I got word in early August that WBUR in Boston, which puts together the “Modern Love” podcast, was going to use my 2011 essay about going through Lina’s transition. (The episode is “dropping” later today here, and since I’m six hours ahead in the Netherlands, I might have to wait until tomorrow to hear it.)
My first thoughts were Yay! followed by Crap! As a writer, it’s a huge honor to receive that sort of recognition. As a relatively private person occasionally sharing transgender stories in the safety of my little blog and with “friends who know,” it means another round of being in the spotlight. (For those who wonder how Lina feels about the spotlight, our deal was this: She gets to be the transgender person she is and I get to be the writer I am. We support each other’s authentic selves!)
I’m super excited that actor Ann Dowd is the reader. Her last role, as “Aunt Lydia” in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” recently earned her an Emmy, and her acceptance speech was charming. I read that she’s a supporter of foster care, and as a former foster mother, I salute that! She seems down to earth (check!), and I like that she was born in 1956 and I’m from 1957, so we’ve both lived long enough to know what our priorities are. I’m curious to hear what she’ll say about my essay during her podcast remarks. Heck, I’m curious to hear what *I’ll* say, because in case you don’t know how these things work, here’s a behind-the-scenes summary. (I worked briefly on a public radio show, so luckily had a clue beforehand.)
First, for the “where they are now” segment after the reading, I was pre-interviewed by managing producer Jessica Alpert, who led the team that launched the podcast last year. I knew she was using the content from that talk to formulate questions for the taped interview. We ended up taping at WUNC in Chapel Hill, N.C., while I happened to be visiting the U.S. in late August. (WUNC is also where I had my little stint in radio – too funny.) I wrote down major topics and keywords on a piece of paper to keep me on point as I sat alone in a studio wearing a headset while Jessica spoke from her studio in Boston. Also in the ‘BUR studio was Caitlin O’Keefe, who later would edit my hour-long of rambling down to I’m guessing 10 minutes max. (I’ll find out soon enough!) Everyone was super respectful and sensitive, as expected.
As for Ann Dowd’s part, weeks later, ‘BUR producer Amory Sivertson directed Ann’s reading. I’m guessing Ann was in NYC and Amory in Boston, but I don’t know. The way it works is producers match essays with hoped-for readers, sometimes offering them up a couple to see which resonates. (For the record, neither the writer nor the “talent” are paid. We donate our time for various reasons, but I’d like to think it’s mostly because we believe in the power of story. And, yeah, there are the PR points as well.) What will surprise non-radio folks is that the host, Meghna Chakrabarti, doesn’t interact with the reader or writer. Ahhh, the magic of audio mixing.
So, as you can see, it takes a village – and that’s not even counting the engineers’ important role! Also, going back even further, I received invaluable essay feedback from the amazing Anna Jean “AJ” Mayhew and her writing group in Hillsborough, N.C. , in early 2011. Then, after my essay was selected to be published (in 2011), “Modern Love” editor Daniel Jones tightened and polished it further.
In a funny twist, today happens to be Coming Out Day. So, OK, here we go again! The reason I “come out” is to show support for people transitioning and their loved ones and anyone grappling with trans questions. Now, as the political, legal, and cultural scenes grow darker and darker, I’m glad to offer any ray of light, but donating time and money to activist causes also is key. See my “Resources” page if you want some ideas. Please give of your time, your money and, most of all, your heart!