Meet Kayla Gagnon, creator of the new "Queer ‘Eers’" podcast coming to WVU in September

HC: Introduce yourself! (Name, major, hometown)

KG: Hi everyone! My name is Kayla Gagnon, and I’m a journalism student with a double minor in interactive media design and women’s and gender studies. I’m from Voorhees, New Jersey.

HC: To get to know you, share your favorite food(s), TV shows, books, movies, hobbies— anything!

KG: I’m a huge geek, so I love watching shows like Doctor Who as well as superhero shows like Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. I read whenever I get the chance to. I’m currently reading "Becoming Nicole" by Amy Ellis Nutt.

HC: What are you involved in at West Virginia University?

KG: I’m a news reporter for WVU’s student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum. I’m also a student-athlete for WVU. I’m on the swim team!

HC: What tips do you have for balancing these activities as a busy college student?

KG: School comes first. You will only be a student for a short period of time, so make sure you take care of your academics. Also, don’t try to jump into everything at once. Balancing things is like juggling—once you learn how to manage three, then you can add something else in your life.  

HC: Tell me about the podcast, Queer ‘Eers… What was your inspiration?

KG: I really wanted to highlight the stories of LGBTQ+ people in the area. I believe in the power of storytelling, whether it’s a fictional character on a TV show or someone speaking on a podcast. Stories have the power to change people’s hearts and minds more than statistics can.

For the first couple of episodes, I want to try to highlight people from WVU and Morgantown, but as the show goes along I want to be able to share stories from different areas of the state.

HC: Talk me through how this transformed from an idea to where it is now.

KG: I was originally going to pitch a video series for The Daily Athenaeum’s YouTube channel about LGBTQ+ issues at the University, but I knew that it was going to have to end at some point. At this point I started to listen to podcasts, and that gave me the idea to transform it into a podcast.  

A podcast can cover a wide range of topics, and can be an ongoing series. I can talk to a variety of people from all walks of life and never run out of material. It can be an ongoing series, and it can be flexible with the times. If there’s something happening in the news that can impact the LGBTQ+ community, whether it’s local, state or national, it can be brought up in an episode almost as soon as the news breaks.

HC: Can you give us an idea of what to expect— topics covered, participants, etc?

KG: A big aspect of the podcast is personal stories. The people who will be featured on the show will be bringing their own experiences and opinions to the table, and I’m super excited to meet and talk with all kinds of people. I’m still finalizing guests at the moment, but my first guest will be Dr. Cris Mayo of the LGBTQ+ Center.

HC: What made you decide to pursue this at WVU?

KG: There’s a lot of resources I can pull from here, whether it’s using the recording room at the Media Innovation Center in Evansdale Crossing or reaching out to a member of the community to interview. Morgantown recently passed a nondiscrimination ordinance last year that protects the rights of LGBTQ+ people. West Virginia as a state does not have a nondiscrimination law that protects LGBTQ+ people.

Also, West Virginia tends to be overlooked in a lot of aspects in national news, except when people talk about the opioid crisis (which is still an important topic to discuss, of course). It was amazing to see West Virginia in the national news with the teacher strike this past year. The LGBTQ+ community is often overlooked no matter what state it is, and I really want to be able to highlight the diverse, colorful community there is here.

HC: What impact do you think this will have on the university community?

KG: I hope for the people that are part of the LGBTQ+ community that they can find someone they relate to and to understand themselves and their community better. For the listeners who don’t identify as queer, I want them to be able to open their minds to a person’s experience that might be different than theirs.

HC: What podcasts do you listen to/do you have recommendations?

KG: What helped inspire me to jumpstart this podcast was Holler: Voices of West Virginia Women by Hillary Kinney, who is a WVU journalism alumna. She’s given me advice on how to start the podcast and has been a great cheerleader.

Another inspiration I had for this podcast was Queery by lesbian comedian Cameron Esposito. She’s highlighting a variety of LGBTQ+ people, both celebrities and “ordinary” people in the podcast. I’m just pulling from a smaller radius of people.

HC: Who do you see as your role models as a college student?

KG: I don’t have one particular person that I aspire to be or to imitate. That kind of inspiration to make myself better comes from watching people close to me, especially if they aren’t interested in the same things as me, or people from history or fictional characters in media. I’m inspired by the hard work my teammates put in. I’m inspired by the activism that LGBTQ+ advocates did to be able to get the rights I have today. I’m inspired by fictional characters like Wonder Woman who make me want to be a more compassionate human being. Even though I don’t have a set “role model,” there are aspects of people I know, real or fictional, who I try to imitate.

HC: Anything else you’d like to mention?

KG: This podcast is a work in progress, so feedback, whether it’s on social media or comments on the podcast site, is much appreciated. I’m so grateful to the people who’ve already supported this podcast before I’ve even released an episode. This is for you.