Preserving queer history with Kickass Queers and The Queercore Podcast

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday April 9, 2024
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Faerie Argyle Rainbow, co-creator of the Rainbow Flag, featured on The Queercore Podcast
Faerie Argyle Rainbow, co-creator of the Rainbow Flag, featured on The Queercore Podcast

More often than not, queer history is either forgotten or rewritten until it bears little resemblance to what really happened. Now, two podcasts seek to set the record straight, so to speak, by telling our stories accurately.

One of these is The Queercore Podcast, a production of the LGBTQ History Project. The project seeks to preserve the lives and legacies of LGBTQ activists from the first wave of gay liberation. The podcast is a forum for archival interviews that History Project's August Bernadicou has collected since he was thirteen years old. The interviews are overlaid with music and with what Bernadicou calls his "silky smooth narrations."

Kickass Queers co-hosts Rachel Stuart and Larry Womack  

The other podcast is called Kickass Queers, and is co-hosted by Larry Womack and Rachel Stuart. According to Womack, their podcast tells the life stories of queer trailblazers, innovators, and pioneers. He and Stuart tell the truth, which sometimes goes against the grain of popular opinion.

For example, they dispel the long-held belief that early trans activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson started the Stonewall Riots.

"Sylvia arrived later, to join in them, and we talk about how that's actually more kickass than just happening to be there at the time," Womack said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

"And it's a good example of why it's so important to look at primary sources, not the thousand readily available derivatives of the same Village Voice obituary. We look at primary sources and accounts by actual witnesses, like Marsha P. Johnson and eventually Sylvia herself, whose viewpoints command respect."

One of Womack's favorite episodes is when he and Stuart discussed the life of Storm DeLarverie, an early mixed race lesbian activist and drag king.

"Our research (with the Delarverie episode) really pays off and we're able to offer listeners full and compelling stories they're not going to find on Wikipedia," Womack said. "I also like it when we have a really good guest, like Paul M. Smith, who argued 'Lawrence v Texas' before the Supreme Court."

"Lawrence v Texas" was a landmark ruling in which the court struck down sodomy laws and reaffirmed the right to privacy between consenting adults.

"Our professional backgrounds, journalism and academia, are disciplines that require a high level of accuracy and veracity to maintain our credibility," said Stuart. "We take pride in being able to find the details about a person's life that are ignored, minimized or misconstrued or flat out fabricated. In doing this, we are able to present some of the most important aspects of those kickass queers, their humanity."

Womack added that he and Stuart take doing research very seriously. They like to go to first-hand sources and conduct interviews when possible. They try to avoid doing episodes where all the sources are online.

"Our show is not a prosaic lecture on the history of queer culture," said Stuart. "Nor is it a vapid tell-all. It is both and more. Our queer ancestors did some kickass stuff, and did and experienced some really stupid stuff, and funny stuff, and heartbreaking stuff. Fully humanizing our forgotten queer pioneers means bringing the wide range of their experiences to the forefront."

Gay activist and author Perry Brass (left) with Queercore Podcast host August Bernadicou  

Going Queercore
The Queercore Podcast is very similar, and isn't afraid to take stands that some might consider controversial. In one three-part episode, it questions the role Gilbert Baker played in creating the Rainbow Flag, giving much of the credit to a woman who went by the name of Faerie Argyle Rainbow, who is heard on the podcast.

"We do not make controversial statements," said Bernadicou. "Rather, we let people who were there tell their own stories in their own words. It's the story of one woman versus the world. Sometimes you need to be direct to make a point. There is more than enough credit to go around."

Bernadicou is concerned that pivotal figures in the LGBTQ movement are having their legacies minimized or sometimes erased during their lifetimes.

"I enjoy giving people an opportunity to tell their own stories in their own words," he said. "In some ways I am creating history by spotlighting people who have made a significant impact but could be forgotten. Being the pastor of countless people's legacies is sometimes a burden, but is always lightened by love."

The first episode of Queercore's second season featured members of the New York Gay Liberation Front, including author Perry Brass. Bernadicou has a deep interest in this movement because it was the first time gay people fought back, employing marches and protests. He feels that the Gay Liberation Movement destroyed everything heteronormative.

"Gay rights are about assimilation," he said. "Gay liberation is about complete freedom. I am not interested in gay marriage being our saving grace. It's nice to have, not a must have. I want to paint each white picket fence black. Overall, I want people to be happy. Assimilation is just not for me."

Bernadicou finds a lot of satisfaction in what he does. When he's told be people that they know who Bambi Lake or Rumi Missabu were because of his efforts, then he knows what he's doing is worth it.

"I have over 230 recordings of Rumi on the phone," he said (See the Rumi Missabu obituary in this week's issue). "Can you imagine how well you know someone if you have that many recordings of them talking? It's as close as you can get to knowing every part of someone's life. More so than my other closest friends. It's having someone's entire legacy in your brain, on your hard drive, and in your file cabinet."

Kickass Queers podcast:
The LGBTQ History Project:
The Queercore Podcast:

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