Friday, May 11, 2012

History of Marriage



This picture has been circulating on Facebook lately and it definitely got me thinking about what to write for my "It's The Deaf Thing" post. 

This post is a bit different than my usual style for Deaf posts that I enjoy writing about. It is not very often that I get to write about history or political aspects of Deaf Culture and tie it to current political news that is happening in our country. When I do have the opportunity to somehow tie current events in our country with history of Deaf culture, my fingers begin to itch and I just have to type about it. 


Do you know that once upon a time that Deaf people were not allowed to get married? 

Yep. 

True business

It came from the fear among hearing people if they allowed Deaf people to marry each other then Deaf couples would go on to have Deaf children. Naturally, what hearing people of authority did not know back then was that Deaf couple often did not end up having Deaf children. 

According to WHO (World Health Organization) approximately 93% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents...and GET THIS...only 7% of Deaf children are born to Deaf parents! So how did hearing folks develop the fear of Deaf people having Deaf children?

Other quick tidbit of history; deaf dynasties (those who have had at least five to six generations of Deaf people in the families) came from Martha's Vineyard in early 19th century. Martha's Vineyard was a sanctuary for Deaf people because it was a place where all Deaf people lived, worked, and used American Sign Language to communicate. Even hearing people who lived there signed and lived in harmony with Deaf people and they did not see any difference with each other. There was acceptance, understanding, and respect. This was where the term,  "Deaf Dynasties",  originated from; Deaf couples that married ended up having Deaf children and Deaf children ended up having Deaf children. What they had was an unique gene that caused a mutation which led to Deafness. The thing is....Deaf dynasties were exceptionally rare, and found among at least five families during this time while rest of Deaf couples went on to have hearing children. 

Sadly, this fear was compounded in so many areas which impacted Deaf culture and American Sign Language. What many people did not know was that during World War two; Deaf people were not spared among Jewish people, Blacks, Gays/Lesbians, Gypsies, Freemasons, those who opposed Hitler, Poles, Jehovah's Witnesses, those who were Cognitively Disabled, and social misfits. Deaf people were actually one of the first victims in Holocaust to be forced into sterilization. If Deaf women were found to be pregnant then they were forced to have abortions no matter how far along they were. 1,600 Deaf people were killed immediately because they refused to go with the procedure. They were not allowed to have children, period, out of fear of having Deaf children. 

Credited to DNA Learning Center


The scary part? Hitler didn't come up with this idea. We did. 

It is an ugly side to United States that many choose to sweep under the rug. 

Forced Sterilization among Deaf people began in 1907. 30 States immediately took up on the suit and began sterilizing Deaf people among the social misfits. The sterilization process began to lose its hold in 1930s....yet unfortunately, Deaf people continued to be forced sterilized until late 1970s. Surprised? Even though in the fifties, the idea of allowing Deaf people to marry was beginning to be slowly accepted (as long if they both were white..interracial Deaf marriages were still a big NO-NO), and Deaf couples were warned not to have children. Sex education was barred from Deaf people in schools out of fear that they will be interested in having sex. Sad, right? 

The fear of having Deaf children from Deaf parents or Deaf marrying a hearing person still exists. In some countries, Deaf people are still not allowed to marry (it doesn't matter if the spouse is Deaf or hearing). In some countries; forced sterilization still does exist. 

Funny how all this has not been mentioned in our history textbooks, right? This is why I can understand the frustration among minority groups that their histories are also intentionally left out or skewed/limited to certain number of pages in the textbooks. 

I am fortunate that not many people question my marriage to a hearing person. It has become acceptable in our country for Deaf person to marry a hearing person or other Deaf person. I still encounter some people who are ignorant and believe that I should not be married. Those moments are far rare though.  But me being pregnant is a whole different story...

Now I am pregnant; once in while, I have been asked outrageous questions by people and the questions/comments are: 

Are you married? 
Is your husband Deaf or hearing? 
Are you having a Deaf child? 

Oh, I hope you don't have a Deaf child. 
You don't want a Deaf kid, do you? 
I hope for your husband's sake that you don't have a Deaf gene to pass on to your baby.
Having a Deaf child is going to be a lot of work for you. 

Would you be unhappy if you have a hearing child?
I hope you'll love your son if he's not Deaf. 

Do I find those comments and questions offensive? Absolutely. It is very subtle form of oppression and fear. What on the earth makes them think that my husband and I won't love my child, Deaf or not? I just want my son to be born healthy and happy. I am going to do my hardest to raise him the right way; to be tolerant, loving, respectful and independent. 

If people only knew about the true history about minority groups then perhaps it would change how our society view marriage.


Our histories are riddled with a lot of unspoken pain, anger, and deep sadness that cannot be erased until our country recognizes that what had happened to us are wrong then correct the wrongs that have occurred in our histories. Don't brush the wrongs that have done to us under the rug and pretend that it does not exist. 

It happened. 

So let's fix the wrongs and turn them into rights. 

This is why I feel so strongly when it comes to equality for human rights. Let people marry whoever they wish. 



*Disclaimer; the last sentence is my own opinion, and you, my dear readers, do not have to agree with my stance. I thank you for simply reading and understanding where I stand.*