I just started writing, and out it flowed. It took me a couple of days to have time to finish it. But it’s the best explaination of my feelings right now, so far. I wanted to put into words this new sensation I’ve been feeling about being deaf. Well, here goes:
Sometimes I wish I was capital D deaf. That way I know that I belong in that world, or indeed, a world. I was raised hearing, yet I still feel as if I’m only an observer, an actor in EARth. I feel like an intruder in EYEth too. People assume I’m hearing and treat me that way, but I don’t understand them fully. If people see my hearing assistance paraphernalia, they assume I can’t hear at all and either enunciate words exaggeratedly, yell, or start signing like a speed demon, and then I can’t understand them either.
When I started learning about the Deaf culture and ASL, I felt like an outcast. I’m small d deaf, not Deaf. I was the only deaf person in my family and extended family and friends. And when my brother was born hard of hearing (his loss is only moderate, mine is profound) I at first was excited, but he’s also raised to be hearing too. Not that it’s a bad thing. He’s far more normal at 8 than I ever was. But that means I still feel alone. I feel as if I can never tell anyone my true feelings and my desires connected to my deafness. Such as my goal of being a bridge between Earth and Eyeth. (That sounds nieve.)
Until I met my ASL III teacher. He’s deaf, graduated from Gallaudet in the spring. He was teaching the class about some of the difficulties deaf people go through, using some of his own experiences. Like the time he was flying, the stewardress handed him a braille magazine. Meaning, for blind people. He was making sure that we all knew that braille is not a code for signs, nor can deaf people know how to read it, or morse code for that matter. This was only one example out many, and the whole time I was nodding, “Yes, exactly!” He is a brilliant teacher, and he sparked my current enthusaism and excitability about being deaf.
Before, I had merely accepted deafness. Before I had always viewed it as a type of disability. Now, it is a type of ability. You can accomplish so much while deaf and even Deaf. I suppose my ASL teacher is the role model of Deafness I never had. That might explain my affinity for him. The whole class sees him as one of us–after all he did just graduate–only he speaks another language. And he’s bilingual. That’s the other thing I like about him.
Most of the Deaf people I met write with ASL grammar. Only recently did I accept that as a fact, painfully and humorously, since I’m an English major. Now I see that it doesn’t have to be that way. My deaf ASL lab teacher was an example of writing in ASL. My deaf ASL teacher is an example of being bilingual. The latter has great grammar!–actually better than either of my hearing ASL teachers. That was the first thing I noticed about his syllabus. It was amazing. I was pleasantly surprised.
I think he, too, was pleasantly surprised when I explained to him my mini Deaf history. I was born deaf, my parents didn’t find out until I was two. Since I missed out on a crucial language period, my first audiologist said I would never learn how to read, write, speak, or hear well at all, and that I would never amount to anything. He was shocked–he has such an expressive face. Wuite mad, shaking his head, eyebrows furrowed, mouth open. THen he told me–I forget exactly what he said, but he said I do very well with talking. My first thought was, how can he know that? But I suppose he can see how I interact with people. I thanked him.
After meeting one on one about my progress in ASL–which he did for the others in my class–he told me how proud he was of me. My face lit up quickly. See, I’m learning how to be expressive too! Man, is he cute and nice! I thought. I’m certainly not the first person who has had a crush on a teacher. But I understand it can only remain an unspoken crush. So I began examining what exactly I like about him, to put into words my emotions. He is a role model, I already said. He is a great teacher, that too. We had many of the same experiences. He understand what it’s like to be deaf. And he’s always so upbeat and considerate. I can replay clips in my mind of him. (I have a hard time making eye contact with him for that reason of the crush. I sign fine to the class, but I mess up if I sign to him alone).
I’m taking these traits, and using them as a guideline for finding a good husband. I think the trait I like most is being able to talk about being deaf, instead of keeping it unspoken, as if it were undesireable. That was what I appreciated about him at the one-on-one meeting. That got me thinking. I don’t have to seek a hearing husband, to help me interact with the world. A Deaf husband would be just as great, if not perhaps better! Especially the way my ASL teacher goes about it. He’s obviously very able to be in EARth. I mean, I am too, to a certain extent. But I’m afraid of being totally deaf as in Deaf. There are so many unanswered questions I have. What about fire alarms? Weather alerts? Calling places, like the doctor? Talking to the doctor? Etc. Looking at him, his entire family is deaf, so they have had three generations now of time to figure out how to adapt, what to do. I don’t have that experience behind me yet.
It is my hop,e that when I get more experience, I will feel more like a citizen of Eyeth. There is no required citizenship test; your citizenship is based off your personal decision. What do you believe you are? Most people believe they’re hearing, and act that way. Others believe they’re deaf and they act that way. It’s the hard of hearing who are caught in some sort of intra-planetary space. We all live in this rocket, hovering in wait. We can’t hear very well, so we’re not exactly Earthians. SInce the Earthians are the majority, they try to teach us oralism, to make us honorary members of Earth. But honorary doesn’t mean anything. It just means we can interact “well-enough” with their world. So many hard of hearing people have been drawn in by the majority view, and become unhappy since they’re alone. It’s like that semi-paradox, “water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink”–just apply it to our situation. “People, people everywhere and not a conversation.”
There are some who go to Eyeth instead. This isn’t the “easy way out”, it involves its share of tears. Many Eyethians have Earthly realatives, and entering the Deaf world means a smaller populace base. It almost feels like segregation all over again. Also, you may not be completly deaf. Entering Eyeth would mean leaving any bit of auditory clues behind, like hearing aids and the like, otherwise you’re not exactly a full member of Eyeth. Only honorary, since you’re not Deaf enough.
These two worlds are opposite of each other, and any interaction between the two are very difficult. It is hard to bridge that communication chasm. That’s the way it was not too long ago. There were the hearing majority, and the Deaf created tehir own miniature Eyeth islands in the Earth world, through their Deaf clubs, remaining segregated. Then came the technology wave, leveling the chasm. Suddenly, there were more communication options! Suddenly, hearing aids let us hear (but that created the whole hard of hearing category). Then came the TTY. We could talk to far more Deaf people all over the world. We didn’t have to be geographcially close to each other. Then came the relay systems, giving Deaf people ears and a voice on the phone. Gradually that chasm was filled. Email became popular. Then texting and Blackberries and Sidekicks and VRS and computer-cams. The Deaf people moved online. The Hearing people moved online. The boundaries between Earth and Eyeth became nebulous, and the two worlds became less segregated.
Foul! cried some Deaf, particularly those who knew the old way. Cultural genocide, they say. The whole debate about cochlear implants is a scapegoat, a bit of evidence of the increasing intrusiveness of Earht. The boundaries aren’t shrinking, like they say, and the Deaf culture isn’t going away. With the change of environment comes change in how we interact with it. The boundaries have just shifted. Deaf culture is expanding, thanks to the increase in awareness, thansk to the Internet. More Earthians want to know about Eyeth, more Earthians want to learn about the culture of Eyeth. Instead of forced migration of Deaf people into the hearing world, hearing people are voluntarily migrating to the Deaf culture, including the oralist hard of hearing people.
Like me. I could legetimately be a part of Eyeth from birht. I’m deaf enough. Yet my parents–who are hearing by the way–raised me with oralism. That was the only way I knew, for the longest time. I’m not sure at what point I knew about the Deaf culture; there was no one catalysmic point it was more of a slow realization of “hey, wait a minute…I’m not hearing, and yet I’m not deaf.” It was at that point, I think I was 12, 13, 14, that I began to hate deafness. “Why did God see fit to make me deaf? I will never fit in.” I was scared of growing older and more independent.
That’s why, when my audiologist asked me about cochlear implants, I chose to be implanted. Acutally, I had never heard of it when she brought it up, but after looking it up online i realized how great an beneficial it would be fore me. I finally was implanted in February after my 16th birthday. It really was wonderful! I was no longer afraid; it was after my processer was turned on for the first time that I really began to accomplish a lot, and when I finally widened my circle of friends (I had been friendless for a couple of years). After becoming more firmly planted in EARth, I began to wonder about the flipside of me, my deaf–well not exactly heritage, but you know–side.
That’s what propelled me to take ASL in college. I sought a balance between my two halves. That’s when I found out about Eyeth, and when my Deaf revelation began. No longer did I have to keep quiet about my deafness, as if it were taboo. Suddenly I was in a classfull of other Earthians who really do care, who want to know and learn. I could talk more freely! Sign language classes also began to turn around my feelings about deafness. It went from “God only gives us what we can handle. I just wish He wouldn’t trust me with so much,” to “God really knew what he was doing, and I’m glad He did what He did!”
It’s been only 2 months, but already I credit my ASL teacher with a lot, though he doesn’t realize it. He helped me along with my personal revelation, and for that I am deeply appreciative. You could say I’m falling in love with Deafness.