Queering the Faith

Eder Díaz Santillan Knows There’s No Wrong Way to Be Queer and Catholic

Two years ago, Eder Díaz Santillan had a successful gig as a producer and on-air talent for LA’s Spanish radio station KLOVE when he decided to leave it all behind. Even living in a major metropolis, Díaz Santillan (or “Gorritas”, as he is known to listeners) felt restricted in what he could and couldn’t say. “We would avoid a queer conversation on the air,” he explained in an interview with Q Voice News. “I wanted to be myself. I was out but felt like I was in the closet at work, in a way. I couldn’t come out to my audience.”

Deciding that the internet would be a better fit for real conversations, he started his own podcast, De Pueblo, Católico y Gay. He did so in between pursuing a master’s degree in mass communication, with the podcast serving as his thesis.

The format is simple: for 30 minutes every Monday, Díaz Santillan interviews a guest about their experience being queer at the crossroads of the Latinx and Catholic community. Instead of advice and problem solving, the podcast focuses on just listening. “I’m not pressing for details,” Díaz Santillan explained. “People are sharing what they want to share. A lot of people are not coming for advice, they just want to get this information off their chest.”

In this way, he elevates voices rarely heard on Latino radio. He has also determined to keep the podcast in Spanish, making sure that Spanish speakers have prioritized access to the information. “I am happy to see many platforms addressing these issues in English,” he said, “but Spanish speakers continue to have less of these resources available.”

Díaz Santillan has experienced the difficulty navigating a queer identity in a Latinx household first-hand. Although his family was largely supportive when he came out as gay in his twenties, this took time and much conversation. “There are individuals who have open communication and don’t struggle with guilt,” he says. “But then there are individuals, like me, who have deep intersectionalities with religion, and tradition. Coming out becomes a very dramatic, emotional process.”

He had a feeling he wasn’t alone and that many other Spanish-speakers were facing similar hardships in silence. “Having those conversations is hard, and all the conversations after that are hard too. I realized that we really need to talk about this.”

Díaz Santillan has clearly tapped a well. His podcast now has been downloaded over 300,000 times and has more than 100 episodes. “Mostly what [the podcast has] done is that it’s inspired people to tell their stories. I think that motivation to speak up comes from, ‘Wow. I’ve never seen myself in something.’”

The positive response to the podcast puts Díaz Santillan well on the way to achieving his goal: “to promote conversations, especially within families so that you are your whole self with your loved ones.”

But Díaz Santillan’s ambition does not end there. What he is aiming for is nothing short of genuine cultural change.  “A lot of people avoid [those conversations] for many reasons, and they live these dual lives, where you are a person in front of your family and relatives because you think they won’t accept your whole self. I want that to end.”

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