by Megan Smith
Radio producer JD Doyle couldn’t sleep after attending the Houston Transgender Unity banquet in April—his head was racing with ideas.
Earlier that evening, it was announced that a new building fund would be launched for the Houston Transgender Center. Although the center has been located in the heart of Montrose on Pacific Street for nearly five years, a serious need has developed for a bigger space to host meetings and house their impressive collection of trans archives.
Not surprisingly, Doyle—who is a producer of the monthly radio show Queer Music Heritage, a co-host of the weekly KPFT radio show Queer Voices, and a producer of OutRadio—turned to music as his way to help with fundraising.
Doyle decided to produce a CD featuring mainly trans artists, entitled House Blend. He says the name comes from the fact that the CD is raising money for a house, and it’s a blend of music genres. All the profits from the CD directly benefit the new building fund of the Houston Transgender Center.
Though he had never previously produced a CD, Doyle figured his fourteen years of experience in radio would help with the process. “I like to think I have the credibility among the artists and that I would be able to reach out to them,” he says. “In the end, that certainly proved to be true.”
Doyle reached out to the trans artists he interviewed and had seen perform over the years to be part of this benefit CD. The response from these artists was overwhelmingly positive, and Doyle collected twenty-one tracks for the final product. “[Trans issues] are something I’ve been passionate about for a number of years,” he says. “The trans artists need the most help. They need the most exposure, and I’m one of the few people that can really do that. There are not a lot of radio shows devoted to GLBT programming. There used to be more, but now, there’s really not, which is sad.”
Most songs featured on House Blend are more recent, Doyle says, but he also honors the past with certain tracks like “Man Enough to Be a Woman” by trailblazer Jayne County. “When you’ve played so many trans artists, and you interview a lot of them, you kind of get some favorites,” he says. “Those songs stick in your mind over the years, and I went back for a number of older tracks. In fact, some of the artists were surprised and said ‘Really? You want that? It’s so old!’ And I was able to convince them that yes, this is not just what’s on the radio now—this is giving recognition to trans music history.”
Although Doyle did not approach House Blend as an anthology CD, the mix of past and present tracks may portray an evolution of trans identity through music. Older trans music was very matter-of-fact, he says. The newer tracks tend to revolve more around gender issues and include educational messages—in particular, he points to the songs by Ricky Riot and Tim’m T West.
Overall, the CD has a very rock ’n’ roll vibe. “Only after I was done accumulating the twenty-one tracks did I realize that ‘Boy, I didn’t expect it to rock as much,’” Doyle says. “Sometimes you can slip a message into a rock song that’s harder to do in another genre.”