Opening minds and closets

Linh Hatch, 17, was recently granted a Communities that Care award from the OutCenter for starting and hosting a teen podcast called “Out of the Technicolor Closet.”

SOUTH HAVEN —Keeping an open mind is something 17-year-old Linh Hatch prides herself on.

“If people were able to have civil discourse about a lot of this stuff, a lot of things would change in a perfect world,” she said. “People would listen, people would understand, people would empathize.”

Linh, a Covert resident, was recently granted a Communities that Care award from the OutCenter in Benton Harbor for starting and hosting a podcast, aimed for teens, called “Out of the Technicolor Closet.”

In the podcast, she, along with co-host, Stephanie O’Sullivan, explore topics relating to the LGBT community, including its history and challenges it has faced. Episodes are recorded at the Mid-West Family Broadcasting station in South Haven. Recent episodes include information about safe sex, drag queens and mental health.

Herald-Palladium Staff Writer Alexandra Newman sat down with Linh recently to talk about her podcast and her life as a soon-to-be senior in high school.

How did this podcast come to be?

It was an effort more to find something to do to help the community early this year. It was initially for some community service for a school thing. I started getting involved with the OutCenter and had a talk with their director, Mary Jo (Schnell), and she brought up the opportunity to start a podcast. It sounded like a really big deal, but interesting.

We brainstormed for a bit, then I got in contact with Stephanie and there was a whole meeting. As soon I said “yes,” it was mine. We released the first episode in March.

How do you come up with the stuff you talk about in each episode?

I find a lot of ideas online. As a person in Generation Z, I’m really into my phone and the internet. There’s a lot of conversation online about topics that seem relevant or things that I realize people around me aren’t aware of. Like I went to a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) meeting in Coloma and the majority of people there wanted to know more, but were extremely uninformed and didn’t have any platforms they could use.

We were talking about things that I thought were common knowledge, so I thought I’d take topics that seem simple, and that you already know what they are, and then explain them from there.

So a lot of research goes into it?

Yes. And there’s also the political aspect of stuff that’s going on in this day and age, with the presidency. And also just a lot of historical background because not a lot of people know the history. That’s what we covered in the first episode.

I listened to the first episode and the two of you talk about your coming out stories. In whatever detail you’d like to give, can you tell me a little bit about how you’re a part of the LGBT community?

It took me a while to figure out what I was feeling. As I was growing up, I had a very close friend that I didn’t realize that I liked, but I did. After a while I ended up having a relationship with her. I never really thought about sexuality. I just felt like I loved a person because they’re a person and I never thought it was anything more complicated than that. As I got older, I started to realize there was a lot of societal norms that you’re expected to abide by and I realized my affections aren’t exactly “adequate” when it comes to what a lot of people would expect me to feel.

I was scared for a while about coming out because my mom is Vietnamese and her cultural upbringing is very different. She accepts me now, but at first she said it was just a phase and that I was going to marry a guy when I was old enough. It took a long time for me to lay down what I was, but now I feel like I’m bisexual and I’m a cis-female.

I explored gender and sexuality, and I think when someone is trying to figure out who they are before they come out, it’s important to explore that.

What would you say to people who may know nothing about the LGBT community about listening to your podcast?

I know there’s a lot of people with differing opinions who may not be open to hearing new things, but it’s just as you enter the adult world, or you’ve been in it for a while, you need to be open to other opinions to grow. Taking it in small amounts. You don’t need to fully accept what we’re saying or agree with it, but just hear it and try to sympathize with other people. It might help you along your way, even if you have nothing to do with LGBT people in your future, it might help you understand other people more and give you more empathy.

And what would you say to people who may already know a lot about the LGBT community about listening?

It’s good to just get back to the roots and make sure your base understanding of the communities knowledge is solid. If you already know about it, why not help educate your friends with it.

Have you learned anything yourself doing the podcast?

Yes actually when it comes to considering other people’s mindsets more. I talk a lot about keeping an open mind, and I’d like to think I’m very open-minded and self aware, but when it comes to putting it into perspective, like who is this going to reach? Who’s going to think about what I’m saying? Really this could hurt or help depending on how people think about it. Taking that into consideration really helps how I organize my words when I write my script. The last thing I want to do is possibly push someone away from learning more. I have to basically filter. Not to a point where I’m censoring my opinions, but just being more clear.

What was it like to get the award from the OutCenter?

I got the email and I was amazed. It was a shock to me because I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Like, I’m just doing this and I’m just me. I didn’t think I was going to influence too many other people outside of my friends and family group. I never thought I’d get an opportunity like this. Being given it, and people around me acknowledging that I’m doing something for the community with the help of others around me, I got whiplash for a second. Woah, this is happening.

What do you do when you’re not doing the podcast?

When I’m not doing the podcast I am very active with my friends, spending time with them and helping them with topics in the LGBT community. I am very into video games and drawing. I’m involved with my choir. I love animals, I’m always hanging out with them. We’re building a chicken coop right now.

I know it’s early, but do you have any plans or goals for after high school?

I go to the Van Buren Tech Center in Lawrence for auto breaks, engine, suspension. So I am hoping to be at least a mechanic eventually. I have one state certification so far out of the three. I am also thinking of pursuing something vocally or artistically. I’m a thespian. I’ve thought about exploring life in a bigger city for more opportunities.

“Out of the Technicolor Closet” can be streamed online through www.983thecoast.com/out-podcast/.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman