BY KELLY KENDALL
When Helen Harrell was growing up, she never imagined that one day she’d be hosting what’s billed as “the only queer radio show” in Indiana.
“It never occurred to me in college or when I was young that there would ever be such a show,” says Harrell. But for the past ten years, she’s been cohosting BloomingOUT, a weekly radio program on WFHB, addressing issues of interest to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) community.
On any given Thursday from 6 to 7 pm, listeners might hear Harrell and her cohost, Michael Reece, talking about local gay-pride events, the coming out of a pro athlete, or the recent controversy over Keynesian economics (John Keynes was reportedly gay). “We cram a lot in there,” says Harrell, who notes that BloomingOUT differs from most other “queer shows” in the Midwest. “A lot of them are hosted by gay men, are strictly music shows, are fun shows,” she says. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. But we try to address serious issues—how being gay/trans affects our lives.”
As a news and public affairs show, BloomingOUT pays close attention to government legislation in the Bloomington area and beyond and has hosted community leaders, including Mayor Mark Kruzan. As an associate dean at IU’s School of Public Health, Reece brings an informed voice to discussions of HIV/AIDS and other health issues. But listeners also hear from drag queens and members of alternative-erotic scenes. “We talk about issues that aren’t talked about anywhere else,” says Harrell.
Backlash has consisted of exactly one phone call to the radio station. Support, however, just keeps growing.
“One thing that really stuck with me is a few years ago at a resource fair, a student walked over and just stood there in front of me,” says Harrell. “And he said, ‘You’re them. You’re the two I listen to on the radio.’ He was from a really small town in Indiana, and was kind of shaking, and said, ‘I was bullied, I was beaten, I was thrown out of my home, and I listen to you one hour a week and I know I’m not alone.’ That really is what we’re all about.”
Hear BloomingOUT at 91.3 or 98.1 FM (Bloomington), 100.7 FM (Nashville), 106.3 FM (Ellettsville), or online anytime.