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Pride in Podcasting; Industry Insights from Award-Winning Journalist Jeffrey Masters

Jeffrey Masters is a GLAAD Award-Winning Journalist and host of the podcast LGBTQ&A. Praised for his long-form interviews, Jeffrey has had some incredibly influential people on his podcasts such as Laverne Cox, Pete Buttigieg, and many more. It was our honor to sit down with Jeffrey and hear his perspective on the podcasting industry and the LGBTQ+ experience, especially as we enter LGBTQ Pride Month.

1. Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself, maybe something that only a few people know about you?

I’m continually surprised by the number of people I meet who create podcasts but say they don’t listen to them, so I want to be clear: I love podcasts and think it’s an incredible medium. I listen to them while working out at the gym, making breakfast, and walking to the train.

My headphones are always in and I think I’ve only become a good interviewer by listening to the greats, like Terry Gross, Anna Sale, and Audie Cornish. Everyone has their own style and I only found my own by mimicking others. You only need to ask a big Oprah-style question once, like “How do you define love?” to realize, “Oh, wow. Yikes, that’s not me.”

2. What does pride month mean to you and how do you celebrate?

Pride has morphed for me in recent years since I work in queer media. I love it and am glad it exists, but it’s my busiest time of year and a part of me feels like a retail worker during the holidays. That said, I think it’s easy to roll your eyes at Pride and the commercialization of it that’s taken place in recent years, but for folks who don’t live in big cities, it can be a vital experience.

There is a way in which it forces companies to publicly affirm the LGBTQ+ community and it allows LGBTQ+ people to be heard and take up more space, something increasingly important with the recent attacks on our community (specifically trans youth as of late).

3. Could you tell us a little bit about why you started LGBTQ&A?

I fell in love with podcasts early — when I started the show in 2016, I was still explaining to people what a podcast was. There weren’t a lot of LGBTQ+ shows back then and even today there are very few major podcast companies that have LGBTQ-specific shows. (I’m referring to shows that focus on LGBTQ+ topics, not just a queer person who has a podcast about non-queer things.) I had a lot of experience with long-form interviews and thought I could bring something new to the space.

In 2016, so much of the coverage of trans people also focussed almost exclusively on their transitions and I thought it was important to have a medium to showcase more important aspects of the trans experience. With the level of violence that the trans community faces, it’s also important that we not only hear about a trans person in the media when it’s a negative story.

4. What is the one thing you want to leave your listeners with at the end of every episode?

There is no one way to be queer or trans or intersex. If you do not understand a person’s experience, that is okay. You can still treat someone you don’t understand with respect.

Sometimes I think we’re afraid to feel uncomfortable and so we avoid challenging topics. I would urge people to try to figure out why a conversation makes them uncomfortable. If it’s because of a past trauma that you’re not healed from, maybe that’s best left up to your therapist. But if it’s something like polyamory or open relationships that makes you uncomfortable because it’s new to you, don’t down that conversation. Have it and if it makes you uncomfortable, that’s okay. It’ll get easier the next time.

5. You have some amazing guests on your show, what is your strategy for selecting guests and also attracting them?

I really think you have to focus on whatever the host is most interested in and luckily for me, I’m curious about almost everything. (It’s incredibly apparent when a podcast host is not interested in a topic that they’re talking about. If the host is bored, the audience will be bored.)

The LGBTQ+ community is an incredibly diverse group and I want to highlight and celebrate that diversity. There’s a way in which we talk about diversity as if it only applies to race, when really it applies to age, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, geography, etc. Ideally, we’re covering a wide range across all those intersections. I also think a lot about balance: I want a show where I can interview a mega superstar like Janelle Monáe and also a lesser-known activist that our audience has never heard of. Focusing on all of these things will make any podcast better.

And then when it comes to booking talent for the show, that’s a skill that I had to learn through trial-and-error. I’ve now developed relationships with publicists, former guests, and non-profits in the community. All of these are useful when I’m trying to track someone down.

6. Are there things the podcast industry should be doing differently to support the LGBTQ+ community?

I would argue that no one is currently investing in this space. I can only think of two major podcast companies that have an LGBTQ+ show. If companies do invest in LGBTQ+ content, it’s important that they give them resources and not cancel them after one season.

They should also make sure that their non-LGBTQ+ shows feature LGBTQ+ people. A lot of the biggest interview podcasts only feature our community a few times per year.

7. After 5 years of interviews, what have you learned from interviewing people within the LGBTQ+ community?

It’s hard to generalize our community since we span every race, religion, and socioeconomic status. Especially with the local laws being enacted in the U.S., a trans kid in Texas can have a drastically different experience than a trans kid in New York. I’ve also seen how important individual family support is. If that same trans kid in Texas has a supportive family, they could have a disproportionately greater experience than a trans kid in New York whose family does not love and support them.

That’s all to say, we are a complicated group. The LGBTQ+ experience is and always will be changing. This will always be true and so when people reject labels like “queer” or having to use new pronouns for someone, I understand that new things can be challenging and I want to be compassionate, but I also want to say “get over it”. Like, right now. Language is always changing, for everyone. That is simply a fact of life.

8. Aside from LGBTQ&A, what other LGBTQ podcasts would you recommend?

Tuck Woodstock’s podcast, Gender Reveal, is one that I’m always learning from. Every time I think I have a good grasp on what gender is, they show me how wrong I am.

Making Gay History from Eric Marcus is an incredibly special show.

I like to think of Still Processing from The New York Times as a queer show. The two hosts are queer and while the content isn’t exclusively queer, there is such a queer sensibility to their relationship and conversations. The same is true with The Roxane Gay Agenda from Luminary. Not only is it an incredible podcast name, but Roxane brings her full identity to the show. She is not a nameless, faceless interviewer (thank god) and that is apparent in her guest selections and the conversations.

And then FANTI from Tre’vell Anderson and Jarrett Hill is unbeatable for their commentary and rapport.

Thank you so much Jeffrey for sitting down and talking with us. Stay tuned for more spotlights and be sure to follow Jeffrey Masters on Podchaser and listen to LGBTQ&A!