Imagine you're a lonely teenage lesbian growing up Mormon in Utah, with no community of like-minded lesbians to rely on for support, friendship, or dating. Or imagine you're an 89-year-old lesbian housebound in Iowa. Or perhaps you're the kind of private woman who doesn't want her coworkers or family to know about her love life, which is trumpeted on social media sites like Facebook for everyone to see—a woman who wants to meet other lesbians while having her privacy respected.
In 2009, Seattle resident Beth Darr was one such lesbian after a car crash left her out of work and housebound. Worst of all, Darr lost her support system—her friends. "I basically lost everything," she says. "After the accident, a lot of my interactions with people were online. And then I realized that I could create something for people who don't have access to friends, people who maybe live in isolation or who don't live in a cosmopolitan area like I do." So she decided to create Lezzbook.com, "the Facebook for lesbians," a private social networking site exclusively for women who love women. "It doesn't just have to be lesbians," Darr explains. "Bi, transgender, confused women—everyone is welcome, except dudes."
Lezzbook.com has the same basic framework that other social networking sites have—each member has a profile where she can add pictures, videos, music, and personal information, such as relationship status (the site has a free "lezz- date" platform). But unlike other social networking sites with confusing privacy settings, only other members can view your Lezzbook.com profile, using two simple privacy settings: You can set your profile to be seen by all other members of Lezz book.com or only by other members selected by you.
Hundreds of lesbians are joining the site each week because of the array of social platforms Lezzbook.com offers. For instance, hundreds of chat groups exist within the lady caves of Lezzbook.com, groups identified by age or location, as well as specialized groups for women into motorcycles, different types of spirituality, even Alcoholics Anonymous. "I wanted to create a one-stop resource for women," explains Darr, "where women can find other women to date, or read an interesting article that pertains to their health or sexuality, or find firsthand accounts of personal coming-out stories." In addition, the site has erotic fiction and exclusive interviews with gay celebrities like comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, photographer Adam Bouska, and NOH8 Campaign cofounder Jeff Parshley. Members have the option of booking a lesbian getaway with lesbian travel agent Barbara Carrington or browsing a list of lesbian events currently happening in their city. Darr says her goal is to have more than one million lesbians using her site to network and build community. "I'd love to become big enough so that we have a local division for each state," Darr explains. "I'm imagining local pages where California or Washington lesbian businesses could be listed, and we could have different local events pages attached."
To achieve this goal—and to enforce her strict no-dudes policy—Darr personally approves each new member who joins Lezzbook.com, which means approving 20 to 75 new members each day, from all over the world. Lezzbook.com currently has more than 4,700 members. Darr says that every evening, members from Africa to Europe, Spain to the Philippines, Arkansas to Alaska log on to her site to flirt and chat live with friends. Members range in age from 16 to 65.
In addition, Darr has hired several prominent lesbian writers to contribute content to the site—writers such as Kathy Belge, who pens a lesbian advice column called Lipstick & Dipstick for Curve magazine, and Edie Stull, whose work has appeared in Curve, LOTL, Bound, SheWired, Edge, and Watermark. Stull now pens a weekly column for Lezzbook.com called Women Making News, which features interviews with prominent lesbians such as filmmaker Nicole Conn.
"Lezzbook.com promotes ladies to other ladies," says Darr. "It's a very welcoming space that's constantly evolving to meet the needs and interests of our members." Darr recently hired a design firm to revamp the site and relaunch it on March 1. The new site promises to be even more user friendly and geared toward helping women build new relationships. Now that her empire is taking shape, Darr is shopping for "any angel investors out there" to take Lezzbook.com to the next level—with more interactivity, more gayborhoods across the world represented, and more women penning articles with lady audiences in mind. She envisions a large, interactive map of the United States on the main page of Lezzbook.com, where members could click on their state and instantly see other women in their area. "The goal has always been to bring people together," says Darr. "I want every woman who joins my site to be able to find her new best friend or her life partner."