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Friday findings

Gallaudet University, gay news, Washington Blade

Gallaudet University (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Center celebrates the results of a study that assessed the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing community this evening from 5:15-8 p.m. The event takes place at the Ole Jim Alumni House at Gallaudet University (800 Florida Ave., N.E).

In the past year the D.C. Center with a grant from Brother Help Thyself had a team of professionals and service providers assess the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing community in the Washington area. This celebration reveals the results of those findings.

Light appetizers will be provided along with a cash bar. For more information visit thedccenter.org.

28
Feb
2013

Betty Miller, 78

Betty G. Miller, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

Betty G. Miller

Betty Gloria Miller died Dec. 3 of sepsis, a toxic bacterial infection that led to kidney failure, according to her partner of 25 years, Nancy Creighton. She was 78. She had lived in Philadelphia for about eight years but spent most of her adult life in Washington.

Born in Chicago, she was the third child, and the only daughter of Ralph Reese Miller, Sr. and Gladys Hedrick Miller. Both parents were deaf and her two older brothers, Ben and Ralph, were hearing. Betty was hard of hearing much of her life; she lost her hearing completely in her 50s as a result of a high fever.

Betty was known as a pioneer in two fields. She was nicknamed the “Mother of De’VIA” (Deaf View Image Art), a genre that intentionally expresses the deaf experience through art. She was also a pioneer in counseling deaf alcoholics and substance abusers, and author of “Deaf & Sober: Journeys through Recovery,” published by the National Association of the Deaf.

She taught art at Gallaudet College (now University) in Washington for 17 years, and was the first deaf woman who graduated from Gallaudet (1957) to earn a doctoral degree (in Art Education, Pennsylvania State University, 1976). She co-founded Spectrum, Focus on Deaf Artists in Austin, Texas in the late 1970s.

Long active in civic endeavors, she worked for and supported Deafpride Inc. in Washington. She was a member of the first board of directors for Deaf Women United and designed its first logo. Later, she was president of D.C. Association of the Deaf.

She is survived by Creighton and many friends. She also leaves behind a large body of artwork —  paintings, drawings, mixed media artwork and neon sculptures — in private collections throughout the world.

An open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting will be held this month with a memorial service planned for later in the year.

Donations in her memory may be made to De’VIA (nad.org), the D.C. Association of the Deaf (dcdeaf.org), Gallaudet University (giving.gallaudet.edu) or Deaf Women United (dwu.org).

09
Jan
2013

Gay deaf man sues city for mistreatment

jail, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Adam Jones via Wikimedia Commons)

In a lawsuit filed in federal court on Feb. 1, a former D.C. jail inmate who’s deaf and gay, accuses the city’s Department of Corrections of engaging in disability-related discrimination by refusing to provide him basic services required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

William Pierce, 44, who was sentenced to two months in a city jail for an assault conviction, charges in the lawsuit that jail officials repeatedly refused to provide a sign language interpreter as required by law and retaliated against him for complaining about his conditions by placing him in solitary confinement.

Pierce, who has HIV, was given only three of the four HIV medications he had been taking at home and was unable to understand why prison doctors changed his medication regimen because of the lack of a sign language interpreter, the lawsuit says.

It says the emotional distress Pierce suffered due to the alleged discriminatory treatment was heightened when jail guards handcuffed him shortly before his mother arrived for a visit, preventing him from communicating with her in sign language.

“The District of Columbia needs to be held accountable for its outright discrimination and reminded that people with disabilities cannot just be locked away and ignored,” said Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, which filed the lawsuit on Pierce’s behalf in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Spitzer said most of the alleged discriminatory actions against Pierce took place at the D.C. Jail’s Correctional Treatment Facility. The CTF is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, a private company under contract with the city.

“D.C., in turn, needs to hold the Corrections Corporation of America accountable for its continued disregard for the wellbeing of the individuals the city has placed in its care,” Spitzer said in a statement.

Sylvia Lane, a spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Corrections, which oversees city jail facilities, said the department never comments on pending lawsuits. Ted Gest, a spokesperson for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, which defends the city against lawsuits, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The 16-page lawsuit doesn’t accuse jail officials of engaging in discrimination against Pierce because of his sexual orientation. Neither Pierce nor Spitzer could be reached by press time to determine whether Pierce encountered any problems at the jail for being gay.

The lawsuit says his partner, William W. Holder, spoke with prison officials on “at least 15 different occasions” in addition to sending emails urging the officials to make accommodations for Pierce due to his lack of hearing.

Among other things, Holder attempted to explain that Pierce could not benefit from an anger management class or a vocational skills course offered by the jail without the help of an interpreter.

“In response to Mr. Holder’s requests for accommodation on Mr. Pierce’s behalf, Correctional Treatment Facility officials told Mr. Holder they could not ‘justify’ the expense of an interpreter,” the lawsuit says.

“Officials also told Mr. Holder that it would take six to eight months to get an interpreter vetted and approved to work in the Correctional Treatment Facility, and that Mr. Pierce would be gone by then,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says jail officials “intentionally subjected Mr. Pierce to disability-based discrimination” in violation of the Americans with Disability Act and the U.S. Rehabilitation Act.

It calls on the court to approve a “judgment awarding Mr. Pierce damages against defendant in an amount appropriate to the evidence adduced at trial.”

D.C. Superior Court records show that Pierce was charged with domestic violence related assault and two counts of destruction of property in December 2011 for attacking Holder and damaging an antique desk and a chandelier. Court records show the incident took place in Holder’s townhouse on the 1300 block of R Street, N.W., where he and Pierce lived, and that Holder was taken to a hospital by ambulance for treatment of injuries he suffered from the assault.

A judge sentenced Pierce to 60 days in jail and ordered him to pay Holder $2,516.20 in monthly installments of $250 as restitution for the damaged property in the house, court records show.

06
Feb
2013

Queery: Mae Aquene Sellers

Mae Sellers, gay news, Washington Blade

Mae Sellers (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mae Aquene Sellers came to Washington to study at Gallaudet University and stayed after she graduated two years ago.

Working as an artist and graphic designer for various local and national organizations and individuals, the 43-year-old Austin, Texas native also considers herself a feminist. Deaf herself, she also volunteers extensively with the metro area’s deaf, hard of hearing and deaf/blind community. She’s in the process of applying for graduate school.

Sellers recently finished work on a community needs assessment project for the LGBT deaf local community. Started in October 2011, the project was initiated by the D.C. Center and Brother Help Thyself, which provided a grant. She and Alex Jackson-Nelson spent many months exploring the basic issue of “What are the strengths and needs of the deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind LGBT community in the D.C. metro area?” They present their findings this evening at the Ole Jim Alumni House at Gallaudet University at 5:15 p.m. The presentation will last about one hour with entertainment to follow. The program is open to the public. Visit thedccenter.org for details.

Sellers says the research data will “inform and impact community engagement and focus action toward community improvement.”

Researchers hope to “create a platform for policy change and development” with the findings.

Sellers also works as an ASL interpreter and coach.

She’s single and lives in Washington. She enjoys art, social activities, spirituality, dance and nature exploration in her free time.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I knew I was born gay as early as 16 and at that time I knew that I was born this way but I wasn’t exposed to the queer community then and I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted at my school. However, I came out and everyone accepted me. The hardest person to tell was my family, my dad, mom and sister.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Everyone who is LGBTQ is my LGBTQ hero.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

Phase 1 on 8th street S.E., it’s my best nightspot since they provide awesome drag king shows. They have some deaf performances and always provide an ASL interpreter and have the best kamikaze shots in town. I am inspired by Phase 1 for so deeply accepting and involving the deaf community. It’s a beautiful collaboration and big thanks to many people, including Stephanie Johnson (Butta) for making this happen.

Describe your dream wedding.

I’m not a wedding person but when I get married I want a simple ceremony with just me, my womyn and our officiant. Then I want to have a big celebration with our community so we can dance our asses off.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about domestic violence and sexual assault education and prevention as well as mental health advocacy. I’d like to set up an art therapy program for deaf youth, deaf folks in recovery and survivors where they could create art and then have their art displayed in a public gallery.

Which historical outcome would you change?

I believe that the past teaches us important lessons to encourage us to grow. I don’t use the word “history” because I feel strongly that this word does not encompass the female experience.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Maybe you’re surprised because I’m deaf, but I am able to hear the beats, not the words. I went to Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas and we all loved to watch that video and we all learned the whole dance and performed it at our senior night. It was a bit out of control briefly as a ton of students in the audience were inspired and ran onto the stage and danced with us. It was awesome and definitely memorable.

On what do you insist?

Respect with love and acceptance. Treat everyone equally.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

The “B Sign” Gallaudet University video: the video is dedicated to LGBTQ survivors. It’s about bullying on campus amongst LGBTQ students/people and I was fortunate to be involved in the making of this video.

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Warped Art Mind”

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

I love who I am. Nothing I want to change.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I believe in a deep spiritual world and that everything happens for a reason.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Be yourself and empower others with love.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Peace and love.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

People think I am butch just because I look and dress this way. I don’t identify as butch and when people tell me I’m butch I say that I dress this way because I am an artist.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Fingersmith”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Deaf LGBT coffee gatherings

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation Award, Gallaudet University, Washington D.C., April 2011; Liberace Award for Excellence, Art Department, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, April 2011

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

I don’t wish I knew anything different at age 18 because I had to learn from my experiences in order to grow from them.

Why Washington?

I came here to attend Gallaudet University and I’ve been living here for the past two years since graduation. The deaf and queer communities here are awesome and I value and enjoy the social opportunities and support systems.

27
Feb
2013