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Revolutionizing the Air Waves Chicago's own 'Homofrequencia' makes history
by Luz Chávez

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The only radio show in the country for and by Latino LGBT folks is right here in Chicago. The Pilsen-based radio program "Homofrequencia" broadcasts live every Monday night from 9-10 p.m. on 90.5 FM Radio Arte and online at the station's website .

Homofrequencia launched its first show Aug. 12, 2002. The youth-produced program targets the Latino and Latin-American LGBT community and is done mostly in Spanish. It features segments on a variety of topics from issues affecting the Latino LGBT community to local events, activists, and artists to entertainment news and headlines.

The show has a diverse seven-member team. One recent week's show was hosted by Tania Unzueta, Nancy Hernández, Alix Weisfeld, and Radio Arte staff member Jorge Valdivia.

Tania, 19, a sociology student at UIC, recently joined the show. "And I mean, she just joined the show, if you know what I mean," the group burst into laughter as Jorge explains Tania's recent coming-out.

Nancy, 20, joined Radio Arte in January 2001 as a student intern and co-produces Homofrequencia. She appreciates the growing number of listeners and reveals that "There are heterosexuals who listen to the show and they love it … Heterosexuals come up to us and say, 'You have a good show.'" Nancy and Tania will also host a new women's issues program, Syren's Revolt, on Radio Arte in February.

Alix, 21, explains her role on the show, "I'm the only non-Latino member of the Homofrequencia community … I'm trying to find the lesbian community for younger women who kind of see two things: they see the very earthy, political women and they see the sportsy, bar-going women. And there a lot of things in between, and my political personal project is to find that space."

This particular Homofrequencia show was Lesbofrequencia night, a lesbian-oriented program that's produced every second Monday of the month. Lesbofrequencia grew out of a need to address issues of interest to Latina lesbians. The program breaks from its Spanish-language tradition and is done mostly in English.

The segments on this week's show focused on "lesbian role models." Featured role models included Chicana-Anglo poet and activist Chérrie Moraga and Grammy-award winning Argentinean rock singer Celeste Carballo--who incidentally, Nancy points out, came out long before Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang.

Tania explains on the show, "We talk about Ellen, for example, and how she was so great for coming out on TV. And we never talk about these great Latin American lesbian icons who I believe are equally brave, if not a little more, because of the culture."

"Yes, and that's where Homofrequencia and other media outlets come into the picture," Jorge says.

"Such as En la Vida," Alix drops in.

"Yeah," Jorge continues. "Such as En la Vida, where you showcase and you talk about these different people who have the courage to come out so that other people out there can identify with them and become familiar with these figures."

Tania explains, "It's not so much that there aren't that many people that have come out in public, but that they're not paid as much attention as mainstream figures."

And that is definitely where Homofrequencia makes history. The show puts the spotlight on the long-established Latino LGBT community and brings to light important activists, artists, events, and issues that are virtually ignored by the existing media.

"When we were talking about documenting gay Chicago and we were talking about doing Pilsen. And we were like, 'Pilsen? What are you talking about Pilsen? There's no gay people in Pilsen.' But then again, there's us. And there's a bunch of other places," Tania states.

"And we're actually all from Little Village," Nancy adds.

Jorge further explains, "Think about how empowering it is to be able to tune into a radio program where you might otherwise be completely oblivious to the gay world that's within your community, because you automatically think about Boystown. It's so empowering because it's a way to connect Jose, Juan, Lisa … . We're just like a gay mecca in Pilsen and Little Village … . And all these people who might have been oblivious to all these different services and different spots where we hang out, you're connecting them. And that's so empowering."

Broadcasting online has helped the show gain a nationwide fan base--from California to Texas. Homofrequencia has also received national media attention from the National Public Radio show "Latino USA," National Radio Project, and the L.A.-based magazine, QV.

The program has a great advantage in being produced by youth. Even when the hosts tweak out minor program glitches, the raw moments are nothing less than charming.

The exceptional Homofrequencia team delivers a unique blend of raw sincerity as they discover the Latino LGBT community in all of its splendor. They do not hesitate to recognize their limitations ( such as their minor exposure to bisexual and transgender issues ) and they are extremely motivated to overcome them. The young hosts are learning about their community and, in the process, they are learning about themselves. Listeners have the privilege of witnessing this.

"There are things I would have never possibly looked into or would never have learned about were it not for the show, and my hope is that it's doing the same for the listeners," Jorge explains.

Tania adds, "We get to learn about stuff that's not mainstream. Usually everything is like white, male people who dominate the mainstream media. Here we talk about people I can actually relate to besides Will and what's-his-name from Will & Grace … I could never be like, 'Hey, I want to be like Jack, because he's my role model.' I can say that there are actually Latina lesbians or Latina bisexuals who I can identify with. I know that they exist."

Jorge offers a touching story on the show's effect on his personal life. "The show has really helped the relationship I have with my mother … I was really the one who had more issues with coming out as opposed to my family having issues with me being gay. I had a hard time trying to share everything regarding Homofrequencia with my mother. I was always felt that she was a little embarrassed that this would be in the spotlight. And the relationship that we have, I can tell her "Hey this is what's happening [ on the show ] and she's proud of me. A friend of hers called her and said, 'Hey, I feel really bad. I'm sorry that you're going through this.' And she's like, 'What are you talking about?' 'Well I saw your son. He was on channel 66, and they clearly say Jorge Valdivia.' And my mom's like, 'And?' 'And you must be embarrassed.' And she's like, 'Why should I be embarrassed? He's doing something positive. I'd be embarrassed if he was on the news because he was arrested, if he was a criminal. But my son is doing something positive.' … . And I never imagined those words coming out of my mom's mouth."

When asked about their goals for the show, Tania answers, "I hope it erases the invisibility that exists within the Latino gay community."

Jorge explains that one of his goals is change: "When I say change I mean it in such a broad sense. Change within our community where a gay man who can take time to learn about the lesbian community … . Change also regarding on how the media focuses so much on Boystown and gay white men and hopefully they'll begin to focus on the diversity that exists within the gay community because we're such a rich, diverse culture but we always seem to focus on the same things over and over again. And change also outside the community where the heterosexual community will begin to listen to the show and hopefully will become more educated about some of the negative stereotypes they seem hold onto. That not every gay man is promiscuous, and not every transvestite is out there doing tricks. Hopefully change will come."

Homofrequencia is always looking for information on events, organizations, and people important to the Latino LGBT community. To contact Homofrequencia, call 312-455-9455.

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