Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

jeudi 31 janvier 2008

Deaf People are Whole, Organic, and Natural

I’m a WHOLE person!

The message out in DeafBlogLand the past several weeks has changed significantly. It is trying more and more to tell me that I am not a whole person. I am lacking in family relationships, in opportunities, and many other things simply because I sign, prefer to be with other Deaf people most of the time, and have all but stopped using my voice in many situations.

I can anticipate some of your responses:
“I never said that.”
“That’s not what we meant.”
“Just because we want better for our children does not mean that I don’t respect you.”
…and more in this vein.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m acutely aware of my mixed/varied audience. Some of you are like myself in many ways, some of you are very different from me, and some are at various points in between. Please know that in this post here, my intentions are not to criticize any one of you, question any one of your choices, or anything like that. I simply wish to share my journey over the past two or three weeks.

I can stand before everyone in DeafBlogLand and say/sign very loudly/largely, “I AM A WHOLE PERSON EXACTLY THE WAY I AM, AND I LOVE IT!”

The message out there recently is so insidious that I actually had several moments where I doubted that the other night… and people who know me know that I don’t feel that way 99.9% of the time.

My cousin turned 30 the other night, so 8 of us went out to eat at the family’s favorite restaurant (yum – the *best* tempura and sushi ever!). Only 3 sign at all well, and two others sign minimally. The others, n-ope, which is understandable, given that one is a recent addition to the family and one was a friend of his. Because of how big the group was, yes, I missed out on a lot of the conversation. Usually I’m okay with that, striking up one-on-one conversations with different people at the table. But because of the recent tsunami of “success stories,” I started to feel like, “Should I have to exist like this at family events? What if I polished up my speech, which I hardly use anymore, and I got hearing aids again?” Once I caught myself thinking along these lines, I realized where those thoughts were coming from – all of those new blogs on DeafRead. A thousand curse words and phrases went through my head as I realized, “OMG, DeafRead not only has lost its center, but it’s making ME lose MY center!!!”

I took a deep breath and reflected. I’ve been reflecting ever since. I made the choice to stop wearing my hearing aids. I made the choice to stop using my voice obediently every time I was around hearing people. Every time I attempted to use my hearing and speaking, I always felt “not good enough.” But since I’ve started signing to hearing people who talk to me and by being who I am, nothing more, nothing less, I’ve felt so much more whole. I’m living life on my own terms, instead of following proscribed societal norms, and it feels damn good, let me tell ya.

I’ve lived life as a person with almost no hearing and as a person with some hearing. I’ll freely admit that life with sound has some perks. Movies and TV shows are more meaningful when I hear sound effects, intonations, where the speaker places emphasis, and so forth. It’s nice to know when to run and when not to run to catch the metro train. Sure. Absolutely. But you know what? In the larger scheme of things, it’s not important. I’d gladly give it up in a heartbeat. That kind of thing should not be a priority.

I get so frustrated when people talk about how important hearing is and how important it is to fit into the hearing world. Yes, all of us minority groups need to know how to function in the majority. Granted. That’s a given. But why is the insistence on doing it on THEIR terms? It is perfectly possible to function in the hearing world on our terms, while showing respect for the hearing culture, language, and norms. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. I know, because I do it all the time.

Deaf people have so much to give society. We are proof that the world does not need to run in the aural/oral modality alone. We experience life in a very different manner, one that should be respected and valued. Natural sign languages are truly a gift. It saddens me that so many are willing to slap it aside, saying, “My child/children was/were born in a hearing world. There they will stay.” At a recent gathering, one person talked about how her mother continued to sign and to assert the importance of signing even when she refused to sign, preferring to speak. She looked back upon that with so much gratitude, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. It pains me to read about parents who started signing then dropped it because their child chose to speak instead. Both languages should always be cherished and honored.

Am I limited? No, I’m not. My world has expanded so much in ways that would not be possible if I were not Deaf and part of this amazing community. Family gatherings may not be as easy as I’d like, but I have a strong, close relationship with my family and with individual family members regardless. We have better relationships and we like each other better than many hearing families with no Deaf members. I have a nationwide network, I’ve gotten to know so many incredible, strong, passionate people that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I have had so many experiences that I would not have had otherwise. If I were hearing or if I’d been boxed into one method/approach, I would not be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be nearly half the person I am. I could go on and on with examples, but it’s getting late. Believe me, my life has been such a rich, amazing, beautiful journey thanks to my being Deaf and to a wonderful hearing mom who gave me everything she could, knowing that I was going to be part of the Deaf community.

This one is for you, Mom. I love you so much. Thank you for knowing what was right and for allowing me to be Deaf.

(Moderating comments and responding will continue to be problematic due to limited access – please bear with me.)

5 Comments:

  • At 08:07, Blogger Karen said…

    I love this-- thank you for sharing. I think it's easy to slip into the "shouldda, couldda" thing and wonder how it could be different. The best message of all is the acceptance of the whole person--love that!

     
  • At 08:25, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Yes! And Deaf people taste good too!

     
  • At 11:25, Blogger Interpretopia said…

    Sign language is a beautiful organic enriching experience. I believe that it is one of Deaf people's gifts to humanity. I am so glad and grateful to have had the opportunity to immerse myself in it with the Deaf community the past 16 years(Thank you all for welcoming me!).

    Thank you for sharing your reflections with us.

     
  • At 12:19, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Life with a hearing family is always about choices. If your family is all hearing, don't know sign language, and aren't likely to learn, then what are your options? 1. You can choose not to visit at all, or keep the visits very short, because communication is so limited and frustrating. 2. Make the best of a bad situation -- communicate with those you can, whether by hearing aids, lipreading, writing on your part, and articulating clearly, basic signs and fingerspelling (if any), and writing on their part. 3. Sit in stony, withdrawn silence, projecting anger because the hearing family doesn't care about you enough to learn ASL. 4. Hire an interpreter. 5. Family members chip in to buy a UbiDuo. 6. Bring in all the communication tools that you have. If you can talk somewhat, go ahead! If you have some hearing with hearing aids, use them! YES, communicating in large groups with hearing people is very tough. I'm totally with ya there. Hearing families should be doing way more to include us, no question about it. But just because some hearing moms are yammering on and on about how their child is 100% immersed in the hearing world doesn't mean there is something wrong with YOU, my dear. There isn't.

     
  • At 01:27, Blogger moi said…

    Karen,
    Thank you for your thoughts - love how you expressed them! :)

    Anonymous 1,
    *laugh*

    interpretopia,
    Glad to have you here and in the community! I loved what you had to say about sign language.

    Anonymous 2,
    Thanks!!! Yup, there's nothing wrong with me, nor with many others like us.

     

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