waitressing money buying the movies where women made out.

    I just checked and it’s still there. Huh. Who knew.

  11. Back in middle and high school, I was sort of living under a rock, so didn’t really notice anything day on the Internet. However, my high school chorus sing seasons of love from rent. When I asked our teacher what it was about, he said to go look it up. It would be three or four more years before I would actually see rent, and I knew I liked it before I was really out myself.

  12. The first gay thing on the internet was when i was around 6/7 my sister our neighbours who were sisters around our age and i played Boom Volleyball on miniclip just to get to the 5th level where they play topless

  13. i can’t remember the 1st thing, predating the internet and all, but the 1st thing i remember was the chart that showtime put up after the chart became a thing on the original l word. such a let down when they dropped it.

  14. The L word sex scenes on YouTube that I meticulously deleted from my search history in case my parents saw them. Also, a German lesbian website, and the whole of “The incredibly true adventure of two girls in love” (very subtle) with Laurel Holloman, also on YouTube :D which finally pushed me to come out to my neighbour explosively, so she took me to a gay youth centre lol . Then the first queer I fell in love with exactly at that place (tragic story of first queer love) showed me Autostraddle and the rest is history

  15. other formative pieces of media in my coming out phase: my mom watching Tila Tequila and explaining bisexuality to me.
    also, there was a story arc of a lesbian in the German telenovela “GZSZ” that my mom also watched (obviously, the lesbian’s girlfriend died in a car accident in true bury your gays manner) and I was HEAVILY invested in that story. I still remember a scene where she is at a club and they’re playing “I kissed a girl” and she’s as “OMG I’M GAY WHAT AM I GONNA DO” about it as I was in that exact moment sitting next to my not so oblivious mother

  16. LOL, I’m so old, the first gay thing I saw on the “internet”, was re Xena on Usenet. [I think alt.tv.scifi.xena-warrior-princess? something like that] Circa 1996

    It went like this:

    Line 1: “Am I the only straight woman here (I thought I was straight!) who’d like to get her groove on w/ ROC? [i.e., Renee O’Connor, forever and ever, Xena’s Gabrielle]

    [Under that, many responses, “No, you’re not”]

    Line 2: “Am I the only gay woman here (I thought I was gay) who’d like to get her groove on w/ Kevin Smith? [i.e., the late great, forever and ever, XWP’s Ares God of War]

    Line 3: “Am I the only bisexual woman here (DEFINITELY bisexual!) who’d like to get her groove on with the ENTIRE Xena cast, except for Joxer?

    [Thread then descends into the Joxer Wars]

    Good times! 😁

  17. When I was around 11 or 12 there used to be a website called Picturetrail (A lot like Myspace), and there would be clubs you can join. There was a club called ~*Gay & Lesbian*~ and the featured logo for the club was this bright rainbow graphic. Very 2000s and very gay. Those were the days!

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