Monday, July 30, 2012

What Is It Like to Be Deaf?

I am finally back to my normal blogging. No more baby-oriented posts other than my weekly pregnancy update and soon, weekly/monthly baby update about my son from now on, I promise! I am sure some of you are cheering for happiness and saying whew, she has baby brain out of her system!

Sign for DEAF 

So, having said that....I want to share something that have come across my way about being Deaf. I really like how this author is honest and open about the struggles we do face as Deaf people. I don't want to edit or correct the sentence structure and some grammatical mistakes because if I do that then I will be taking away the meaning of this author's experience. I am sure that you will understand this short propose, and get a feel of our struggles. 

This is credited to Kelly Anderson's friend (Once I find out the name of her friend then I will properly cite this): 

What is it like to be Deaf?

People have asked me. How are you Deaf? Deaf? Oh, hmm... how do I explain that? Simple: I can't hear. No, wait... it is much more than that. It is similar to a goldfish in a bowl, always observing things going on. People talking at all times. It is like a man on his own island Among foreigners. Isolation is no stranger to me. Relatives say hi and bye, but I sit for 5 hours among them, taking great pleasure at amusing babies or being amused by TV. Reading books, resting, helping out with food. Natural curiosity perks up upon seeing great laughter, crying, anger. Inquiring only to meet with a "Never mind", "Nothing" or "Oh, it's not important". Getting a summarized statement of the whole day. I'm supposed to smile to show my happiness. Little do they know how truly miserable I am. People are in control of language usage, I am at loss and really uncomfortable there. Always feeling like an outsider among the hearing people, even though it was not their intention. They are always assuming that I am part of them by my physical presence, not understanding the importance of communication. Facing the choice between Deaf Event weekend or a family reunion. Facing the choice between the family commitment and Deaf friends. I must make the choices constantly, any wonder why I choose Deaf friends??? I get such great pleasure at the Deaf clubs, before I realize it, it is already 2:00 am, whereas I anxiously look at the clock every few minutes at the Family Reunion. With Deaf people, I feel so normal, our communication flows back and forth. Catch up with little trivials, our daily life, our frustration in the bigger world, seeking the mutual understanding, contented smiles and laughter are musical. So magical to me, so attuned to each other's feelings. True happiness is so important. I feel more at home with Deaf people of various color, religion, short or tall than I do among my own hearing relatives. And you wonder why? Our language is common. We understand each other. Being at loss of control of the environment that is communication, people panic and retreat to avoid Deaf people like the plague. But Deaf people are still human beings with dreams, desires, and needs to belong, just like everyone else. That's how I am Deaf.

NTD (National Theater for the Deaf) 

This is why Deaf people feel an instantaneous connection with each other. We are the one that silently carries  the burden of isolation, frustration, and loneliness of living in the hearing world. We are always on the outside. We have a harder time connecting with our hearing friends and family members. It is not that we don't want to connect with them. We desperately do. It is difficult to be sitting among them talking over each other, laughing, and not fully participating in that conversation. We have to ask a person, who is able to sign, what is going on. Most of the time, we are told summary of what is going on, or even worse, be told that nothing is going on. Sometimes, we are fortunate to have a person signing for us for a few minutes only to have her or him stop signing and forget about us. It is not intentional on their part. It just happens.

When we get upset about this; we are viewed as a bad guy for not having a positive attitude, and be told that we need to suck it up. Little they do realize is not always fun to be sitting there reading a book as if I am a part of the decor rather than a part of them.

So when we go to a Deaf event, it is as if the whole other world opens up! I understand what they are talking about. I can see what everybody are talking about. I can see what a couple is whispering about across the room. I see kids signing to each other about nonsense while giggling and screaming and running amok. Deaf people come up to me and say HEY! There's no invisible barrier between me and them. I can connect with them immediately. It feels so good. I don't feel isolated, lonely, and rejected. There's no awkwardness among us. There's no anxiety in me. I feel less pressured to understand what is not being understood. There's a world of pressure off my shoulders. I am a part of them, and they are a part of me. 

Even if I am not at a Deaf event, when a Deaf person comes up to me and ask me if I am Deaf then I happily replied Yes I am Deaf!  Then we talk for good twenty minutes to fill up the social bar within ourselves until next time we meet other Deaf person. This is why Deaf people reach out to each other all of the time. It is a mutual understanding we have. We don't have to explain to each other why we are frustrated, tired, and lonely. We already know the obstacles we face. We have experienced discrimination. All of that is already known and spoke through our eyes once we see each other. It's a nice break from our daily grind of living in the hearing world.

It is not that we dislike being with hearing people. It is just that they don't understand what it is like to be Deaf.

Does this mean that Deaf people don't want to be around with hearing friends and families? Absolutely not.

We do have plenty of hearing friends and families that we love being with! I do enjoy being with hearing friends, and my families. I even enjoy making new hearing friends even if they don't know sign language.

Matter of fact, I just spent the other night hanging out with our downstairs neighbors playing a board game and enjoying the cook-out food. Did they know sign language? No. Not a stitch of it! Yet we managed to have a good time together! It was a really good feeling to be invited, and to see them try.

This is why I know that most of hearing people do try their best. I keep this in my mind and try to forge ahead while focusing on the good rather than the bad. It is not always easy yet at the same time, it is worth trying and staying in the moment to be with people I care and love about. None of this is their fault that I am Deaf. It is not their fault that they don't know sign language fluently. It is not their fault that they don't know the obstacles that comes with being Deaf. Sometimes people are just not sure what to do with a person that they can't communicate with very well. I can't blame them for that.

Some Deaf people prefer not to have this mindset and embrace their Deaf family (often close-knitted friends) over their given family. Do I blame them for that? Not really. I am fortunate that my family is able to sign even though they do forget to sign during social events sometimes, and I know at least they try. I am fortunate that my husband's family is willing to at least try talk to me and include me somehow. My hearing friends, even though not all of them know sign language, do make an effort to make me feel as a part of their world. I may not fit in all way with them, and I have made a peace with this. Not many Deaf people have the same experiences that I do. This is why I understand how some of them prefer to stay in the world that they feel comfortable with and understand and feel a part of it.

1 comment :

  1. Wow, what an interesting perspective. Thank you so much for sharing this! I apologize that I haven't tried harder to get to you know. I realize now how much I missed out!