Launching in 1997, long before the likes of Grindr and Scruff, Gay.com was a chat, personals, and social networking website catering mostly to gay and bisexual men. which operated up until 2017.
I caught up with Chicago based drag queen, co-host and creator of hit youtube show IMHO Darby Lynn Cartwright to discuss what the site meant to her as a queer kid growing up in Tennessee in the late 90s.
Also, make sure you follow IMHO on youtube.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 0:00
There’s some lightness but gay.com was a dark place.
K Anderson 0:05
Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces. The podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know. This week we are doing something a little bit different and visiting a lost website. Launching in 1997 long before the likes of Grindr and scruff k.com was a chat, personal and social networking website, catering mostly to gay men, which operated up until 2017. I caught up with Chicago based drag queen, co host and creator of hit YouTube show, IMHO Darby Lynn Cartwright to discuss what this site meant to her as a queer kid growing up in Tennessee in the late 90s. And I do need to give a trigger warning before you listen to the episode that we do discuss some heavy topics, including statutory rape.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 1:41
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, to a very like Southern Baptist religious family. My twin brother is actually a pastor. So we took very different roads. And when I was in science, obviously they’re in eighth grade or ninth grade, and there was this very lesbian girl. And she was superduper. Nice. And she came over and was like, Hey, I found this website that I think you might like, talking about food, you’re talking about aim. And as again, I talked to people on aim, and she’s like, I have a website that I think you might like.
K Anderson 2:21
And she said, let’s backtrack. Aim. Yeah, aim was like, I CQ. Yeah, okay, cool. Yeah.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 2:28
Yeah, AOL Instant Messenger. That was a whole other days. But yeah, she handed me this slip of paper. And she was like, Don’t open it, like, open this at home. And I was like, okay, so I did open it at home. And I’m glad she said that, because it had I opened it, I would have thrown it away and some big half of like, What are you talking about?
K Anderson 2:49
So you might end like, glitter popped out and streamers?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 2:54
Yeah, there was litter, use condoms. And, yeah, so gay.com was on the little tiny sheet of paper. So I said, Sure. Why not? And because, you know, there was there was budding sexuality happening. So I knew, you know, I knew I was going to choose the wrong side. So I yeah, I signed on. And then I spent the next 10 years in a love hate relationship with gay.com. True.
K Anderson 3:27
So is this the time of dial up internet? Oh, yeah. And did you have one one computer in the house?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 3:37
Yeah, we had, do you remember the IMAX that were colourful,
K Anderson 3:41
but yeah, but
Darby Lynn Cartwright 3:42
what they had the back was like green or purple or whatever. We had the we had the lime green one. And it sat in a very fancy, very middle class. And it sat in our front living room, which was not our the room where we would spend time, but it faced so that if you came down the stairs, you could see it. Or if you were sitting in the den, where we would hang out, you could see it. So it was very like out in the open. So I got very good at closing tabs and erasing history,
K Anderson 4:16
too, then, how did you pluck up the courage to first visit the site?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 4:23
Well, I think like all teenagers who are trying to figure out their bodies in some way and they get to the internet. It’s like, Well, back then now I know kids have access to the internet at birth. But we all can’t wait to explore I think. Like, I remember the first thing I ever saw that was like, adult content from the internet was this friend of mine in seventh grade, I was at his house and he’s like, let me show you something. And he pulls up this picture and it was very large and it was dial up. So it was like I see some hair. I see a nipple. And he printed me out a picture of like a naked lady.
Yeah, well, we’re not friends anymore. And he, he died of laughter when I told the story. No, he’s fine. I just don’t know where he is. He’s
K Anderson 5:24
dead to you. And that’s all that matters.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 5:25
Is that exactly exactly like a.com. And so I knew there were that kind of things on the internet and then to be introduced to gay.com. She’s told me that the girl who gave me the sheet of paper, she said, I think you could make some friends on here. So
K Anderson 5:46
patronizing way? Yeah,
Darby Lynn Cartwright 5:49
I think she was doing her best because it was this was 1998 9099. And, you know, very Christian, conservative part of the world. So I think she was just trying to be like, hey, you have like, you have a friend like you’re I, you know, I know. Which I don’t know how she could tell. I mean, I was just did an eighth grade boy walking around singing Judy Garland in the hallways
K Anderson 6:17
with a printed out naked woman picture in your bag.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 6:21
Like to carry it everywhere I went. And she was my news.
K Anderson 6:26
Darby Lynn Cartwright 6:27
Yeah. So when I got on gay.com, I, I signed up under some because I was a kid, you know, and you had to say you were 18. And I was all at 14. So I was like, hell yeah, I’m 18. I love to vote. And I, I think my first screen name was something really innocent. And, you know, it was like here to make friends at four or whatever. And it was not long, that I realized that, Oh, this is not like a friend making place. This is like a sex thing. For the most part. I mean, there were certainly people who put in their bios, like friends only which you know what that means. That’s like, I just want to talk to you and find out if you’re a bottom first. But I mean, I can’t explain it to the youth of today. But when the internet was still kind of coming to light, you really only knew the people in your immediate area, like you really only knew the people in your town. So getting on that website, it was the first time I talked to a gay person, it was the first time that I identified as a gay person and talk to another gay person. And like, sure, was it about, you know, your butthole? For sure, there were some some of that conversation. But it was just so exciting to know that there were other people in the world that I could access. Because if I wanted to access a gay person, I’d have to go to conversion therapy. And I’m not doing that. No, ma’am.
K Anderson 8:04
did say. So. Looking on to gay.com in like those days? What? Like, what was the chat function? Like? or How did it work? Was it by area or?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 8:18
Yeah, so it had, first of all, that the color combo was like a dark green, and a dark black and a gray. So it was like, cool. And yeah, there was General rooms that were like male, for male, older for younger male for male bears, you know, whatever. And then there were, the United States was broken down by areas. So it’s like Northwest, South, you know, whatever. And then you could select your state. And that was usually the place to go for Memphis, because you could select Memphis and go into a Memphis only chat room, but it was so small, that Tennessee was usually like, the place to go. But then you know, in California, LA, you would want to go to the LA one or San Francisco, you’d want to go to the San Francisco one. And then if you were truly just like, looking to be naughty, and like you didn’t care that you would ever meet these people. That’s when you ended up in the I was always in the older younger, for obvious reasons. I was I was playing that role. I used it while I had it.
K Anderson 9:30
Okay, I do want to talk about that. But let’s just like let’s talk about the Tennessee room, first of all. So I mean, again, like this is something that the youth of today are not going to understand. But you login, and then you go into the room. And then there’s just like a list of names that are profile names. Yes. Yeah. And can you then do they have a profile You can then go and look at.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 10:02
Yes, yeah, it was. And it was the typical, like any gay dating website profile that you can imagine it was, you know, headless torsos were very popular. No, but
K Anderson 10:15
they were photos. Yeah.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 10:19
Small photos. That was at the time. People could say, Sorry, I don’t have a webcam. Sorry, go and have a picture on the internet because that was true. Like a lot of people. When I started to realize that the people with pictures that chatted with more often, I needed a picture. But I was too afraid to use my face. So I, my, my dad’s office was in our house, and he had a scanner, you know, those like, really slow like, it would take like, 30 minutes to upload a four by six picture. I found a picture of me at the beach. And my though I
K Anderson 11:05
thought you were gonna tell me you sat on the scanner, scan.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 11:11
Calm that was for me. And I cut the picture. Because I didn’t know how to crop I didn’t know if I’d be able to I cut like my head out of the picture. You like holding a bucket? In front of the ocean in a bathing suit? Yeah, and then boom, I was getting all of these messages out of nowhere. And yeah, they had profiles. And they had most people stayed in the general chat, but a big thought there was a limit to the amount of people who could be in it. So if that hat like let’s say, Tennessee filled up, it would automatically launch to Tennessee to and then the people I think only 100 people could be in the first one. So it would you know, it would just keep going down. But you want it to be in the first round. Like that’s where you want it to be. And so it was just a constant. Click out refresh, right, guys? Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah, for sure. You want it to be number one. But a lot of people chat in the the actual room. And then you did have the option to click on the name, view the profile and, and you could go ahead and message someone privately. And so
K Anderson 12:23
what kind of chat was in the main room? Was it mostly like, I live here? Who wants to suck my dick?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 12:33
Well, that I mean, that’s a beautiful sentiment. But yeah, there were some of that there was, you know, were you ever on the AOL chat rooms? Did you ever? Okay, well, for the kiddos who, who did that, who are now grown adults with jobs, they hate it, it was kind of like that. It was like the AOL chat room where people, especially in the sexual ones would be like, these are my stats. This is
K Anderson 12:58
Darby Lynn Cartwright 13:00
ASL. American Sign Language very important. Well, they didn’t need sex, because it was like all dudes, but yeah. And then there were some people who viewed themselves as keepers of the room. And they would actually start conversations about gay stuff. They’d be like, hey, Barbra Streisand still alive. That’s fine. Right? You know, and they were like that back and forth. But there’d be a really fun conversation about some gay thing and pop culture happening. And then in the middle of it, you just have to take a break for all of the Oh my God, my dick is so hard and then be like, great. Anyway, back to Barbra Streisand.
K Anderson 13:43
That say that person wasn’t saying that they were hard as a result of the conversation about Barbra Streisand.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 13:49
Oh, you know what? That the light bulb moment? It could have been you’re absolutely right. I didn’t know a lot about pink back then. I didn’t know about the Streisand king that is so prominent, right.
K Anderson 14:04
Yeah. Yeah. And, and so thinking about that list of names that appeared on the side of the window. Is there anyone that you remember? Anyone that stuck with me from 1999 it was an important time like your you know, your burgeoning sexuality being explored. Hung dude. 7373 would
Darby Lynn Cartwright 14:32
have been a good age for me. Yeah, that like, there was one that I was absolutely obsessed with, because he kept fish the entire room. And he used these model pictures and like, again, we didn’t know a lot about the internet. So like researching, is that a real picture? Just, you just had to go with
K Anderson 14:51
that watermark was his tattoo, right?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 14:54
Yeah. Oh, that’s a weird tattoo. I didn’t know that. You were What’s a shutter shutter stop? Yeah. And he had it in different places on his body, depending on the picture. Now there’s this guy, he uses initials like j, the P or something, and it had like 3000. And then he would get found out or something. I did notice and he would change it to a different 1000 to be like jvp 4000, jp 5000.
K Anderson 15:27
no one will recognize me with this new name.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 15:30
Yeah. And yeah, I don’t remember a lot of their screen names. I remember when I identified what a twink was, and I identified that I belonged in that category. And my screen names would change. They were very twink driven. And it was I was just trying to be like, playful. Okay, so
K Anderson 15:57
talk to me about twink culture. So for anyone who’s listening that doesn’t know what a twink is. Can you explain?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 16:07
Well, if you don’t know what a twink is, then I can’t help you. That’s a weird thing. Not to know. I mean, straight people know it now. Like it’s a joke on late night TV. Yeah, and I’m speaking as a as a twunk. I’m certainly not a tween or a twink.
K Anderson 16:25
What is that past tense? It’s past tense. twink. And that’s the thing. I don’t know. I think it’s funny though. Okay. It’s a thing. I identify. Okay, so you’re gonna make that happen, right? Yeah, no, it’s already happening. Okay, cool. Brilliant.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 16:43
No, twink is like a young, hairless. Usually very skinny. Idiot child.
K Anderson 16:53
hairless is the key thing there, isn’t it?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 16:56
Yeah, it’s a big part of it. Because if you have hair, and you’re skinny, you’re an otter, you’re not a 20. You’ve got to be hairless. Which, at 15 years old was not hard for me to do. You know, God did for me.
K Anderson 17:14
I think maybe I was hairy at 15. It’s unfortunate. Yeah.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 17:21
I could never love the skin. You’re in no body parts. Yeah, yeah. There was not body positivity in 1999. It was wild. Wild West.
K Anderson 17:29
Yeah, it was like, you know, wax every inch of your skin or perish, basically. And yeah, so. So Twinkie usernames, what would they be like?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 17:45
Oh, God. I remember. I remember a specific, like, person kept messaging me. And was really focused on the twink thing. And at the time, my screen name did not reflect that. And so I realized, like, Oh, I got to jump on this opportunity. So I changed my screen name to something like twink for fun. You know?
K Anderson 18:16
What I’m before or? Yes, of course. Okay. Good. Good. Good. Good. Well, I was just gonna be sure yeah.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 18:24
And there was a lot of underscores for no reason. And then I went into a chat room and my screen name whatever it was, immediately, people started to chat like making fun of it. Damn it, and it took a few tries. I think I ended on twink me, as I thought it sounded like Twinkie. This is coming from like a very closeted teenager stuck into the Bible Belt. Okay.
K Anderson 18:55
That even been like, you know, it mean me, I need a twink twink. Me. It sounds like Twinkie. And it’s a desperate attempt for attention. But so isn’t it more like someone who’s not a twink? Who like once a twink would be like twink. me. Anyway, I’m overthinking this. Sorry.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 19:17
Yeah, You’re overthinking this and that that person is dead, that that person no longer is with us. So we’d have to take a time machine and ask, ask me because I don’t I don’t have an explanation.
K Anderson 19:28
So anyway, so So you were doing lots of work and finessing and refining your user name and you came up with the gym. That is twink. Me and, and so what kind of conversations started when you stumbled upon this gem of a name?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 19:47
Um, you know, there was a lot of there were actually a lot of people who were there because they were in the same situation I was at they were stuck in this really, you No conservative, scary place, and they just needed to connect. And I wouldn’t say I made friends. Because once the sexual thing became more, something, I was kind of gunning for that I had lost all interest in that. But once when I got on the first time, like, you know, the conversations were like, tell me about your family. Are you out? The answer was always No. And a lot of us just talked about our future plans. It was like, Well, what are you going to do when you can leave? And that was like a really so depressing. But that was like a lot of the conversation was just like, what’s your current situation? And how can you change it? I remember having a lot of conversations like that. A lot. Wow.
K Anderson 20:45
So then, so I knew nothing about Tennessee. Mm hmm. You’ve said already that it’s very conservative. Yes. What was it like growing up? They’re
Darby Lynn Cartwright 20:59
super fun. No trauma? I would do it again. 10 times? No, I’m just kidding. It was awful. It was very, very conservative. In the south. There are more churches than there are any other buildings. There’s a church on every corner. We grew up in a mega church, you know, those churches with like, 10,000 members and you’re screaming in an arena for Jesus. So that was just a huge part of our identity. Yeah, it was tough. It it’s, it’s bizarre because I like Chan, the the drag queen. I do. IMHO my online series with she’s 10 years younger than me. And she also grew up in the south. But our experiences couldn’t be any more different. It’s It’s wild, how quickly things changed. But in the late 90s, early aughts, it was just survive as long as you can, like, try and remain under the radar as long as you can. Because there are places they will put you. Like I knew I knew about the exodus ministries, the gay conversion therapy. And that was my biggest fear is that I would be found out and I would be sent to that. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be straight. I certainly did. I ended up going to a Southern Baptist College in Mississippi. I chose that because I thought it would help me change to do musical theater or it was vocal performance. And I’m sorry to show choir up in Mississippi college naturals and we always make the natural sign with our hands. You know, super gay. I had sex with a lot of men at that college. But
K Anderson 22:46
yeah, okay. But so that’s so when did you like you know that everyone has this kind of eureka moment. But when did you have that first inkling then that like, Oh, hey, yeah, maybe maybe I do you like guys?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 23:03
Oh, super duper early. Like I remember. I have a distinct memory of first I was in the first grade classroom. And the girls were kind of giggling about how cute this boy was. And I was like, Yeah, I think this like is just the thing people are thinking like, I definitely think and it just kind of content like I remember, when I you know, same around the same time when I was learning how to swim, there was a male instructor and a female instructor. And I was enamored with this young, muscular man. I, I denied it at all cost. You know, I did a lot of prayer. But it wasn’t until I realized that, oh, this isn’t just like something wrong with me. This is something that a lot of people are, and like truly signing on to gay.com. And I’m sure it’s similar to other sites like gaydar and whatever. And realizing that like, Oh, this isn’t some quote unquote, problem that you have. It’s it’s something that a lot of people just live as. It definitely helped me change my perspective. I mean, did I go back and forth with the, you know, Southern Baptist skills? Absolutely. Like I cannot tell you how many times I deleted a.com like I have, I’ve deleted it and signed up again, so many times. It was like 2122 23. But you know, when I was in a good headspace, it was a it was a great comfort, for sure.
K Anderson 24:46
So you’ve talked about being afraid of being sent to turn ex gay ministry type situation to be averted. Was that was that like an actual or a real threat in your family?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 24:59
I knew of some When I was in middle school, who was sent to one for my church group, and Exodus ministries is what it was called. And they would do these large like our pastor were given a sermon on homosexuality and how dangerous and disgusting it is. And then when you came out of the service, they’d have this big setup. And you could go get like a pencil, and a key chain that says Exodus ministries, and they give you, you know, all of this literature, you could purchase books. And when my mom found out that I was gay, when I was 19, she The first thing she did West, go to an exodus ministries conference. And she purchased this book called, you don’t have to be gay. But I still have it. It’s very funny to me. It says You don’t have to be gay. And on the front, it’s just a man peeking behind some blinds peeking into know. It makes me giggle. But yeah, Exodus ministries and the dangers of homosexuality were they were very vocal about that. So I internalize that, and I, I knew I couldn’t leave, I could, I knew I couldn’t leave home and survive it. Like, I just didn’t think I could do that.
K Anderson 26:22
And but then, so like accessing gay.com in the house, when your parents were around?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 26:30
Well, my parents both had jobs that kept them, like my dad had a home office, but for the most part, he worked at his office, and he would do home office stuff on the weekends. So my parents were rarely at home when we were, especially in high school. And my brother and my sister and I would set times, you know, like, I want the computer from this time to this time. And we all kind of knew that we were probably doing things that we shouldn’t be doing. So we just left it alone. So like, it was my brother’s time on the computer, on that gorgeous green iMac. We just, I just wouldn’t look at it while he was on it. And the same thing for us. My brother has sense now that we’re grown. My brother did say that he saw me looking at gay porn. Like when we were in high school, and he’s like, I didn’t say anything. But like, yeah, of course, I
K Anderson 27:27
knew. I mean, he must have been, like half an hour, if he could see the whole image load. Oh, and a video, forget it. It’s just not gonna happen. But but like browsing history, no one did no one ever find out.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 27:47
We knew how to delete the browser history. However, my brother, so my brother calls me into the living room, he’s on the computer. And he goes, look what I found. And it’s a folder labeled cache. But we thought it was cache, since it’s CA, ch, e core, and it’s all the little images that you’ve seen are saved to this folder. And so my brother goes, Hey, I was on this website. And suddenly, a porn ad popped up. And look, there’s all these pictures of naked women in this folder, like, what are we? What is this? How do we get rid of this? And I was like, that is such a problem. I knew. I was like, that is that is quite a conundrum. So we called my dad’s tech guy at his company. And he walked us through how to delete it. And of course, he’s like giggling the whole time. And he’s like, first of all, it’s cash. And this is how you get rid of it. I mean, he was young. He was like, I get it, you know? But yeah, we were very careful with the browser history and the cash once we figured out what it was.
K Anderson 29:02
I loved it. That was your solution, though. Let’s bring someone who’s connected to our dad.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 29:07
I thought that what I thought that my brother’s excuse was solid, like an ad pop. Now, there’s titties like it rang true to me. I mean, it rang true to twink me to like, in that mindset, it was very simple for me to just sign on to something. And the password that was another thing. Anytime you’d sign in, it would save the password. So you’d have to go in and delete your data. COMM password. I did that a lot.
K Anderson 29:38
And so let’s talk about the older younger chatroom.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 29:43
Yeah, yeah, trigger warning. If, you know this is definitely not great. And But yeah, I of course, the older men Were the ones that mostly pursued me. I would say I was 18. It was clear I was not. So I say older men, but the ones who really engaged me. I think older men is too nice of a term. It was more, that was paraphilia, you know, and it started off. Truly, like, I just thought that I was being accepted in this new identity, and that daddy’s older men were the people that would accept me. So I needed to continue that, you know, realm. And that’s kind of how my sexuality blossomed was under that. So, you know, even today, even at 36, like, I still am very much attracted to older men like it just, that’s what I came to understand sex to represent.
K Anderson 30:57
You said, you thought that the older men would accept you? I mean, what do you mean by that?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 31:06
They were so excited to talk to me, it was the most acceptance, it was the most I felt like I belonged, that I could find, and, you know, in, in the life I was living, no one would accept me, no one would be excited to talk to a gay guy in Memphis, but that I knew, but these other men, they wanted to talk to me, like they thought I was fine. They actually think I’m better than Bonnie. I think it was just like a coping thing,
K Anderson 31:39
really. But you didn’t find that from people your own age, or people slightly older.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 31:45
I think it was the pursuit that the pursuit of that the older group showed me was so flattering to my dumb little brain. That I was I was just drawn to it, the fact that people were drawn to me, because, you know, I was the skinny, a feminine kid who just always got made fun of growing up for up to I talked, and how now I’m here. And all of those qualities are like, you know, exciting and, and to be lauded, really. So it just kind of, you know, started there. And my first sexual experience was, I was 14 or 15. A guy mental and gay, calm. And much older man. Yeah, he came over to my house while my parents were all my entire family was a church. And yeah, it was. Yeah, it well and it you’re very vulnerable at that age, you’re very vulnerable when you’ve internalized all this homophobia. When I came out to my dad, my dad said, and my dad said this a lot growing up, I just whenever homosexuality would be brought up at church or whatever, it’s just that gay people die. Gay people dying on. So I, as soon as I got that physical touch from someone else, even though it wasn’t something I I enjoyed. I had never had an orgasm. Like I didn’t know what that was. I didn’t know what he was doing.
K Anderson 33:36
I was so you’d never like you’d never want
Darby Lynn Cartwright 33:40
no. Oh, wow. We used to get my brother and I used to smash our stuff against like chairs, and toy boxes. Our toy box was like solid wood so we would just kind of hump the toy box. My mom called it hurting ourselves. And she’d be like, don’t you hurt yourself? Don’t you like we have a video of us like cleaning like we were giving our car our play car like a washed down or whatever. And then my brother just stops and gets on top of the car and starts like humping it as he needed a break. When you can hear my mom got Don’t hurt yourself. But like,
K Anderson 34:17
like, like hit toe quit.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 34:19
I got sent home and kindergarten for doing that. I humped my chair and I got sent home. kids do that right. It was a different time.
K Anderson 34:40
was to you like have an erection? And you would like rub against something?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 34:47
No, no, no, it was more like the the idea would pop in our head. And then I would just plop down on the ground and just start humping it and i think i would i don’t know I’m sorry, I’m sorry, sorry,
K Anderson 35:01
I’m not judging you.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 35:03
No, that’s fine. If you want to judge, like a seven year old, go for a year the app
K Anderson 35:08
situation, but like so. You would you and your brother do it at the same time? Um,
Darby Lynn Cartwright 35:19
yeah, guess sometimes it was just we didn’t know what it was like we didn’t know what sex was. We didn’t know what it was. And my mom and dad never took time to explain it. It was literally just hurting yourself. hurt yourself. Don’t hurt yourself. You’re hurting yourself. But they never explained what that meant. That’s a southern parent, though. Okay.
K Anderson 35:39
Yeah. Okay. So like arranging for this man to come over? Like, do you remember what you were anticipating?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 35:50
No. I remember that he kept calling me beautiful in the chat. Like I remember. He kept calling me beautiful, and kept saying he had to meet me. And I was so flattered by that. And so excited that someone was calling me beautiful. I don’t, I didn’t have any sort I didn’t even have all I knew about sex Really? was from these chats what people had told me, but I didn’t know what it was, you know, like, we didn’t have videos. There wasn’t like, the computer didn’t have porn videos back then. So I, you know. I, yeah. But it happened. And I immediately associated being gay. With that, like with sex, like, yeah, it’s not a friendship thing. It’s, it’s truly sex. And that’s how you get acceptance. That’s the only way people will really treat you well. And, and then you die young, you know. So I was like, well, I’ve already started the journey. And gay.com was, it was a hookup place, you know. And then once, once that had kind of turned on, for me, all of the fun of like, meeting new friends and chatting publicly, it was gone. I had flipped a switch. And I was like, Alright, this is what I’m going to use it for.
K Anderson 37:25
And then so you’re the the switch was flipped. And so how did that manifest?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 37:37
Just the, I think the desire to be desired like that. It became overwhelming. Like, it was, I couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could get on like, I couldn’t wait. If my brother was on the computer, I would make up an excuse to like, get on early. You know? I honestly don’t remember a lot of the sexual encounters that I had that early. And I think that’s probably like a defense thing. But I do remember, the mindset, like I do remember thinking, there is a certain group out there that want you there’s a certain group that think that you are perfect. And I didn’t know how to categorize that. Like I didn’t, I didn’t know what pedophilia was I didn’t know that this was wrong. And I saw I just kept going. When I was 1514, or 15, I got gonorrhea. And I went to my pediatrician, the 92 year old man who had helped deliver me, like, truly bizarre, you know, sitting in this sitting on top of an elephant, you know, and getting a sucker at the end. And he, he said, Oh, I’m gonna have to tell your parents but you have gonorrhea. And I was like, what’s that is like the sexually transmitted disease. And so my parents my parents response was, What girl Have you been with? And so I named a random girl. And they never asked any questions after that. Really, you know, nothing. That is a conservative Christian approach, though. I mean, that’s, it should surprise people who grew up in a household like that.
K Anderson 39:39
So do you think that was kind of more along the lines of them being relieved that it was a girl? Yeah. Okay. Okay. We’ll move on now. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. There, and then so so if all of this was happening at a young age, and you were still in high school, how Did it change your relationships with people your own age? Um,
Darby Lynn Cartwright 40:07
I was, I was very involved in high school and musical theater and choir and all of that very straight massacre math.
K Anderson 40:16
And you came out when you were 19. Sorry.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 40:21
Well, I was, you know, I was the hot straight guy. And yeah. So I didn’t, I melded I got along really well with that group. So I had my close, like, choir friends, and all of that, outside of that I didn’t really have anyone else. So I didn’t have enough relationships for it to really affect, and the choir relationships were so based in this environment, that was just kind of all consuming, you know, show choir kids are the worst. And I don’t think it really affected me. In that way. It did affect me when I got to college, because suddenly now my entire life is my time, my free time, I get to decide, you know what I’m going to do when I’m going to do it? Then it got to be a little excessive. Well, then, so
K Anderson 41:23
if we just stay in high school for a moment, so you were able to kind of compartmentalize these two bits of your life.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 41:30
Yeah, I mean, I could compartmentalize it to the point that as soon as whatever we were doing was over. And they left the house. It didn’t happen. Like it was just, it never happened. Like I was just watching TV. I didn’t feel like guilt with my parents, like they’d come home, because in my mind, it just never happened.
K Anderson 41:51
And so it wasn’t this kind of like exciting thing that was just like something you would kind of dying to tell people but you couldn’t. No, no, not at all. Interesting. And I know and so they always came to your house.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 42:08
Yeah, I was. I mean, I was 15. I didn’t know like, I don’t know how I would get to them. When I started driving, like when I turned 1617. Yeah, like I would, I would drive sometimes. But my parents and my parents, my entire family went to this mega church. And my twin brother was very active in it very well liked, which made me feel like shit. And so my choir director who I was obsessed with, because I was acquired kid, he was the music minister at a different church. So I actually went to a different church when I was in high school. So my family would be they, they’d be at that church all the time. And I would just say that I was going to my church, and I would end up just staying on.
K Anderson 42:55
Yeah, because, um, because the other thing is that like, there’s quite a lot to arrange there, isn’t there? It’s not like nowadays where you can just be like, Oh, you’re 300 meters away. How about you come in?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 43:06
Yeah. And, you know, we didn’t have cell phones like it. It was truly like, eight, my parents like, came up the driveway. And somebody was pulling up to the front door. Like, I had no way to contact them to be like, Go away. Go away. So yeah, so I built a system for it. And I said, of course, if there’s a car in the driveway, don’t come in. If there’s a car in the garage, I’ll turn on a light and this window. And that was like my, my trick. Aren’t humans adaptable?
K Anderson 43:44
lives like preacher ingenuity. And, okay, so back to University College. They’re the same thing, right? It’s not like,
Darby Lynn Cartwright 43:54
Yeah, okay. I don’t know what the difference is. But no, yeah.
K Anderson 43:59
I think in the UK college is different. I should know that.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 44:05
I know that I have more loan debt from my Mississippi college days than I do. My University of Western Kentucky. Or Western Kentucky University. wherever I want.
K Anderson 44:19
It’s not really important that right. And yeah. The so say you were suddenly independent. You suddenly had free rein.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 44:31
Yeah. And I was just always logged in. I was I was never not on Gator calm. And I would miss class. I would. There was one point that I went late at night to hook up with someone and my brother came to, to talk to me in my dorm room and I wasn’t there and my roommate didn’t know where I was. My brother called his friends. In his like men’s club because you can’t have fraternities that have Christian College because men’s club
K Anderson 45:06
Why can’t you have eternities? Sorry, this is not really
Darby Lynn Cartwright 45:10
drinking, drinking and like Greek gods and all that shit. We were like a no drinking. Only Jesus college.
K Anderson 45:19
Oh, okay. Tiny men’s club sounds kind of fun.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 45:25
Oh, yeah, no, no, I joined one and I had sex with many of the men that love. And it was a very gay college like Mississippi college was known as Mississippi closet to every gay person. Um, but yeah, I he sent out like a search party for me. And I really had to like, I don’t remember what my excuse was. But I, I just wasn’t worried about it. Because I knew I wasn’t going to get this up. I wasn’t gonna stop. So I made up some flimsy excuse. And he chose to believe it. And
K Anderson 46:08
But and so you were you at college together?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 46:12
Yeah. Because he was studying to become a minister. And I was studying to become a drag queen, I guess. So, yeah, we were in college together. And we lived together for a little bit, my sophomore year. And then I ended up transferring schools, my junior year, I just had to get away from Southern Baptists. But yeah, we were really close. And he got to be very protective of me. Like he, he knew I was gay, like, he knew that I was gonna have a tough time. So he was very, very protective of me. But he let me have my space. So I don’t know if that’s good or bad. One of the two.
K Anderson 47:07
We say were you comfortable with that dynamic?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 47:12
Yeah, like, again, I was very good at turning the brain off. What I was very, very good at. It didn’t happen. Nothing happened. I just kind of been trained to, to live that way. So I yeah, I was. I never brought any sort of guilt with me. concerning that. And then, you know, really, freshmen and sophomore year of college is when I really started to accept the fact that it is more than just sex on the side, it can be a relationship, those things do exist, that I started to realize, like, fuck this up this like, fuck Mississippi college, like, fuck their beliefs. So there’s almost like a defiance of like, I’m going to do more like you can’t stop me.
K Anderson 48:04
Um, you know. And then so what’s like the gay scene like in Mississippi? Like, is there a scene? Or was like, your only option?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 48:14
I don’t know if there’s a scene now I’m sure there’s something. For me, it was just a calm because I didn’t. I didn’t want to be a part of like a gay culture. I didn’t want to bring anything non sexual. As into my life, like any gay. I had Judy Garland like that was enough. I couldn’t there was no more room for gay in my life. But I’m sure there’s got to be clubs now. Right?
K Anderson 48:44
So you just weren’t curious?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 48:48
Well, I didn’t drink like I we. It was very, like, as much gay sex as I was having. I was still very like Southern Baptist. I didn’t drink. I didn’t like I didn’t curse. I was just very. So the idea of going to a club just didn’t interesting at all. At all.
K Anderson 49:07
But your thinking did start to morph away from your identity being just about this sex, and that you could mess with people?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 49:20
Yes, yeah, I met my first boyfriend on gay.com and name with Nick.
K Anderson 49:27
Sweet with a K there, right.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 49:31
And I ck yak, which is my dad’s name. So that was super sexy, Easy. Easy to remember. He was actually the son of one of the professors at my college. And we dated for God. like six weeks, I think something very strong,
K Anderson 49:54
longer than any of my relationships.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 49:57
I mean, I still hold the record and missus For the longest gait relationship, I’m not giving up that title. But yeah, it’s that is what really helped me see, like he he was the first time I lost like my virginity with my butt. And he was the first time that like someone wrote me, I’d love to know, he was the first time somebody bought me a present, you know, like a Valentine’s present. So once I realized like that could happen. It was over. I think I just
K Anderson 50:30
I wasn’t going back. Oh, Nick. Nick is quite special then. So did it stop? Did it start off as a hookup and then progress? Or did it start off in her house someplace?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 50:41
Yeah, it started off just kind of like hookup talk. And then he’s like, I think I might actually like you. Yeah, and then we went to dinner, but we had to go like, far away from college because we didn’t want anyone to see us than our.
K Anderson 51:00
Yeah. And that was your first time. Mm hmm. Where did you go?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 51:07
We went to we went outside of Jackson, Jackson, Mississippi. I think it was like a diner or something. It was like definitely, like a Denny’s or something. I don’t I don’t totally remember. But I do remember we did drive a really long way. Because we the school was in Clinton, Mississippi, which is where Lance Bass from in sync is from. And the closest big city is Jackson. And that was still too close. So we drove on the other side of Jackson to find something so that no one would see us.
K Anderson 51:43
Like, did you go together? Or did you guys separately?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 51:46
We went together. He had a red Jetta because he was gay. And he he had an off campus apartment. So I would walk over there. And we would go but I would definitely drove by campus, I would scooch down.
K Anderson 52:08
How fascinating. Fascinating, sad, you know, whatever word you want to use. Basically, like, so you had six weeks of bliss. And then it ended. But things like change to you by then.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 52:26
At that point, the the sexual compulsion was like, too ingrained. Like that was just a part of me. I continued today, I ended up dating like a football player at our rival school, a Methodist college for like, a year
K Anderson 52:45
to explain that to me. What’s the difference?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 52:50
Methodist and Southern Baptists. Yeah. Southern Baptist is like, when you watch evangelicals like screaming to God, for Trump to win the presidency like turnover. That’s like an evangelical that’s like a Southern Baptist, Methodist, just like you can drink wine. It’s fine. Some Methodist churches allow gay people in they’re just way more laid back. Okay, Southern Baptist. Is there terrorists? Like today? Yeah.
K Anderson 53:19
Okay. All right. Cool. So I’m on the right page. And let’s talk about the compulsion. Yeah, a bit more. So, did that compulsion just go away when you were dating people?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 53:32
No, no, no. It, it would go away for like, three or four months. And then it was just like, back in full force. And at that point, it wasn’t just a.com. Like there was Adam for Adam. Was that one Craigslist, Craigslist started? I don’t know, there was other options.
K Anderson 53:55
So you had like multiple browser windows open?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 53:59
Yeah. Well, plus my homework and my Bible. I was in a Bible class. So I had to keep up with that.
K Anderson 54:07
But this compulsion, so how did that like how did that impact those relationships? Were you? was it again? A matter of compartmentalizing?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 54:17
Yeah. It wasn’t positive wasn’t a positive impact. It Yeah, it I was able to hide it really, really well, early on. And a big reason I was able to hide it really well was again, like technology had not caught up. You know, like you could delete your texts and there wasn’t like a record there. You know, there was a lot of things that just didn’t exist that exists now. So it was super duper easy. And then as technology developed, I got worse and worse at hiding it until ultimately it was destroyed. My my relationship and I went into like a 12 step recovery program.
K Anderson 55:06
Darby Lynn Cartwright 55:08
Yeah, there’s a sexual compulsives and a sexual sex addict program.
K Anderson 55:15
And what to enter? Is that like the same type of approaches? Like
Darby Lynn Cartwright 55:20
it’s exactly, yeah, yeah, 12 steps, exact same 12 step, you get a sponsor, you do the steps. I’ve had a lot more success with my sex addiction and sex addiction, my sexual therapist, my sex therapist. And that helps me kind of take apart in my brain that the things that I don’t understand how they go together, or don’t understand how the past trauma has, like affected my current behavior. So I had a lot more success with this with a sex therapist, but the the 12 step program did help start that desire to change. For sure.
K Anderson 56:03
And so enter like, what are your again, like, you don’t have to talk about this. So like, what are your triggers?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 56:13
Um, I don’t, I don’t really have them anymore. It’s not. It’s,
I guess I’ve, I’ve, I’ve started to put my brain back together. But a lot of it at the time, a lot of it was
really just the online stuff. Like, it got to the point that I wasn’t like hooking up with people, but I couldn’t stop looking for it. That was a lot of what I what I experienced.
K Anderson 56:47
And so it’s looking for that gratification.
Darby Lynn Cartwright 56:51
Yeah. Yeah, it was. I mean, it’s, it’s the thing that it was the first thing, first positive emotion I felt surrounding my sexuality was that validation I received from the chat rooms. And so I think it makes sense that as I continued to desire it, it just became, like, a hardwired thing I needed, I felt. Is this the most depressing loss faces you’ve ever done? This is like the sad
K Anderson 57:30
one. Everyone’s like,
Darby Lynn Cartwright 57:32
I missed the bar. Like, I love dancing in the bar. And I’m like, yeah, so anyway, I got molested. I’m sure everyone’s clicked off with this one. I, I want to say, in general, because I was thinking, I was thinking about this after we decided that gate calm was the last space we would discuss. I haven’t thought about it. And yours. I haven’t talked about it in years. And it was a huge part of it was the only way I really learned to develop my sexuality. And it was a part of my life for 10 years, it became a pretty toxic part of my life. However, I did have some positive interactions I did have I did see that gay people lived in the world. I did speak to another gay person. And I said, I’m like you, you know. Like, I just think back then those resources were so important. And there were so few and far between. So I’m not surprised that it was it took on a strong sexual thing because gay guys are the worst.
But I regret that I not regret I I wish I had had a better outline to take on that that call. Like, I wish I had had some sort of framework to put gay.com in instead of me just like discovering it.
But I I’m happy. I had something is that fair to say thing? I don’t know. Am I happy?
Yeah, I think
K Anderson 59:23
what else? What else? What was the alternative? Like what else could you refound?
Darby Lynn Cartwright 59:30
Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know what that would have been. Honestly. Yeah. I’m very happy that kids today these crazy kids. I’m really happy that they don’t have to have the experience that I had. For the most part. I’m not saying that there aren’t still kids stuck in tough situations. But yeah, calm is wild.
K Anderson 59:57
Did you ever visit k.com Well, if you did, I would love to hear from you find me on social media and share your stories and anecdotes from using that website. I am on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with the user handle K Anderson music. And also make sure that you give Darby a follow on Instagram at Darby and Cartwright and make sure that you follow IMHO the show on Youtube youtube.com. I am a Chico the show. Simple right? Lost spaces is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single welborn boys which is also playing underneath my talking right now on all streaming platforms. If you liked this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told other people who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to. I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.