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WDET Celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Gayly Speaking

President Nixon announced an accord had been reached to end the Vietnam War; The Watergate investigation was in full swing; Secretariat won the Triple Crown; and Stevie Wonder released "You are The Sunshine of My Life." The Year was 1973 and WDET broadcast a revolutionary program dedicated to addressing the issues and concerns of the gay community. WDET's program was called Gayly Speaking. This week, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast with a series of features and a panel discussion, Gayly Speaking: Detroit's LGBT Community Then and Now.

Travis Wright Reports

Chapter 1: Discovery

Tim Retzloff, A Ph.D candidate at Yale, explores gay life in metro Detroit from 1945 to 1985, and his research has unearthed some fascinating artifacts. It all started in the mid '90s, after Retzloff's essay examining how the automobile changed life for gay men in Flint during the 1950s and '60s was published, it got him thinking about Detroit.

His curiosity ultimately led to the discovery of a long running -- and nearly lost -- radio show.

Gayly Speaking aired on 101.9 WDET from 1973 to '82, covering political and cultural events relevant to the gay and lesbian community, from the place of religion in gay life, to the rural homosexual experience, a string of homicides that targeted Detroit's gay black men, sexism in the gay community, and a monumental revision of the city charter in 1974.

Retzloff tells WDET's Travis Wright that clues leading to uncovering the show all started in Detroit, at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

Chapter 2: Position & Platform

As Detroit elects Coleman Young as Mayor in 1973, WDET exists a space on the radio with a commitment to inclusive, progressive, and community oriented programming. It airs shows that covered the Hispanics and Armenian communities, others dug into Feminism and Black Power. The stage is set for the launch of a new kind of show.

Historian Tim Retzloff tells WDET's Travis Wright, the kinds of conversations that were had weekly on WDET’s Gayly Speaking went largely unheard in public.

Chapter 3: Forge A Path

_Gayly Speaking___ quickly became the place where gay news makers had their voices heard, every Thursday, for nine years. An episode that looks at life for rural gays and lesbians is built on interviews with captivating subjects, recorded in the field. Another looks at cases challenging the city to implement its new human rights ordinance. During the show's run, a rift between the show’s lesbian and gay staff mirrored a cultural trend of the day. By the early ’80s public radio programming changed, and was one of several community programs that were dropped.

But Gayly Speaking's influence on the trajectory of the gay rights movement in Detroit remains significant. The conversations remain relevant.

WDET’s Travis Wright has the third and final installment of our look back at Gayly Speaking.

The Craig Fahle Show Panel: Gayly Speaking, Then and Now

Craig's guests include Gayly Speaking hosts Donald Mager and Merrilee Melvin; Historian Tim Retzloff; Publisher of Between the Lines/PrideSource Jan Stevenson; and Former Executive Director of The Triangle Foundation Jeff Montgomery. Join the panel as they reflect on the impact of Gayly Speaking and trace metro-Detroit's gay community through the decades.

Listen to Original Gayly Speaking Episodes

Coming Out: Gayly Speaking broadcasts live for the first time, as members of the newly formed Gay Radio Collective discuss their experiences and issues around the pivotal experience that is coming out of the closet. (September 6, 1973).

Gay Rights & Detroit's New City Charter Detroit adopts a new city charter in 1973 and it includes a human rights ordinance with a provision that protects residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Its interpretation and enforcement by city officials is the debate of the day, on Gayly Speaking. (August 1, 1974).

Gay Life in Small Towns As we hear in this emotionally driven episode of Gayly Speaking, life for gay and lesbians living in small American towns are often faced with choosing between living an isolated lifestyle or risk being the target of violence. Says one man: "Men in prison have more rights than homosexuals. (January 10, 1974)