BY EVE KUCHARSKI
If you ask Marc Sophos what his favorite episode of OutCasting is, he’ll have trouble picking just one.
“There are a couple,” Sophos said, OutCasting’s executive producer. “In 2013 The Boy Scouts of America were considering a partial listing of their ban of gay scouts and we did a documentary. It was some of the deepest journalism that anybody did on that subject.”
That episode, number 17, was the first that came to Sophos’ mind, but hardly stands alone on the list of his top picks.
“We also did a first-person account by an asexual teen, in the late summer of 2015,” Sophos said.
“We did another program, I think it was in 2014, about binational couples … the way we were using the term, binational couples referred to a same-sex couple, one member of which was a citizen of the United States, and the other was not.”
OutCasting is a nationally distributed LGBT radio program founded in 2011 by Sophos. Affiliated with The Pacifica Network, it is syndicated on over 45 public radio stations, and has since covered dozens of topics relating to everything from marriage equality to ‘debunking the “ex-gay” movement.’ It has also featured prominent members of the LGBT community like Michelangelo Signorile of The Huffington Post and Olympian Greg Louganis. What is arguably most impressive however, is that until recently it was produced exclusively by New York high school students.
Sophos eventually expanded production into New York City to include college-aged contributors, but found that he wanted to grow the program even further; in terms of content production and demographics.
“We realized that we were presenting LGBTQ youth experiences and perspectives, only from the suburban New York City area, where the experience of growing up LGBTQ can be very different from how it is to grow up LGBTQ in other parts of the country,” Sophos said. “With the show now heard all over the country, we wanted the show in essence, to be sourced more nationally, from a greater number of places.”
And so, it was last February, that OutCasting officially came to Sophos’ alma mater, Michigan State University. The ultimate goal being to not only teach students real-life journalistic skills, but to open up a public, accessible discourse about LGBT issues. Something that Sophos feels is too seldom discussed openly, especially by youths who might feel unable to discuss them at home.
“It’s rare, and it’s unfortunate that it’s rare,” Sophos said. “As we all know, growing up LGBTQ and isolated can be one of the most horrible things to happen.”
Fortunately, the MSU OutCasting bureau seems far from it. It has managed to draw a steady stream of volunteers across a variety of majors in the months since its inception, and currently sits comfortably at four main contributors. One of these members is 20-year-old linguistics and Spanish major Lucy Angers.
“I joined OutCasting a couple of months ago. I was really interested in getting involved because I’m very into podcasts and public radio and that kind of thing, and I wanted to see how that worked, what goes into that and learn some new skills,” Angers said. “I’m also interested in queer issues and learning about that as well. I like meeting new people and gaining new skills.”
Though production began last fall, both LGBT MSU students and allies are encouraged to join.
Sophos stressed that options to contribute exist for even those individuals who are wary about revealing their sexual orientation on air through the use of pseudonyms, allowing members to produce content off-air and more.
Episodes of OutCasting airing locally can be found through The Pacifica Network’s weekly,
decentralized radio program “Sprouts: Radio from the Grassroots.” OutCasting produces anywhere from six to eight episodes annually, but seeks to become a monthly program.
“Which is one of the other reasons that we want to have these other bureaus, because we need to increase the number of programs we do so that we can expand beyond Pacifica into NPR type stations,” Sophos said. “What I hope eventually will happen, is that the MSU bureau will thrive to such a degree that you can start bringing area high school students.”