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?
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.
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.