The story behind KTEP’s voice

El Paso News

She can be found in the old Cotton Building on the UTEP campus, picking a jazzy tune to play on the radio or teaching a student how to set up a playlist for air.

Her voice is familiar, but the story behind it…probably not. 

KTEP’s operation director, Deirdre Westenhauser, is breaking free. 

“The male name is Dennis Woo, but my chosen name is Deirdre Westenhauser,” she said. “Everyone around here calls me Dee as in D-E-E.”

For 63 years, she played the part.

“Living that life is like being an actor on stage,” she said.

Westenhauser recalls a conversation with her dad at 3 years old. 

“As a little girl, I wasn’t supposed to be in a little boy’s body,” she said. “So my Dad said ‘Alright, hot shot. What would you like your name to be?’ and I said ‘Deirdre. I like Deirdre!'”

Fast forward to college life, Westenhauser learned about civil rights and a light went off.

“Finally when I get to UTEP,” she said, “I understand that civil rights didn’t just mean class. It didn’t mean a certain structure of ethnicity, but it stretched to this huge garment and I thought that’s what I need to tap into.”

A step toward embracing who she really is, but still years away from sharing her true self. 

“When it came to really getting to know someone, it was like standing on the other side of that wall,” she said, “and just peeking over and saying, ‘You know, I want to tell you about everything that is going on over here, but I can’t.'”

Now, she’s out. She understands some people will want answers. 

“It’s okay to ask questions, like ‘How do you wanna be treated?’ Well, we all want to be treated with respect,” she said. “It’s just about mutual respect, we’re all on this planet together.”

Dee admits the pronouns can get a little confusing for some. But always the eager teacher, Dee invites you to come by the studio to learn all you can handle about music. 

She’s still the same person. The educator, the mentor and the one with that voice.

“I’m still the person you go have beers with,” she said. “Or I’ll show you how to run the radio station. I’ll do anything now like I did then. It’s just my identity is now real.”

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