BY Hugh Ryan
August 25 2009 12:25 AM ET
As someone who came of age as the Internet was becoming the behemoth it is now, do you think it’s changed what it means to be gay?
You’re right on when you say I’m of that age. I was in the Austin M4M AOL chat rooms when I was 17, just exploring, meeting other gay people. Trying to figure out if I was gay. It created this new outlet, helped to connect people and make them feel less alone. I found my first boyfriend on AOL when I was 18, and it was he who helped me come out more. If I hadn’t met him online, who knows how long it would have taken.
Has IFD spawned any relationships yet?
Not for me.
No one’s written in saying, “I’d like to meet this person” or “So-and-so is from my home town?”
Some people have written to say they were amazed there was a story from their town. I really want it to become a community. Even the design looks simple and small-towny, you know? I like that. I would love it if a relationship started because of IFD -- but they’d have to write me the story of it!
Where do the submissions come from?
IFD is very viral. It’s down and dirty. I don’t have any money to do traditional advertising. Anyone I meet -- at a bar,or whatever -- they ask me what I do and I jump on the opportunity to explain the site. I give out cards for it everywhere I go. The other day I saw these two guys being cute on the subway and I went up to them and said, “Hey, I noticed you guys were touching, and I have this website -- check it out!”
Do you edit or reject pieces?
There have been very few stories I’ve put up exactly as is. But the only thing I check for is spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The more raw, the more real it feels. If they were all written like Stephen King, people would think, Oh, these are only written by great writers. But if they’re written by not-great writers, I think most of America will relate to them.
Do the stories ever seem repetitive? You know, you’ve heard one coming-out story, you’ve heard them all?
Even in the guidelines, I ask for something other than coming-out stories. Every gay person, one of the biggest stories they have is coming out. With good reason: It’s a huge story and it literally changes your life. But people know that story. They know it’s difficult to come out. They know -- kind of -- what could happen. But I had this gay Iranian who wrote a coming-out story, and it definitely stood out. So I don’t tell people they can’t write a coming-out story, but it needs to be a special one.Overall, the stories are not repetitive. They’re all over the spectrum.