Columbia College writing and production graduate Devlyn Camp is producing and hosting a 10-episode, serialized podcast, called Mattachine, that is currently available free on iTunes.
The series illustrates the importance of LGBT history by spotlighting a crucial point in the modern gay-rights movement, the formation of the Mattachine Society in 1950 by Harry Hay.
Using voice actors as well as actual taped interviews, Mattachine brings the LGBT community's social and political pasts to life. The subject matter couldn't be more timely. The series emphasizes the importance of knowing LGBT people's roots and history at a time when, once again, their rights and existence are being threatened.
Windy City Times: Hi, Devlyn. How did the Mattachine project come about?
Devlyn Camp: I first learned about the original secret society from a book recommended to me by my mentor, Albert Williams. He's constantly sharing our history with my generation. That bookBehind the Mask of the Mattachine, by James Searsled me to another book and another book and then audio files and archives, and so on. I hope I've pieced it all together well enough that listeners enjoy the story and share our history the way Albert did with me.
WCT: For folks who aren't familiar, tell me a bit about the Mattachine Society.
DC: Mattachine began in 1950 with five men, some of them former communists. Many gay people back then thought they were the only one, then suddenly these anonymous men were gathering other gay people for discreet discussion groups in their living rooms. The groups filled up and multiplied until the founders of the Mattachine had to let the reigns go, and conservative gay people took over the whole organization. That's when we begin to see the American gay community splinter: Do we come out of the closet embracing a separate queer culture with our own perspective on sexuality and gender, or are we exactly like the cisgender heterosexual community aside from who we take to bed? That's what the early Mattachine explored.
WCT: Why did you decide on the podcast format?
DC: I studied television writing and production at Columbia College Chicago. I have a huge passion for serialized storytelling on TV. When I was studying the Mattachine I kept imagining how it would play out in a miniseries, but I'm not high enough on the Hollywood ladder to write and produce my own TV show, and I couldn't be patient to tell this story. As I wrote and produced it into a podcast format I was thrilled that people were responsive to it.
WCT: What can listeners expect from the series?
DC: Listeners can expect a complex story, not just the landmarks of our history. The series follows communists and FBI agents, secret publications and anonymous letters. There's a lot of heartbreak, in-fighting, and some exciting triumphs. Many queer people were a part of this organization, and they're all complicated characters with unique motivations.
WCT: Do you have a favorite episode or two from the serialized podcast?
DC: Episode two features audio of the Mattachine founder Harry Hay telling his story. I'm thrilled to bring his real voice to the story and allow the listeners to hear it from Harry himself. Our fourth episode, "The Lavender Scare," stands alone outside of the serial story and shows how our government discovered homophobia and weaponized it against us for the past century.
I think the audience will be surprised how often history repeats itself. I'm also very excited about an episode centered around a lot of witty drama at a banquetjust when you thought the show couldn't get any gayer!
WCT: What lessons can be learned from this series that are applicable today?
DC: Our public schools don't teach us any of our history, so many queer people today don't even know the broad strokes of the movement. Gay or straight ( or anywhere on the Kinsey scale ), I hope listeners will find that queer history is much more nuanced than the benchmark events some of us are familiar with. Our history is vast but often overlooked, which only continues to hurt us. The divisiveness within the community's history is still relevant to our divisiveness today. We're still fighting about blatant internalized homophobia and misogyny with statements like "masc4masc." We fight about assimilating to mainstream marriage, gender and drag. On top of it all, outside our queer spaces we still have political pressure on us, especially with Trump in office. None of this is new, and this serialized podcast hopes to uncover some of the first evidence of it all in American culture.
Follow Mattachine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @mattachinefiles, and explore resources and other details at MattachinePod.com .