If It Ain't Broke, FIX IT!
I have had an epiphany.
The auditory-industrial complex WANTS us to be broken hearing people. The last thing they want to happen is to have us be whole, complete, organic, and natural Deaf people. They thrive on breaking us and keeping us broken.
Overreacting, you say? Really? Then how do you explain the current push to codify audiologists as the first point of contact in the entire state of California? There's much ado about nothing, you say? You don't say? Then why is the list of supporters for AB 2072 so suspiciously rife with members of the auditory-industrial complex who stand to profit off the backs of Deaf children and their parents? Why do so many teacher training programs for the Deaf only mention ASL/English bilingual instruction in passing or not at all? I could go on and on here, but I'd be getting off what I really want to talk about tonight. I'll just reiterate that there is a lot of money to be made off Deaf babies and children, and keeping us broken and oppressed is incredibly lucrative. I do hope to go into depth on that another time - this topic deserves more time than it's getting tonight.
One unfortunate result of the auditory-industrial complex keeping us Deaf people figuratively pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen is "playing hearing," which Richard Horrell-Schmitz poignantly describes his own experiences here. This moving piece struck so many chords (insert rueful acknowledgement of the irony of my phrasing here) with me, and apparently with many others, based on what people are saying on Facebook.
How many of us have felt like a broken hearing person at least once in our lives? How many of us have felt deficient and defective because we do not experience sound in the same way most of the world does? A show of hands, please. Yup. All of us have been there, haven't we? I know I have. But we aren't broken. Not at all. We are a perfectly valid variation of the human experience and we have wonderful gifts to share with the world... if only they would let us. But thanks to the massive auditory-industrial juggernaut, we've all been force-fed media messages that to hear is the be-all and the end-all of existence and we've grown up in educational systems that reinforce that message in a variety of ways to varying degrees. We've been trained to believe that the closer to hearing we appear to be, the better off we are.
I didn't lose my hearing like Richard did, so I've never been trying to recapture what I once had. But I have tried to capture what I believed I should have and to try and fix myself. I've taken over interactions and started interpreting for other Deaf people when they didn't understand what a hearing person was saying. I've reveled in my English skills and clucked at those who have poor English. I've done everything possible to mold myself into the so-called norm. As I look back on all these things, I cringe. I then forgive myself because it is part of my journey toward being a self-actualized, healthy, whole Deaf person... then I cringe some more.
As I look back, I cannot help but be astounded at how by being more Deaf in my interactions with hearing people, how much more respect I get and how the playing field has been leveled. Instead of my letting them know I'm Deaf and metaphorically holding my hands up in supplication, I just go about my business and expect that all will be fine. I sign to hearing people now when I need to interact with them, with a friendly smile, but unwaveringly sending the message, "I'm Deaf. I'm here. Deal with it." Recently I went to a farmer's market with a friend who was in town for a short visit. A vendor was offering free samples of this omgtastic pecan pie and I signed, "Yes, please" and "Thank you." My friend was pointing in the manner many of us Deafies do when we began this exchange. The bakery lady then asked, "Would you like to try the blueberry?" I perked up and signed, "Yes! I'd love to!" with a smile. She smiled back, nodded, and said, "Okay." I then asked her, signing, how much the pecan pie was and she told me. This is with a hearing non-signer. I kept this up during the entire trip and I noticed my friend started signing to the vendors too. I'll have to ask him what made him change his approach, now that I think about it. We didn't discuss it at all - I just went about my business, doing what has become second nature. I've found that this approach really equalizes the playing field with non-signers. I'm being myself. They're being themselves. We're meeting in the middle as two individuals, with mutual respect. I have had less problems signing with hearing people than I did before I started living this way.
The most amazing part to me is how *right* this feels. I feel cleaner. Purer. More whole. More organic. I think more of us should do this, but I know that's not going to happen for a while. Too many of us have been brainwashed. I still find myself excising dysconscious audism in myself from time to time, so I understand! Richard is right. Playing hearing is a losing game. Thank you, Richard, for writing your entry. It is a treasure.
It's time to stand up for our community and tell the auditory-industrial complex, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We are PERFECTLY FINE the way we are! LET US BE NATURAL, ORGANIC, AND WHOLE!" It is time for us to show the world we are valid and not broken by showing them who we truly are and cherishing that. It is time for us to stop playing a losing game. Let's play Deaf instead. Let's embrace who we are and truly be Deaf.