St. Louis Public Radio RTDNA Kaleidoscope Award Entry
St. Louis Public Radio’s commitment to diversity in our newsroom and coverage can be classified as constantly striving; constantly realizing we have more to learn. We recognize that to truly represent our community in our coverage, we have to have a newsroom that reflects that community. We’re working on it.
In the past five years, we’ve gone from an almost-exclusively white, heteronormative newsroom to a less-exclusively white newsroom with representation of the LGBTQ community. As a result, the range of issues we’ve covered has expanded; how we discuss issues has changed; and our own awareness of our implicit biases is more finely tuned than it was before.
Nancy Fowler has given voice to people across a wide spectrum of the LGBTQ community. Through a historical lens, her stories illuminate the lives of people who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender and nonbinary, with an additional focus on the experiences of African Americans and seniors.
Here are Fowler's stories that reflect our station's values:
When she learned about a documentary project featuring home movies of gay men in 1945, Fowler knew it reflected two topics our listeners care about: overcoming prejudice and LGBTQ issues. What’s more, the story has historical significance, which is always of interest to our audience. The radio component of this piece is gripping, but what really makes the piece special is the digital experience. There, people can read more deeply and see for themselves the unique home movies featuring gay men freely expressing themselves during an era that didn’t accept them.
The art of drag has changed dramatically since the heyday of 90-year-old St. Louisan Bonnie Blake aka John Cheney, known as the oldest performing drag queen. The shift is exemplified by 28-year-old performer Maxi Glamour, who identifies as nonbinary. They perform dressed in a variety of styles that include pairing a skirt with a bare male chest, an endeavor that calls into question the very notion of gender.
To mark the annual Transgender Day of Visibility, we visited with two older transgender women, whose similar experiences marched in time with history. For one, a bathroom mirror from childhood provides a portal into the past and a way to talk with her terrified younger self.
Through the eyes of one St. Louis man, we explore what it was like to be black and gay in the '80s. Erise Williams now runs Rustin’s Place, named for Bayard Rustin, a gay man who organized MLK’s march on Washington. The location provides food, laundry facilities and information for mostly homeless African American LGBTQ people. The availability of these services contrasts sharply with the conventions of Williams' youth, when beliefs about AIDS included “you can only get it if you sleep with a white man” and major St. Louis gay clubs offered once-a-week “Urban Nights,” as the only time black men could attend.