Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advantages of Speaking: Not Audist?

Regarding the perhaps post. I want to thank everyone for their encouraging words and also to those who expressed their opinions. I'm not sure if you'll come back here to see what I have to say, since you're anonymous and may have just stopped by and been spooked away by my last post.

Let me speak to you all here: I don't try to promote one lifestyle over another. I have met so many different people who are happy the way they are, however different or similar their life is to mine.

I do acknowledge the glaringly obvious fact that some lifestyles are easier than others. If you can speak clearly, you are in the majority. But you are also in the privileged. You live easier as a result of that. And the comments I may have made about it being SO much better to be able to communicate with everyone around you- well. I don't feel it's audist. I feel it's common sense. Those people can learn both sign and English and whatever other language they want to.

I'm not saying Deaf can't learn other languages. I personally used to know Latin, Spanish, and French. But I don't speak it. I read and write those languages. What I am saying is it's easier if you can speak.

As I get older, I find it increasingly harder to find my way around in a world that is supposed to be so open to me and which I find increasingly shuts me out and not even on purpose.

I can't go to a drive-through without getting a glare because I've driven past the speaker box, and I get to the window and their faces melt into sympathy when they realize they've misjudged me.

I can't walk down a hill in the dark with a group of laughing friends and join in their conversation efficiently because lipreading is never 100% accurate or reachable.

Even if they were a group of deaf friends or friends who signed, it still does NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. It just changes who my friends are and how it may mean they're more considerate and/or patient or quicker learners of sign than most others are.

There are so many things I can't do, and I'm not content to just accept them for what they are. I'm not content to go to a culture that (while wonderful in its own ways) STILL doesn't solve my problems with 99.9% of the world. I know that if I'm not happy with something then I have to either a) accept it or b) try my hardest to change it in some way. I HAVE tried to accept it but the reality is that I can't imagine going on for 70 or more years disconnected, using paper and pen and an interpreter (not just in school) perpetually. I have to try and CHANGE my life however I can because here's a fact:

I can't change 99.9% of the world. But I can change how I respond to things. And I have. I've used my phone to talk to people more times than I can count and people are often impressed at how fast I type on the phone now. I use paper/pen. But this still doesn't integrate me into the conversations I so long to be involved in. Whipping out your phone to ask a simple, "How are you" to somebody in an elevator who will then look at you for a cue as on how to respond because of course, you aren't talking so they wonder "How do I talk to this person?", takes longer than the actual elevator ride and takes more guts to do than just verbally saying, "How are you?" with a friendly smile and having them say it back to you.

Even as a child I knew there was NO way I could fix my separateness from the world. At the young age of six, I felt the stinging damage. I believe I felt it younger. Not because I was raised in a hearing family. They signed and truly did their best to include me. Not because I was told I was "inferior." In fact, I went to a school where deaf culture was celebrated and seen to be unique. Nothing or nobody made me feel this way. It was just the sum of my experiences and continues to be. As Helen Keller, someone who overcame most amazing odds in a time that was more than willing to put away someone like her in an institute without ever educating her, said in a letter to someone,

"The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus--the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man."

In other words: "Blindness separates you from things, deafness separates you from people."

I long to be INVOLVED. I long to not have to depend on my fluent 15 year old "hearing" sister to voice for me on holidays or with people who don't know sign.

I feel I may be able to learn to speak well enough someday that I may be able to go up to my favorite burger joint and say, "I want a deluxe, with fries" without any awkward hesitance on either my or the cashier's part. And that is when I will feel like I most fit in- when I can look at that person on the elevator and say "second floor, please" without awkwardly reaching across them or showing them two fingers.

And for that, I would give almost anything. I think anyone could relate to wanting to be involved with their own world and being frustrated when you're a 19 year old who has to have people voice for her constantly and they're constantly getting it wrong and making you sound like a different person than you are. Your world isn't deaf or hearing or confined to just your closest friends. It's EVERYONE you encounter everyday.