- Robin Katrick
- Reggie Condra
Members and allies of the LGBTQ community — or anyone paying attention to local news — will remember the Mister Sister debacle. In February 2017, the owner of a Winooski bar, formerly known as oak 45, renamed it with what many consider a slur against trans people. The venue's proclaimed target community reacted with outrage, and Mister Sister ultimately closed.
That conversation was short on good vibes, but it did have one positive outcome nearly a year later: a podcast dedicated to serving people of color within the LGBTQ community. Reggie Condra launched "Brown 'n Out" to create a space — albeit digital — where he and others like him could connect freely and without judgment.
Condra, who works at the Pierson Library in Shelburne, is himself brown and out. His podcast features people who share those characteristics but whose personalities, interests and stories are vastly different. And transphobia, he notes, falls into line with racism. "They both come from a place of privilege," he says.
To date, Condra has released 11 episodes of "Brown 'n Out," ranging from 40 minutes to an hour and 22 minutes in length. Guests have included Jarvis Green of JAG Productions, mother-daughter duo Mercedes Mack and Billie Miles, Sunshine Orta, and Elena Littlebug. Topics have ranged from astrology to the rationality of Satanism to parental relationships.
"I think it's been successful so far," Condra says. "If people don't want to talk about [race, gender or sexuality]," he adds, "I'm not really interested in talking about it. I want to change the narrative. I think we are surprising, and I want people to be surprised by the range and nuance of things we have to talk about and share."
What does that sound like? In episode 10, Condra interviewed musician Adam Lion Rodriguez (who uses they/them pronouns). Clocking in at 46 minutes, the podcast covers everything from Rodriguez's love of cats to being both an introvert and a performer.
Condra starts each episode by asking his guest what makes them who they are in that moment. Rodriguez's response? "I love books. [And] massive amounts of [Dungeons and Dragons]." Their newest book obsession is the Warriors series, which features warrior cats.
When the conversation turned political, Rodriguez noted that they were about to embark for Puerto Rico to help move their parents stateside. As reasons for the move, Rodriguez cited the island's political unrest, caused by austerity measures that were meant to diminish debt, as well as post-hurricane tensions.
Condra's interviews are full of such pivots and swerves, which keep the often-lengthy podcasts fresh and interesting. And, though race, gender and sexuality aren't always on the table, he is clear that the podcast is for queer people of color, as its name indicates. "Brown 'n Out" underscores the importance of giving voice to people who are often doubly discriminated against.
"A main goal of the podcast," Condra says, "is to illustrate to everyone how much we are more than our identities."