So You Want To Be A Pen Pal?

In response to last week’s pen pal post, approximately 27 of you commented that you’d like to see be a part of some kind of Autostraddle pen pal fandango. How could you not? You are such a interesting, smart and funny group of perfect weirdos and it’d be a crime if we didn’t do our part to help you all find each other.

Enter: Autostraddle Air Mail. We want queer girls all over the world to have a reason to bounce excitedly out to their mailboxes. If you want to be one of those lucky ladies, all you need to do is sign up! Send me your vital stats at laura [at] autostraddle [dot] com sometime before June 11th and I’ll match you up. I’ll need your:

Home Address
Language(s) Spoken
Desired age range/language of your pen pal, if you want
That’s all (really and truly, because part of the fun of getting a pen pal is knowing nothing about them)

Depending on how many responses we get, we’ll be getting back to you guys sometime during the week of the 11th with everything you need to know about your new friend. If you’ve got any questions about the safety of giving your address to strangers (anthrax is so 2001), how to write a good letter (a flashy postage stamp is always a good start) or my secret desire to be Patti Stranger (the answer is yes. Only without the archaic gender roles and artificial collagen) hit me up below, I’m all eyes.


If you’re a babygay or otherwise closeted, please let me know in your email! I want you to to get in on fun and not have to worry about discovering a giant gay envelope in your mailbox.

If everything goes smoothly, we’ll do a second round later in the summer, so don’t worry if you’re moving or busy right now. We’ve got ya.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


  1. I have so many questions about your secret desire to be Patti Stanger.

    (also, seconding that this is the best idea ever.)

  2. Yes!
    Question that this may not be the place for, but sort of on-topic since there used to be a pen-pal group: what happened to the groups? Are they coming back?

  3. I would like to believe I helped make this happen because that makes me feel sexy.

    If that is so, then I also feel like there should be a cabin at A-Camp called Gayvenclaw, and that I should be an honorary member since I am probably not going to go to there. This time.

    I have lots more wishes too.

  4. This sounds like a great idea :) I need somethin to do during this 4 month break

  5. I’d love to do this. But I’m still in high school :(
    Can I still participate? I doubt it, but I’d be elated if I could!

    • You totally could!
      Probably, I mean. I started going on here in middle school and I met my best friend through this site, so I’d doubt that anyone would take issue with you.

      • As my BFF Natalie up there said, you probably could maybe, if our gay overlords let it be so. I mean, I think both of us started frequenting AS when we were like, fetal, so you’re not alone in your age group, and most peeps on here don’t take issue with it, so.

    • I started corresponding with weirdos on the internet when I was 14 and it made me the fine upstanding citizen I am today, so why the fuck not?

    • I think you can if it’s not a safety issue for you or your parents! I don’t think most people here will mind about your age… I think people who (like me) are very young adults aren’t that much older than you are and you’re probably not alone in your age group.

  6. The fact that I’m not out to my mum yet and would have to always get the post first to avoid explaining the situation wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t also own the two most convenient post offices for me to get stamps and mail them from. She is everywhere.
    It’s tough being a baby dyke.

    • Just tell her it’s from! I did that for awhile and it’s totally not gay/non sketchy. I only stopped because international stamps are $1 and I’m cheap.

      • Now I feel bad for whoever gets stuck with me! In return for having to pay international postage I can send Caramelo Koalas and Tim Tams. I promise these things make it worth it ;)

        • I’m totally gonna put “Canadian English” or “Australian English” as my “Desired language of your pen pal.”

    • yes yes! I’m in the same-ish position. well, not the owning post offices part, but the I’m not out to my mother who is usually around to pick up the mail part. grrr.
      I will still do this though!

    • just tell your penpal not to send rainbow envelopes or things that are really gay on the outside of the envelope. She doesn’t open your mail, does she?

      • She probably wouldn’t open it, no, but she’d definitely ask what it is and I am an awful liar. Just really the worst.
        But I really want to do this so.. I’ll figure something out.

        • Say you joined a pen pal programme for someone who speaks a language you want to learn to practice writing it with a native speaker!

        • i think you can get a post office box fairly cheaply/easily! then it wouldn’t come to your place directly.

    • I second not telling her it’s for Autostraddle! Not that I ever condone lying to parents, etc. There are so many penpal communities out there, and mail art projects are making a comeback, so it doesn’t sound too weird. Just make sure you have a back-up story ready and maybe get to know a site or two (like interpals or postcrossing) in case she asks questions. I mean, it’s almost the same thing but cooler.

    • oh you are all so lovely and helpful :) I’m going to go with saying it’s from postcrossing or something. There’s a good chance I’ll panic and shout “I’m gay, it’s a gay penpal!” but uh, maybe that won’t be so bad anyway.

  7. This sounds so awesome! I’m in college though, (therefore different addresses for different times of year), I suppose I could tell my pen pal when to switch addresses…

    • I feel ya. I want to sign up but I’m moving next week and NO ONE HAS TOLD ME MY ADDRESS YET.

      • Me too! Except that I don’t have an address yet because I don’t have a house yet (anyone need a roommate in DC?)… I just emailed Laura with my predicament and said I’d follow up.

    • Word, I just filled out the form and feel like I have forever confused Laura with my crazy living schedule, especially cause I do an away term for my school for 7 weeks every year, and I don’t know where I’ll be from January to February. Maybe the answer is college students should be put with college students cause we understand these crazy things?

    • I AM ALSO IN COLLEGE! :D I bet loads of us are here and understand that situation.

  8. Ooh, this sounds like fun! I might just be in with this, if my paranoia about giving my address away doesn’t get the better of me. Not that I think there are any real serial killers or something on here, but that’s just how I am…^_^;;
    But ditto on the girl in high school. Can I participate if I’m not 18 yet?

    • No worries! I have experience reading bad handwriting! I can even read legitimate chicken scratch! Like, it was created by chickens! (no chickens were harmed in the writing of the chicken scratch)

    • Get a typewriter! It’s not handwritten, but it’s still quaint and more personal than email, and the keys make a very pleasant clacking sound.

  9. yay!

    “how to write a good letter (a flashy postage stamp is always a good start)” – yes, please. I need a good intro on how to write a good letter from a social perspective, not a grammatical one…although, I could use help with that, too. Some of us shy folk don’t always have the gift of gab.

  10. I’d do this only i’d probably forget to write because i’m a terrible person like that. Also changing addresses many times soon. at least twice…

  11. This is so exciting! I definitely have Spice Girls stationary that will be appropriate for this occasion.

  12. I have a year til moving back to Europe, so BRIG IT ON. I’m so excited for this. Letters are the best thing ever.

  13. I actually work for the USPS, so if anyone has any questions (mailability etc) feel free to ask. With regards to the people who said their addresses change a lot, if you live in the same town or area and aren’t moving too far away from your homebase, there is also a service called “General Delivery” too, however you’ll have to actually go into the post office and pick-up your mail with ID (or until you’re familiar with the employees) as well as sign-up for that service.

    • What are the costs like to send from the US to Australia? I don’t want to bankrupt my penal!

      • @amoderngirl – The postage to countries excluding Canada and Mexico is $1.05 as long as it weighs 1 ounce, this also includes postcards as they are the same price at the same weight. Canada and Mexico are .85 cents, which also includes postcards as long as they weigh 1 ounce or less.

  14. Knocking both “Make queer friends” and “Have a penpal” off my to-do list at once :D

  15. SWEET! This is so wicked cool! I really want to join but I would rather die than have my parents read my mail, which the mightn’t if they know it’s a penpal. Does anyone have any advice to tell them in a non suspicious way? Please?

    • Tell them a friend from school is moving and you want to stay in touch with them like in the olden days!

    • If you take a foreign language, tell them your school set it up?
      …Not that I advocate lying to your parents. At all.

    • Say they are from this website, which I’ve used and is actually a really great site for foreign language penpals. In fact you could get one from here too and show them to your parents and pretend its the one you got from us

      Christ I’ve been in the closet too long. I’m too good at this :(

  16. I’ll be changing addresses for summer and Basic Training, that’d be awesome to have a special pen pal during Basic. Hope she doesn’t mind the switching around!

  17. Super excited for this! Although I think my letters might get a little too Capital-F-Feelings . . .

  18. I used to have a penpal, but she stopped writing when we got email, and it’s not quite as exciting.

    Anyway, I would love to do this, but am kind of all over the state during the summer and don’t know what address I should use or if it would be possible to change my address later?


    I love telling random strangers lots of stuff about my life!

  20. I’m down, but it’s gonna have to be a few months before I can participate cuz I’m traveling. In August though, I will have some sort of address! …May I send the info later?

  21. i want to be a penpal, but i’m moving in july maybe! is that something i would bring up with my penpal-to-be when such a thing comes to pass?

  22. I’m so excited! Now I can pretend that I’m from the 1800’s or some time when letters were still a thing and facebook didn’t rule the world.

  23. I want to do this, but my address is all over the place due to my wandering student lifestyle. Is it still possible for me?

    • yep! let me know in your email that you’re going to be moving around and i’ll make sure your buddy knows to expect change in their future.

  24. I just signed up! Getting the mail every day is truly what I live for. Even though my mailbox usually contains junk mail and bills. I still love it. I might actually be an 80 year old lady.

  25. OMG, finally! Although I’m going to hold off until I move back to Chicago next month. This will be nothing less than epic & I can’t wait to write you beautiful straddlers.

    • that’s okay! if this goes well, we’ll do a second round for all your guys who are moving or otherwise occupied right now.

  26. Wow! It seems that AS takes suggestions and/or requests and makes them happen.

    (Opens up another window. Sends an email to AS requesting a rare kitty cat worth a million dollars. 1-2 days later receives an email from AS with a picture of a kitty cat holding up bags of money. Saves as screen saver.)

    Back to Pen pal… Hey future pen pal! You will be receiving letters written in cursive.

  27. God, Patti Stanger is the worst.

    I would do this but I’ve never written a real letter in my life, if we’re being completely honest.

  28. This is so cool.. dear future penpal, prepare to receive an envelope covered in rainbow and kitten stickers!

  29. Urgh I’m going away for a month this summer and then a month and a half after I come back I’m going to college.

  30. I kind of always lurk on this website because all of the posts are just wonderfully fabulous and fill me with so many feelings I end up having no idea what to say, but this is a wonderful idea! So I hope that no one minds if I say hello and send my name into this penpal list of brilliance? It would be lots of fun to finally have a use of my box of fancy stationary!

  31. you guys, i’m so excited that you’re so excited! we’ve had over 250 people sign up already!

    • Starts off with 27 people commenting that they’d want a penpal, ends up with hundreds of people signing up…

      Autostraddle lurkers are capable of changing the world, apparently.

  32. I have an email all drafted up, but haven’t yet worked up the courage to send it. Maybe in the morning I will feel braver. :S *dies of shy*

      • I did it! :O I spent over a day on the draft and only sent it once the puppy was asleep so I could proofread it.
        Dear future pen pal: I work in an office supply store. I will send you not only stickers, but an inordinate amount of photographs of my new puppy, because I can buy photo paper on the cheap. :3

  33. If every weirdo I’ve ever bought something on ebay from has my home address I might as well give it you folks too.
    Time to break out the fountain pens and glue sticks.

  34. I move around a lot but I want to get involved! Or will it be too much effort for the other side involved if I move every few months? Ohh.

  35. Writing and receiving letters is one of my most favourite things, this is awesome.

  36. whoever gets me as a pen pal will probably get a shit ton of postcards this summer!
    I hope it’s ok that I’ll be travelling a lot and probably not checking my mail at home regularly…

  37. I’d love to sign up, but is it ok if I’m not in the US/Canada? I live in Europe and I don’t want to force anyone to spend too much money on letters to me.

      • I did too, I just assumed international penpals would be awesome. I guess we arrange some kind of trade if the people who get allocated to the non-Americans don’t want to pay extra for stamps?

        • I’m thinking about this, and I kind of wish there was a field for U.S. members who would be ok with having penpals from other countries to say so. In any case, I think if there are any problems the trade you’re talking about would work.

    • As a person who is cheap and went through a phase of having like a million Italian penpals, half the time you can just put one stamp and they’ll still send it. Especially if you decorate it and make it look like you’re a kid who doesn’t understand stamps.

  38. Just signed up, even though I’m forcing someone to shell out extra money to get the letter to the UK. Oh the joys of international postage!

  39. I’m totally excited for this, but need extra encouragement. Someone encourage me! Also, I’m in the UK too. How much even is postage to US?

    • -replying to myself like a nutter-
      It’s not even £1 if you send it just by regular old mail from UK to US btw!
      To do or not to do…

    • Do it, do it! I’m in the UK and getting mail from the US is super fun. Their stamps are way cooler and their paper is a different size. There is so. much. joy. in stationery and the supporting postal service.

      • This has nothing to do with anything, but the angle in your picture makes you look a lot like a friend of mine! Though I went lurking your profile and I’m pretty sure you’re not same person x)

  40. OHEMGEE. this is exciting. but i won’t have an address over the summer and will have to get them sent home… do i risk letters falling into familial clutches? yes. yes i do.

  41. I wanna sign up, but then I’m a tiny bit paranoid I’d have nothing to say…I’m like stuck at home ill right now with no job and I’m also a baby dyke with queer experience of zero. Then again I love mail and stationery and have practically no queer friends and I need something to look forward to… *dilemma*

    • All of these are reasons why you should sign up, not why you shouldn’t. Get on it!

    • I completely agree, this is the reason why you should sign up! Stationery and queer friends and getting stuff in the mail, what’s not to love?

    • Basically all of it is my reasons i haven’t signed either. Also, I would hate to be a let down as a pen pal so. :/

  42. I feel like I should tell this to everyone mailing, if you decide to mail one of those Hallmark cards, music cards, or a square shaped card at some point in the process of this penpal session, or want to add stuff that is lumpy like ribbons and other such stuff, make sure you have it weighed and make sure it’s not considered “non-machinable,” otherwise it may get ripped up in the mail through the machines, or be an additional 20 cents for each additional ounce. Also, put your return address on the letter. It is quite amazing the things people mail. Yes, people try to mail glasses in a regular sized white envelope, don’t be one of those people! Again, any other questions or concerns, feel free to ask me.

  43. I am well up for this. Posting stuff makes me feel like a real person (and also seems to amuse the lady in the post office for some reason). Plus, it’ll be fun to see if I can negate my letter-based social awkwardness with glitter and diagrams.

  44. Oooooh I am so excited! I just signed up (and also made an Autostraddle account because somehow I didn’t).

  45. Yay! The timing for this is excellent, since I’m moving in about three weeks and now will (hopefully) have an excuse to check my mailbox.

    It’s also highly ironic that this should occur since I just reregistered for Postcrossing yesterday.

  46. Forget fancy colorful stamps: When you use Vergina’s pony express, you mail with stermps! Which are just like stamps, but bigger!

  47. I’m in the process of moving, but if they do a second round, I will draw pictures all up in the letters that I send!

  48. Maybe that should have been a question in the signing-up process, whether discretion is necessary as far as the outside of the mail goes.

    For the record, I am more than okay with overtly gay mail in my inbox.

  49. I saw Jubilee stamps the other day yet had no reason to get them but now they are so getting bought and put on an envelope in a Weasley family style.

  50. I feel like I’m in elementary school again, when we used to exchange letters with a school 5 minutes away. So stoked for this.

  51. The last time I had a penpal was probably 19-20, which was a good 7 years ago, and I forgot how much I miss looking forward to those letters in the mail, I am probably way too eager to meet a new stranger/soon to be friend!

  52. Remember that page in Girls Life magazine in the 90s with the addresses of kids who wanted pen pals? My mom would never let me send in my address because it was super shady. This is just like that except less shady and more gay.

  53. Just wondering, are PO box addresses acceptable in place of home address? ‘Cause that would be awesome.

  54. I was super excited to do this cause I momentarily forgot Facebook existed, but, now that I’m aware of what decade we’re living in, I’m still super excited and promise not to immediately Facebook friend whoever I’m paired with. I mean, what’s the fun in that?!

  55. Can trans guys who don’t identify as “girls” be pen pals? Lots of transmen read AS and I know of a really cool person who would want to participate. He’s cool and would send awesome letters.

  56. My parents think its a pen pal project for school…
    I too hope that minors are allowed to participate, because even in the all accepting bay area, queer culture is surprisingly dim for a closeted babydyke like me..
    But anyway, This sounds like the most amazon thing!! I’m extremely exited to get started !

  57. This might be fulfilling my dream of writing out long letters like Elizabeth Bennet and then having a lesbian version of Mr. Darcy barge into the guest room with nothing but awkwardness. That I will then speedily write about to Ms. Pen Pal of SomethingFancy Abbey.

  58. @Natalie you just entirely summed up my motivation for this. ^^ Well…not all of my motivation, since @Mwiko prodded me to do it (and to make an account on here-can’t believe how long I’ve been lurking without one!) so it’s her fault really!

  59. Against my better judgement, I have decided to trust that you are not a psychopath who for years has posed as a queer internet blogger, all leading up to this moment, in an all-consuming plan to hunt down and kill as many queer girls as possible. I’m excited!

    • This is why I am hesitant, as well as other concerns… I am still contemplating, I may wait for the 2nd round.

      • but please do consider this great opportunity to be the star of a real life noir-action-queer-slasher-thriller-movie! I’ve been practicing for this since the day I first watched Spy Kids.

        • Ha, since we are “role playing,” who gets to wear the high heels and the sun dress, while wandering some dark forest late at night?

  60. Ok…to do list: Buy stamps (Haven’t done that in a while). Portuguese stamps anyone?:) I’ll sign up!

  61. I am so in! Definitely still in college so my addresses change, but hopefully my lovely pen pal will be ok with that. Now to look up pretty ways to decorate letters and invest in a ton of stamps.

  62. I’ve been lurking on here for about a year and I’ve never commented on anything, but I figure this is a good a time as any … I’m in for the next round! I wish I could participate in this one, but I’m moving countries soon (and won’t be in one place during the summer), so it would be too complicated. This is a great idea! Also, hi!

    (I feel like I’ve abused the exclamation points in this comment)

  63. YES. I am an awesome penpal and all my current penpals are too in love / busy (whatever guys) to write me much. So pumped!

  64. G-d, I cannot love Autostaddle more. I CANNOT. Are you TRYING to make me die of joy?

  65. I’ve never had a pen pal before! Hope I can break into my mailbox at my new place before signups are over.

  66. Great idea!

    I love sending letters, I like e-mails, but real paper letter are just… special!

    I love the feeling I get everytime I receive a postcard or a letter in the post :D

  67. I so want to participate!!! However, I’m in an international work assignment living at a hotel for who knows how many months :(. I might join on the second round!

  68. I just sent in my info!
    I love pen-paling!
    and I get stuff by post all the time,since I live far away from entertaining things/people.

    just a question,has anyone considered doing a christmas card thingy? ove at lj we’ve done it for years and it’s really fun to get proper mail at least once a year

  69. I woke up yesterday all sad because my work week is going to be long and difficult, but then I remembered it’s pen pal week! I am so excited about this!

  70. Damnit. I would have really loved to be a part of this. Any chance there’s going to be a Round 2?

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