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By Terrance Turner
After years behind the scenes, a veteran media sales representative is crossing over to the other side of news. On Tuesday, July 5, radio personality Lily David recorded her first official episode as host of the new “Engender Podcast,” a platform for conversations around gender. The program will be broadcast on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on KPFT 90.1 FM. The idea for the podcast sprung from a topic that, for David, hits very close to home.
“I have a brother who is transgender—who is now my sister,” David says. She explains that during their childhood, the family mistook signs of her sister’s need to transition as signs of being gay. This was complicated by the fact that she had a cancerous tumor on her cerebellum, which was removed. (The cancer is now in remission.) Like her family, David struggled with the situation. Proper terminology was especially difficult.
“I didn’t even know how to language it properly,” she recalls. “And you’re always in an interesting place when you’re dealing with someone who is in your family and trans and can’t speak for themselves.” Her research and reading on the topic was unsatisfactory: David was unable to find any books or support groups that specifically spoke to her, the sister of a trans person. The search for answers led her to the station. “I heard that KPFT was looking for content, so I called them and pitched them on the idea, and they said yes.”
David wants things to progress organically. “I’m a sales manager in broadcasting,” she says. “I have been for a long time, and usually everything I do is plotted to the nth degree. I’m not plotting this at all. I’m just letting it flow.” The format reflects that concept: “I just ask people to tell their stories; and then, based on what they say, I ask questions.” She also wants positive vibes, especially in light of all the divisive rhetoric about trans people: “People have very definitive opinions about them, and that’s fine. But we’re going to express those opinions in a positive way.”
The tone of “Engender” will be more interpersonal and intimate than a standard news or politics broadcast. David works in news radio, “so my first thought was, ‘I’ve got to report news!’ And then I thought, ‘No, I have to talk about people’s stories.’ That’s what gets people to really understand who somebody is.” This new mindset led to the formation of her vision for the radio program. She says that the goal of “Engender” is for anybody on the LGBT spectrum to have a voice and be able to share their stories—“a loving, open space where people can just talk about their issues and what’s going on. But it’s not news, and it’s not political.”
As an example of the impact she wants to have on listeners, David cited the TV show I Am Cait. She says that the TV show helped her husband understand what was going on with her sister. By the end of the first season, a breakthrough took place: “My husband got a really broad, but pretty in-depth view of what goes on for trans women, and it was awesome for him.”
The logistics of the program are still evolving, and things are very much in the beginning stages. The July 5 show was the third episode in the series, but the first one to be shared. Technical difficulties marred the first episode, and Houston’s notoriously unstable weather prevented the second episode from being aired. “We’ve had two great first shows, but we didn’t record the first one, because I didn’t understand that I was supposed to do it,” David says, “and [on] the second one we had some storm issues, so we didn’t.” The early July show, which featured Robin Mack of The Gender Book, was the first official installment.
For those who missed the initial airing, a Plan B is in the works. “To listen to a podcast on KPFT,” the host explains, “you have to listen to it in real time, which sort of defeats the purpose. So we’ve set up a SoundCloud account, and they’re in the process now of putting a link on the home page.”