I can’t even begin to count how many ear infections I had as a kid. I could do the three block walk down Park Avenue to Dr. Grunfeld’s office with my eyes closed. With his puffy hair circling the bald spot on the top of his head, glasses tilted down to his nose, and thick Austrian accent, “Vell Lee-lee, vat have vee here”, he’d stick his otoscope into each ear. Nine times out ten the right one was the problem.
Sana: What would you say are a few of the most impactful moments of your upbringing?
Dominque: I was raised by two parents who met in the eighth grade and married right out of high school. They spent 27 years married before my father passed away in 2000. When you grow up seeing that sort of fairy tale love you spend the rest of your life trying to recreate it. Let’s just say it rarely happens. I also came out at the age of 14 – so it was tapping to my identity at such a young age, I think, that gave me confidence my other peers did not have.
As I watched the poll results come in on November 8th, I felt fearful. I was scared for myself, for my friends, for my friends’ friends, for my neighbors, and for my fellow Americans who are the outsider in a homogenous community somewhere out there. The anti-LGBTQ massacre this summer in Orlando was still buzzing in my head. I kept thinking of a recent anti-muslim hate crime in New York City, where I live. A woman dressed in a hijab had been set on fire in the middle of 5th Avenue in the days surrounding September 11th. She wasn’t hurt, but the audacity of the act stung me. Over Labor Day weekend, a young woman was shot dead in my neighborhood because she refused a man’s advances. On Halloween, a young lesbian couple were assaulted, again in New York City, after revealing to a cat-caller the romantic nature of their relationship.
When I was first invited to join Nightingale to share my perspective on the intersection between health and the environment, I was both honored and excited, feeling a slight twinge of intimidation. I have had many of my own experiences, personally and professionally, around both of these subject matters and have worked to hold the delicate truths that I’ve learned in balance with each other.
On November 4, 2008, I was in love with the future. I was eighteen, nearing the end of my first semester in college, and I had just voted in my first election for a man who embodied grace and optimism. The night that Barack Obama was elected, I gathered with hundreds of my peers in an auditorium on Reed College’s campus while the CNN projections played out. When it was announced that Obama would be our forty-fourth president, we all rose to our feet in unison and began to cheer and hug one another. It was the most profound sense of unity I have ever felt in my life.
When you’ve spent most of your life (from the age of six onwards) tracing the outlines of your body — lump to smooth to stretch mark — standing flushed and blushing in front of your mirror, you become aware (though paranoid) when something goes awry.