I’ve got a story to tell you. Promise me you’ll read all the way to the end…
Not so long ago, as I was about to give up on yet another not-for-profit group that I had volunteered for, something happened that stopped me in my tracks. After years of volunteering to research, report, write, edit and raise money for non-commercial radio, I had just reached the point of burn-out. I had put in hundreds of hours producing stories and full-length programs. I had hosted our station’s ‘9-11’ coverage for eight hours. I had spent all my ‘free’ time working on any number of philanthropic ventures for a couple of years and I was just tired out. I had made a decision to resign from all my radio work, and just work at my regular job as a university professor.
The show I gave the most time to was This Way Out: the International Lesbian & Gay Radio Magazine
. I was proud of my work there and had served as board chair for a number of years. We had faced crisis after crisis, but ‘the little show that could’ managed to go out over the airwaves on a budget of essentially nothing. Working on the show, we knew that the stories, news, reviews and dispatches from and to virtually the entire planet about the lives of LGBT people and the world in which they live were being heard.
But like virtually everyone who puts in long hours on philanthropic projects, I was just worn out. For the eighth or ninth or twentieth time, I vowed to write a note to the show’s founder and producer Greg Gordon and say ‘GG (My pet nick name for him), I just can’t do it anymore…’
Now remember, I love Greg and Lucia Chappelle, his comrade in arms putting the show together for close to a quarter century. I love the volunteers who worked the show and the far-flung informal network of correspondents around the world who contributed. They are my personal heroes, having done as much, if not more for the cause of LGBT rights as anyone on the planet. They continue to work on the show long past the time any reasonable person would have given up. They gather and write perhaps the single most comprehensive record of international LGBT news any place. They produce the lively, weekly half hour show that is heard on more than 200 local stations
in the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand, via World Radio Networks satellite in Europe and the Asia-Pacific and Middle East/Africa, on iTunes
, and on free podcasts
at the This Way Out website.
I had written my resignation letter, when I saw in my email inbox a message from someone in India. The sender sounded young. I’ll call him ‘Rasheed’, because he says he can’t have his real name get out. In the email to me as board chair, he wrote about how hard it was being gay in his small village in central India, how his family would disown him if they found out about his being gay. He said he didn’t think there were any other people like him in the world. He said that he had often considered suicide, because he had no hope of meeting someone like himself. He had given up on the possibility of falling in love with another gay man. Then he heard This Way Out, and was instantly addicted. He said he had to listen on his headphones, in the dark, in his bedroom when everyone else was asleep, but finding This Way Out let him know that the world was full of passionate, accomplished and above all proud Lesbians and Gay men. He heard stories of protest and legislative triumph. He heard music by openly out and proud gay artists. He heard interviews with queer writers, and reviews of gay film festivals. He heard the latest news on protests and gay pride celebrations virtually across the planet. He heard stories of gay athletes and community organizers.
Most of all, he heard hope.
I tore up my resignation letter and told Greg the story. He laughed and said, “yeah, I know that letter.” It’s had different names over the years, and it has come from all over the planet – from Africa, Cuba, Pakistan and the Philippines; from India, Ireland, Germany and South Africa. It has come from Rasheed, Salima, Tyler and Kim. It’s come from the lonely Gay boy named Tony in Oklahoma and from Lisa in Florida who had a crush on a girl in high school. Ever so gently, I cursed ‘Rasheed’ under my breath, because there was no way I could resign from this effort that had the possibility of reaching even one – or ten, or a hundred, or ten thousand – Rasheeds and Salimas or Tylers or Kims around the world who heard that they were valued as a Lesbian or Gay man, that their life is worthwhile and that they are not alone; there are loving and powerful communities of LGBT people around the planet solving their social problems and fighting for acceptance, and their voices are respected and treasured.
I’m writing this to you now because that radio show, This Way Out, is in trouble. After nearly two and a half decades of telling the world about LGBT people, after over 1200 weekly shows, after reporting the truth around the world, This Way Out is in real danger of shutting down forever. The show is produced on a shoe string – Greg will share financial records with anyone who asks, although there isn’t much to see! Both Greg and Lucia faced life-saving surgery this past year, and the work of keeping the show going gets harder and harder. Considering how important it is to worldwide Gay communities, it would be a tragedy if This Way Out had to shut down. I’m writing you because I believe in the show, and I believe that you will want to be a part of the effort to keep it on the air.
I know requests like this have become so commonplace online that it is easy to discard; you just hit the delete button. But think what your $20 or $50 or $100 dollars would mean to Rasheed, Salima or Kim. Think of the lives of young LGBT people you will be changing. This Way Out is a treasure of our unruly, exuberant gay community. I’m begging you to take the time to think about this; to go to the This Way Out web site (www.thiswayout.org
) and use PayPal to make either a one-time donation or to sign up for modest automated monthly donations -- or postal mail your contribution to This Way Out at P.O. Box 38327, Los Angeles, CA 90038 USA. FYI, all U.S. donations are tax-deductible charitable contributions.
Now more than ever, we need you to not be shy or ambivalent about this. We have a number of ways to thank you; that’s not new. You hear these pitches all the time. But how many times have you heard that your donation could potentially save a life? Think about it. Every time you hear of a Gay suicide, or a horrendous case of bullying, haven’t you wanted to take some kind of action?
Contribute now. Be generous. Tell your friends.
Assoc. Prof. TV, Film & Media CSULAjbeaupr@calstatela.edu
PS: I’m always happy to talk more about this and welcome calls, text or email!