I’ve started watching a fascinating show called “Switched at Birth.” While the show is entertaining itself, what has me glued to the screen is that they have deaf characters and they are main characters. They aren’t a casual part of the show, they are the show and all the main characters have learned to use American Sign Language. They’ve inspired me to start re-learning the American Sign Language (ASL) DHH and I studied for two years some time ago. They’ve also given me some new insight and perspective into being Deaf or Hearing.
When we studied ASL, we not only learned the language, we learned about the etiquette, culture, and history. We learned there’s a difference between Deaf and deaf. Deaf, with a capital D, is not just a state of hearing, it’s a culture and way of life. As a person who did hear, who lost her hearing as an adult, I am not capital D Deaf. I didn’t grow up in the culture and to say my ASL is choppy is probably being generous to myself.
They’ve also started me wondering where I fit in. I’m no longer Hearing but I’m not capital D Deaf. There’s no real group for me, no real place for me. I don’t sign fluently so I can’t use an interpreter, but I can’t hear so I can’t benefit from many things unless they’re captioned.
So where does that leave me? Where do other people think that should leave me? Do I stop going to things because I miss too much, do I go and allow myself to feel alone among people? How much should I put myself out there and how much should I give up? I don’t have either culture behind me – Deaf or Hearing. Where they are clearly two different ways of life, I am in between – not quite one, no longer the other. I guess I have to be my own group!
I cope, I function, I enjoy my life, and I don’t feel sorry for myself 99% of the time. I don’t cry over what I no longer have and I work hard to compensate for not having it. I also try to help others since I understand what they’re going through. I’m often told I don’t act deaf enough, yet occasionally I feel helplessly deaf.
There are many paths open to us in life – we just have to choose the right ones for us. Whatever our challenges, life is still about moving forward. I may not walk every path, but I walk many paths. Sometimes the path isn’t even there yet so I just plow my way through. And sometimes even the guide can get lost,
It doesn’t matter if we’re Deaf, deaf, or Hearing as long as we never stop walking those paths. Deaf ain’t Dead.