There are a ton of dating apps out there and they can be so intimidating. That's where Lex comes in. Lex is a free social and dating app that is queer-owned and operated and is designed for the LGBTQ+ community to make lasting connections. The Lex app is a free text-centered social app that was inspired by old-school newspaper personal ads. You can make LGBTQ+ connections worldwide simply by chatting and not having to worry about photos. Lex lives by the motto, “Text first, selfies second.”

We chatted with Kell Rakowski the founder of Lex to see why the dating app was created and how the old-school approach became the focus.

Kell Rakowski looking off to the side.

Kell Rakowski

Photo courtesy of Joel Arbaje

What Was the Ah-Ha Moment of Inspiration for Creating Lex?

Kell: There's multiple ah-ha moments in Lex's story. Before we launched Lex the app, it started as an Instagram page. 7 years ago I created the Instagram page @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y soon after my coming out. I was posting images of queer culture and history, as I was teaching myself about lesbian culture – reading all the books, watching all the movies, and sharing the content on IG. While diving into an online archive of feminist magazines, I found a full archive of the lesbian erotica mag, On Our Backs. In the back of every issue were personal ads written by the folks who read the magazine. The personals were hot, smart, and hilarious. The women knew exactly who they were and what they wanted.

1st ah-ha: I thought to myself, I have a community of Insta followers here – why don't we write our own personal ads today?? I added a google doc link to the bio and started receiving submissions. The personals were a hit, quickly I was receiving hundreds of submissions each month.

2nd ah-ha: I could not keep up with the demand and decided to turn this into an app. There's definitely a group of people (LGBTQ) that are consistently ignored and not satisfied with the current social apps out there. None are focused on the queer community. With no tech background or connections, I bootstrapped $50K through Kickstarter and fundraising parties to build an MVP.

3rd ah-ha: I converted the IG community directly into Lex app users, with 40K downloads in month one. We launched right before covid. Folks were using Lex for so much more than dating, to find friends, and roommates, organize soccer games, share kombucha scobies, etc. Lex is so much more than just dating, we are for the queer community. We are building the largest queer social network.

What Did You Want Its Point of Difference To Be, Compared to Other Gay Dating / Hookup or LGBT-Friendly Apps?

Kell: Lex is focused on community connections. We entered the market as a dating app, but the way folks use Lex is for all aspects of their queer lives.

We are building a queer social network – Lex is a place to find friends to meet in a park to play music or fly kites. Lex is for finding another queer to paint your shaved head. Lex is also for hot hookups. We are fluid!

We have built Lex authentically through our community, without the monetary backing of our community Lex would not exist. We are in constant communication with our users, through weekly surveys to paid user testing – Lex is built by queers for queers. Our team is dedicated to building Lex into a safe and healthy social network for queer folks around the world.

​How Did the Pandemic Shape or Fine-Tune the Business Model?

Kell: Distance has never been an issue for our audience. Folks would fly across the country or the world to go on first dates. During the pandemic, queers used Lex the same way they always did, except this did halt IRL hookups and hangouts – it did not halt folks connecting digitally and finding creative ways to meet. Folks organized worldwide brunches on Lex, group yoga classes, and 1-1 video dates designing their apartments into faux bars.

pair of hands holding an iphone looking at the Lex app.

Using the Lex App

What Was Great/Positive/Superior About the Old Classifieds That So Many of Us Grew Up Reading?

Kell: Personals offer you a glimpse into the writer’s personality while also being succinct in stating your wants and needs. Personals specifically work with the LGBTQ community because we use words to describe our sexuality and gender identity in humorous, creative ways. Example: Black-Latina femme bottom crybaby, Soft preppy papi chulo, homoromantic ace, Transmasc Dyke Bottom.

Do You Think This Will Be of Interest/Appealing to a Specific Age Group / Demographic?

Kell: We're currently building for Gen Z, and continue to do research to see what they respond to most. Right now, Lex’s demographic is split between Millennials and Gen Z. 33% of Gen Z identify as LGBTQ and that number is only growing. This is an overlooked group of young people that we need to respect and pay attention to! The future is queer.

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.