Gina Trapani, Life Hacker

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When Forbes released its 2007 "Web Celeb 25" list of the most

influential people on the internet, LifeHacker.com founding editor and out

lesbian Gina Trapani made the cut. She ranked seventh, one above Facebook.com’s

Mark Zuckerberg and one below Matt Drudge (DrudgeReport.com).

To industry insiders, the

fact that the self-professed "queer tomboy" appeared on the list was

no shock. After all, LifeHacker.com is an award-winning technology blog with

over 10 million site visitors per month according to the blog search engine

Technorati.com.

An unassuming Brooklyn

native, Trapani

reacted to the honor with self-effacement, joking on her website that she was

named "alongside folks much more deserving of the title ‘web celeb’ than I

am."

What is surprising is

that no publication, until now, had ever interviewed Trapani about being an out high-profile

lesbian in the world of technology. (A Wall

Street Journal
profile mentioned her partner but, like most other

publications, focused strictly on her job.) The busy New Yorker recently took

time out of her schedule for an interview with AfterEllen.com.

Trapani recalled diving into the world of

computer programming at an early age: "I remember getting my first computer

and being like, This is awesome. I just loved it because I felt I could do so

many things. I wrote my first computer program when I was 9 or 10 on an IBM PC

junior."

She was a young nerd, a

tomboy and somewhat socially awkward. But she had an older brother who was also

a geek and he encouraged her interest in computers. "I went to graduate

school and got my graduate degree in computer science, and I went to the same

program he did," Trapani

said. "So, he kind of, in a way, was a big mentor to me."

After those

self-conscious preteen years, Trapani

began coming out to herself in spite of being surrounded by typical teenage

homophobic behavior. "I went to an all-girls Catholic school in Brooklyn in a very Italian-Catholic neighborhood,"

she recalled, "where you heard ‘Watch out for the lesbos in the locker

room’ kind of stuff, which scared the hell out of me."

Although by then she had

plenty of friends and was no longer so ill-at-ease socially, she began to

experience life as an outsider again. "The feeling of being an outcast

came back around coming out for me, for sure," she said.

Trapani ventured that if the internet had

been around when she was a teenager she might have felt less isolated: "I

kind of wish I had the access to the internet that teenagers have today."

She got a gleam in her eyes when she started to talk about what life could’ve

been like as a wired youngster, being able to "express yourself online in

a way that you’d be totally afraid to do in real life." She added, "I

think I would have had a lot of alter egos online as a kid if I had access to

the internet."

Trapani

began working in the industry as a programmer in New York City, which she described as a

"pretty liberal" place. She said that throughout her career she has

always been out, even during the job-interview process: "At some point or

another I mentioned my partner. It’s something I would be pretty clear about. I

would be out by the end of the interview."

She attributed part of

the relative ease she’s had in not hiding her sexuality to the open-minded

culture of the tech industry, even if it is male-dominated: "I think the

tech field is the field that’s most welcoming to free thinking — kind of like,

the more different you are, the more flair you have, whether you are a wonderful

flaming gay man or a tomboy like me."

The few minor bumps in

the road come from the usual suspects: internet trolls. "I’ve certainly

been called names for being queer, but trolls are trolls," she said.

"They’re going to call straight people those names if you get to them. I

mean, that’s the way to attack someone, right?"

According to Trapani, her trajectory

to internet celebrity began by chance in January 2005: "It was sort of

accidental. I was working as a programmer for the company that publishes

LifeHacker. The publisher and I were having lunch and he said, ‘I registered

this domain name, LifeHacker.com. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.’

My jaw just hit the table."

She immediately knew it

was a gold mine. "Wow," she recalled telling him, "you could do

so much with that."

"I’m just a huge

nerd," she said. "I’d heard about life hacks. I love the concept of

it — you know, that you could do these small little clever things to make your

day better — so I just started running off at the mouth: ‘You could do this.

You could do that.’"

Right then and there, the

publisher asked her if she wanted to write the site. "Back then I was only

writing code," Trapani

recalled. "I wrote my own blog at night as a hobby, but professionally I’d

only written code. So at first I wasn’t sure, but I decided to give it a

try."

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