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Multicultural Roots Project

The Multicultural Roots Project was created to increase visibility for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in Sonoma County, with a particular focus on Santa Rosa; and to recognize, through historical stories from BIPOC, contributions and impacts that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Working with local historians and community partners, Community Engagement staff gather stories and facts about local BIPOC leaders, as well as historical events and places that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County into what it is today. Each month, we will share five of these stories with the public through multiple communication channels, including the City’s website, social media and this newsletter.

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Jun 20

Dr. Daniela Domínguez: Finding Oneself While On the Margins of Society

Posted on June 20, 2022 at 10:37 AM by Danielle Garduno

Web_Dr.Dominguez

“When you come out of the closet your entire family does too.” — Dr. Daniela Domínguez  

Dr. Daniela “Danny” Domínguez (she/her/ella) says she never questioned who she was. “It wasn’t that I was ever confused, I knew exactly who I was, it was just a matter of its not safe for me to be who I am [here]. I was never like, ‘am I [queer], am I not?’ No, clearly from the very beginning I knew.” 

Danny was born in Mexico City, but at the young age of one, her family moved to Cuernavaca, Morelos, making her a Guayabita. She grew up in a multigenerational household, with her abuelita, tía, mom, and sister. Danny remembers the house she grew up in as loving, and full of life, “if you ever needed anything you would just ask. It was very family-oriented, with kids running around, and it was a complete matriarchy.” Danny says growing up in a matriarchal household was extremely influential, having strong women greatly shaped her from a young age.  

Danny’s experience growing up in Mexico was unique; she got to experience and exist in a sort of duality, experiencing both the impoverished and wealthy areas. Her parents were divorced and had very different socioeconomic statuses. Danny’s father funded her education so she could attend a private school in a wealthy area. She says this was a privilege because it gave her access to many experiences, opportunities, and resources she otherwise would never have been exposed to. However, after school she would head home to Ocotepec, a town that was known for not being the safest, and this is where she spent most of her free time. Danny says “I got to experience what it’s like to be on the margins of society, and then go to school and learn English and have an abundance of resources. It completely shaped the lens through which I now do my work and informed how I look at the community.”  

Growing up in Mexico as a queer woman was isolating for Danny. Never knowing another queer woman made it hard for her to be her full self. Danny knew after high school she had to leave Mexico and her family, not because she didn’t love them, but because she needed the space to grow and find herself. She used college as an opportunity for this journey of self-discovery. While researching universities, she knew she wanted to go to a school in the United States, but it had to be a short flight home, and it was important that it still had cultural goods like home. “I wanted to make sure that it was a city where I could find some really good chile.”  

She decided on St. Mary's University and found belonging in San Antonio, Texas, with their powerful Chicanx culture and community. She fell in love with the city and all it had to offer. From cheering on the Spurs, attending backyard barbecues, and going to church on Sundays, Danny settled into her newfound home. Although she thought that moving away would allow her to live as her full true self, this was not immediately the case. 

As Danny began her journey of self-discovery in college, she still had many of the same thoughts and worries she had in Mexico. “I always had the fear of what’s gonna happen if I come out, because of comments [I] heard, and [I] kind of started absorbing and internalizing them.” Danny remembers seeing other queer women in Texas, but she wasn’t ready to come out yet due to her deep fears of being rejected and not being able to find spaces of belonging. It wasn’t until she went to study abroad in London for six months that everything changed. 

One day, while staying in London, a friend mentioned a gay bar called the Candy Bar. Danny was curious just to go and see what it was like to be in a queer space, so she wrote it down, took the tube, and went to the Candy Bar. To see so many queer women gathered in community was a life-altering experience for her. London is also highly diverse and multiracial, so it was that added layer of visibility that made Danny feel seen, safe, and like she belonged as a queer woman of color. It was during this time that Danny came out as a queer woman.

When she got back to the U.S., Danny decided to come out to her family the day before her college graduation, which was a huge decision for her. “I was like I’m gonna start a new chapter in my life… I want to have my bachelor's degree as an out queer woman.” In 2007, Danny came out as an openly queer woman to her family and graduated from St. Mary’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.  

After graduation, Danny decided to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. She found an amazing program at Our Lady of the Lake University, just down the road from St. Mary’s University, where they offered a bilingual-bicultural program. This approach allowed Danny the opportunity to learn to provide therapy in Spanish. She went on to earn her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology and eventually went on to also earn her Doctorate in Counseling Psychology.  

Now, Danny keeps busy as an Assistant Professor in Counseling Psychology at the University of San Francisco. As a professor, Danny prioritizes education over schooling. She wants to instill in her students that lived experiences and cultural wealth are invaluable forms of knowledge as a therapist. In addition, Danny encourages her students to stretch their minds by queering education. "To be expansive and move beyond the binaries, questioning everything and coming up with your own understanding and your own idea, filtering it through who you are and not what others tell you."  She is also a licensed psychologist and professional clinical counselor with a particular passion and focus on liberation psychology, anti-racism, migrant justice, and gender and sexuality topics. For Danny, her work is about producing and sharing spaces of belonging, curiosity, and liberation. 

Danny also dedicates her time and work to helping local youth learn to be curious, engaged, and ultimately providing spaces for belonging. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at On the Margins, a local organization that collaborates with others to design and implement anti-racist, equitable and affirming programs, practices, initiatives, and policies. On the Margins was created not only to provide a sense of community, but also to disrupt and dismantle the oppressive systems we currently exist in, in order to truly have space for everyone, particularly BIPOC and queer folx.  

In addition to her work as a professor, psychologist and CEO of On the Margins, Danny is a co-founder of ¡DALE! (Development, Advocacy, Leadership and Engagement), helping to shape the future leaders of tomorrow.  Here, she connects high school students to mentors, encourages development of leadership skills and community engagement, and provides a safe space for youth to find themselves and show up authentically. 

For many years, Danny complied with the demands and expectations of society, to the point it made her sick. However, once she found her own sense of self, a liberated Danny wants to share that feeling of true freedom with others. Through her teaching, mentoring, and programs, Dr. Daniela Domínguez has created spaces for curiosity and growth and allowed room for self-discovery along the way. Thank you, Dr. Domínguez, for sharing your wealth of knowledge with the community. We are so lucky to have your leadership in Sonoma County! 

To learn more about this story and the important work of Dr. Daniela Domínguez visit the links below.   

References:

On the Margins  

¡DALE! Development, Advocacy, Leadership & Engagement

University of San Francisco Faculty: Dr. Daniela Dominguez  

ResearchGate: Dr. Daniela Dominguez 

Doc Dominguez: About

LinkedIn: Doc Dominguez 

Dr. Daniela “Danny” Domínguez was interviewed by Daniel Chaparro, Community Outreach Specialist, and Madelynn Cox, Community Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA.