Santa Rosa radio show seeks to give LGBT community a voice
Local radio show host Kaiya Kramer isn’t afraid to tackle divisive political issues such as efforts by some states to ban transgender people from public restrooms. Nor does she shy away from delving into why it appears that many high schoolers today are rejecting traditional gender identities of male and female.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding and rhetoric out there surrounding queer issues,” said Kramer, 26, who hosts a weekly Santa Rosa-based radio show called “The Queer Life,” which reaches listeners in 18 Northern California counties. “Why are we still talking about toilets? The fact that politicians are still talking about bathrooms is appalling. There are much bigger issues.”
Kramer, a transgender woman, has emerged over the past two years as a powerful and outspoken voice in Sonoma County on issues surrounding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities — from local disparities in health care access to discrimination in the workplace and alarming statistics that transgender people suffer disproportionately from depression and anxiety, leading to higher-than-average rates of suicide.
From a cramped studio at Santa Rosa’s Spanish-English bilingual radio station KBBF, Kramer brings a sense of humor and unabashed candor to such complicated issues. Her shows feature stories targeting local audiences. Some aim to debunk widely prevailing stereotypes about the transgender community and others dissect LGBT stories that have captured national headlines, such as several recently about efforts to make it more difficult for transgender people to use restrooms.
Other recent shows include an in-depth interview with a founding member of the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and one on “how to spot a bigot.”
Kramer’s show, which launched in August 2014, was driven by a desire to address issues she said have made it difficult for LGBT people to have regular lives.
“I want queer people to know they’re not alone,” Kramer said.
“I want them to know that they can have an education, that they can have a successful career, that they can become doctors and artists and lawyers.
“I want queer people to know that we are just as amazing and productive as everybody else.”
Kramer’s show — a mix of national LGBT news, interviews and what she calls modern perspectives — is an integral source of support for the transgender community in Sonoma County, said Jacqueline Nugent, who runs several transgender support groups at the Santa Rosa-based nonprofit Positive Images.
“Kaiya has done a lot in Sonoma County to normalize being queer, and that normalization is really important for the community,” Nugent said. “It was Harvey Milk who said 30 years ago ‘Come out, come out wherever you are.’
“Kaiya has helped further that message by getting out on the radio to expose queer people and transgender people as people who simply have the same goals as everyone else,” Nugent said.
“It’s basic things like getting a job, having a family, having a house.”
Sonoma County lacks adequate support for those struggling with discrimination in the workplace, schools or in accessing health care, said Kramer and others.
“But the biggest challenge is letting the trans community know that there is help out there,” Kramer said.
Kris Spangler, a therapist specializing in gender issues and transgender care, said shows like “The Queer Life” can help people feel less isolated.