(Photo credit: Nick Wong)

Topics: Ethical Living | LGBTQ2

Meet Mark Tara, host of a ‘little gay radio show’ serving up a bit of everything

On 'Rainbow Country,' Tara wants to give voice to the LGBTQ community and beyond

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Mark Tara describes Rainbow Country as “a little gay radio show working to give voice to the LGBTQ community and beyond.” It has been a late Tuesday night favourite for many since it started on Toronto’s CIUT 89.5 FM in 2016. It is now syndicated to Winnipeg, Whitehorse, Ottawa, and Haliburton.

Beginnings:
When I made my pitch, [the] station manager asked me why do we need a gay radio show? I said, “Well, coming out is coming out and sharing stories is sharing stories.” He greenlit the show, and two weeks later, the Orlando shooting happened [where 50 people were gunned down in a gay nightclub]. I went to [the station manager], and said, “This is why the show is needed.”

Influence:
For me, the most important part of the show has been to feature LGBT recording artists. I don’t know another outlet for LGBT artists, especially independent ones. But there’s other stuff in there too: classic ’80s, classic house, classic disco, other independent artists. I label it as a gay show, but try to keep the content universal. They get a little gay with a little straight with a little random.


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Audience:
Maybe whoever is listening will take something away. Maybe they don’t know gay people, or they don’t have any gay friends, and they’ll hear someone sharing their views about something, and that person will happen to be a member of the LGBT community.

Room for improvement:
On one hand, I’m so grateful that eight stations have taken me. But at the same time, I’m thinking back about stations that have rejected me. They would say, “We were already carrying a gay radio show.” But, how many blues shows do you have on? How many hip-hop or rap shows do you have? They’re telling me they have that box checked off, essentially.

Message:
Respect! I think people can have varying views, there’s nothing wrong with that. And people can agree to disagree. But we should be able to have conversations and at the end of it, be respectful towards each other.

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Amy van den Berg is a writer based in northern Ontario. 

This article first appeared in Broadview’s September 2021 issue with the title “Mark Tara.”


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