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Bilingualism Equals No Deaf Identity?

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:02pm

On Jodi’s blog about deaf attacking deaf, an anonymous person wrote, “ She isn’t willing to experience the emotions in her deaf feeling as she doesn’t feel a deaf identify. That is, she can speak in ASL fluently and write well. So, I don’t blame her.

That anonymous person left a second comment, clarifying that the comment was referring to me.

So, is that true only for me, or is that true for all other deaf who write well? Does that also mean any deaf person who is bilingual has no deaf identity? How about MJ Bienvenu, the chair of ASL and Deaf Studies department at Gallaudet University? She has a B.A. in English, and writes extremely well. Does she not have a deaf identity? Or how about Ella Mae Lentz? If I remember right, she also has a B.A. in English. Does that mean Ella doesn’t have a deaf identity?

Let’s widen the implications of that comment and put aside bilingualism. How about people who identify themselves as more than just a deaf person, but also a gay person? A Latino? A bisexual Asian woman? The list can go on ad infinitum.

I’m also left wondering what ‘deaf feelings’ meant in that comment. I’ve always thought that feelings were a human thing. What exactly are ‘deaf feelings’?

I’ve experienced oppression that is unique to the deaf, like the readers of my blog serial know. Does that mean I have to hold onto my anger over that experience, or any other experience of oppression to be considered as a person who has a deaf identity? Is that part of the deaf identity – being forever angry and bitter at the hearing world and letting them know at every opportunity possible?

I would like to think that having a deaf identity is more than just being angry at the hearing. I for one enjoy Peter Cook’s gorgeous ASL poetry. I advocate on behalf of the Deaf Community, so we can get equal communication access. Almost all of my friends are Deaf, and those who are not, know ASL. I laugh at Deaf jokes, and deeply appreciate stories that are unique to us Deaf. I celebrate our diversity, deafness and American Sign Language.

But to that commenter and to some others probably, I don’t have a deaf identity. In other words – I’m Not Deaf Enough.

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