Big Gay Dreams. Gay 4 Rose. Punk Rock Literary Princess. Jock 4 Jock. Roller Derby Dyke Seeks Same. 40-ish, Butch-ish, Jew-ish. Punkhouse Dweller, Nervous Wreck. Plus Size Lesbians Unite. You: Light, Me: Moth. Lost Trans Dream Girl. Let’s Get Personal.
The above fragments may read like poetry, but you won’t find them in a chapbook. They’re titles of modern queer personals, published on the incredibly popular @herstorypersonals Instagram account, and every bit as artful as an honest love poem. The titles introduce short blurbs filled with descriptions, desires, and of course, the instagram handle of the lesbian / bisexual / gay / queer human hoping to find true love, hot sex, or some really cute friends. In other words, they’re a new digital twist on old school personals – and they are so wonderful and fun to browse, whether you’re single and looking, happily partnered, or possibly even if you believe love is a lie.
The account, run by Kelly Rakowski (who also runs the epic @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y account on Instagram) boasts more than 19,000 followers and has published almost 600 personals to date. We wrote about the Instagram personals ad phenomenon when Kelly “beta tested” it on the @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y account back in 2016, and it was already a smashing success then. More than a year later, the project is thriving. Inspired by the personals written in the 80s and 90s in the back of lesbian erotica magazine On Our Backs, these modern personals offer up a vulnerable side of online dating often missing from Tinder and other swipe-based dating apps. When asked why she thinks this project is having such a moment now, almost three decades after the original On Our Backs personals were published, Kelly says that people are burnt out on the “quick swipe, Tinder-esque action of dating, linked to our ‘throwaway’ culture.” She muses that HerstoryPersonals “allows people to connect deeper than that, akin to slow dating.”
Whether you celebrate or care about Valentine’s Day or not, we thought it would be fun to learn more about the art of the gay-as-fuck personals ad together in celebration of the Hallmark holiday this week. We asked Kelly for some of the tips and tricks she’s gleaned about writing a good personals ad from playing matchmaker to the queer lonely hearts Instagram crowd, and she was happy to oblige. The next open call for submissions at HerstoryPersonals will be in March, so take notes now and you’ll be all set to submit the perfect personals ad next month!
AS: What makes a “good” personals ad?
KR: When people know who they are, and what they want and are able to describe this in endearing words usually make most popular ads. Direct or long-winded, so long as you describe yourself and your desires in a relatable way, many hearts and likes will be clicked.
What are your top five tips to make a personals ad shine?
1. A catchy headline. For example: SPOON ME HARD FORK ME HARD.
2. Avoid the negative. Usually saying ‘no’ to anyone ruffles the feathers. Example: “No Geminis” – Geminis will come haunt you.
3. Be descriptive: “I love currant scones and street cats of Istanbul.”
4. Be Sexy, Be Sweet.
5. Be Basic: age, gender identity, and location are key.
Do you have any other tips or observations from the project re: how people can write their best personal ad or generally put their best foot forward when going out into the terrifying world that is lesbian and queer dating?
Be friendly, be genuine, be open. Read through HerstoryPersonals to get an idea of what people are responding to, or better yet, check out the original inspiration to @herstorypersonals – #OnOurBacksPersonals of the 80s and 90s! The hashtag on Instagram links to personals written in the back of lesbian erotica magazine On Our Backs.
Do you know of any “meet cute” stories that have resulted from the HerstoryPersonals account?
I recently put a call out to hear people’s experiences on HerstoryPersonals and within minutes received many cute stories of lovers and friends meeting, of people connecting from other countries or locally. One couple, a year ago, met and got married.
What is the bravest personals ad you’ve ever published?
All personals are brave! Everyone who puts themselves out there, linking to their personal Instagram account for all the world to see, like, comment and interact with are brave people.