QRadio, the first LGBT radio channel, provides a platform for the community and also educates people about gender identities.
Since its inception in September this year, Q Radio, one of the 22-odd channels of the online radio portal radiowalla.in and India’s first radio channel for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community (LGBT), has received much attention for its content. This channel is not only meant for the community, but also for its allies and supporters. The shows, from Between The Sheets, Queerilicious, Heart to Heart with Innersight, Let’s Get Beyond Ties, HqO, Lavender Life and Q Live Debate address myriad issues related to the community and general issues that affect everybody, irrespective of gender and sexuality. L. Romal M. Singh, journalist and host of Queerilicious, says only about 20 per cent of the show revolves exclusively around issues faced by the community. “Even if it is a queer show, a lot of the issues are very general to the human population,” says Romal. “My aim is to get people to be comfortable with who they are. The show doesn’t judge. I allow my guests to narrate their stories freely. The show includes a huge spectrum of people. There are some who are clear about their identity, others who are confused and like being ‘nowhere’. There have been people who said they knew they were gay when they were three and others who discovered they were homosexual when they were 29.”
Vaishalli Chandra, who hosts HqO, says her show celebrates gender fluidity. The common understanding of gender, Vaishalli says, is not always accurate. “We are socially conditioned from a young age to believe that there are only two genders. This isn’t always the case. On my show, the individuals who share their stories talk about how, even at age five or six, they knew about the difference they felt. This, I would then say, is what the mainstream is unaware of. It is something that needs to be told, to be talked about. Gender identities can be fluid and we need to realise, as parents, to keep an eye out for such changes in our children and, mostly importantly, not to silence them.” Vaishalli continues, “My guests have cried when talking about how the family didn’t accept them. Others were overflowing with pride when speaking about parental acceptance. To a child, parental acceptance is most important and that comes across each time. However, as a society we need to encourage children to express themselves, to nurture them.” What the mainstream is unaware of, Vaishalli adds, is that gender identity is just one aspect of an individual. “The whole individual is made up of a sum total of small parts and she or he can be brilliant individuals, who contribute to society and can lead happy and fulfilling lives.”
“Q Radio is a different kind of activism,” says Anil Srivatsa, co-founder and CEO of Radiowalla Network Private Limited. “It is a platform for a community to come together and tell their stories. It’s a unifying force.”
Romal says Q Radio is one of many platforms for the community. “It is an immediate platform because it happens live. You get an immediate response.” Radiowalla is different from FM because the focus is on content. “We are a niche online radio portal. People’s aspirations have changed, they want more from radio. The mission of Radiowalla is to meet that special interest and deliver what they want,” says Anil. Sharing stories and experiences are important because, as Romal points out, “every gay person, at some point, has felt lonely. They’ve thought, ‘We are alone. Nobody else has faced what we have.’ But when they hear people speaking of similar experiences, they realise, ‘Hey! There are people who feel the same way I do’. It is said that one in every 10 persons is gay. I think for every three persons who are queer, only one is aware of it; two are never going to deal with it. What matters is that people should figure out their identities earlier; the choices they make once they do, is fine. It’s just about figuring it out.”
For Romal, hosting Queerilicious has also been a learning experience. “A guest once asked me: ‘Did you define gay for yourself or did it fit into pre-determined definition of being gay?’ I never thought of it that way! The community prefers being called ‘queer’. Terms such as lesbian, gay etc. are limiting.”