Tuesday, September 6, 2016

We Are Compatible

            I’m feeling like a proud parent today as my baby takes its first few tentative steps.  In May of this year, expecting that 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church would provide no immediate relief in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons who participate and serve faithfully within the denomination, I took the step to reserve the domains wearecompatible.com and wearecompatible.org.  My thought was that, if the church once again looks at us and says that we are incompatible, this would give myself and others a platform from which to look back at them and say, “Yes we are!.”

            Over the past few months, through conversations and encouragement from many others, the ‘We Are Compatible’ podcast began to take shape.  The first person to come aboard was my co-host, Alex Shanks.  I think, at first, Alex thought that this was just some crazy idea that I had concocted and wouldn’t follow through on.  As time went by, he began to see that I was serious.  The next person to join our little crew was Nick Federinko, our sound editor.  He said that he was on board as soon as I told him the name of the website.  He immediately saw the potential of having a means for LGBTQ+ persons to share their own stories in their own voices with the world.

            I knew that I needed other pieces as well though, and this was to be an audio production.  I needed music.  The first name that came to mind was the person who has provided the soundtrack to this reconciling movement for at least these last few years that I have been involved, Mark Miller.  I barely knew Mark Miller though, and I was pretty sure he didn’t know me at all.  I also knew that I either wanted ‘Draw the Circle Wide’ or ‘Child of God,’ as our theme music.  While at General Conference in Portland, I considered approaching him a few times, but I kept chickening out.  What if he said no?  What if he thought the idea was terrible?  What if he wanted a fee for using his music that I couldn’t afford?  Music is his livelihood and one of his gifts to the world.  He had a right to make money doing it.  I never got the nerve up to ask while in Portland.  After I returned to Ohio, I reached out to Mark via Facebook.  I didn’t even have a real e-mail address for him.  He responded very quickly that I could use his music.  He even suggested ‘Child of God,’ and told me that there would be no fee for doing so!  I was ecstatic!  At that point, it became even more real.  It also became clearer that I actually had to make this happen.

Alex and I in the studio
            As I began to explore the logistics of what it takes to produce and distribute a podcast, I approached a friend who had just purchased an online radio station, TrueFMOnline.  My ask to him was whether or not he would carry the show on his station once it was produced.  He responded by inviting me in to use their studio for a month or two while we get started.  A real studio?  Real microphones? Real sound equipment? The ability to integrate callers from anywhere in the world into our shows?  How could I refuse such an offer?  Anytime that I was looking for a door to open, it didn’t just open.  It fell off the hinges and hit the floor.  Now, recording in Columbus while our sound editor lives in Cincinnati presented some logistical challenges.  Fortunately, an OSU student, Jacob Rollins, who I met through volunteering with Equality Ohio has stepped up to assist us with the actual in-studio recording and technical issues.  Once we are done, the files are sent to Nick, and he takes it from there.

            Then, I began to wonder about the organizational structure and the financing of all of this.  What should this be?  Should I form my own non-profit for this?  Should it be run as more of a business?  I wasn’t doing this with a desire to make money.  I just wanted to be able to share stories in a way that others, even those who might not be fully supportive, might be open to hearing them.  Again, when I didn’t even expect it, Equality Ohio, an organization that I give a great deal of my time and energy to here in my home state, offered to allow me have the funds for the podcast run through them.  Perfect!  

            Now, I will admit that I am still a bit stressed about the finances for all of this.  There are costs involved. Alex and I have determined that it costs about $80 per episode to produce the show, and we estimate a total minimum budget of $10,000 to cover the full estimated two-year run.  So far, the money that we have spent has come from my own pocket, but, as a currently unemployed seminary student, I cannot sustain that.  Also, that just covers our basic costs (studio time, file hosting, website, etc).  It doesn’t include purchasing our own microphones to be able to do creative things in the field or small things like the reimbursement for the travel costs of those assisting us in this effort.  I am trusting that, just as the other doors have opened when they needed to that provision will come as well.

Please take a listen to our first episode at http://www.wearecompatible.org/episodes/

~ Culbs

Twitter: @culbs1138