The debate on the LGBTQ representation is never ending and becomes all the more necessary, especially with the changing political climate in the west. Post the US elections last year, the election of Donald Trump served as a major threat to the minorities, and especially, people of color and LGBTQ community, who had finally achieved the right to be able to marry, after decades of fighting. Closer to home, article 377 still poses a great challenge in overcoming the obstacles and the fight for basic rights continues.
In the midst of such discussion, representation, more importantly positive representation, becomes mandatory and something which is not only a requirement but a need. While researching various platforms that do propagate such representation, I was nudged towards podcasts by my partner, who introduced me to this ever growing platform, that acts a substitute for radio shows, where people come together and discuss, tell stories, folk lore, talk about music, and much more. And this is where I was astonished and pleasantly surprised to find a wide range of podcasts about LGBTQ community.
Welcome to Night Vale written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and is not only immensely entertaining through its dystopian storytelling techniques that swims along with Sci-Fi. But it’s the narrator Cecil who is an openly gay radio host of this small town, who can barely disguise his infatuation with Carlos, a scientist travelling through Night Vale. Welcome to Night Vale does not delve directly into the realm of identity politics, but the mere fact that it is situated in a universe where things are not just upside down, but almost….utopian even. Libraries are evil, Librarians get banished, the government is playing a secret game with the citizens and the Mayor of Night Vale can become invisible upon will. Cecil never mentions whether the families in Night Vale are the conventional familial systems present in our world. The fascinating aspect is, it is a universe where nothing is conventional, so much so that a Queer individual such as Cecil himself can unabashedly asks his listeners to listen to a message Carlos left for him and tell him whether he asked him out on a date. It’s funny, it’s surreal yet it’s all so believable.
The same group of writers also introduced Alice Isn’t Dead, a podcast presented in the form of found recordings of a woman who is driving across America in her truck looking for her missing wife Alice. Along the way she encounters various characters, ghosts, and monsters of her past and present. Alice Isn’t Dead is a spin-off of Welcome to Night Vale but hints towards a different world. The protagonist is a relatable and strong woman riddled with flaws of her own.
Both these podcasts perform one major basic function that is highly required in the present play of identity and sexual politics. They are phenomenal in presenting LGBTQ characters in shades of grey, with flaws, and without general character romaticization. Cecil is aware of his sexuality, and mentions how he used to have a travelling partner when he was travelling through Europe. There is no blatant need to show that these podcasts are attempting to high light the struggle to discover or cement an identity, but the attempt lies in the blending of the characters with their world, which is dystopian and yet more accepting than ours.
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a podcast that reads Harry Potter novels like sacred texts are read. The podcast doesn’t actively discuss LGBTQ but the of the two panelists Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, the latter actively talks about his how the books relate to his married life to his husband. In one episode the duo delivered a eulogy to the victims of Orlando shooting that happened last year in a club Pulse. They read out a portion from Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire and dedicated it to the victims. It was a touching gesture and an important one especially as the Trump campaign was gaining velocity in the background.
Transition Transmission is the only podcast that speaks about transition and keep its listeners updated with news and guides for Trans people who are struggling and coping. Sewers of Paris, named after a legendary gay bar in California in the 70’s, is another very entertaining podcast that hosted by Matt Baum, that keeps its audience upbeat with the latest LGBTQ gossip and pop culture news. The podcast Homoground discusses queer musicians and queer music and also includes interviews with some of them.
In this age podcasts aren’t limited to certain people, since owing to its popularity there are several apps on Android OS that provide this service. They are very easily accessible and free and some are promoting awareness and representation as much as they can. Most are active in speaking up against the changing political climate and how speaking about it is the only way to go.