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[interview]

The following is a special FLASH interview with DQRC Founder Dragonsani Renteria.


FLASH Issue #753 -- September 1, 2003

DQRC's EIGHT YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL ISSUE


By Billy Barr aka Zookie

Finally, it is here...the interview with DQRC Founder Dragonsani Renteria! Mr. Renteria is the founder of Deaf Queer Resource Center (DQRC). When I had assumed position as editor of FLASH, my goal was to interview him. He had been ducking whenever I asked him about being interviewed for FLASH on several occasions. It seems that he doesn't like to be interviewed. I had asked him for the interview again hoping to have a special anniversary issue and that the interview would be styled after Barbara Walters. He finally agreed on ONE condition. He said he would do the interview if I wore a wig and pretended to be Barbara Walters. I accepted the deal. To see me as Barbara Walters, go here:

You'll get a laugh when you see the picture. Drago really got a good laugh out of it. :)

The interview took place via online instant messenger.

***

Q: WHAT MADE YOU START DQRC?

I had been working as director of the Deaf Gay and Lesbian Center (DGLC) in San Francisco when I started the Deaf Queer Resource Center (DQRC) in 1995.

At DGLC, our funding and mission were to serve only Deaf LGBT people in the San Francisco Bay Area. After having worked at DGLC (1992-1995), I realized that the people who needed support the very most were Deaf LGBTs who did not reside in big cities like San Francisco. At DGLC I often got calls from out of town people who needed information, referrals and support. I especially remember one call from a Deaf gay youth in NYC who had come out to his parents and had been disowned and kicked out of the house. He had no where to go and had been thinking of committing suicide. He called me at DGLC after hours and left messages asking for support. Because I was not allowed to make out of state calls, this and others like it were very frustrating situations for me. In this specific case, I returned his call and talked with him using my home phone calling card.

While working at DGLC, it became evident to me that our community needed services on a national level. At about this time, the Internet was beginning to take off and I realized it could serve as an invaluable tool for providing resources and support nationwide. It could also serve as a tool for empowering our community. I envisioned a virtual community center online.

To make this vision a reality, I began learning all I could about building websites. This was in late 1994 and at that time, it was nearly impossible to find books about web design or HTML in bookstores. I learned everything from the web itself. For several months, I spent all my free time just absorbing everything I could. I do not have a background in programming so it was a bit of a challenge at first. Then in the summer of 1995, DQRC became a reality and on September 1, 1995, it officially launched on the web.



Q: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DGLC AND DQRC?

That's a good question, Barbara. People often get confused between the two.

DGLC stands for the Deaf Gay and Lesbian Center. DGLC is an outreach program of Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency (DCARA) which runs a number of other programs for the general Deaf Community in the Bay Area. DGLC was founded in 1992 with funding from the United Way. It's original goal was to serve Deaf LGBT people in the Bay Area with direct support services such as Independent Living Skills building, coming out support, local information and referrals and so on. DCARA employs one full-time staff person to carry out this work for DGLC.

The Deaf Queer Resource Center (DQRC) was founded in 1995 as a national information and resource center. DQRC is run entirely by volunteers. In addition to providing resources and information for, by and about the Deaf LGBT community, DQRC has also provided peer counseling and given educational workshops and trainings across the country.

In a nutshell, DGLC is an outreach program of DCARA which serves the San Francisco Bay Area (this may be changing soon). It has a physical location.

DQRC is a national information and resource center that exists virtually. Both are providing important, much needed services for our community.



Q: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME "DEAF QUEER RESOURCE CENTER"?

What I envisioned was a virtual resource center on the web. I thought the name "Deaf Queer Resource Center" was fitting. I also wanted the name to be as inclusive as possible. While the word "queer" is controversial to some, for me it it has always been a word of inclusion and empowerment. Queer does not only represent gays and lesbians but also bisexuals, trans people, intersex, genderqueers, questioning people and those that just don't quite fit any identity labels. Since my transition (FTM), I'm even more appreciative of the word than ever.



Q: WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO SEE IN DQRC IN 5 YEARS?

Since it's founding, DQRC has played an important role in empowering our community by providing information, resources and networking opportunities. We've also done a great deal of online peer counseling. And we also help other Deaf LGBT groups get online. All of this has been done on a volunteer basis without public funding.

In the next five years, one goal I have for DQRC is to finally be able to employ at least one full-time staff person to carry on and expand on the work we've started. There is still so much work that needs to be done and still so much more that DQRC can contribute to the community. Ideas are something I have tons of, but time is not. We need more people to carry on this work.



Q: WHAT KIND OF OPERATING EXPENSES DOES DQRC HAVE AND HOW IS IT FUNDED?

The DQRC website receives a great deal of traffic each month. Some of the software we run (such as our new chatroom) is also server intensive. Because of this, DQRC has its own dedicated server and this costs about $150 to $200 per month to keep online and available to the community. There are also other expenses such as software. The cost for our recent chatroom purchase, for example, was about $700. And this doesn't include all the time that is spent running the site.

We don't accept advertising on the website and have never asked the community to donate money to the site. We also have yet to seek grant funding. This is something that will be changing in the upcoming year as our costs continue to rise.

So where does the money come from to fund DQRC? DQRC must have a Sugar Daddy :)



Q: CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE CHATROOM THAT PEOPLE ARE RAVING ABOUT?

DeafQueer Chat is a new Chat program sponsored by DQRC that uses Java technology. While DQRC has been providing chat services to the community since 1995 (originally in IRC format). This new chatroom is completely web-based and graphical. It does not require any special software to download. It's pretty amazing and we've been having a lot of fun with it.

Most importantly, the chatroom is providing a safe space for people just coming out of the closet to get support from other Deaf Queers as well as serving as a tool for uniting Deaf Queers nationwide. We have a lot of fun stuff coming up, so stay tuned!



Q: DQRC SOUNDS LIKE A FULL-TIME JOB. WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY DO FOR WORK? HOW DO YOU PAY THE BILLS?

DQRC is a labor of love. I love contributing time to it. It is also a lot of work. Most people may not realize how much time is spent behind-the-scenes. We receive an average of 250 emails per day. Everything from hearing groups wanting to know how to use and where to find interpreters to Deaf Queers living in small cities who need coming out support. After spending so much time on email, it's difficult to then find time to actually keep the website itself updated.

My actual full-time job, the one that pays the bills, is as CEO of DeafVision, Inc. DeafVision is a new media company that provides web hosting, design and programming services. What's interesting is that if it were not for DQRC, there would be no DeafVision. DQRC was what motivated me to learn web design and programming. I spent every possible minute I could learning HTML and other programming languages for the sole purpose of creating DQRC. It never occurred to me that one day soon after creating DQRC that those web and programming skills I had labored to master would become in high demand and that DeafVision would eventually be founded. This is a great example of Karma. You give and the Universe gives back to you.



Q: WHAT'S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CTN/FLASH AND DQRC? AND WHAT DOES CTN STANDS FOR?

CTN stands for Coming Together News. In 1991, we began a newsletter for Deaf Queers nationwide called Coming Together Newsletter. In 1994, CTN metamorphosed into magazine format and the "Newsletter" in CTN became "News" (Coming Together News Magazine). FLASH was originally started in October 1994 as an"extra" for CTN Magazine subscribers. It was the very first national e-zine for Deaf Queers. Many non-subscribers asked to be on the mailing list and since it didn't cost anything (unlike the printed magazine) to distribute we decided to allow anyone to subscribe to it. It grew rapidly and eventually replaced the printed magazine when we were not able to continue it. DQRC took over and has sponsored the e-zine since 1997. DQRC provides hosting space and email resources for the e-zine. FLASH, however, remains an independent publication.



Q: WAS IT HARD FOR YOU TO PASS ON THE POSITION OF FLASH EDITOR TO ANOTHER PERSON (ME)?

Yes it was. After contributing so much time to it over the years, it was important to me that whoever took over would do a good job. I guess it's sort of like having kids. You give birth, nurture them and then there comes a time when you need to step aside so that they can continue to grow. You turned out to be the perfect person to continue FLASH and I've been very impressed with the many additions you've made.



Q: THANK YOU, DRAGO. I AM VERY HONORED TO BE THE FLASH EDITOR. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE EVERYONE TO KNOW?

We're all lucky to have you, Barbara. Thank you for continuing this much needed work. The last thing I'd like to say is that if anyone would like to volunteer to continue and expand on the work we are doing at DQRC, we'd love your help! We need more volunteers! Contact us.

**

Thank you very much for taking the precious time to be interviewed for this special anniversary issue, Drago!

As of August 30, 2003, there are 11,594 FLASH subscribers from around the world! It is by far the world's largest mailing list for the Deaf LGBT community!






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