Aug. 29, 2018

Last night, a radio show saved my life

Social Work master's student and DJ Alex Naylor brings LGBTQ issues to the airwaves with award-winning radio show
Alex Naylor produces the award winning LGBTQ+ program Rainbow Radio on the University of Calgary's CJSW 90.0 FM.

Alex Naylor produces the award winning LGBTQ+ program Rainbow Radio on the CJSW 90.0 FM.

Can a radio program save your life? Decades ago, the University of Calgary’s radio station, CJSW 90.9 FM, put the first LGBTQ+ programming on Calgary airwaves, and the effect was seismic. In fact, according to historian Kevin Allen writing in the Calgary Gay History Project, “On multiple occasions we have heard from individuals who said those CJSW programs saved their lives, by letting them know they were not alone. When these people did not have the courage to live open lives, they were consoled by knowing that queer voices existed every week in Calgary on their radio dial.” 

The torch has been handed down in the volunteer-programmed radio station over time, until a couple of years ago when the ember was passed on to UCalgary student Alex Naylor, who perhaps didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she agreed to join the programming group. 

“I DJ in clubs around town and throw some parties,” explains Naylor. “I'm involved in the harm reduction world — harm reduction in the nightlife setting. Helping people make safer decisions around substances and how to educate partygoers about consent. So that involvement led me to like-minded people in CJSW.”

This connection led Naylor to do a music show on Thursday nights (Silent Disco, 10 p.m.) and, before long, she was approached to join a new CJSW programming initiative called Rainbow Radio, focused on producing LGBTQ+ programming. While she was willing to help facilitate getting the community on the airwaves, she didn't want the show to be about her.

“I handled that by not speaking for anyone when it wasn't appropriate,” explains Naylor, “because I don't occupy very many of the queer identities, in terms of intersectional identities: I'm a white person and also cisgender and lots of other things.” 

Having said that, producing and editing a radio show is a lot of work. A polished piece of radio takes countless hours to complete, but Naylor felt the final product made it all worth while. 

“I think one of the most incredible sets of stories, that I'm really thankful to the people who shared, was a show on two-spirit identity. A group of four people from Indigenous communities around Western Canada came in. It was just a really incredible piece. They talked for hours and I edited it down to an hour of the best stuff.”

Alex Naylor hosted, edited and produced an award-winning CJSW radio program, Rainbow Radio, that focuses on LGBTQ+ issues.

Alex Naylor hosted, edited and produced radio program, Rainbow Radio, that focuses on LGBTQ+ issues.

Faculty of Social Work

That powerful two-spirit episode was nationally recognized this year by the National Campus and Community Radio Association, who presented Naylor, along with CJSW’s former spoken word director Frank Litorco and production co-ordinator Sarah Nelson, the OUT LOUD award, honouring the best in LGBT+ programming. 

“I just felt thankful to the panellists and participants for sharing and to those who did guest segments like Kevin Allen,” says Naylor, reflecting on the award. “I felt quite proud of the efforts that I put in with the many, many, overnights in the editing suite. So I felt proud of that. It was good to see. I didn't expect it, but I was surprised and happy.” 

Naylor says her motivation to put in the long hours was to honour the stories that people were sharing, giving what she could in payment. “I felt people’s stories and sharing should've have merited an honorarium in some form because of the effort they put into it,” she says. “A lot of these people are already very busy and doing a lot in their communities. So I wanted to give them what I could give. I couldn't give them money but I could give them a really professional presentation of their ideas. I'm really good at editing. I'm good at creating a narrative arc … so that's like what I could offer them if not cash.”  

This fall Naylor will take on another challenge as she begins a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Calgary. Like many social work students, she seems to have been drawn to the faculty through a variety and combination of life and personal experiences. Besides her harm-reduction interests and passion for radio, Naylor has volunteered in the autism community as well as worked as a yoga instructor, combining her Kinesiology undergraduate degree with her interest in the holistic benefits of movement, focusing on the social and emotional benefits. She's taken this approach as an instructor to teaching autistic youth, with the Autism Asperger’s Friendship Society, as well as cancer survivors through Kinesiology’s Yoga Thrive program. She hopes her education will help her to continue this work as a professional social worker.

“I’m looking forward to it. I've worked in a variety of fields and I'm seeking to be more of a professional and to have more knowledge of how to do whatever jobs I enter into really well.”

People who contributed to Rainbow Radio

  • Frank Litorco - founder, Alex Naylor - lead producer,  Sarah Nelson - co-producer 
  • Members of VOICES, Calgary’s Coalition of Two Spirit and Racialized LGBTQIA+ (including UCalgary Social Work community member Evans Yellow Old Woman of The Alex Health Centre, who generously volunteered his consultation to Rainbow Radio as well as moderating its Two Spirit/Indigiqueer panel)
  • Members of the Queer Youth of Colour collective at Calgary Centre for Sexuality 
  • Professionals and service-users from the Calgary medical community (including members of UCalgary’s Medical Students for Gender and Sexual Diversity)
  • Folks from Outlink, who were instrumental in getting the program started