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Homofrecuencia marks 10 years of LGBTQ radio
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Stephen Sonneveld
2012-08-14

This article shared 3177 times since Tue Aug 14, 2012
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"We are a cry of liberty, strength and willpower—just and necessary. We are Homofrecuencia."

Ten years ago, that phrase emanated from a publicly funded Pilsen radio station, and, thanks to the Internet, reverberated around the world.

Homofrecuencia was the United States' first Spanish-language radio program focusing on LGBT issues. Jorge Valdivia was Radio Arte's assistant general manager, and he initially envisioned a show for Latino LGBT teens that would provide information about resources such as support groups and health services. By the time of Homofrecuencia's debut, however, the format had evolved into something richer.

Tania Unzueta, a former producer and host of the program from 2003-2006, told Windy City Times, "For me, it was one of the only spaces where we could talk about gay history in Spanish, for example, and talk about those intersections of being Latino, being an immigrant and being queer."

Except for a handful of volunteers, WRTE remains a student-run station. Unzueta was one of those student workers when Homofrecuencia first aired. When she came out as part of the LGBT community, she soon joined the production.

"I remember doing pieces on the importance of Stonewall and what immigration reform meant for people who are HIV-positive," she said. "Both as a producer and as a listener, for me, it was a place where we could expose some of those big LGBT issues, but also think about how they specifically affected the Latino community."

In 2004, Unzueta told WCT she joined Valdivia and other Homofrecuencia producers to create Queer Prom because they "wanted to create a space where Latino queer youth could have a safe place in the Latino community." She had seen other LGBT proms, but not one specific to the Latino community. Homofrecuencia and Radio Arte have made it an annual affair, where hundreds of young LGBT couples now share their special night at Chicago's National Museum of Mexican Art.

This year, the event was held May 11, and advertisements proudly proclaimed it as a "space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth and their allies to celebrate fearlessly and unapologetically who they are, our communities and prom."

When RadioArte.org first began broadcasting Homofrecuencia, the small station with the 14-mile radio-signal range tracked 40,000 global listeners a month, from South America to Asia.

In making their show a safe place for queer Latino youth, whether in Pilsen or Prague, the producers of the groundbreaking program were very aware of the power mass media has over people's perceptions of the LBGTQ community, because it was a subject that hit close to home for many of them.

Valdivia told the Advocate that, as a 5-year-old watching Dynasty, someone called San Francisco the gay capital of the world, and his immediate reaction was, "Oh, my God, that's it! That's where gay people live!" His childhood goal in life then became to "grow up, get a job, go and find this gay city."

For Unzueta, "being a producer on the radio show was also about exploring why my parents had such different ideas about the LGBT community from what I did. For example, one of the things my mom used to think was that everyone who was gay was white and rich; and that there was this agenda to convince other young people that they should be gay, too, and to forget about things like immigration issues and poverty issues. And so I spent a lot of time thinking why is it that she has this idea, and how can we adjust it within the Latino community?"

She said the producers gave a lot of thought to how the media portrays LGBT life, and where those notions stemmed from. Unzueta found that one of the ways to combat those stereotypes and create a more diverse image of the LGBT community was by "talking about our own stories, and by documenting different stories within the immigrant community."

Homofrecuencia has received many awards over the past decade, and will probably earn more, but its real legacy won't be measured in accolades and gold.

Unzueta's mother used to pick her up from the studio, and was able to peer into the studio windows and watch her daughter produce the program. "I remember her saying to me once, 'Just don't let them convince you.' And I know that what she was referring to was don't let them convince you of homosexuality," she said with a laugh.

"We talked about that since, and talked through a lot of the misconceptions that she had. Actually, my mom became a listener at some point because [she] and I didn't really talk about my LGBT identity. But the radio show became our way of her listening to the stories and her learning about LGBT history without me even realizing she was doing it at the time."


This article shared 3177 times since Tue Aug 14, 2012
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