Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
Kathy Reiser and Scott Sliter in WJFF's studio in Jeffersonville
Gay Program One Of Only Three in the State
By Ted Waddell
JEFFERSONVILLE June 30, 2000 -- Since it first lit up local airwaves, Out Loud and Queer local public radios program devoted to broadcasting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender music has attracted a wide listening audience.
In the spring of 1997, program hosts Kathy Reiser (the self-proclaimed Trash Queen of Sullivan County) and Scott Sliter (who jokingly referred to himself as a onetime trash fairy because he worked for a while with Reiser, owner of a local trash hauling service) were asked by Kevin Gref, producer of Making Waves, to anchor his show once a month.
As the popularity of Out Loud and Queer started to grow, Reiser and Sliter got their own program, which since June 1998 has been aired every Friday night at 10 p.m. as a regular feature at WJFF, the hydro-powered public radio station in Jeffersonville (90.5 FM & 94.5 FM), commonly known as The Best Little Radio Station by a Dam Site.
For an hour each week, the program offers listeners a lot more than music, as Reiser and Sliter engage in some spirited (at times racy) dialogue from both ends of the gender perspective, air non-traditional selections by less-than-mainstream recording artists and discuss alternative lifestyle issues with guests such as Lea DeLaria, the queen of lesbian comediennes and her male counterpart, Bob Smith.
As Out Loud and Queer enters its fourth year, it is one of only three programs in the state devoted to gay and lesbian broadcasting. It joins NYCs WBAI and Homo Radio in Albany in presenting alternative listening opportunities.
They used to call it womens music, said Reiser, referring to lesbian-oriented music. Womens music has been out a lot longer than mens music, referring to the distinction been lesbian and gay-oriented music.
According to Sliter, lesbian and gay broadcasting is traditionally either one or the other, but Out Loud and Queer tries to combine the genre and at times cross that bridge.
We also have bi and transgender music, he said. And I like to play drag queen music.
When Out Loud and Queer first hit the airwaves, the theme was Jamie Andersons Im Sorry (That Your Straight Where Can I Send a Card?) but a while ago, Reiser and Sliter switched over to The Bulldagger Swagger by Phranc as their opening song.
One of the things that is so courageous about gay, lesbian, bi and transgender music is that it is very honest and non-compromising, said Sliter.
Reiser called several womens music performers incredible talents. Among her A-list picks are Chris Williamson, one of the foremothers of lesbian music, Alex Dobkin, Ferron, Sonja, K.D. Lang, the Indigo Girls and comedienne Kate Clinton.
Sliter listed a few of his contemporary favorites: Jeff Krassner (recipient of the recent Gay Lesbian American Music Award [GLAMA] for best male performer), Steve Cohen and McCawley Burke.
It Has Substance and Controversy
Sliter explained that he thinks Out Loud and Queer also provides a service for listeners who are not yet out in their lives.
While Sliter said the program has been well received, he noted they have gotten some criticism from some people (primarily gay men) who thought we should be more serious.
Our philosophy is that we like to have fun with the fun part of our culture, he said. Although we do interviews and broach serious issues, we like to look at the light side of life as well as the challenges which are present for us every day.
Neither of us are that political, except that were political in who we are . . . we wanted to keep it sort of upbeat, added Reiser. Theres enough depression and suicide out there. Let other people at the station play all that depressing music.
We try to bring the best of the lesbian, gay, bi and transgender culture to our audience, she said. We want it to be entertaining, and we talk about whatever comes into our lives during the week. We chat about a lot of things.
While the hosts of Out Loud and Queer are known for their uniquely spice-filled gender-bending style of radio interplay, they have tackled some serious and controversial issues since twisting the local airwaves, including gay parenting and what its like to be gay/lesbian in prison.
That was a very emotional show, said Sliter, referring to the program dealing with gays behind bars. We read letters sent to us by gay incarcerated inmates.
Daring Within Limits
Kathy and I banter back and forth about [sexual] orientation in a way thats casual and very comfortable, said Sliter. He added that while they are constrained by FCC guidelines to never air the seven deadly words which nobody should use, they are also limited by government regs when discussing intimate details of alternative lifestyles.
When talking about intimacies between opposite genders, you can use common terms, but when yourre talking about relations between people of the same gender, you have to use clinical terms, he said. Its a dictate that says if youre straight, you can talk about what you do, but if youre queer, weve got to make it clinical. Its frustrating.
According to WJFF station manager Christine Ahern, while the majority of listeners are very happy with the program, the station has gotten a few complaints from folks who arent thrilled with that type of programming. Ahern said shes also fielded calls from people who say they dont support Democracy Now or other shows.
Theyre very funny and have a good following, she said of the Out Loud and Queer hosts.
Kathy and I are certainly an advocacy, but were an advocacy with an awful lot of fun, said Sliter. Were not beating down peoples doors, or drumming in the atrocities of the struggle for sexual orientation or recognition. Its a music show that just happens to be gay, lesbian, bi and transgender.
I think Kathy is the brains of the outfit, and Im kind of like the sidekick because Im such a smartass, he added.
According to Reiser, Your average redneck trash doesnt listen to this station. From the listeners weve talked to, they arent so much interested in that were different, but what makes us different. And I think thats wonderful.