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Lesbian Notions by Libby Post
Charting our future?
by Libby Post SGN Contributing Writer Maybe it's my age - 50 is just around the corner (oy!). Maybe it's because I've been in a relationship since I was 18 (mind you, that means serial monogamy with four different women). Maybe it's because I spend a lot of time on the Web at work.

Whatever the reason, I've not spent too much time on any social networking site - Lesbian, Gay, or straight.

Well, a recent study shows I'm alone! According to a January 2007 Harris Interactive/Witeck-Combs poll, Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals use social networking sites more than straight people do. You can find us at MySpace 33 percent of the time we're online, and at Facebook or Friendster 11 percent.

But these aren't sites just for us, and, as we all know, we like to go to places just for us, both in real time and in virtual worlds. At least four social networking sites specifically catering to the LGBT community launched this year - Glee, Olivia.com/connect, Socialbutter, and OurChart. Then there are these sites specifically for Gay men (the names say it all) - Bigjock, Manjam, and Lovetastic.

Now for us dykes who watch The L Word, we know where OurChart.com comes from. In the show's first season, the engaging, alt-radio DJ and sometimes over-the-top lover of whomever she's with, Alice, started an online chart to track the "relationships" - from one-night stands to the U-Haul on the second dates - of herself and her circle of friends and acquaintances. Over the past four seasons, it has been an on-again/off-again plot line, exploding - or perhaps I should say crashing - in season four, because of the exploits of Lesbian sexual predator Poppy.

Anyway, some of the girls in front and in back of the camera at The L Word decided to bring the chart into our lives 24/7 by launching OurChart.com, a social networking site just for us. According to a description on the site, "us" includes "Lesbians, dykes, Queer girls, Gay women, high femmes, butches, drag kings, bois, transwomen, and transmen - however we define ourselves. On OurChart, you can connect yourself via friendships and relationships to the wide world encompassing all these people and more."

L Word executive producer Ilene Chaiken is OurChart's CEO, and her partners in the venture are Jennifer Beals, who plays Bette, Kate Moennig, who plays Shane, and, not surprisingly, Leisha Hailey, who portrays the concept's originator, Alice.

Recently, I had the chance to chat with Lisa Parrish, whose blog, "The Hookup," appears daily on the site. She explained how it all works.

You sign up and create your own profile, and then your own chart by adding friends. The chart is, of course, digitally created with your photo at the center, which is then connected visually and virtually with photos of your friends.

"I love it," said Parrish. "It's really fun to be part of a community. I do my blog three times a day. The first thing I do after it goes live overnight is...check to see what people are saying...OurChart is a fun way of giving people a chance to meet each other, mingle, and talk about things they have in common."

Parrish told me a heartwarming story about a woman in the States who wrote in to OurChart about her grandmother. It seems that Grandma lived in Germany, and the writer had lost touch. She asked if it was possible for anyone in the area to check up on her grandmother's whereabouts. Someone did. It wasn't a happy ending - Grandma had died several years before, but at least the woman had some closure.

OurChart is also bringing some original Web-based programming to a computer screen near you. It has recently launched a show called Girl Trash, which, according to Parrish, is a "Lesbian pulp-fiction-style noir thriller." It is a series of short Web-isodes of an L.A. girl gang careening through the seedier side of the city.

Not necessarily my cinematic - albeit on a very small screen - choice, but it is written and directed by veteran L Word and movie director Angela Robinson. She also brought us D.E.B.S. and Herbie: Fully Loaded.

Like it or not, Girl Trash shows us what is so great about the Web - the ability to create, be seen and scrutinized, and create again.

But getting back to OurChart's chart, Parrish told me, "One of the key differences about OurChart is that it's about friends, networking, colleagues...not about people who slept together."

Damn! But don't despair. Parrish explained they're adding a feature called "Friends+" that can chart anything from a fling to being involved for 10 years to being lifelong partners.

"It's really important to point out that friends won't be able to be added to "Friends+" without the individual's permission," said Parrish. "You couldn't say you slept with Leisha Hailey without her permission."

Does Alice ask permission?

Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached care of this publication or at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.
Autumn Insert

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