“As a gay Asian man, I have been waiting for something exactly like this.”
“It’s like potato chips for your ears, if potato chips also had vitamins that made them good for you.”
This spring WNYC Studios debuted “Nancy,” a podcast about LGBTQ life, and the reviews went wild.
Listeners felt so “refreshed,” they wrote, by Nancy’s frank discussion of gay identity because it’s a conversation that has largely been lacking in the podcast space. And now, with “Nancy” and other new podcasts, that’s changing.
“If you make 10 shows for white guys then you make 10 shows for the same audience and that’s your business model, I might silently judge you for that,” says Jenna Weiss-Berman, co-founder of Pineapple Street Studios and former head of audio at Buzzfeed. “I don’t think that’s a super-smart business. Especially in podcasting, this new exciting space where you can be super-experimental and it doesn’t cost money to try new things — this is where we should be doing that.”
Weiss-Berman helped create “Making Gay History,” an LGBTQ interview podcast led by Eric Marcus, and she admits that she cries every time she listens to Nancy. “It’s like what I felt when I first watched ‘Fun Home,’ ” Weiss-Berman said of the Alison Bechdel graphic memoir that’s been made into a play. “I’ve been watching old straight people love stories forever, and now there’s something for me.” Weiss-Berman’s Pineapple Street Studios just launched a podcast with Janet Mock, “Never Before,” in which the writer and advocate interviews people and discusses her own experience living as a trans woman.
“There’s many stories being told now,” Weiss-Berman says. The podcast industry “started out as like a quirky, straight, white boys club, especially in terms of hosts. And now it’s much more diverse … Generally the space has really opened up. And it makes a lot of sense in the medium, because podcasting is such an intimate medium. People feel really connected to the hosts of shows. To have their own experience reflected in the show is really important.”
Below, some suggested listens for Pride Month and beyond. Is there a queer podcast you love, or maybe a great example of another podcast episode that tells LGBTQ stories? Tell us in the comments.
Hosts Kathy Tu and Tobin Low lead these episodes around a variety of topics, exploring all sides of LGBTQIA+ life. The first episode explores their coming-out stories and the difficult conversations they’ve had with their parents. Another episode follows a transgender woman throughout her day, and another interviews Lena Waithe, who plays the lesbian best friend on Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series, “Master of None.”
Tu and Low say they hope “Nancy’s” success leads to even more podcasts on queer issues. “For me, I realized I’ve been ignoring a lot of my queer identity, so in the show you hear a lot of me trying to figure things out, like personal stories of me going ‘what’s going on with me? Why am I feeling this way?’ ” Tu says. “I don’t know if I had a lot of queer influences before I started working on this show. Before it was straight media, that’s like all I had, and there’s a lot of straight media.”
Listen: “Like Two Ken Dolls Being Smashed Together,” Season 1, Episode 2
“Making Gay History”
When Eric Marcus first began writing his book (“Making Gay History,” published in 1988), he interviewed dozens of leaders and influencers across the country. Now, with the help of Weiss-Berman, he’s taken those archival tapes and turned the conversations into a podcast, “Making Gay History.”
“There was clearly a hunger about this kind of thing: whether it’s contemporary queer life as ‘Nancy’ explores, or the history of the movement, which is what we explore,” he says.
“What we have found is there’s an enormous hunger for this history — and I think it’s because it hasn’t been taught. I’ve been interviewed by high school kids for their high school projects. If they learn anything, they’ll see two paragraphs in a school history textbook and that’s it. And we’re telling them, “it’s fine to be gay, it’s fine to be who you are,” but there’s no context. They don’t know how we got to where we are, and where we’ve been, and I think if you don’t know where we’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going in life.”
Listen: “Dear Abby,” Season 1, Episode 8
When Kaitlin Prest was first recording her podcast, born from a “radical anarchist radio station” in Montreal, it wasn’t called “The Heart.” Instead, she called it “AudioSmut.” In the eight years since, Kaitlin has changed more than the name of the podcast — the show has moved to New York, and Radiotopia brought it under the company’s radio family. But the podcast mission remains: To tell real stories of relationships and intimacy.
A recent series, called “Pansy,” explores male femininity. Another discusses consent in sex. Another interviews women about their sexual fantasies.
“A big part of [the podcast] is this feminist urge to document the private sphere, the realm of emotion, what sex actually is, what love actually is — because they’re things that are hard to document, because they’re so private,” Prest says. “So the ethos of the show from the very beginning was about turning the mic inward and taking the mic into these extremely private moments of our lives and revealing to the world what they really look like. Most of culture, we subscribe to a fantasy of what love is and what sex is, as opposed to reality — the fervor and the rigor that journalists bring to reporting about public policy and international politics, taking that journalistic obsession to the private sphere. So that was a big part of it as well.”
Listen: “Ultraslut,” Pansy Season Series, Episode 2
Correction: This post originally stated that Eric Marcus interviewed leaders and influencers in New York City’s gay scene. It was actually leaders and influencers across the country.