Gays and Gals

Words by: Emilio Lanera & Hannah Cohen
Art by: Pengyue Liu

After less than a semester of knowing each other we thought it would be a great idea to start a podcast.

We stumbled upon the idea in drunk conversation amongst the chaos of Emilio’s birthday pre-drinks and the concept eventually came into full fruition over brunch at Little Tommy Tucker. After nervously presenting our idea to the MOJO News radio editor at the time, we were immediately thrown into the radio studio with literally no experience and a whole lot of enthusiasm.

Flash forward to the present day and we’ve been producing weekly Gays and Gals podcasts for nearly
a year. What was initially a frivolous idea that most friends would gloss over, turned into weekly content — bringing feminist and LGBTQIA issues to the forefront, with a side of banter of course.

Gays and Gals has been instrumental in not only helping us to learn more about the complexities of queer and feminist topics, but has also taught us a lot about ourselves. We decided to reflect on how the podcast has become an extension of the both of us.

Emilio:

When you spend your entire life hiding a part of your identity it can be scary expressing it on a public platform like a podcast. Growing up, I was taught being gay was undesirable. At school boys would use the word gay as an insult, and the idea of homosexuality went against my parents’ religious beliefs. In response to this, I spent years altering my identity trying to ensure nothing that was stereotypically ‘gay’ was associated with me. I gave up interests like dance and art and deprived myself from listening to Carly Rae Jepsen, all because I was scared those interests might expose my sexuality.

Over time, I broke down these walls; doing the podcast with Hannah has definitely helped me become more comfortable with my sexuality. Talking about queer and feminist issues, and other topics we find interesting has been a liberating experience for me. With each episode we do, my authentic self becomes clearer.

Despite this, doing the podcast has also shown me I still have a lot of work to do within myself. There are times when Hannah and I are recording and I find myself hesitating to speak. Once again, I am trying to define myself based on other people’s expectations — fearing that in these moments, what I say might come across as too gay, or not gay enough.

Having Hannah by my side helps me overcome these moments of weakness. Listening to her speak reminds me that the whole reason we started this whole podcast was to express who we are without fear of judgement.

Hannah:

I think for me, the podcast fostered a sense of confidence about what I already knew about myself —
that I’m super chatty. It’s a key part of my personality that hasn’t always sat comfortably with me. For a lot of my life, I’ve been defined by others for my unbridled outspokenness. I’m often introduced with a glowing review on my friendliness accompanied by a sarcastic throw away comment along the lines of “oh she’s really shy,” maybe followed by a good natured joke about how loud I am. What hurts the most has been a pattern of now close friends telling me that upon introduction, they were intimidated by how confident I seemed — that my chattiness was scary.

These remarks are never uttered with ill intent of course, but for some reason they stung like a back- handed compliment and taunted me with insecurity. Out of self consciousness, I felt compelled to try and quash my big personality, for fear of coming across as cocky or overbearing. At times, I’d try to shrink my voice to be more palatable.

But since starting the podcast, I’ve learnt that this is unnatural and only dampens the value I have to share with the world. Co-hosting Gays and Gals with Emilio creates a safe space where I can freely discuss topics I feel passionately about. It reminds me that my confidence to speak out is worth listening to, and that people want to join me in learning more about the world. It’s helped me embrace my natural urge to confront social injustices and speak my mind fearlessly. To me it’s like a form of activism, especially on topics like feminism, where I hope my opinions add momentum to the movement. I think in short, the podcast has taught me self-acceptance and to continue to share my voice at full volume in a world that wants the thoughts of young women to be silenced.

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