Building Queertopia

Building Queertopia, is a new podcast series that will bring together members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community to envision a perfect queer utopia where everyone is welcome. Each week Chelcee Grimes and Shane Jenek (Courtney Act) will be joined by a special guest who will contribute their own ideals to create their imagined inclusive world.

Chelcee and Shane will ask their guest to bring one big and bold idea that would drastically improve their lives and the lives of fellow queer-topians based on their real-life experiences. No topic is off limits, as the podcast provides a space for guests to explore everything from politics, music and fashion to social etiquette when considering their perfect queer utopia.

Chelcee says: “Building Queertopia is such an important podcast for not only everyone in the LGBTQ+ community but also for families and friends to learn about things maybe they aren’t aware of or are too afraid to ask. I’ve learned so much so far from all of our guests and Shane since recording started. Every episode is such a great conversation merged with fascinating stories and hope. You leave the podcast feeling positive and hopeful, I think that’s what everyone should feel like at the start or end of every day.”

The guest will also choose the national anthem for their dream Queertopia, a statue which they propose to erect and a building for citizens to visit. In the process of building their fictional paradise the series hopes to find ways to make reality a little better for everyone.

Shane says: “I love hearing people’s ideas for building a better and more inclusive world. It’s a lovely way to spend an hour each week, imagining a world that is kinder and more just. Such fun, insightful and thoughtful conversations with amazing queer guests and Chelcee (who, side note- is a really cool human). I hope people enjoy listening to Building Queertopia.”

YASS Magazine met Chelcee and Shane and here is everything we talked about.

First of all, can you describe to me what is the perfect queer utopia where everyone is welcome?

It is literally that; a place that everybody is welcome, no matter who you are, no matter how you identify. It is a space where you’re free to be yourself, and free to feel accepted and included. It’s basicall, the world as we’d like it to be, but, unfortunately it isn’t always that way.

How did you come up guys with the idea of this project of this podcast? How did everything start?

The BBC was really keen to put something out that would appeal to the queer community, and I think it was born out of wanting to make something that looks forward, and focuses on what can be better and what what could be great. So, instead of focusing on all the obstacles and hardships that the queer community does face, we did a bit of escapism, and we focused on solutions instead. Even though sometimes the ideas of our queer utopia might be imaginary, you can sort of use those conversations to find genuine solutions to current problems.

I know that you have a weekly guest in your podcast. So, what is exactly the role of the guest? Can you talk to me with through the structure of the podcast?

I don’t want to tell you too much because you’ll have to listen to the podcast. You know, it changes every single week and it doesn’t get boring because there’s so many different ideas, small or big, literally. The guests constantly come with brand new ideas. I mean, we spoke to Kyra Edwards and she mentioned how it is for her as a lesbian gay woman to have children.

We’re asking the same sort of few questions in each episode, but we may get such different answers. So, the big question is what big idea do you want to bring to our new society. And that could be something as frivolous as like a slow lane and a fast lane for walking, or it could be something funny. It could be something really important such as how queer people can have access to and be able to have children the same way as  heterosexual couples do. And then we also ask about like “What statue would you make in a queer utopia”? “What would be the national anthem”? “What can we do right now to make the lives better for everybody”?

So what are usually the reactions of the people who listen to your podcast?

We’ve only had one hour, but for me, the best comment so far is when people from older demographic say that they wish that the podcast was out when they were younger. That’s so important for us because we say it all the time! And it’s so amazing that BBC made a podcast like this, in this day and age.

A big part of our audience consists of not queer people, so in a way, we’re opening up this world for people beyond the queer community to listen and hear about different people’s experiences. As queer people we’ve grown up hearing about straight people’s experiences our whole lives. So, I think it’s nice that now straight people are willingly being taken on this journey, and they can a little bit more about queer experiences too.

What is the relationship between you two?

We love each other so much and our relationship is an absolute joy. It would not be the same podcast, without each other. We didn’t know each other before the BBC asked us to do this podcast, and so we don’t know whether the BBC has got some highly sensitive developed algorithm that they’ve fed both of our identities into and these two would be a perfect match, but whoever it was, they did such a great job and we are just grateful. We have so much fun and we constantly get to learn stuff about each other’s worlds.

You guys seem to have a very nice chemistry between the two of you. Do you enjoy being podcasters?

Yeah, it doesn’t feel like a podcast like, it feels like we are literally talking to a friend and then we get another friend in the group and then we just sit around and just talk about stuff, but you learn so much. We really hope that all the listeners feel exactly the way we feel at the end of each episode because we just I feel smarter. Just like having read a new book or having watched a new film or a Netflix series. It’s so rewarding making it and learning more and and making new friends along the way. It can feel like finding yourself making small talk with people, while at the same time having the opportunities to have  deep and meaningful chats with people. So, this podcast is lovely because we get to have deep meaningful conversations each week.

What is the best advice that someone has given to you regarding making your life better?

The best advice we ever got is, is just to focus on the positives rather than the negativesin life. And also that it does not matter if you don’t fit in. Never eb ashamed about your queer identity. You have to think of yourself and your identity as a strength, not a weakness. If you’re passionate about something you should remain passionate about it, regardless of what people say about that.

Who are the people involved in this podcast?

Every single person involved in the actual making of the content of the podcast and the content around it identifies as queer. The producer is a lesbian, the system producer is gay, the sound designer is non-binary, the social media producer is also queer, the marketing manager identifies as queer, so we’re all completely embedded into the community that we want to make this podcast for, which is extremely rare in the broadcasting world. We all represent quite different queer identities and have different experiences and that makes the podcast even more special.

Building Queertopia is available on BBC Sounds now

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