When I read the opening paragraphs of Frank Bruni’s editorial for the Sunday New York Times, for a moment I thought the Op-Ed contributor had been flipping through my diary:
IN the mid-1980s, when I was in college, what concerned and frustrated my peers and me was how few states had basic statutes forbidding discrimination against gay men and lesbians: laws that merely prevented someone from being denied a job or apartment on the basis of whom he or she loved. At that point only Wisconsin and the District of Columbia provided such protection. The decade would end with just one addition, Massachusetts, to that meager list.
Same-sex marriage? I don’t recall our talking — or dreaming — much about that. We considered ourselves realists. Sometimes idealists. But never fantasists.
Exactly. Happily, times change and people evolve. And not just in the realms of state legislature. One of my favorite undertakings back in those halcyon college days of the Reagan/Bush era was making thematic mix tapes. But if you’d charged me with programming a full set of cool, openly queer artists, I’d have been hard pressed to fill both sides of a C-60 cassette. Jimmy Somerville, Sylvester (RIP), Phranc… I’m short of ideas already. This was long before the Internet, so “out” pop music pioneers like Jobriath and Tony Washington of the Dynamic Superiors remained virtually unknown (and with a generation of gay men beginning to die quickly from AIDS, the cultural information of that particular stripe that they carried with them was vanishing at an alarming rate).
That’s why making the annual KEXP Big Gay Podcast is such a labor of love for me. I’m almost embarrassed by how many artists from the LGBT community (and supporters of same) I have to draw on these days – and the relative ease with which this music can be disseminated around the planet, to listeners in small towns like the ones where I attended high school and college. In some regards, programming the Big Gay Podcast is like a game now. I want some hip-hop in the mix for LGBT Pride month this year… okay, who do I have to choose from? Cutting-edge club sounds, neo-classical chamber music, sludge metal… it’s all out there. And I’m blessed to have a platform like KEXP to help build this podcast, where colleagues are all too eager to help me fill in any gaps in my knowledge by turning me on to artists such as Dominican performer Rita Indiana (thanks Chilly!).
I’m not kidding myself. Our nation still has a long way to go in terms of equal rights. New York is one of only six states (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize same-sex marriage. The odious Defense of Marriage Act is still on the rolls. Certainly, the It Gets Better project wouldn’t be such a huge success if there wasn’t a continued, desperate need for its messages of hope. But progress is being made, all the same. I hope this year’s Big Gay Podcast will provide inspiration to music lovers as they go about trying to hasten that journey for all, whether you’re marching on the state capitol or perusing all those new wedding registries.
1. Hercules & Love Affair – Painted Eyes
2. Jessica 6 – Prisoner of Love
3. MEN – Off Our Backs
4. Big Freedia – Almost Famous
5. Noddy – Grind!
6. THEESatisfaction – Pause
7. Psychic Friend – Once A Servant
8. Hunx and His Punx – Lovers Lane
9. Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds – Goldin Browne
10. Torche – U.F.O.
11. Early Day Miners – Hold Me Down
12. John Grant – Jesus Hates Faggots
13. Light Asylum – Skull Fuct
14. Unicorn Kid – Dreamcatcher
15. Diamond Rings – You & Me
16. Owen Pallett – A Man with No Ankles
17. Holcombe Waller – Risk of Change
18. Baby Dee – Yapapipi
19. Stephin Merritt – Forever and a Day
DJ El Toro hosts the variety mix show on Wednesday nights from 9 PM to 1 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column-slash-rant, Weird At My School, appears infrequently on the KEXP Blog. Please follow DJ El Toro (aka Kurt B. Reighley) on Twitter!