When you think about the current state of trans activism, the name Janet Mock is probably at the top of your mind. But there was a time when Mock was living a relatively low-profile life, working as a journalist outside the spotlight… until a friend recommended her for a profile in Marie Claire magazine. The article’s publication changed the course of her work, and life—lucky for all of us.
“I didn’t plan the role model part of it or the advocate part of it,” she explains. “I think that all just kind of started. I realized after the piece came out that there was such a hunger to hear more about young trans women of color experiences. I think my writing just kind of went there because I think there was a need to hear more about that and I think there was also a need within myself to share more about parts of myself that I’d kept silent for so long.”
Janet’s still a writer, but now she’s also an activist – and one of the most recognizable faces in trans advocacy. In many ways, she’s become the role model she herself didn’t have while growing up.
“People often say that I’m a role model,” she says. “I feel like I’m a real model. Like, there’s a real model of how you can do it. I’m existing. I’m out in the world. I’m still discovering who I am. I’m not playing a role. I’m being real. This is my life.”
In her book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, she tells her story and shares some of what she’s learned along the way.
On this week’s show, we talk to Janet about her work, her life, and the wisdom she hopes to impart on today’s trans girls of color.
“The biggest lesson that I’ve ever learned in my life is to just truly fight for who you are, and not let anyone – not even your own body – tell you that you can’t do something that you know you’re supposed to be doing.”
When we asked Janet who some of her own role models are, she name checked TransGriot blogger Monica Roberts. Monica is a long-time friend and auntie to the show, so we thought we’d close this episode with some words of wisdom from her, recorded when she was in town last summer.
Throughout the month of January, we’re revisiting some of our favorite conversations from the first 100 episodes of our show.
Here’s one of our favorites, a conversation with writer and activist Darnell Moore. Darnell co-authors the Huffington Post’s Tongues Untied blog, along with Wade Davis. He was most recently on the show when he co-organized the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride to Ferguson. But today we’re listening to our very first conversation with Darnell, when he spoke to us about how early experiences in his life lead him to embrace social justice activism and to work against domestic violence.
He spoke to us about how early experiences in his life lead him to embrace social justice activism and anti-domestic violence work. “I’ve been haunted, and in a very good way, by Audre Lorde’s notion of: What did you come here to do? What is your work?” Darnell says. “And when that work finds you, we have no choice but to respond.”
Some of Darnell’s work focuses on black theology and black Christian thought—particularly as it relates to queer identities. So we also spent some time talking about what it means to be black, gay, and Christian. “I remember this evangelist saying she would rather her son be addicted to drugs than to be—she didn’t use the word, she just did the broken-wrist type of gesture—than to be gay,” he says. “I was mortified.”
But he reminds us that the black church is not a monolith, and there are also LGBTQ-affirming spaces within black Christianity. “I got to a point where I said if it means that my truth, the true person that I know myself to be, is something that will lead me to quote-unquote hell, then I would rather go to hell […] for living in my truth than to go to heaven and live in a lie.”
(Photo Credit: Tamara Fleming)
Earlier this week, Actors Theatre began its run of a show called “The Brothers Size,” by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. “The Brothers Size” is part of McCraney’s trilogy, “The Brother/Sister Plays,” which explore ideas of freedom and tradition, influenced by Yoruban mythology and storytelling.
McCraney has been called the next August Wilson. That can be partially attributed to the fact that there are so few prominent African American playwrights, no doubt, but either way, he’s carrying an important mantle.
At age 33, he’d had plays debut at the Royal Court London, New York’s Vineyard Theatre, the Young Vic, and Steppenwolf Theatre, where he is an artist in residence.
This week, we revisit our conversation with McCraney from August of 2013, when we spoke about about “The Brothers Size” and how it mirrors his own roots, and why he’s drawn to tell the stories he tells.
In Juicy Fruit, the Cosby saga continues, this week with Phylicia Rashad and Keisha Knight Pulliam commenting that the allegations don’t reflect the man they know. But as Doc says, “it really makes no sense to ask women who worked with Cosby to speak to his character.”
Speaking of Keisha Knight-Pulliam, she’s on this season of Celebrity Apprentice, and on one episode, is asked to call Bill Cosby for help with a challenge. Note: Our show contains spoilers, so skip 11:45-12:30 if you’re not caught up!
And we try to make some sense out of the sad and senseless loss of Leelah Alcorn, a trans teen who committed suicide after being rejected and placed in conversion therapy by her parents. Her story has shed light on what trans teenagers go through, especially when they don’t have support at home; our trans brothers and sisters are at much higher risk for suicide than the general population.
It’s our 100th episode! We’re celebrating this week by looking back at our humble beginnings, and ahead to the future.
This week you’ll learn about some of the show titles we considered instead of Strange Fruit, take listener questions, and hear some behind-the-scenes conversations and some things that never made it on the air.
You sent us lots of great questions about our favorite episodes, advice for a white professor teaching African-American Lit, and how we hope the world has changed by the time we record our 200th episode (Marriage equality in all 50 states? Louisville’s first woman or person of color mayor?). We loved your questions so much we might just make it a regular feature!
And as most of our loyal fruitcakes know, Jai and Doc had never worked in radio before (Jaison is a community organizer and Kaila is a college professor), and there was a bit of a learning curve when we first started out. So of course, our anniversary show wouldn’t be complete without a listen to the blooper reel!
Thanks to the brilliant and hilarious guests who have taken the time to share their knowledge with us and our Fruitcakes, and to WFPL for giving us this platform to amplify underrepresented voices. And to our Fruitcakes: We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for listening to and supporting our show all this time. Here’s to the next 100!
The Cabbage Patch Settlement House provides all kinds of programming for at-risk kids in Louisville: tutoring, clubs, sports, music, college preps and scholarships, and even emotional counseling. And a recent grant from the Humana Foundation means they’ll be opening their doors on Saturdays, too.
We wanted to learn more about the Patch and what they do, so this week we talked to Executive Director Tracy Holladay, and Educational Opportunities Specialist Kanisha Ford, about the history of the house (a long story — it’s been around since 1910!), and the work they do.
Settlement houses were part of the settlement movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and were built in poor urban areas to provide daycare, healthcare and education to those who couldn’t afford it. Many of these folks were immigrants who needed help “settling” and succeeding in their new homes, and assistance from the government was scarce. Immigrants also played a role in the Cabbage Patch getting its name; according to the Patch, the neighborhood they started in was nicknamed the Cabbage Patch because it was populated largely with immigrants who grew cabbages in back yard vegetable gardens. It’s now called Park Hill.
In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, two guest co-hosts, Louisville activists Darryl Young, Jr., and Sarah Zarantollo, weigh in on the backlash against VH1’s Sorority Sisters, and the LAPD spoof song about the killing of Michael Brown, leaked to TMZ earlier this week.
(Photos courtesy of cabbagepatch.org)
This time of year, we like to listen back to a conversation we had with Dr. Stephanie Budge, who has taught workshops on coping with the holidays as an LGBTQ person.
She said while some families do overtly antagonistic things (like using the wrong pronoun for trans folks, yelling, or refusing to let their LGBTQ family member bring a partner to holiday functions), what she hears about the most is simply ignoring. A person might come out as queer to their family, only for the response to be silence and an unwillingness to acknowledge their identity.
Dr. Budge gave us some coping strategies we can all use during moments of holiday stress and family conflict, how to take full advantage of your chosen family’s love when your family of origin doesn’t support you, and how to tell when things are so unhealthy or unsafe it might be better to skip going home altogether.
If you are experiencing a crisis, The Trevor Project can help. Call their lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or visit the website for instructions on how to text them or chat online. Stay safe, Fruitcakes. We love you.
In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we continue to indulge in our end-of-the-year-list mania with 2014’s top Google searches, both nationally and globally. Last year, everyone was asking Google how to twerk. This year, we really just wanted to know whether we had Ebola. Also on the list was Ray Rice, Ferguson, the Sochi Olympics, the missing Malaysian airliner, and the World Cup (a sports competition that doesn’t involve Wade Davis, Britney Griner or Michael Sam, so we don’t know much about it).
The end of 2014 is upon us, and that means every outlet is publishing Best-of lists. We weren’t too impressed with the Wall Street Journal’s Best Pop Culture Moments last week, but one list we can get behind is the American Dialect Society‘s nominees for 2014 Words of the Year.
Like most cultural phenomena, lots of language has its roots in subcultures – including some from gay black culture. One of the words on the list is yass, an affirmation audiences have been screaming at house ball contestants for years, that made its way into mainstream usage with a little help from Nicki Minaj.
Grant Barrett is an officer with the American Dialect Society, and compiles their list of linguistic contenders every year. He joins us this week to talk about 2014’s nominees and where they came from. He also sheds a little light on the more inexplicable (to us) choices, like “on fleek,” an expression that caused Jaison to feel old for the first time in his life.
And we spend our Juicy Fruit segment in the historical Brennan House in downtown Louisville, where we learn about preserving sites with historical significance to the LGBT community. Kentucky recently got a grant to help add LGBT-important sites to the National Register of Historic Places, and Preservation Louisville Director Marianne Zickuhr joins us to talk about the work they will do on the project. Hint: It involves Baby Vicco!
Louisville is looking pretty good this week! We recently got a 66% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index—higher than the national average of 59%, and the highest rating of any city in Kentucky. The index looks at factors like non-discrimination laws, domestic partner benefits, openly gay elected officials, and more, and largely finds cities leading the way in the US, while states sometimes lag behind.
This week we’re joined by Cathryn Oakley of the HRC, who tells us more about the methodology, and how this year’s study compares to previous years.
In Juicy Fruit, we cover more Louisville news: WFPL health reporter Ja’Nel Johnson sits in to tell us about an encouraging story from the University of Louisville medical school. It will be the first med school in the nation to include specific instruction on treating LGBTQ patients.
In other hot (and medical) topics, an employee of Norton Healthcare was fired after her racist facebook post went viral (including a share from our own Jaison Gardner, who was mentioned in some of the media coverage).
Toni Morrison has a new novel coming out in the Spring, and last week was also the anniversary of James Baldwin’s death, so we spend some time this week showing respect to these legends of Black literature and discussing the significance of their works.
And finally, the Wall Street Journal’s arts & entertainment blog, The Speakeasy, released its list of The 15 Best Pop Culture Moments of 2014. Some we totally got (the Oscar selfie, “Adele Dazeem,” Pharrell’s hat), and others we barely even registered this year (President Obama on Between Two Ferns, Katy Perry dressing as a Cheeto, something about Sharknado 2…?). We didn’t have time to include it all in this week’s show, so the pop culture moments conversation is bonus fruit this week:
This week we talk about our favorite holiday music and movies, listen to some songs, and Dr. Story shares her philosophy on holiday decorating: “My favorite color is glitter.”
We’re also joined in the studio by Jeff Buhrman, formerly of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C., who is now the artistic director of VOICES of Kentuckiana. VOICES is Louisville’s LGBTQ chorus. We talked to Jeff about their upcoming holiday program Holiday Magic, and about the power of music to forge communities and change lives.
We have two pairs tickets to give away to the VOICES concert, too! The concert happens December 6 & 7 at the Clifton Center. Leave us a comment with a holiday song you love, and we’ll throw your name in the drawing (and add your song to our holiday playlist!
Councilwoman Attica Scott and attorney Lucie Brooks join us for a conversation about the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. We also talk about media coverage of the ensuing protests in Ferguson, and what could happen next.
(Photo by Brandon Herring)