Saturday, September 20

Yes, I am hearing (guilty)

I am going to give my opinions of how I felt surrounded by a group of wonderful Deaf ladies while I was the only hearing person around. I hope I do not offend anyone...

I went with a friend to a small gathering of Deaf women. This was my first experience that was more than 2 or 3 Deaf people in the same room other than my daughter with her friends. I knew what I was getting into, I knew it would be difficult for me to follow the conversations, so I tried to pick a good seat that I could see everyone. I'm not very good at sideways signing and I know that so I picked an end seat so that at least the signing would not be right beside me. Anyway, my friend introduces me to everyone and I'm watching everyone sign at what seemed to me as their fastest speed ever! I felt like a Texan plopped into New York and trying to keep up. If this was a group of hearing people I would have asked them to stop and take a breath!! All of these people except for my friend, I have never seen before. I was still trying to get used to how they signed and just watch their hands.

About 3 or 4 minutes after we arrive, I could tell two women were talking about me and then one turned to ask me a question. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights and I guess I did not respond fast enough because another lady then asked me if I was hearing. I responded, "yes" and then the looks of pity and "OooooH"s went around the table. Then the conversation seemed to slow down and one lady asked me after a couple of sentences, "understand?". I wanted to say, "yes, I understand -- I'm not stupid, I'm hearing", but I didn't - I jumped into the conversation and did my best. One lady asked me if I would prefer that she used her voice, please don't patronize me. I didn't need voices, I just needed to familiarize myself with their accents. They asked me about my children and where they go to school, etc. I normally don't say that my children are adopted unless adoption comes up, but it seems that when I am around other Deaf people I feel like I must justify my signing skills with the fact that we have only had Rebecca for a year. I made myself promise that I would not bring this up this time - I wanted them to accept me for me and not the fact that I have adopted two children, one Deaf. After I say that my daughter is 10, I feel that everyone is saying in their head - "another hearing parent that can't sign as well as she should for having a 10 year old". Maybe this is all in my head and it probably is-I'm really self-conscious about my signing and want to do well. My friend speaks up about 2.5 hours into the visit that we have adopted Rebecca. From that moment on, I felt more accepted and they realized I am trying to learn the language and not a bad parent. They talked more 1 on 1 with me after that.

It was a great visit and I learned some new variations of signs. I didn't get home until 1am. It was a pretty exhausting day. I had my last day at my job that I had been with for almost 5 years. This was my dream job--but my life has changed with the girls and I need to be home more, so I am changing jobs. I am going to miss the people that I worked with considerably and it was a difficult decision for me. So, emotionally I was drained when I arrived at the group. The girls had a sleep over when I was at the group. Rebecca did not want me to go and her sister would be with her, so I felt like she would be fine alone. She was the only Deaf person at the sleep over and her Ushers does not make sleepovers any easier. I told her sister and the adults that were at the sleep over to let her sleep near the doors and light if possible so that she doesn't trip over people if she has to get up and go to the bathroom. She said that she had a great time and I was glad that she did it on her own. I guess you have to let go sometimes, even though it is hard.


Anonymous said...

Hi - I do not know how much of Deaf culture has been explained to you. There is *much* more information sharing in Deaf culture. Maybe that is because Hearing culture tends to withold information from Deaf. For example, it used to be common for Deaf to ask each other how much was paid for a car or house or other "big ticket" item. This is how we learned the difference between advertised prices and actual sales prices and how much we could expect to get through negotiation. The internet may have made some difference with some Deaf. Anyway, you are likely to be asked *anything* and it is rude to simply refuse to answer. If you do not wish to answer, the usual method is to change the subject or evade the question.

In Deaf culture, much more personal information is usually included in an introduction, such as if you are Hearing, where you went to school if you are Deaf, where you work, and so on. By Deaf culture norms, you probably should have included the fact that you have just adopted a Deaf child with Usher's when you were introduced. BTW, Usher's is fairly common in the Deaf community and some of the people you were visiting with may have family experience with Usher's.


Lolypup said...

When I read your post, I was like WOW! She gets it but probably dosnt know it yet.

Now imagine your a deaf person, in a room full of hearing people. You sit directly in the middle so you can see everyone, all the lips and sound is going around you at speeds unimaginable for you to pick up enough cues to understand. Your eyes get tired, your mind gets tired, its exhaussting being deaf around hearing people.

They give you that look, "oh your deaf, im so sorry! and then "SHOULD I SPEAK LOUDER, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"

You attended an informaal get together, imagine your life every day like that.

Thats what its like being deaf. Welcome to our world.

KittyDobson said...

Hi there, you dont need to post this in public, I just didnt know another way to contact you other than this, I found your blog today while doing research on BSL for a project. I live in Ontario and am studying to be an interpreter (yes i left you another comment about websites!!!) I was reading all your old posts and you make my heart swell! I mean you are such a strong brave woman doing a wonderful thing in and for the world and for the children you have taken into love. I have issues putting into words how fantastic i think what you are doing is. ASL is a wonderful language and huge struggle to learn and adapt to because so much of it is culture, you're taking in so much more than words. With your hands you make letters with your letters you make words and with words you share all you know. I have worked with a deaf-blind boy (suffering from charge syndrome) for 3 years now and its true blind is not blind there are so many different levels and deaf is not deaf. CIs are such an issue some deaf are extremely opposed and I can understand you fighting a battle with yourself about how to provide the best for you little one its hard to find out how to balance two worlds with one system and two languages with one meaning. I think you are doing fantastic things and are truly inspirational. I myself am only 19 and do not have any children. I hope that one day I will be blessed with little ones when the time is right, I have looked after and worked with kids for years I have often thought about adopting a special needs child, for they are truly wonders and not special in the way many people look at them. They are bright and gifted in so many unsuspected ways, but I do not know if I could be strong enough but I know there are children who have been turned away simply because they are deaf and I would love to welcome one to my home (again when the time is right) and share with them culture and language they may not have seen before. You show with faith and patience that this can work and with perseverance not only work but thrive! Like I said before, words fail me :) Reading your blog, I just want to reach out to you and tell you what awesome kids you must be bringing up and how lucky they are! If you do use standard (if there is such a thing) asl there is an awesome site called its a free video email service that is clear and fast and if you ever wanted practice with someone else who is learning I would love to help you out!!! Thank you for sharing your fantastic story, trials and triumphs. If you would like to contact me my email is
Have a fantastic day and again, thank you for sharing.

Mother of Bilingual Deaf and Hearing Children said...

I am so proud of you. And impressed that your command of the language enabled you to interact as you did. Don't be afraid to provide information about yourself and your family. I do. It gives context and provides a demonstration of my ASL skills that may result in people modifying their signing to help maximize my understanding. It was nice of the person to ask if you wanted voicing, not just voicing without asking. This was a wonderful opportunity to use and improve your ASL skills. I am glad you had this experience and glad these ladies included you. You are an ASL bird taking wing, with support from your friend and community. You will be soaring in no time by continuing to interact with Deaf adults as much as possible. You are well on your way. Hands waving.

Dianrez said...

I'm awestruck. A parent braving the Deaf community like that and surviving. (kidding!) Yes, I am impressed! Keep on like that and you could find yourself a fulltime worker in the Deaf community as a valuable friend.

Anonymous said...

I agree with lolypup...
When you reach your frustration point with your daughter when she doesn't want to go to a family reunion or shows no interest in attending an event, think back to this experience and remember that she experiences this every. single. day.

Kudos to you for surviving!