Leah Nusgart never expected to find a way to connect her passion for language with her passion for engaging with the LGBT community. But that’s exactly what happened thanks to an otherwise ordinary night at the bar.
Nusgart had explored French language and English literature programs after high school, but neither felt like the right career path for her. Then she met an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter and quickly learned she was a natural.
“She taught me some signs at the bar and she was like, ‘Holy crap. You’re really good at this!’” Nusgart recalls with a laugh.
Now enrolled in an ASL and Deaf Studies program at Vancouver Community College, Nusgart has gotten involved with Vancouver’s deaf queer community through the British Columbia Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf.
“Something that’s really similar to the gay community [is that] you don’t really learn your culture from your parents. A lot of parents are straight and they don’t really understand. And it’s the exact same for deaf people — they actually have to go find themselves,” she says. “Having this deaf queer community in Vancouver . . . is so incredible.”
She also likes the fact that there are no gender pronouns in ASL.
“I really love languages, but I guess I just hadn’t found the right one,” she says.
In 2011, Nusgart received a scholarship from the LOUD Foundation, an initiative of the BC lesbian and gay business association to recognize LGBT student leaders. At the time she was coordinator of Britannia Secondary School’s gay-straight alliance.
She says the LOUD scholarship helped her to pursue language studies and ultimately find the right language for her. Four years after receiving the award, Nusgart is giving back by sitting on the Foundation’s scholarship selection committee.
“There’s no [other] scholarships that reach out to our community, that are directed to us as gay people or queer people in the world,” she says, adding she’s thrilled to now lend her support as a LOUD volunteer.
“To have something that’s so focused for us is amazing.”
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