Growing up, I have always been categorized in two groups when asked: “Is your family all deaf?” and “No, you are faking it, you’re hearing.” The answer to both is No, I have a whole hearing family and I am not faking it. I may sign proficiently at the age of 11 (when the ‘deaf family’ was asked), more likely as an Easterner (while I am a Midwestern) and respond proficiently as a hearing speaker with excellent speech reading skills…
I still remain who I am. Even with the decisions I make in attempt to compartmentalize my life according to the wishes of both cultures and languages, I live MY life. Honestly, I cannot compartmentalize myself.
I posted this on my profile at Facebook on 30 March: Statement of the day: I never thought about what they wanted me to do at home – I separated two languages and cultures – one at home and one at school. I made the decision for my family – when they really wanted me to shut up and start signing. My parents made the decision for me to have both – be bilingual and bi-cultural as is my natural right as a human being. I denied them the same right they gave me. They were not aggressive with themselves to demand the same right. Love can make us blind. Society uses that love to create barriers on all sides. It is natural and God’s gift for all of us to be diverse, to be who we are intended to be. I was accused by my mother at a soccer game for not signing at home – 100% – I told her that she never told me to shut up and start signing. My parents took all of my siblings to ISD for sports or some activities, I went to theirs when I was home. I thank God for my parents every chance I get. I’m sure my siblings will say the same, our mother always told us how proud of us she and Dad are, I often said back – we are too of you. Dad doesn’t have to say it – he shows it. This is a relationship I would like to see in all families but as we are naturally human, it will be difficult, but not impossible.
I was at a playgroup recently and the deaf adults who have an active role with families were asked to share their experience growing up which included the communication range in which we were expressive or receptive. It is certainly informative. I mentioned that we continue to struggle with our identity because of the demands society wants us to be in compliance. We do know who we are but we have a hard time being true to ourselves. While the other two grew up oral, they are currently bilingual.
Somewhere in the aegis of AG Bell is a comment oft heard: “Do not acknowledge that your child is deaf. The deafness will go away.” The problem with this is if we deny a part of who we are… a key ingredient to a whole person, we will live a life that is not our own. The child will grow into an adult struggling doubly because the child/adult has yet to accept the fact that he/she is deaf and that it is only a part of who they are.
Deny the deafness, is to make it prominent. Stand out. It becomes painfully obvious that the person is deaf when it is denied. I am not saying that one should publicize that one is deaf but to accept the deaf within self and approach life as he/she is within, not so demanded by society to conform. One simple fact, we will never be hearing, ever.
Yeah … but but but … technology… we’re still deaf (or hard of hearing).
Back to me (not my favorite topic): So growing up in both cultures and languages, how did that happen? I was ‘kicked’ out of the house at 8 years old to deaf clubs, organizations, deaf church, playing with children like me; however, I was not limited to that side of my life. I also participated in Girl Scouts, did songs for several performances (signed not spoken, y’all would need good earplugs), went to visit my family and did whatever I had to do as a growing child – as any other child, even played baseball. Heck, I went to London to cheer in the Westminister’s New Year Parade, a sole deaf girl with no official interpreter and oy, I cannot remember how many gals and guys were there, probably over a hundred.
I ALWAYS KNEW I AM DEAF. ALLOWING THAT TO BE A PART OF ME ENABLED ME TO ACHIEVE MORE, RECEIVE RESOURCES, TOOLS AND SUPPORT AND DID NOT LET ME STAND OUT ON BASIS OF THAT PARTICULAR ASPECT THAT MANY DO NOT LIKE. I am sorry, not for me, but for those who keep on denying that I am deaf (others as well). I only stood out because of ME.
MEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEME. NOT THEM or DEAF
The same can be said for the other side; however, my being deaf has allowed me to say what I want to say. The deaf community may not be happy with what resources and tools I have in my bags to communicate with the world or to find ways to work with the people. Their experience is different from mine whether in past generations or current generations; however, I feel for them. It pains me the most because of experience with my family and my life which I still live. If the deaf community remains closed to the world, it will be difficult to work on a level of comprehension, enlightenment and equal compassion.
That is something most people will not understand, the identity is not meant to be society’s, it is meant to be mine.
I am deaf and danging proud of it.
Just remember, it is only a part of me. Pieces of the puzzle. A petal on a rose. A leaf on a tree. A poison on a poisonous frog.
I am the part of the sum of whole.