The Social Media Site for Queer Young Adults That Saved My Life

CW: Mention of abuse, suicide, homophobia

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Two non-binary students looking at each other in a school hallway. (Image Source: The Gender Spectrum Collection)

From the late 90s to the early 2000s, I spent most of my time on the computer doing one of four things: playing games on Neopets, designing homes on the Sims, crafting won away messages on AIM, and getting to know people on Mogenic.

In the autumn of eighth grade, one of my friends — who was also one of few people I’d come out to — told me about Mogenic, an online forum for gay, bisexual, lesbian, and trans youth to access resources for counseling and community education, share stories, and build relationships. I eagerly went home and, when everyone else at home was asleep, I went to the website and quietly typed as I signed up for an account and browsed.

Originally founded in 1997 under a different name, Mogenic underwent rebranding in 2000 and soon became a leading site for queer youth to gather online and engage with one another in a safe space. Offline, my life was a blur of trauma, insecurity, and fear. I was coping with symptoms related to mental illnesses, navigating rapidly changing family dynamics, recovering from abuse, and trying to make sense of my identity with respect to attraction.

Before Mogenic, I’d only met a few other people whose romantic relationships weren’t heteronormative. It wasn’t something I talked about with family because my immediate family had proven to be uncomfortable discussing or even thinking about queerness. I didn’t have the language necessary to explain to them that they were homophobic and that I’d internalized many of their toxic thoughts about queerness in a way that was dangerous to my health.

As a kid I’d had relationships with other kids across the gender spectrum but primarily other girls. Back then, I personally identified as bisexual but few people knew because I was afraid to share my feelings. One of the only other outlets, aside from Mogenic, that I had to better help myself make sense of things was scream singing along to t.A.T.u.’s debut album 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane.

I remember watching the music video for All the Things She Said over and over again, listening to the album on repeat, and taking Russian lessons to translate their non-English songs. While watching their music videos I felt so seen and I related to the stories they told in them so deeply. If you haven’t seen any of their videos, they mostly feature the two singers that make up t.A.T.u being shamed for loving each other while they try to find a safe place to be together. I was mind blown. I’d cry to their music while feeling thankful to have found the words for my feelings as someone who was trying to be “normal” while having these confusing feelings about attraction clouding my mind.

While t.A.T.u. helped me during moments alone in my room with my Walkman, Mogenic offered a place of refuge whenever I could find the time to go online uninterrupted and unseen. There was a personals section, an online magazine complete with reviews of films and books, extended personal narratives, messaging services, and more.

As a suicidal teen, it was difficult enough to cope with life in general. From being bullied in school for the way I dressed to dealing with anti-Blackness to previously mentioned stressors, there were different issues going on in my life that made my fears about coming out more intense. When one of my close friends was pushed into a wall in the hallway on my middle school after coming out, my fears grew. When the mother of my first girlfriend, who had no idea that our relationship went beyond friendship, jokingly informed us that being gay was a sin worthy of punishment because “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”, my fears grew.

On Mogenic, I’d immerse myself in stories about people who were proud to be queer. People who had come out to their families and were accepted or who would sneak out to attend Pride events. I’d read reviews about television shows like the L Word, books like Keeping You A Secret, or movies like Kissing Jessica Stein. I’d found an online family that was more accepting than Livejournal and more gay than anything else I’d ever been a part of.

No matter what was going on in my life, Mogenic was always there to turn to. I was able to cultivate a virtual community of fellow queer people and had access to narratives that gave me hope. Stories of courage and strength that served as a light in the darkness when I felt alone. It took years to finally come out as queer, and even longer to open up about my gender identity, but I’ll always be thankful for Mogenic. The site that helped me feel like I belonged when I felt the most alienated. A space that welcomed me to a loving and supportive community when home made me feel like a problem.

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