We're taking a look at some Queer, Deaf Leaders and organisations who inspire us!
The queer and Deaf communities are filled with individuals and organisations making a difference. From providing safe and supportive spaces to challenging misperceptions of audism, these trailblazers are making an impact in their communities and beyond. In this article, we highlight eight Queer and Deaf individuals and organisations who are doing great work in their respective fields.
Photo Credit: Deaf Rainbow UK
Deaf Rainbow UK originally started as a Facebook group in 2018, and later that year, the Deaf LGBTIQA+ website was established. Since then, they have achieved a lot, changed their name to Deaf Rainbow UK, and became a registered charity in November 2020. They are committed to providing a safe and supportive space for the Deaf LGBTIQA+ community and have a mission to inform, represent, and support Deaf Queer People. They accomplish this by providing Deaf LGBT awareness information and training, hosting events (such as Deaf Day in London or Prides), and offering support.
Want to learn about BSL and LGBTQIA+ terms? Deaf Rainbow UK also have an incredible BSL Glossary on their website, which you can find here.
2. Luke Christian (he/him)
Luke Christian is part of the We Create Space Global Speaker Collective. He’s a fashion enthusiast and business owner based in Harrogate, where he has lived all his life. Luke's childhood was not without challenges. He attended a "hearing/mainstream" school from year seven to year nine but found it incredibly difficult to fit in as the only deaf person in attendance. His peers recommended that he attend a "deaf boarding" school, which ultimately helped him feel more connected to his community. It was Luke's love for fashion and the way it inspires and instills confidence that led him to create his own fashion brand, DEAF IDENTITY. As a deaf, gay male business owner, he aims to raise awareness for the deaf community through fashion while challenging stigmas surrounding it. With his brand, Luke hopes to empower individuals to feel confident in their own skin, regardless of hearing abilities.
Image Credit: LGBTQ Nation
3. Drago Renteria (he/him).
Dragonsani "Drago" Renteria is a deaf Chicano transgender man, CEO of DeafVision, founder and executive director of Deaf Queer Resource Centre (DQRC) and long-time resident of San Francisco.
He is an LGBTQ/social justice activist, community leader, educator, editor, historian, and artist. He spearheaded many DeafQueer advocacy efforts and took charge, in various capacities, of several Deaf LGBTQ organizations.
Image Credit: The New York Times
4. Barbara Kannapell (1937 - 2021) (she/her).
Kannapell dedicated her life to combating the harmful stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding audism. This prejudice includes the false beliefs that American Sign Language (ASL) is not a true language and that deaf individuals must strive to overcome their deafness or that their success is achieved in spite of their deafness.
After receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Deaf Education from Gallaudet University in 1961, Kannapell went on to earn a Master's Degree in Educational Technology from Catholic University in 1970, and a Ph.D. in Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University in 1985. Throughout her career, she remained committed to social justice causes and was an active participant in the Black civil rights movement and the LGBTQ rights movement.
Together with her spouse of 50 years, Eileen Paul, and Ann Wilson, a Black mother of a deaf child, Kannapell founded the now-defunct Washington, D.C. group Deafpride. The organisation focused on advocating for the rights of deaf individuals of all races by bringing together hearing parents and deaf adults to foster greater understanding and learning from deaf perspectives.
Photo Credit: Queer ASL
5. Queer ASL
Queer ASL is a 2SLGBTQIA+ positive environment that focuses on creating a more accessible, affordable, and safer space for folks who want to learn ASL.
Their classes are only taught by Deaf 2SLGBTQIA+ people in order to create a safer working environment for Deaf queer & trans folk to be themselves in a classroom where they are centred and celebrated.
Image Credit: Dazed
6. Chella Man (he/him).
Chella Man is an Asian American actor, model, artist, YouTuber, and LGBTQ activist. He’s known for sharing his experiences as a transgender, deaf, genderqueer, Asian, and Jewish person of color.
He has gained a large following of supporters who look up to him as a role model and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and social justice causes.
In all of his endeavors, Chella Man brings a unique perspective and voice to the table, making him an important figure in today's entertainment and activism landscape.
Chella created the film “The Device That Turned Me Into A Cyborg Was Born The Same Year I Was,” in collaboration with the Leslie Lohmann Museum. It explores his relationship with his cochlear implant and the experience of living between the dead and hearing worlds.
Photo Credit: Belo Ciprani
7. Terry Galloway (she/her).
Terry Galloway is a lesbian writer, director and performer for stage, radio, video and film. She started her long, eclectic career in theatre arts in 1968 after the University of Texas at Austin’s Drama Department denied her admittance to its acting program. Before her cochlear implant in 2010, Galloway was a deaf lip reader with a lateral lisp. In 1969 she became affiliated with UT’s Shakespeare at Winedale Summer Theater Festival, first as a student, then from 1973-1976 as a Research Associate/Assistant Director, making a reputation for herself as a cross-dressing performer of comic male roles in Shakespeare.
In August 2000, she co-founded Actual Lives Austin, an activist theatre for adults with disabilities. In her memoir Mean Little Deaf Queer, she describes her journey of how no one knew that an experimental antibiotic given to her mother had damaged her fetal nervous system, which eventually led to her going deaf at the age of nine. Her experiences as a deaf and queer person have shaped her work as an artist and activist, and she continues to use her voice to raise awareness and fight for disability rights.
Photo Credit: The New York Times
8. Josh Feldman (he/him).
Josh Feldman is a writer, producer, and actor who resides and works in Los Angeles, California. Deaf since birth, he has a passion for sharing stories that feature intersectional, diverse, and LGBTQ+ characters. As a child, Josh noticed the absence of people like him on TV, film screens, or in books. As a result, he's dedicated his life to creating characters that will ensure future generations of deaf children will never face the same problem.
In 2017, Josh co-created This Close, which was the first major television show to be created by deaf people. It aired for two seasons on Sundance TV and earned a Peabody Award nomination and a GLAAD Award nomination.
In 2018, Josh received a Momentum Fellowship from the prestigious Sundance Institute. He recently served as a co-producer for the upcoming Marvel series ECHO, which will be released in 2023 on Disney+. Additionally, he wrote a script that was named to the 2022 GLAAD List, a compilation of the most promising un-produced LGBTQ+ scripts in Hollywood.
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