Queer Dating App Lex Is Bringing Back Text-Only Personal Ads

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  • Wednesday, March 18 2020 @ 09:48 am
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For heterosexual, cisgender singles, online dating offers a mind-boggling number of opportunities to swipe your way to your next date. There are apps for vegetarians, vegans and bacon enthusiasts, apps for farmers, apps for sea captains, apps for geeks, apps for dog lovers, apps for affairs, apps for hooking up on airplanes, apps for spiritual singles and members of different faiths, apps based on political leanings, exclusive apps for A-listers — and that’s on top of Tinder, Bumble, Match, Hinge, OkCupid and the other general dating apps that dominate the market.

For queer singles, the landscape looks different. Grindr changed the game for men seeking men, but no app for anyone else on the queer spectrum has reached the same level of success. That may change with Lex — a new app that grew out of a missed connections Instagram page. Lex describes itself as a dating and social platform for lesbian, bisexual, asexual, womxn, non-binary, trans, genderqueer, intersex, two spirit and queer people. In other words, almost anyone but cisgender men.

And that’s not all that sets Lex apart. The original Instagram account was inspired by the personal ads found in On Our Backs, a women-run erotica magazine published in the 1980s and 1990s. In a similar vein, Lex profiles are text-only personal ads. There are no photos unless a user elects to link their Instagram account to their profile. Although it’s an old school approach, it feels brazen and modern in an era when profiles are getting shorter and swiping through images is the preferred method of connection for millions of singles.

Lex got its start on Instagram as @_personals_. In 2017, Kell Rakowski began sharing vintage personal ads from On Our Backs on the lesbian culture Instagram @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y. After an enthusiastic response, Rakowski asked followers of @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y to submit their own personal ads. The original ads were such a hit that Rakowski founded @_personals_ to give them a dedicated account.

"It's bringing back the old-school way of reading personal ads, reading how people describe themselves, slowing down," Rakowski told the Guardian in 2019. "It's a gentler, more thoughtful way of getting to know someone."

By 2018, the number of incoming ads overwhelmed the account and Rakowski resolved to build an app to better serve the Personals community. A Kickstarter campaign raised nearly $50,000 to get the app off the ground. Lex was downloaded 6,000 times on launch day. As of November 2019, Rakowski told Vogue that the total number of ads posted since the app’s release had hit 12,000.

Lex is available now for iOS and Android.