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'Nancy' Is Public Radio's LGBTQ 'All Things Considered'

WNYC's new podcast, "Nancy," covers a spectrum of experiences and issues pertinent to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
(L-R) Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, hosts of WNYC's new podcast, "Nancy"
(L-R) Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, hosts of WNYC's new podcast, "Nancy"Amy Pearl

Get ready to start calling your friends “Nancy.”

The first episode of WNYC Studios' newest podcast, “Nancy,” premiered Sunday, and hosts Kathy Tu and Tobin Low are prepared to cover a spectrum of experiences and issues pertinent to people throughout the LGBTQ community -- and beyond.

“Everyone can identify with stories about going on a journey to figure yourself out,” Tu, 31, told NBC Out over the phone. “Even if some people can’t relate directly to certain stories we tell, we think it is helpful for everyone to know that others are always going through something.”

The hosts met at the Transom Story Workshop, which is a program for aspiring radio producers and reporters. Since then, they won the 2015 WNYC Studios Podcast Accelerator competition.

(L-R) Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, hosts of WNYC's new podcast, "Nancy"Amy Pearl

The first episode of "Nancy" details the hosts’ coming out stories, and even features their parents. While the stress and anxiety of coming out is familiar to many LGBTQ people in America, Tu used the podcast to illustrate how coming out to her family was less like tearing off a Band-Aid, and more like an odyssey.

“The very first story we tell is about coming out, because that’s where a lot of LGBTQ stories seem to start,” Tu said. “I talk about coming out to my mom, and she ignores me because in my family, if you don’t talk about ‘it,’ then ‘it’ doesn’t exist.”

Tu, 31, emigrated from Taipei, Taiwan with her family when she was about 5 years old. She grew up in the predominately Asian-American city of Diamond Bar in eastern Los Angeles county. Tu explained that she lost some of her grasp on Mandarin after moving to the U.S., so her conversations with her parents are in “Chinglish.” Tu said she has tried to explain her sexuality to her mother multiple times, and she even has audio of herself using Google Translate to try to rephrase herself to be better understood.

“The one thing we talk a lot about is that you never really come out once,” Low, 29, said in the same phone call. “You have to come out to family, but there are always more conversations afterward that have their own complexities and nuances.”

(L-R) Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, hosts of WNYC's new podcast, "Nancy"Matthew Septimus

Low, who is Chinese American, grew up in Cupertino, California -- the home of Apple Inc. -- but said his family has no ties to the tech industry. He studied cello at the University of Michigan, and after he continued his studies at Juilliard School in New York City, he made a career change to radio.

When Low came out, he, sort of, could thank the television show “Queer Eye for the Strait Guy.”

“At the time, ‘Queer Eye’ wasn’t doing it for me or helping me imagine how I was going to be as an adult,” Low said. “Those guys are so confident, and for me, it had the opposite effect because they seemed so far down the road from where I was. It came to be a catalyst for those conversations with my father, because he loved the show.”

Related: 'Queer Questions' Podcast Takes on Stigma, Stereotypes in Kenya

Low’s story in the episode emphasizes how his father had to adjust to his son’s sexual and romantic orientation, not because of an underlying bias, but because he had to reimagine his Low’s future in the world.

“The thing we are going to try to capture is the people in process or in the moment of figuring themselves out,” Low said. “Now, for me, when I think back to being in the closet and figuring things out, the stories that helped me were those about people figuring it out for themselves, hearing and seeing what their process was like.”

Episodes include Low’s quest to find the first dominant, gay, Asian porn star (tongue-in-cheek commentary regarding stereotypes of Asian-American men in porn), a discussion between two HIV-positive gay men of different ages about their similar and different experiences and Tu’s decision to cut her long hair to present differently.

“By trying to capture people in the middle of these conversations and journeys, the hope is that someone could hear ‘Nancy’ and think that that could be their journey,” Low said. “We want people feeling validated that they can do ‘it,’ too.”

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