Amy Matheny, a pioneer in LGBT broadcasting whose roots are local and yet carrying a voice that now reaches worldwide, is turning off her microphoneat least for the time being.
An East Tennessee native who has called Chicago home for the past 20 years, Matheny is the long-standing host of Windy City Queercast ( WCQ ), the weekly podcast of news and entertainment from Windy City Media Group ( WCMG ). WCQ was formerly known as LesBiGay Radio, the nation's first daily LGBT radio program airing in the late 1990s in Chicago, which transitioned into Windy City Radio on the FM dial before the launch of WCQ in 2006. Matheny has been the host of WCQ, Windy City Radio, and LesBiGay Radio for almost 18 years, which makes her one of the longest-running hosts of an LGBT radio program in the U.S.
Windy City Queercast is ending its run in July, it was announced by WCMG.
The more than 600 editions of Windy City Queercast will remain online.
"I often feel like a storyteller, and this is the end of a very long story that I had been a part of telling to the community," said Matheny, 44, who lives in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. She is partnered and also serves as a senior account director for WCMG.
In June, Matheny started peppering the podcast with frequent or steady co-hosts from the past, such as Scott Duff, Alexandra Billings, Deb Pearce, Richard Knight Jr., Miss Cleo, Kelly Simpkins, Mitchell Fain and Kirk Williamson. "To walk down memory lane and reflect on what the show has meant to them and others who they've heard feedback from, that's been fun," Matheny said. "It's profound to do anything for [about] 17 years. It's a gift to be able to share our lives, and it's a very intimate setting [during the broadcast], getting to talk with people."
Matheny began her radio career as the "What's Happening?" gal of LesBiGay radio, telling what not to miss in the community. Her role quickly expanded.
From 1998-2001, Matheny was the lesbian host of LesBiGay Radio, on WSBC-AM Chicago. In 2001 when WCMG acquired LesBiGay Radio, she became the lesbian voice of Windy City Radio, which aired on WCKG 105.9FM.
From 2001-2003, she co-hosted Aware Talk Radio, the nationally syndicated health and well-being program, and Life OUTside, the nationally-syndicated, 30-minute newsmagazine for the LGBT community.
Matheny has interviewed thousandsfrom entertainers and celebrities to every-day Chicagoans. She's spoken with such stars as Cyndi Lauper, Lily Tomlin, Patti LaBelle, Margaret Cho, Eddie Izzard, Sharon Gless, Sandra Bernhard, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, Martina Navritalova, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, singer kd lang and countless others.
"My favorite shows are the ones where I am on with my co-hosts and we're just talking about what's going on in our LGBT news and entertainment worldand there's always a lot to talk about," she said. "I've never been at a loss of words for things to talk about in our community."
That said, Matheny said she doesn't know yet what's ahead for her on the broadcasting front. "I'm ready to see where things go. I'm also ready and excited to hear from the younger generation, including trans members.
"I'm really going to enjoy this summer."
Matheny added, "I'm not really sure what's next, what's ahead for me. Sometimes you have to create space so something bright can fill itand this is helping to create space in my life, which I have not had much of for years."
Matheny said she had countless memories and just as many people to thank for her memorable run, starting with the listeners.
"I am so appreciative to so many, and I also am so excited for the future our community. I could not be more excited, more in awe for the changes that I see [the future], which are eminent and large for our community."
Matheny also has a long history as an actress and theater producer, and she has emceed/hosted numerous events around Chicago over the past 15 years, including close to 100 Windy City Gay Idol events.
"It's been a privilege to be in conversation with thousands of members of the LGBT community," said Matheny, who admitted that she was going to air the last WCQ in late 2014 "because it felt like it was time … for a new voice to be the one questioning and asking questions of the community."
But, when the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would be hearing the cases on national same-sex marriage in 2015, "I decided I would wait," to end the podcast, she said.
"It's as if I've come full circle.
"I started with LesBiGay Radio in the late 1990s, and some of the early stories that I did were about same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Now we're talking about national same-sex marriage."
Matheny's memory bank is endless, filled with the successes of the LGBT community, as well as the challenging and important stories for the overall cause of the community. And more, though, the successes.
"I remember," Matheny said, pausing, "We had a GLAAD [representative] reporting outside of the trial of the two men who murdered Matthew Shepard … We were on the air when Ellen came out … We were on the air when Massachusetts got [same-sex] marriage … We talked about Caitlyn Jenner … We talked about Modern Family … We talked about Mark Bingham and his heroics on that flight on 9/11.
"It's been important to me to tell our stories."
Matheny, understandably, hesitated and struggled to say her most memorable interview. But she did say that her recent talk with Dr. David Gushee was truly memorable.
"Personally, I was very proud to have done [that] interview," she said. "It was a really powerful interview for me."
Those are memories for Matheny … and she certainly has given plenty more to the LGBT community.