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The Gondolier

Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 12:16 PM

What happens when doing what you want to do means giving up who you really are? 

We travel to Venice, Italy with reporters Kristen Clark and David Conrad, where they meet gondolier Alex Hai. On the winding canals in the hidden parts of Venice, we learn about the nearly 1000-year old tradition of the Venetian Gondolier, and how the global media created a 20-year battle between that tradition and a supposed feminist icon. 

Reported by David Conrad and Kristen Clark. Produced by Annie McEwen and Molly Webster.

Special thanks to Alexis Ungerer, Summer, Alex Hai, Kevin Gotkin, Silvia Del Fabbro, Sandro Mariot, Aldo Rosso and Marta Vannucci, The Longest Shortest Time (Hillary Frank, Peter Clowney and Abigail Keel), Tim Howard, Nick Adams/GLAAD, Valentina Powers, Florence Ursino, Ann Marie Somma, Alex Overington, Jeremy Bloom and the people of Little Italy. 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at    

You can find Alex Hai's website here, where you can check out the photographs discussed in the piece. 



Kristen Clark and David Conrad


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Comments [97]

big hoss

holy shit get on with it i have to write a paper on this shit. NO DONT TALK ABOUT PRONOUNS NOBODY CARES!

Mar. 04 2018 10:27 PM
Ash from Athens, tx

Can you send me the music I heard in this story? I just discovered radiolab and it's changed my life. The storys are amazing and the way they are produced... with the little noises, music, echos, pauses... has me thinking I'm watching a movie and getting to experience my imagination mile I've never known before. So this being said, please send me the songs I heard in this episode!

Ash - a new listener

Feb. 18 2018 05:32 PM
Alexander from Toronto

Thumbs up from this trans guy - you handled pronouns perfectly! THANK YOU for showing your listeners how easy it is actually is to use the right pronouns and navigate the whole sometimes-awkward "which pronouns do we use" situation.

Also, great episode, I hope that goes without saying.

Feb. 14 2018 01:51 PM
Seth from NYC

Great show. So well made. Great Ideas here. A lot of layers. The term "fake news" is a bad one and I do not like - and nor am I proud of our president- but all the reporting on Alex and misreporting and coopting him for their agendas is what I understand as this really, really bad term-fake news.

The story i far,far more complex than any of the previous reporting.

You guy are awesome. I tried making a podcast on my was not good I admire your work on a whole new level.

Jan. 11 2018 03:00 PM
Chris Anderson from Seattle, WA

Hi RadioLab! You guys are wonderful.

I just wanted to say from the point of view of another FTM man, thank you for using his correct pronouns. It is not always easy for cis people to understand how to use the correct pronouns when referring to a transgender person in pas-tense, but all of you did a wonderful job. I can understand how frustrating it is to be misgendered repeatedly throughout your life. I can't imagine having to suck it up and deal with it for the better part of your life for the good of women's rights. Alex must be one of the strongest, patient, enduring people I've ever heard of. I told myself when I started my transition that I would not get upset by being misgendered, and as patient as I was for the first 3 months I continue to get more and more perturbed about it. It is frustrating and hurtful. Alex must have the patience of a saint to endure it for 40+ years. So I can imagine this podcast and your efforts to use the correct pronouns was immensely gratifying to him.

So I again thank you for your conscious efforts and mindfulness.

Chris Anderson

Dec. 29 2017 03:58 PM
Alex - Gondolier from Venice

Message for babyBC, welcome in my gondola anytime, you got the point . It's not about like nor o sole mio..
So sad to read certain comments you made my day !

Nov. 01 2017 04:52 PM
Audrey from France

I love every Radiolab podcast but "The Gondolier" is a very special one. I'm thankful for the silences in this episode, too rare on radio. They allowed me to reflect on the story while it was being told. A much needed space for my own thoughts.

Oct. 31 2017 04:03 PM
John Cree from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Good program. Good topic. A few comments about the excessive use of the disfluency "LIKE" would have been fine from commenters but rambling on about it was a rather pointless as was the point about the fact that "O sole mio" is is from Napoli is entirely irrelevant.

Oct. 10 2017 12:03 PM

I was reading the comments in hopes of getting more insight about this thought-provoking story. I grew up in a similar generation to Alex and I think that for those of us who are bit older the question of how somebody who is transgender confronts this quandary is compelling beyond words. Instead I find some small-minded misogynistic female reporter bashing going on. You all do not deserve Radiolab or the wonderful journalists and writers who dare to explore these ideas and tell the stories of the unique people reshaping our world. Shame.

Oct. 07 2017 10:52 AM
Catherine Montalbo from Point Richmond, CA

Fascinating story.

PLEASE coach Kristen to stop overusing the word "LIKE." It nearly prevented me from finishing the story. Thanks.

Sep. 13 2017 01:43 AM
Mariateresa Viaro Soster from York Pa

Great story , thank you , but the music " O sole mio is from Napoli"

Sep. 12 2017 03:05 PM
Angela M. Cooley 🔺 from Memphis, TN

I enjoyed listening to the podcast. Thank you for sharing the story.

Sep. 12 2017 12:46 AM
dana wu from NYC


I admire Alex's courage and honesty, and the amazing job of Radio lab reporters to let his story come out in its right time.

I am a mother of 4 children..2 girls and 2 boys.. and just thought that this story is important for any parent who wants kids to grow up independent and healthy.

Sep. 11 2017 09:29 PM
Cj from Montpelier vt

Thank you so much for this bravely informative and inspiring story.
I hope that listeners will share this story with their children, parents & friends.
My close friend is dealing with a similar story in the restaurant industry & it has been very challenging for EVERYONE.
I believe that this story will help so many people. Thank you so much for the work that you've done! & thank you Alex for being so brave!

Sep. 11 2017 09:19 PM
Susan from CT

Perspectives are rooted in our beliefs. Humans are meaning makers. As individuals we live and learn to be increasingly more insightful. Last time I checked modern science only understood less than 20% of the human brain function,this allows plenty of room for new discoveries and the newest sciences to thrive. Open mindedness is leading edge, closed and superstitious is bleeding edge.

Exploiting the vulnerabilities of others is slowly and loudly like a typical testing rebellious toddler or teenager becoming outdated.

Those who make the efforts to connect to and allow their creative inclinations to open them up to vulnerable states will BE the leading edge of society and gradually more the norm. You may want to identify if you take pleasure in others mistakes or vulnerabilities.

It feels inspiring to critique with wisdom and emotional clarity vs being puppeted around by emotions.

To the two interviewers thank you for having the courage to be so open and share the rawness in the uncertainty of it all. Awesome interview, authentic connections. Like every passionate adventure, I'm sure it was an amazing adventure and an educational gift that just keeps giving!

As ALL the great minds before us taught I can only learn about another's path through an attitude of reverence, afterall my perception is but rooted in a reflection of my internal self.

Sep. 10 2017 05:42 PM
Bill from San Francisco

The complaints about the over use of the work "like" is clearly misogynist micro-aggression being shown against the one reporter, because she is female. The reporting was clearly in depth, described in parts of the show in a relaxed setting (Sitting in a gondola while trying to interview the gondolier!), and dealing with a difficult and complex subject while showing understanding and compassion. Focus on the entire report and less on attacking an excellent reporter who happens to identify as female.

Sep. 09 2017 10:49 PM
Christine Craft

I was a television reporter and anchor forever, as well as a lawyer and radio host at KGO in San Francisco for twenty years. I am enjoying the saga of the gondolier HOWEVER..when every other word(only slightly overstating this) from the female reporter, like, you know, like like is goddamned like....It is unlistenable...Too late to edit? retrack? omg.

Sep. 09 2017 06:23 PM
Sophia from NYC

The Grammar Police is cracking down on yet another woman who has shown imperfection! Oh the horror!! I would love to see people live up to their beliefs and for once, support a woman who has done a wonderful job reporting and in letting her guard down for everyone to hear, instead of jumping down her throat for something so unimportant. These people are having a conversation about what they reported, not writing an English dissertation to be graded by the Grammar Police. Really folks, there are more important things to get riled about.

Sep. 09 2017 06:20 PM
Terry from Palo Alto

Perhaps this story helps us understand WHY the Catholic Church cannot tolerate the idea of women as Priests. If so, maybe more pioneering women in Italy can make a difference.

Sep. 09 2017 05:58 PM
Sonita Sarker from St. Paul, MN

Perhaps pointing out the overuse of the word 'like' is futile at this point, given the number of posts about the same above. Actually, I've heard more experienced radio hosts, Terry Gross, for example on "Fresh Air" and others of different generations, beginning to sprinkle the word in more frequently. I wonder what that's about. Whatever it is, STOP IT.

I thought the analysis and reporting sensationalized 'transgender' identity. The background music trivialized and romanticized the issues. I agree with other comments that misogyny and sexism was left unaddressed, and the glaring absence of any mention of the woman gondolier Giorgia Boscolo. Even the host calls Alex "the first female gondolier" repestedly.

Sep. 09 2017 03:44 PM
Jonathan Wiltshire

But even though the LIKE, LIKE, LIKE is so distracting, I will not fail to listen to this most excellent program. Long may it prevail.

Sep. 09 2017 02:59 PM
Jonathan Wiltshire

Yes, please, stop the LIKE, LIKE, LIKE.... So adolescent.

Sep. 09 2017 02:47 PM
Betti Franceschi from New York, NY

Like like like like like like like like like


Grow up!

Sep. 09 2017 12:51 PM
NJ Mom from West Orange

To Kristen:

You have demonstrated that you are an intelligent woman. PLEASE stop using the word "like". If you plan to make it in this field, you've got to stop sounding as if you can't communicate verbally. It also represents your generation negatively.

'Like" is a crutch (similar to umm, ya know).

You are better than this!

The work you did with David merits you killing this bad habit.

Am looking forward to more reporting from you—sans "like".

Sep. 09 2017 12:51 PM
Adrienne from Cedar Rapids

Hey kiddos - lots of things make it to Cedar Rapids!

Aug. 25 2017 10:09 AM
Angad from San Francisco

Was looking for the music as well, like lots of the other comments.
Here's the song that plays at the end of the episode:
Thanks for the tip, Jeff Stetekluh.

Aug. 21 2017 04:57 PM
Alex from New York

Listening to this story and thinking about your old story on chimeras. Has anyone considered the possibility that trans people are chimeras that formed from the fusion of embryos of different sexes; one set of DNA going to the production of the brain and the other set going to the production of the reproductive system?

Aug. 17 2017 11:09 AM
DP from Australia

Like, like so what was it like Kristen?

Aug. 14 2017 08:17 PM

Kristen Clark badly needs to learn how to speak a complete sentence without inserting four "like"s in it. She can write well it appears but she is not ready for a speaking part.

Aug. 11 2017 10:09 PM

Jul. 31 2017 01:12 PM
Jean from U.S.A.

I felt so sad listening to this episode. Alex was born female. She needed help learning to live up to her moral responsibility to become an adult woman, and apparently she didn't get the help she needed or she rejected the help she was offered. Either way, I'm saddened.
Her denial of her femaleness does not change her into a man.
Here's hoping RadioLab will stop promoting stories of people trying to alter the truth and will instead deal with the truth.

Jul. 31 2017 12:53 PM
Asli from Bristol, U.K.

Dear Radiolab,
First of all thank you for a fantastic episode. Incredible reporting and respect to humanity on your part.
Secondly, I have been trying with much failure to find the music scores in this episode. I really would love it if you disclosed the names of the artists and each piece because I am failing miserably.

Please, please, please?

Thank you and thank you,


Jul. 23 2017 04:38 PM
Kate from Philippines

Fairly new fan of Radiolab (just tuned in last year) and I've listened to all Radiolab episodes. I do agree that this episode veers away a bit from the old episodes which is mostly about the wonders of science, but I found this episode riveting. It really blurs the line between the very nunced nature of gender politics and although Kristin's repeated use of the word 'like' left much to be desired, I still enjoyed the episode. Hoping to hear more great podcasts soon

Jul. 17 2017 01:06 AM
Disappointed Listener from NC, USA

Radiolab used to be my favorite show. But now I see it's just turned into a watered down, less professional version of "This American Life". The shark, well, it has been jumped.

Jul. 14 2017 10:34 PM
Dennis from Tuscon

Wow, you'd have to be stodgy to not enjoy this story. An obvious (and successful) attempt was made by the editors to show Kristen's uncertainty when encountering a chauvinistic transgender person and should be given some leeway if she didn't come off as Geraldo Rivera. Wouldn't we all be taken aback by such a thing.

Another good show.

Jul. 13 2017 09:17 PM

Thank you for a great episode! I love radiolab!

Jul. 11 2017 09:53 AM
Fran from NY

Oh lord, imagine if anyone else said that listening to women speak amongst themselves was "uncomfortable" and "amusing." Congratulations, you played yourself

Jul. 10 2017 08:34 PM
Sarah from France

It's a shame that Alex uses sexism to boost his masculinity. He thinks a woman can't do the job because of the sexist environment. Well, he's a part of that sexist environment, and he's creating the glass wall that makes it difficult for women to enter a profession that they're completely capable of doing otherwise. He grew up in a world of hate, and instead of learning compassion, he has internalized the hate.

Jul. 10 2017 02:18 PM
Anna from Australia

I really struggled with Kristen Clark's excessive use of 'like' in this episode. It's fair enough that this is how a lot of people talk these days. However, I think it's obvious that a fair few number of listeners (including me) find that these things can and do detract from an otherwise engaging story. As an audio medium, I think these hiccups in podcasts could make or break an episode. I appreciate that some people feel that it's a sign of times and that who find these filler words annoying should get over it. But from the creators' perspective, wouldn't you want to engage as many audience members that can immerse themselves in the episode as possible and edit out distractions that don't add anything to the story?

Jul. 10 2017 12:58 AM
Rowan from New Mexico

This is one of my favorite episodes from Radiolab. I am a huge fan of the show and have heard so many interesting stories. This one really stood out. I was intrigued by Alex's story, glad that somebody finally reported on the real story and gave him a chance to speak. I see that other listeners have critiqued the way the story was done, or the reporting style, but these reporters were the only ones who allowed Alex to tell HIS story. I think this is hugely important, and I'm glad they did it. While it is difficult for women to battle sexism and break the mold in a man's world, it is SO much more difficult for trans people to make their own way in this gender-oppressive society. This story needed to be told, and heard. Well done.

Jul. 07 2017 01:29 PM
River Kairos

Il Problema - Feminism and Transgenderism meet in Italy for a Romantic Getaway, and Find They Just Don’t Make Sense Together

Jul. 07 2017 12:09 AM

Kristen Clark: "and then I was, like, all, like, it was so, like, like, I never, like, I just wanted to, like, and then, like, I,"

Jul. 04 2017 09:19 PM
Elka from Indiana

I can't help but feel that the real story – Alex’s internalized sexism and borderline misogynistic beliefs and the origins of those beliefs – got missed (how does someone who couldn’t pass the gondolier exam while in their female body have the gall to say that a “real” woman could never be a gondoliere because it’s too demanding? What utter sexist nonsense and hypocrisy!). At best, this element of the story was only partially addressed through the awkward, clumsy, inexperienced approach of the female reporter, whose angle seemed to be somewhere between “oh wait a minute, aren’t we all the same?” and “can’t we just all get along?” That kind of thinking is naive and lacks awareness of the very messy, complicated, nuanced reality that is gender politics. Very disappointing. But in a world that continues to privilege masculinity (and youth!), it’s no surprise that people exist at extremes: on one end, men and women are all the same/equal, which clearly is untrue; or on the other end, men and women are complete polar opposites and therefore one (men) must be better than the other. As always, the truth lies somewhere outside of the binary. Men and women (and gender non-confirming people) ARE different, AND these differences should be valued, not judged. Regardless of where one falls on the gender spectrum, the Truth is that we should all be treated with equality and respect. Period. That, in my mind, is the lesson Alex has yet to learn, regardless of what body he's in, what pronoun he uses, or what gender he identifies as.

Jul. 04 2017 01:38 PM
Watchmaker from DC

Downloaded this episode as a podcast and after ten minutes I gave up and deleted it. Apparently science isn't what Radiolab is about anymore; it's all about pushing gay and LGBT agenda stuff and pretending it's about science instead. Public radio has its downside after all, pushing left wing politics among them.

Jul. 02 2017 01:02 PM
Tedly Melis from out west somewhere

This interview meant a great deal to me, as a freind of mine just lost her 14-year old trans son to suicide the same day that Alex posted his story. My main comment is that this was a really important story about a really brave person in a mixed up world.

Others repeatedly commented about the repetitive use of "like" by the female reporter, and I agree that it was very annoying, but Alex's story rang true despite that flaw in the podcast.

My critical comment is this: What happened to David? - it seemed that it was his story at the start, and then the interview appeared to me like it was hijacked by Kristen - "like, why did he let that happen?"

In the bigger scheme of things gender, I think this was mainly a "guys" story about guys trying to deal with their issues, and raised good points about male gender issues in an emerging transgender world - hang in there David and Alex - best of luck!

Jul. 02 2017 02:03 AM
Charlie Hand

About a year ago, I gave up on Radiolab. You had gone into a period of lightweight episodes, repeats, re-broadcast of other podcasts, and for me, the life of Radiolab had gone.

Imagine my utter delight when I re-subscribed, just to hear what was happening, and found that the old RadioLab was back, in all its glory. Your stories hold me transfixed. The technical quality is absolutely top notch. You hold my mind is a sustained state of stimulation. The creativity with which you present the stories is beyond compare. I don't know what you went through back in those dark months, and I wish you all the best. But I am elated to find the old RadioLab back in all its glory.

I don't know why everybody is dissing the Gondolier so much. I found it riveting. The combination of the gripping story of Alex's life and his long dilemma, along with your brilliant editing and story telling. I was fascinated from beginning to end.

Jun. 30 2017 08:15 AM

I may be showing my age here, but I can still remember when Radiolab was interesting! It used to be these grand topics. (remember BLISS? Wow, what a show!!) I just listened to an hour of bashful millennials asking awkward questions to a reluctant Venitian gondolier operator, and I can never get that hour back.

Jun. 27 2017 01:18 PM
pooty from Muffintopia

I see miley cyruss has taken this episode to heart...

"Miley Cyruss Declares Herself Not Just Genderless but Ageless"

Jun. 26 2017 10:42 PM
pooty from Muffintopia

seems like we went a bridge too far on this one. trigger-warning style disclaimers about pronoun usage for someone who isn't actually that pronoun but just feels like they are? can i wake up tomorrow and just decide to be outraged at the insensitivity of the world the refuses to call me "Dark Lord of Stale Muffintops" because that's how i happen to be feeling? S

i've no doubt trans-issues are extremely difficult to navigate, but we ALL wake up in a body, and in a world, that isn't always going to be what we want. does it really allow each and every one of us verbally re-construct reality so suit only our individual fantasies and desires?

clearly that's a rhetorical question. thanks to this episode i already know the answer.

Jun. 26 2017 09:14 PM
Isaac from Los Angeles

Radiolab has been my favorite podcast for years because of the way it explores the intersection between science and humanity. When I want mushy human-interest stories without experts, I listen the This American Life. And I carry a huge bag of grains of salt.

While it certainly continues a trend away from scientific mysteries, I'm pretty baffled by this episode. I'm completely in favor of tackling trans issues, but this approach doesn't make any sense to me. It's completely subjective, and there is absolutely no push-back against the personal narratives presented, in particular, by Alex.

I don't think you can have this discussion about trans people without looking at what gender is from a scientific perspective. To me, the great sadness of trans people is that they are forced into gender limbo for no particular reason. Alex, for example, blatantly bought into the gender stereotype that only boys would destroy barbie dolls. It sounded to me like Alex's parents wanted a boy, and they made that abundantly clear to him. Is it any wonder that he internalized that? His gender biases were extreme, and that makes perfect sense given his formative years. Of COURSE gender matters to Alex - how did that possibly surprise Kristen?

I would love a scientific look at gender, and the implications of the fact that it's not based on biology, but on social norms, traumas, and world views. Could we eventually reach a point where Alex is a girl who likes what she likes and wants what she wants, rather than having a society (or parents) that tells her she's a freak or that she doesn't fit in her body?

When did Radiolab become so credulous and satisfied with personal narratives?

Jun. 26 2017 04:05 PM
Ben from VA

I don't get why people are so up in arms about these types of stories. In RL's about page:

"Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience."

Now, while I might agree that this show is more like a non-American 'This American Life' episode, I don't think it is inappropriate for the show's mission.

Jun. 26 2017 12:32 PM
Don Edward from Seattle

Hello Alex
I have added an item to my bucket list: A gondola ride from Alex. Your sharing and Radio Lab's stellar reporting has created one of the finest educational moments of the year. And, this has certainly been a momentous year to say it nicely.

Jun. 25 2017 05:19 PM
Erin from Denver, CO

Had to turn it off after the 10,000th "like".

Jun. 25 2017 12:43 PM
((((( radar ))))) from Here Be Dragons

Thank you so much for this wonderful new episode.

I loved how layer over layer of this story got peeled off til the listener ends somewhere completely different then expected.
That was brilliant to listen to. But I imagine it as quite a challenge for the journalist team. Props to you both that you went with it.

And big props and best wishes in the direction of some gondola in Venice. The way you foresaw what is coming for you in form of this interview and preparing for it, good job! I really think this episode benefits largely from how you decided to tell your story. Although this was probably not an editorial choice but just necessity. And I really hope it turns out for you that you did tell it. Best of luck also in the new territories you decided to venture in.

Jun. 24 2017 08:29 AM
Smock from San Francisco

For a show mostly about science, I don't understand why it's devolved into feelings-based reporting. It's simply fact that Alex will always genetically be female - none of us get exactly what we want in life. It's not mean or uncaring to state that science is science. You don't get to make up an alternate universe where reality obeys your wishes. I think this is my last Radiolab listen - you're just too far away from what I loved about the show.

Jun. 24 2017 04:06 AM
John from US

Kristen Clark,

Quit using the word "like" so much.

Jun. 23 2017 09:28 PM
Daniel Luera Sierra from Tucson, AZ

I identified the science behind this segment. It was certainly sociological. According to Wikipedia, sociology is: "the study of social behavior or society, including its origins, development, organization, networks, and institutions. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis." The journalists and Alex explored the social behavior of the gondolier. I loved it!

Jun. 22 2017 09:44 PM
Aaron from Minneapolis, MN

I found this to be an intriguing and interesting story, which I enjoyed hearing (though I agree with other commenters that it isn't a science story, like RadioLab used to focus on).

I do think you should have mentioned in your story that in 2010, Giorgia Boscolo became the first female gondoliera (passing the exam that Alex failed that year, for the 4th time).

Jun. 22 2017 09:03 PM
VM Varga from On the phone in Belgium

A fine episode to be sure but once again it sounds like its from another show altogether. Where is the Science content? Where are the science stories? In the last 18 months RL has pivoted so far afield of what made me fall in love with it in the first place and don't know what to say. Politics, gender issues, police shootings and legal mumbo-jumbo. Anyone out there could you please recommend a science podcast, cause RL just isn't one anymore.

Jun. 22 2017 03:09 PM
Marta from Lisboa, Portugal

I cried listening to this, and I've never had any gender issues. You put it so beautifully, guys, really, congratulations. Amazing work, wonderful story, as always.

Jun. 22 2017 02:48 PM
Adam R from London

Thank you for another terrific story.

Like some others I've come here looking for the name of the Italian song played under the credits!

Jun. 22 2017 04:41 AM
Erin from Vancouver, Washington

There was a brief clip of an opera I can't stop thinking about. I came to see if the audio was credited so I could look it up. Would love to know more about the background music.

I didn't notice anything unusual about the speaking patterns of anyone other than to enjoy the accents. People who fixate on that only ruin good content for themselves.

Jun. 22 2017 03:36 AM

Another excellent episode. Thank you.

It is interesting how the public discourse likes to circle around the issue of transsexuality these days. The issue is not new (unlike what this show said at one point), and has been discussed ever since I remember - and probably much longer. The case of Renee Richards was our dinner table discussion in the 1970s.

Jun. 21 2017 07:46 PM
Katie Kirk from New York, NY

I have been a Radiolab listener for quite some time, and am leaving my first comment to say how much I enjoyed this episode. It was such an open and honest story. I commend the journalists for allowing room for all of the complexities and contradictions that define a person's identity and, whether we like it or not, dictate where he/she belongs in this world. There are no good answers here, but I'm so happy that Alex has been able to take back control of his narrative.

Thank you for your insightful and thought-provoking work here.

Jun. 21 2017 03:47 PM

Came for a story about someone really persisting to succeed in an unlikely career.

Got: Trans life is hard.

Boy oh boy was this a disappointment.

Jun. 21 2017 01:44 PM
jorge espinha from Lisboa

Hi Radiolab

Always a fan! I just don't get this episode. What are you trying to do? So the first female gondolier was a man!
Isn't this suppose to be a science show? Where's the science?
I also agree with some o the criticism about the repeated "like". Get an adult to voice an adult show, please.
What did I take from this story? Well , once again it confirms that most transgenders want to be treated as how they see themselves, he or she and not zhe as some lunatics claim. Good for Alex! Have you also notice how the activists kept using Alex for their own agendas?

Jun. 21 2017 12:07 PM
Jerri Linn from San Anselmo,CA

That was an amazing story! I truly believe that one of the big reasons that the story was so wonderful was because of you. Firstly for finding Alex who is so determined and courageous to be himself, and secondly for inspiring is trust in you for being such thoughtful journalists. THANK YOU!

Jun. 20 2017 05:55 PM
Timothy Clarke

Hi Radio Lab, Hi Robert,
Wonderful story as always. Who is singing at the end of the program?
Robert, I am still making Puppets and Monsters, you may remember me as I built the Alien parts for a segment you did on the Connie Chung show many years ago.
Tim Clarke

Jun. 20 2017 05:41 PM
tirza from Amsterdam

Hi Kristen and David,
Thank you for your work, I figure it must have been hard initialy. I remember coming to Venice in 1998 and speaking to Alex once. I had just finished building my own gondola and returned to Venice to learn how to row it. When I was passed on Alex' number I was curious to speak to him but the interest was clearly not mutual. Alex was frankly bold. I have always been puzzled about his attitude as I thought it would be nice to share the same interests. Now I realise it may have been because I am a woman and he may have thought I wanted to bond. I know the fuzz about being (or looking like : )a female gondoliere. Fact is I am lucky enough to live in Amsterdam and this allows me not to be conscious about my gender when doing the things I want to do.
I am glad that you have won Alex confidence and he that he spoke to you about his life so far. It was a very intersting item and I wish Alex all the best.

Jun. 20 2017 04:44 PM
mj from wisc.

Disappointed that the show turned into a story about a transgender. Also, Kristen Clark has got to stop saying 'like.' Someone who is in journalism and speaks often, this is a bad habit. It reflects someone who is in high school.

Jun. 20 2017 03:58 PM
Kaiya from SLC Utah

I appreciated this episode. I am trans myself and I don't often hear these types of stories that explore the contradictory feelings I get of wanting gender not to matter and needing gender to matter so much. I think that came across well.
To those who thing this episode wasn't "science" enough, please remember that science is a way that curious people describe a complex world. It might not have mentioned chemicals or clinical trials, but some of science is case studies and I think this fit right.

Jun. 20 2017 03:29 PM
Jeff from Minneapolis, MN

This was an interesting but it wasn't Radiolab. There was zero science involved, which is fine if you're doing a "This American Life" clone...but it doesn't belong on the same show with some of the great episodes you've done recently ("Alpha gal" & "Nukes"). Just branch off these human interest stories from the Radiolab brand, which is becoming more and more diluted and blending in with the thousands of human interest podcasts.

Jun. 20 2017 09:35 AM

I LOVED this episode. I loved Alex's story, I loved getting to know him, I loved the gradual opening of his relationships with the journalists.

And for all the people who don't like 'like', try recording a conversation with someone else, that you're trying to interview and make interesting at the same time, and see what verbal tics you have. It's way harder than you think.

Jun. 19 2017 04:38 PM
Jeff Stetekluh from Virginia, USA

I believe one musical piece used in the story is Stornelli from Italie Eternelle. Why no music credits from Radio Lab?

Jun. 19 2017 02:53 PM
Masha Gutkin from San Francisco

Made me sad that Alex chooses to look upon women as inferior - eg. "A woman couldn't do this job." Sure hoped for better from someone who has been through such a struggle. Thought that Radiolab really let him slide on that one. Would you have if he had been cisgender male? Pretty retrograde for gender to still be about "what team you're on". Sigh.

Jun. 19 2017 02:46 PM
Jim from Omaha

What happened to cause radiolab to go downhill so bad?

Jun. 19 2017 11:26 AM
Mike from Durham, NC

I think this is Radio Lab's "jump the shark" episode. An utter lack of science makes it an episode for another show.

Jun. 19 2017 09:03 AM
Dame:Annette Montague-Thomas from TRURO CORNWALL

Well done everyone, this was a brilliant interview.
I know Alex well and met him with some friends in 2015. Over these past couple of years I have never questioned who he was or why, as what I saw was the most loving young man who was so considerate towards people; and in particular people in need of support. His friends truly adore him, of which I am honoured to be one.

Jun. 18 2017 11:18 AM
Justin Ellis from Dahlonega, GA

Amazing story!

These are important stories for the world to come to understand the transgender world. It also helps when there are such complex, inspiring and strong characters such as Alex Hai that command our attention and respect.

In a desire to share this story with others I am dying to see the photographs that Alex's girlfriend took of him. It appears that most photos of Alex online are still from those old female gondolier stories. I'd like to represent Alex to others in the way that she most relates to. Any help appreciated.

Well done! Thanks for all you do. Please go on tour again one day. One of the most memorable performances I've ever seen. I think of it often.

Jun. 18 2017 10:14 AM
Chris from New Kensington PA


Thank you for sharing your story with us. At the beginning of the story I questioned why you would act as you did but I assumed something would change or there would be no interview. As things progress, I found myself frustrated that you were simply trying to do what you enjoyed and people wanted to make a story of what they thought was happening without truly understanding. Maybe the first person who wanted to interview you (I forget her name) would have understood and not reported as she did but I certainly would not accept an interview with an ultimatum like that. I wonder if letting the other Gondoliers know the reporter's intentions before the story went out would have helped at all, not that it matters any longer?

At the point where you talked about woman drivers, I felt like I understand a bit better what you mean about how you experience life. It sounds to me like you are saying you think like a man, feel like a man and have mannerisms like a man, you just happen to have (had) a woman's body. Versus me, I appreciate and enjoy some things that may be considered feminine but still retain a man's feelings, thoughts and mannerisms. Do I understand correctly? Again, thank you for sharing your story. Also, I enjoyed the pictures on your girlfriend's site.

To those commenting on filler words: Maybe it has to do with the typical listener of Radiolab (I assume) being a critical thinker, but realistically, what exactly do you hope to accomplish by calling it out? I understand it bothers you, but why not just turn the podcast off and call it a day? Why is posting about it important? I was surprised to find there were not (yet) any, "This is not science!" posts. Certainly there is still time for those, that'll teach Radiolab a thing or two.

Jun. 17 2017 07:55 PM
CathyAnn from Sacramento, CA

My wife, Lita and I enjoyed an evening gondola ride with Alex in 2007. It was filled with champagne, song and the sounds of the canals! Our magical night continued when Alex joined us for a late dinner at a place of his choice - small and around winding corners. Alex said it was the "best steak you will ever have" and it was!
When our daughter shared the podcast with us, we listened thrilled to hear of Alex's journey. Until we meet again.....

Jun. 17 2017 07:21 PM
Alex Hai from Venice

For Audrey : Thank you for your sensibility to understand
For Sam : thank you check out
For Hajnalka: thank you agreed 100%

Jun. 17 2017 05:26 PM
Audrey N Muzingo from Mobile, AL

The wisest journalist in this story was Alex himself, for knowing the depth that would be required, the extended time, the closer proximity, the need to size up these interviewers, the rightful annoyance at their not having done much research on the story told thus far, the gonospheres to express that annoyance, and the patience to give them a chance anyway. After all he'd already been through and how hard it must have been to trust yet more people to tell his story, it's a wonder this piece exists.

Jun. 17 2017 03:47 AM
David Tanner from Los Angeles

Hey Radiolab,

Would you mind posting the music cues? I liked the music a lot and I'd like to confirm my hunches as to what the pieces were.

Great episode, thanks for everything.

Jun. 17 2017 01:31 AM
Sam from North Carolina, US

Thank you Alex and Radiolab for this great story! I found it a fascinating personal examination of how well-meaning groups can work at odds with one another despite - or because of - their best intentions, and the complex relationship with identity we have as individuals and communities. I'm still looking forward to the first woman gondolier. :)

Does the photographer mentioned have a website? Based on your descriptions, I'd love to see her work.

Jun. 16 2017 11:33 PM
Erin from Not Venice

This was a very interesting podcast. I love the development of Alex's relationship with the reporters and can understand his trepidation the beginning once hearing the entire story. What an intriguing story with a twist I did not anticipate depicting struggles one must be sensitive to. I especially enjoyed the sound effects and music. It seriously made me feel like I was back in Venice again. Thank you!!!

Jun. 16 2017 11:07 PM
Heidi Chambers

This episode was amazing. Surprising, interesting, and just all around awesome! Thanks for this!! I cannot stop telling everyone I know about it.

Jun. 16 2017 08:42 PM
Hajnalka from Richmond, VA

I feel sad for folks who miss out on some really great content because of verbal patterns that irritate them.
There is the frequent criticism of a placeholder 'like,' or the equally offensive 'I mean ...'
I won't even mention vocal fry.

This is how folks speak now. It is not going to change. Language is evolving rapidly, as are podcasts.

If you have to stop listening because of these verbal patterns, you are shutting yourself off to new ideas.
I thought Kristen's narrative was engaging, and thank her for her reporting.

Jun. 16 2017 08:29 PM
Nettles from Seattle, WA

Thanks for this podcast. I'm happy Alex was true to himself. I smiled so hard when he took T for the first time!

PS: I didn't notice the "overuse" use of the word "like." Keep on rockin, Kristen.

Jun. 16 2017 08:20 PM
Romeu from Paris

'Like, Like, Like, Like' This ruined an otherwise yet interesting episode. It is annoying enough when you're facing the person but on the RADIO you should be extra careful on how you deliver your message, even more when you are the actual journalist!!!!

Jun. 16 2017 03:47 PM
Kevin from Washington D.C.

What a powerful and well done episode. My criticism is that Kristen's extreme use of the word like as a filler word nearly rendered the episode unlistenable. Every other aspect of her work was professional, insightful, informative and entertaining. Î

Jun. 16 2017 03:26 PM
Julie A Zahn from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin

Very well done story. I really enjoyed it, but I have to agree with James in Chicago about the overuse of the word "like". It was very frustrating to hear and if the story hadn't been so interesting, I would have turned it off for that reason. Please keep up the good work!

Jun. 16 2017 02:49 PM
Daniel from 18327

Wonderful as always.
What's the exit music in this one??

Jun. 16 2017 02:20 PM
Peter Weyzen from Felton, CA

OMG, thanks so much for this story. I always await a new RadioLab delivery, and this one doesn't fail me.

In this month of pride, I find this story so appealing and enlightening.


Jun. 16 2017 01:47 PM
Cheyenne Pitts from Kansas City

I think this story was absolutely wonderful and the reporters did an excellent job like always! Out of all the podcasts I listen to, Radio Lab is definitely one of my favorites! Nice work!

Jun. 16 2017 12:48 PM
James Yrkoski from Chicago

I could get through only about 12 minutes of this one, unfortunately. Too bad, too, because I really wanted to hear it. I always turn off a podcast when the person speaking is not able to say a sentence in English without the word "like." In this case, it was the female reporter. Maybe it's only me, but I just can't handle "like" in every sentence, sometimes two or three.

Jun. 16 2017 11:51 AM
Alex Hai from Venice Italy

Hello Radiolabs
Thank you for all your hard work , everyone of you from fact checker , host to producer to journalists
Thank you for your patience and support
Radio labs rocks
Thank you

Jun. 16 2017 07:50 AM

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