A gay radio station broadcasts tolerance.
For the Advocate.
Growing up in Pilsen, a Mexican-American enclave on Chicago’s south side, Jorge Valdivia had few sources of information on homosexuality. One was Dynasty. “Somebody on Dynasty once said San Francisco was the gay capital of the world. I must have been about 5 years old,” the 28-year-old recalls. “I was like, `Oh, my God, that’s it! That’s where gay people live!’ So I immediately had this goal. My goal in life was to grow up, get a job, go and find this gay city.”
But instead of moving to San Francisco when he grew up, Valdivia did something better–he brought its tolerant spirit to Pilsen. In August he and some coworkers launched Homofrecuencia, the first-ever Spanish-language radio show for Hispanic GLBT teens.
Homofrecuencia airs Mondays on Radio Arte, a youth-run radio station where Valdivia works as the assistant general manager. So far the show has met with a surprising lack of resistance from Pilsen’s conservative residents.
“The studio is completely visible from the outside, and we [imagined] parents picketing out front, [saying] `Don’t convert’–something like that. But we didn’t have one single negative phone call,” Valdivia says. That may have been because much of the show’s audience is online. Although Radio Arte has only a 14-mile range, its online broadcast at Radioarte.org reaches 40,000 listeners a month in countries as far-flung as Argentina, Germany, and India.
Not bad for a station run largely by teenagers. Valdivia’s involvement actually makes Homofrecuencia unusual among Radio Arte programs, most of which are helmed by volunteers under 21. “What they’re doing is so fantastic,” says Julia McEvoy, a producer at Chicago’s WBEZ radio who works with Radio Arte. “When I go over there and the kids are running their own station, I think that’s ideal. Where else are you going to have kids speaking on their own issues without adults filtering the information?”
Homofrecuencia is the culmination of years of thought for Valdivia. He began working at Radio Arte at 21 and became known as the go-to guy for advice about gay issues. Chatting in his airy office, he recalls feeling daunted by his unsought role as the station’s gay adviser.
One thing Valdivia could do, he soon realized, was provide information. He first envisioned Homofrecuencia as a way to inform Spanish-speaking youths about support groups, health services, and other resources they might not be aware of. But over the course of discussions with station volunteers, the show evolved into a more eclectic blend of music and talk.
It’s a catchall, and that, Valdivia says, is fine. His main concern is simply to let GLBT teens know they aren’t alone. “It’s a pivotal point in your life. You’re dying to relate to somebody,” he says. “It’s not even about all the questions you have. Sometimes it’s just about creating that safe space where you can breathe.”
–Etelka Lehoczky, 2002