Even as I’ve been sitting here for several weeks (or has it been months?) furrowing my brow and wondering what in the heck I’m going to do with this global communications colossus, my WFHB radio interview program, Big Talk, has aired every week, as dependably as snow in January. Er…, uh…, wait a sec, there hasn’t been any snow in these parts this month. But, y’know what I mean.
Anyway, my first two Big Talks of the 2020 calendar year have drawn a lot of comment. I started the annum off with a re-broadcast of my October 2019 interview with Jen Maher, straight-talking clinical associate professor in the Gender Studies Dept. at Indiana University. Maher gave us the latest scoop on gender, a social, cultural, and academic topic that’s undergoing a sea-change in definition these days. Talking about gender seems to ruffle plenty of people’s feathers right now, seeing as how their preconceived notions are being challenged by a younger generation’s determination to smash as many stereotypes and imposed roles as they can think of. College towns and the more avant ‘hoods of big cities have become home to countless kids who’re donning the raiment and bangles of the opposite sex. These groundbreakers aren’t what we used to refer to as drag queens or kings, dressing up for an everyday Halloween. They’re saying they feel more comfortable and themselves in much of the finery heretofore reserved for the binary other. Suffice it to start the conversation by stating the fact, accepted by more and more people in 2020, that gender does not mean the same thing as sex.
Me? I’m not put off by those who are indeed flaunting the old rules. On the other hand, I doubt if you’ll catch me in a skirt or wearing makeup any time soon. It is important to note, though, that I got my ear pierced (by a delightful Jamaican linguistics PhD student named Yvette using a half a potato, a needle and an ice cube) back in May, 1977. At that time, a man wearing an earring was a sin probably on a par with setting off a bomb in a nursery school. Being 21 y.o., I was more than happy to be seen as such a provocateur. A couple of years later, when my circle and I began hanging out in punk rock nightclubs and gay discos, I took to wearing a touch of eyeliner and occasionally enameling one or more fingernails. Those looks, too, branded me in the eyes of the sexless, soulless office hordes as a person to be kept away from the children, which was fine by me as I had no aspirations to becoming a kindergarten teacher.
I never went any further in cross-dressing even though loads of people my crowd danced with, partied with, and occasionally ate breakfast with sported gold lame pants and feathery boas. Trust me, I never would have looked good in gold lame pants.
The Maher interview, in any case, has caused any number of people to approach me on the street and throw in their two-cents’ worth re: gender. A similar thing has happened in the wake of my second BT of the new decade, the first installment of a two-part chat with university administrator and diversity pioneer Charlie Nelms. Charlie’s one of those people who are not widely recognized yet have played a key role in campus life both here in Bloomington and at the numerous other schools where he’s worked over the last four-plus decades. When he began his working life, it was shockingly hard for a black or brown person to gain a doctorate except at an historic black college or university. He devoted much of his professional life to making that track easier for those whose skin was too dark for the comfort of a certain benighted segment of the American population. After the Nelms interview, Part 1, I again was stopped by passersby inspired to comment on the show. I like that; it makes me think producing and hosting Big Talk means something in this often all-too-meaningless world.
Hell, I could go back to the last Big Talk of 2019 when my guests were Michelle Martin Coleman and Elaine Guinn, the driving forces behind Project Stay, a suicide prevention and support group. Not many want to think about it, but suicide becomes a bigger problem than usual around the holidays. Again, listeners responded positively to that show.
So, this week’s Big Talk will be Part 2 of my conversation with Charlie Nelms. I didn’t plan it this way but it worked out perfectly. Nelms, Part 2, will air Thursday, January 16, the day after Martin Luther King’s b-day and just two weeks prior to the beginning of Black History Month in February. Tune in at 5:30pm on 91.3 FM or listen to the podcast on the WFHB website.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep on noodling about The Pencil. I have no idea what the future holds for this blog but I’m paying good dough to keep the website alive so I’d better figure out something fast. Soon as I know, you’ll know.