OutCasting youth participant Lester at the controls
OutCasting Media is the creator of public radio’s LGBTQ youth programs. We present a look at issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community as seen through the eyes of young LGBTQ people and allies and provides insight into the broad dimensions of the LGBTQ youth experience. OutCasting's programming, produced by Media for the Public Good (MFPG) in New York, reaches a general public radio audience on Pacifica Radio Network affiliate stations and other public radio stations around the country. It is also available online here at MFPG.org and on numerous podcast sites, including Apple Podcasts. OutCasting Overtime is also included as a regular feature on This Way Out, the award-winning internationally distributed weekly LGBTQ radio program currently heard on some 200 radio stations around the world.
How did OutCasting get started?
Back before MFPG was MFPG, we were Hudson Valley Community Radio, Inc., and we owned and operated WDFH 90.3 FM, Westchester Public Radio, located in the northern suburbs of New York City. At WDFH, we produced news, cultural, and public affairs programs serving local interests in a region area underserved by local media and often overlooked because of its proximity to the city. We also carried a number of network programs, inclduing Democracy Now, Free Speech Radio News, Making Contact, CounterSpin, and, not incidentally, This Way Out. Our musical programming included live in-studio performances and interviews and a thoughtful freeform mix of rock, folk, blues, and jazz pulled from a library of some 15,000 records and CDs.
In 2006, Marc Sophos, the founder of both WDFH and (subsequently) OutCasting, met with leaders of the Elias Foundation as part of a grant application. During that meeting, the president of the foundation expressed interest in granting WDFH's application and asked Marc a question:
"What could you do to better serve or represent underserved or underrepresented constituencies?"
That crucial question led directly to the idea of OutCasting. With a long career in broadcasting, Marc knew full well that youth are rarely heard in the media; that LGBTQ youth were almost never heard; and that when they were, it was rarely about their experience of actually being LGBTQ. This contributed to a general lack of public understanding of the issues faced by LGBTQ people, youth in particular. As a gay man who had come out late (at 39), he also knew about the impact that this lack of visibility could inflict on LGBTQ people — again, especially youth.
For reasons too dreary to go into here, there was a time gap between idea and execution, but the Elias Foundation supported WDFH for several years, and OutCasting finally became a reality in 2011 as a local program on WDFH. It became nationally distributed on the Pacifica program Sprouts: Radio from the Grassroots in the spring of 2013.
In the beginning, there was just one program: OutCasting. Because we typically work with our youth participants for only three or four hours a week, it takes time to produce each episode, and for several years, we released new episodes irregularly as they were completed — with typically six to eight new programs being released each year. In 2016, we started OutCasting Overtime as our first monthly program. In the spring of 2017, we were able to increase OutCasting to monthly production. And in the fall of 2017, the online series now called OutCasting Off The Clock began, starting with behind the scenes interviews and developing into the Ga[y]me Show and additional commentaries. Eventually, we plan to increase to weekly production of the three programs.
Over the years, we have received a lot of support from many different people and organizations, and we are grateful to all of them, particularly to a generous donor who enabled us to establish a new studio facility in 2010. But the very idea for OutCasting originated from that critical question from the visionary leader of the Elias Foundation, and we are especially grateful for their inspiration for these programs, which are — after all — media for the public good... from Media for the Public Good.
Where did the name "OutCasting" come from?
Where did the name "OutCasting" come from? It was created by the original cast of OutCasting — our first group of youth participants in the summer of 2011 — when we were inventing the program, sitting around and figuring what it would sound like, how we would find guests, and what kinds of issues we would cover. It's a triple play on words:
What kinds of issues does OutCasting cover?
OutCasting goes far beyond mainstream media coverage, which tends to be limited and sensationalist. And just as important as the issues we cover is the outlet that MFPG gives to these young voices: a population still marginalized, potentially victimized, and rarely heard. The experience of being an OutCaster is one of empowering, meaningful expression in a safe environment, thus turning the meaning of the word “outcast” on its head. It is also a powerful educational experience. Our participants learn a wide variety of important educational skills that go into creating quality journalism which will serve them throughout their lives.
Since its debut in October 2011, OutCasting has covered many issues in depth, including:
bullying and teen suicide, with Dan Savage, activist, author, and co-founder of the It Gets Better Project;
a documentary on the history and partial lifting of the Boy Scouts' gay ban;
the state of marriage equality following the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, with civil rights attorney Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry and one of the key architects of the marriage equality movement, and Lavi Soloway, an attorney representing LGBTQ couples and a founder of Immigration Equality and the DOMA Project; future episodes will review the Supreme Court's 2015 marriage equality ruling, attempts to circumvent it with "religious exemptions," and the road ahead for LGBTQ equality;
LGBTQ issues in religion, with Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in NYC;
transgender issues, including a two part interview with the transgender activist Juli Grey-Owens; a discussion about New York’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) with the bill’s sponsor, New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried; issues faced by transgender people in sports and, in upcoming episodes, a first-person account of a teenage boy growing up trans and bisexual, and problems encountered by trans people in getting appropriate health care, with Dr. Marci Bowers and Michael Silverman, Executive Director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund,
LGBTQ issues in public schools, with California State Senator Mark Leno, the sponsor of a law to end the exclusion of LGBTQ history from school curricula there.
Other OutCasting links:
LGBTQ issues seen from the rarely heard perspectives of LGBTQ youth and straight allies — not by and for LGBTQ youth, but by LGBTQ youth and straight allies and for anyone who wants to better understand LGBTQ issues — parents, grandparents, kids, relatives, straight, LGBTQ, everyone!
... in-depth coverage of LGBTQ issues, featuring discussions with highly authoritative experts and people with compelling stories
... working extra hard to bring you commentaries, discussions, and perspectives from our youth participants
... having fun with the Ga[y]me Show, extra commentaries, and other behind-the scenes stuff
Subscribe to our podcast feed or find OutCasting wherever you get your podcasts