It’s been nine years since I walked into my first ASL class. I didn’t realize that it has actually been that long! I feel so old!
But anyways.. nine years ago I walked in to meet, unbeknownest to me, an astonished teacher who though it incredible that my deaf friend and I did not know but a few words in ASL. In the past she had worked at a school for the deaf. I think perhaps seeing students who did not know ASL was a new thing for her.
In her class, like pretty much every ASL class out there, we spent our ninth day (or so) watching Sound and Fury. It is about two cousins, both deaf, who’s parents look into the possibility of providing a cochlear implant for their child. The big difference is that one set of parents is hearing and the other set is deaf. The child of the hearing parents gets implanted while the child of the deaf parents do not. The general feeling on the show is that they wanted their child to be like them. The deaf parents felt part of a community. They felt like they could participate in their child’s education, they felt like they could communicate with their child. The hearing parents felt the same way. I don’t think either side really understood each other because the communities themselves were different.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this movie. I think there are other aspects of it generally mixed in their when making a decision such as the emotional and educational development of the child. i.e. you may develop better emotionally (have a better self-esteem if you can interact with your peers), but you may receive a better education mainstream. It also may be the opposite, but that’s what I generally tend to see.
I think in general ASL classes are big advocates of people who are deaf. They want them to succeed, they want to share the language, it’s very optimistic all around. So I think it’s typical to have a lot of mixed feelings after watching this movie. These feelings may even be biased and empathize with the deaf parents (you’re taking an ASL class after all!).
I personally don’t like the fact that I feel like I’m rejected by the dominate culture because I can’t hear. Why should I get something that helps me hear a little better and be more like the mainstream? Diversity is supposed to be a good thing, and yet we reject people every day based on diversity.
My husband once told me that people are optimistic. They don’t think things are as bad as they are. They don’t realize that “yes, Lisa really is very deaf.” So they don’t realize that certain things need to happen in order for me to follow along in conversations with multiple people in noisy environments. Some people even try to talk in my profoundly deaf ear (the one without the hearing aid) because they think that’s my “good ear.” I wish people would not be shy and ask me questions for goodness sake. But I guess they usually have to be in a comfortable environment to do such a thing and usually that would be with my close friends than with me.
But I still think that’s not the case with most people. I think my husband picks good friends. But there are still millions of people out there that just don’t care or would rather me conform. I’m not a cookie cutter person for crying out loud.
So why should I get implanted? For the people who don’t care? I don’t want to. For the people who are optimistic? I might. I just don’t like rewarding the people who are rude. For myself? Communication with these types of people would be easier. But there’s also a culture that I already can communicate very well with.
But then again, I’m rejected by that very sub-culture because I can hear somewhat. The fact that I talk is another ground for being rejected. I will never be appreciated for who I am even though people secretly might tell me they wish they could talk well. It doesn’t make sense sometimes. But then again, it does. Why do something where people would expect more from you than you can provide? I ask myself that question every day in hope that I can answer it. Most of the time I can’t. I do it because that’s the only thing I know. There are days when I go that way. For example, if I’m in a foreign country where there are a lot of accents I do not understand. I go sans voice. Communication IS easier, amazingly.
I’m never going to be appreciated for who I am, the choices I make. Thus it should be for me. I shouldn’t try to conform to what either culture thinks. I feel like if I get one, I may be more and more depressed and lonely. By trying to conform and accept the values of the dominate culture, I will never be a part of that culture. But then again, I’m not accepted by the deaf culture either. I don’t think I ever will be, no matter how happy sign language itself makes me.
Which brings me down to the reason I might do it for myself and why I’m more flexible in the idea of getting implanted. I recently got married. In effect, I am starting my own family. My children will either be hearing or lose some hearing later in life. I already have my communication tool for the deaf community, why not get a little bit better communication tool for the hearing community? I will be spending most of my time around hearing people, because let’s face it, there are more of them.
*note* The deaf mother and the deaf child who didn’t get implanted in this movie, got implanted later less than six years later. I think there’s a documentary on that.