“Yeah, but that’s not a real language. It doesn’t count.” “What do you mean they have a culture?” “Wait, so he can’t hear anything at all? How sad!” “Ohhh, tell him I said…” If I had a dollar for every time I heard any of those statements, I don’t think I’d worry much about paying off my school tuition. I’ve heard it all; from family members, coworkers, bosses and friends, to people I’ve just met. For some reason no one can pinpoint, there’s a stigma attached to Deafness. Hearing people tend to shy away from the Deaf world, keeping it at an arm’s length, yet at the same time they are fascinated by Deafness.
I have yet to come across a single hearing person who doesn’t openly gape at Deaf people painting incredible stories through the air with their hands, evoking emotions from their audience with their facial expressions, and captivating them with their body movements. I’ve seen the moment of understanding light up a person’s face as I explain the rich history, culture, language, and oppression that is woven into the fabric of the Deaf world. I’ve seen the walls of ignorance crumble as they realize that sign language is a true language with linguistic validity, and customs that are passed down through generations, along with community, values, and a mutual understanding through language, are what make a culture.
What hearing people need to realize is that differences between the two worlds shouldn’t be a reason to maintain distance, but an invitation to explore them. And once that happens, I look forward to seeing those individuals struggle to cover up their baffled expressions and inevitable smiles as they realize that after years of fighting through oppression, ignorance, and to be honest, downright absurdity, the Deaf community is anything but silent.
This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.