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Sergio GuzmanSigns of Life
A Deaf Latino Shares His Story.
—Interview by Oscar Espino

SERGIO GUZMAN is a 23 year old Latino from Chicago, IL. Sergio is deaf, but that hasn’t stopped him from leading a rewarding life. He talks here to QV about life as a deaf Latino—including coming out, making friends, and even the role music has played in his life.

How old were you when you found out you were QV? I was in 7th grade when I found myself attracted to boys. I was about 13 years old. I denied it from 7th grade all the way through high school. Even in college, I repressed my homosexuality.

How did you handle it? Or how did you come out? At first, I was ashamed. I repressed it. I did experienced my first “encounter” with a man in college, but it proved to be too much for me to take, so I eventually left college and went out with a girl who was my best friend for five years. I went steady with her for two years, but it didn’t go well. She kind of questioned it, and eventually asked me if I was QV. I didn’t want to continue lying, so I told her that I did have an inkling for guys. She seemed to take it fine, but she asked me to go see a counselor. I did and that counselor helped me see the true me and I learned to accept that I’m QV. I’m fine with it now. Everyone at work knows I am QV and two of my brothers and my sister know I’m QV. I haven’t told my other brother or my parents, yet.

When your brothers and your sister found out you were QV, what did they say? My sister, at first, was like, “Yeah..and?” She told me that I was still the same Sergio and the only difference was that I liked men. My brother found out when I drank too much Corona and told him. At first, he thought I was goofing around, but then I later confirmed it was true when he asked me again when I was sober. He then told me that he suspected that I was QV when we were younger. I remember he did ask me before, but at that time, I denied it. He seems fine with it. My oldest brother found out when we were vacationing in Louisville, KY with his wife. We were at a restaurant and I was little bit tipsy with Long Island Ice tea and while my brother was in the restroom, I told his wife I was QV. She seemed surprised. When my brother came back from bathroom, I told him and he was like, “Oh okay. that’s fine.” I just couldn’t believe the reactions I got from my brothers and sister. I mean, I heard horror stories about coming out, and I was afraid of the reactions I’d get from my brothers and sister, but I got positive responses! But I’m not out to my parents.

Why not? You already came out to most of your siblings. What is keeping you from telling your parents? Fear of rejection. My family is Catholic, and I’m afraid that if I tell them, I wouldn’t be the first to hear their reaction—whoever is in the room or close by would be the first to hear it, then I’d get their verbal reactions from my brother/sister. My parents and I don’t really have any decent conversations to be able to comprehend each other because they speak Spanish, and not enough English to have a decent conversation with me. I don’t really speak Spanish much. Plus, if I told them “Hey, Mom, Dad, I’m QV!” I don’t know if they would comprehend the concept. And I don’t want to have to put my sister, brother or whoever within my family to interpret. I’m sure my brothers or sister don’t want to be an interpreter for that, either. It would be an awkward situation.

Do you think your mom or dad knows you're QV? I suspect that my mom may know because she asked me when I was in 7th grade if I liked men. I furiously denied it, knowing that it would have freaked her out. It was kind of taboo back then, but I guess I was pretty much naive on the subject of QV issues back then.

Does your family know sign language? My sister does. In fact, she’s taking ASL/Interpreter training in college right now. One of my brother knows enough sign language to have a decent conversations with me. With the two other brothers, I rely heavily on lip-reading. As for my parents, they don’t really know sign.

How did you communicate with your family when you were growing up? Gosh, I never actually gave it a thought. I relied heavily on lip-reading. Plus, my sister knew enough sign to help me get what I needed. My mom would make up signs and gestures. Then, when I started high school, I went away from home for four years. I went to the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville, IL (four hours south of Chicago, where my family lived). I was rarely at home during that time. For college, I went to Gallaudet University (the only university in the world for the deaf in Washington, DC) and for one year then after that, I came back home. I just speak to them and don’t really use much sign language. I know I’m a disgrace to the deaf community everywhere but that’s who I am. I don’t represent anyone in the deaf community. I’m one person.

What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in the future? I really am trying hard to go back to school. I envision myself as a teacher for the deaf—that’s all I ever wanted to do—work with the deaf. I’ve thought of acting as well, being in a spotlight like in a reality show. I even thought of being on MTV’s “The Real World,” but wasn’t sure. I know there was a deaf woman on “Survivor” this year and that tells me it’s possible, so I’m thinking about giving “Real World” a shot. It’s all a dream, but oh well. (laughs).

What are your hobbies? What kinds of things do you like to do? I enjoy reading, cooking, surfin’ the internet, keeping in touch with friends, watching TV. I know it seems typical, but I’m pretty much an average guy. I also enjoy arts and crafts, “listening” to music.

You enjoy listening to music? Yeah. Although I’m deaf, I can hear sounds with the assistance of hearing aids. It doesn’t necessarily mean I hear words from the music, but I do hear sounds.

What kind of music do you like? Well, I have no specific tastes, but I do enjoy pop. Who doesn’t? I’m guilty of that! I like R&B and dance because I can’t resist busting the moves to it! I also enjoy classical and easy listening types of music to calm me down from stress and frustration.

What about artists? Any particular favorites? No. I don’t have a real favorite artist. I must admit that I’m guilty when it comes to picking out an album at the music store, I tend to judge the book by its cover.

What does it sound like? It’s not that easy to explain to you what the sounds are like to me.

And why do you like it? Why do I like it? Well, why not? (laughs) I’m taking advantage of the partial hearing I have left in my ears with assistance of hearing aids, of course, to enjoy what hearing people have in their entire life. I’m not excluded from music. It’s right in front of me and I can’t resist jumping off the seat and burning the floor whenever the music is on. Bring it on baby!

Do you ever wish you were straight? Wow, what an interesting question! I actually never thought of it! I’m pretty happy with who I am right now. It’s the real me. Whether I’m QV or straight, I don’t care as long I’m being true to myself. I know I’m QV.

What kind of guys do you like? I’m so into Latino guys who have moustache/goatee with a mysterious look in his dark eyes—that’s so sexy. Who couldn’t resist them? I’m seeing someone right now, and he certainly fits that profile. I like my man to be very warm, understanding, and open in communicating with me such as expressing his feelings, thoughts, and opinions. That’s the way relationships work, I think.

Do you date hearing QV guys? What is that like? Is it easy? Hard? etc? I'm dating a hearing man, and no, he doesn’t sign. I wouldn’t say it’s hard for me. At first, I was worried about whether that person would like me for me or purely based on looks. Now I know he genuinely likes me for me. (whew!) I have handful of hearing friends from work. I know how to deal with hearing people, after all, I’ve been working at Old Navy for two and half years. It’s tough working around hearing customers, but I’ve managed it. I’m lucky to be able to have some training in lip-reading (it ain’t that easy mind you), and every time I talk, I tend to include sign language in everyday conversation whether there’s a deaf around or not. It’s just me. I haven’t experienced any difficulty with the guy I’m dating right now.

What would you like to tell people about being a Latino deaf man? I can’t speak for every deaf Latino. All I know is that I’m truly happy with the way I am because I’m being true to myself. Love yourself first, and others will love you. Just be true to yourself. It’s tough at first, but eventually it’ll turn out just fine.

What are your fears entering into a hearing relationship? Have you dated QV deaf people before? Well, I wasn’t sure how it would work out at first but it seems to be fine so far. I have never dated deaf guys before, and never gave it a thought. My fears in a hearing/deaf relationships are misunderstandings in communication. I’m not that great at lip-reading, but I do give it my best. I get an uneasy feelings about whether he truly understands what I say. He hasn’t learned to sign yet, but we’re doing great. He says to be patient because not everyone learns at the same pace. I have actually noticed him starting to sign now and that tells me sooner or later, he’ll be talking to me in sign language.

Has the internet made things easier for you to communicate with people? Oh, totally. They don’t know I am deaf when we get into conversations. They are surprised when I tell them because they assume that deaf people don’t have excellent English comprehension, grammar structures, etc.

Do you have QV deaf friends now? Yeah, I’m starting to meet new deaf QV friends. I heard about a coffeehouse get-together from a Yahoo! Group newsletter. I summed up my courage to attend, and I’m glad I did. I haven’t met any deaf Latinos yet, but I’ll attend the coffeehouse get-together more often and hopefully meet deaf Latinos in the future.
Do you know any other Latino deaf guys? Unfortunately, not right now.

Is there anything else you want to let the readers know? Oh gosh, tell them to expect to see me on the “tube” some time soon since I’m going to get national exposure from being in QV. I surely do hope to leap into TV and movies! (laughs) That’s pretty much it. I’m just kidding! Just let them know that I’m just a human who happens to be a deaf Latino guy. I’m pretty much an average guy.

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