"Be still my heart," Juniper messaged them; soon they had a Face Time date, and spent the next three weeks writing each other letters and poems before Arizona drove seven hours from Pittsburgh to visit Juniper in Connecticut.Now they plan on moving to western Massachusetts together. ' It was like no question."Kelly Rakowski, the creator of Personals, smiles when telling me about Juniper and Arizona's romance.The post, titled "Tender Queer Butch4Butch," took Juniper two weeks to craft, but the care paid off: the ad ultimately garnered well over 1,000 likes—and more than 200 messages."I was so used to the Tinder culture of nobody wanting to text back," Juniper says."All of the sudden I had hundreds of queers flooding my inbox trying to hang out." The response was invigorating, but ultimately Juniper found their match by responding to someone else: Arizona, another recent college grad who had written a Personals ad titled "Rush Limbaugh’s Worst Nightmare".
"I've always had side projects," she says, "but this is a side project that's overtaking my life." Funding for the app, if she gets it, would allow her to pay for the design work and developer hours needed to get it up and running, significantly cutting down on her hours spent on Google Docs.
Back in November 2014, the Brooklyn-based graphic designer and photo editor started an Instagram account called @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y that looked to document queer pop culture via images Rakowski dug up online: MSNBC host Rachel Maddow's high school yearbook photo, protest photos from the 1970s, any and all images of Jodie Foster., a lesbian erotica magazine that ran from the 1980s to the mid-2000s. While dating apps provide a space for LGBTQ people, they’re not spectacular at providing much in the way of connection or accountability—and can often come off as unwelcoming for some queer, trans, and gender non-conforming individuals.
She began to post screenshots to the @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y Instagram. Apps like Grindr are queer-focused, but can often feel like havens for cis gay men.
As it has grown, Personals has attracted users from Brazil to Bulgaria—and nearly every type of seeker, from "Gender/Tender Queer"s to Vulcans.
It's also become a source of clever ad wordplay—typical post: "Wanna smash heteronormativity and make sauerkraut? People post ads that are incredibly frank about their identities and desires, often in ways that encourage even more honestly from both readers and future Personals post-ers.