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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.Meanwhile, our need for a deeper sense of belonging hasn’t gone away.For past generations, lesbian bars filled the dual role of romantic fishbowl and community center — a place where you could find unequivocal acceptance, a bathroom makeout, or maybe just a drink and a knowing look from the bartender.She’d already been following the account just for fun; she enjoyed reading what people wrote about themselves (e.g., “local scammer, pretty boi femme & intermittent wig wearer”) and what they were looking for in a relationship (“sexy, thoughtful extroverts to deep dive into romance,” or, alternatively, “just looking for queer friends willing to talk about experimental music, anti-capitalist ideas, Greek food & cute dogs”). “I’ve been trying to figure this stuff out for a minute.” And she liked the idea that anyone in the world might see it and write back, like sending a message in a bottle.

Some of the ads were blatantly horny (“Wanted: Frenetic Mons Grinder …On top of that were the more puritanical strains of the feminist movement: Among a subset of radical queer feminists, including some lesbians, porn was viewed as an instrument of the patriarchy, an evil beyond redemption.Into that sex-starved void, On Our Backs cast its net.Over the course of its 12-year run, On Our Backs became a beacon of sexual liberation at a time when the mainstream women’s rights movement, largely dominated by the anti-porn brigade, was still squeamish about the pursuit of sex for pleasure.In fact, helping landlocked lesbians get laid was partly the point of On Our Backs: In the words of former editor Susie Bright, “we wanted everyone to be having the best damn sex of their lives.”At the time, there were a handful of small papers with a personals section specifically for women in search of women, but their raunchiness was curtailed by pressure from advertisers and printers, who would pull their business from a publication that smacked too much of homoeroticism.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.At its peak, the magazine had a full-time staff of 10 and a circulation of 20,000 — not insignificant for a publication that basically existed on the fringes of the fringe.That’s where @herstorypersonals comes in: Just as On Our Backs opened a door for queer women to own their sexuality, @herstorypersonals is becoming the de facto lesbian bar of the internet, restoring a sense of community to a faction of 21st-century queerdom.The inspiration for @herstorypersonals, On Our Backs, whose name was a suggestive play on the “off our backs” mantra of ’80s feminism, was first and foremost an erotica magazine.“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.

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