ON HAND: “Deaf people are sooooo friendly!”

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

I sat in front of the stage, trying not to show how restless I felt.

I was one of three judges for a deaf state-level pageant, trying to endure a ballet performance given by one of the three contestants. We had just watched another contestant do a signed song with her eyes frozen to the floor.

Bored with the dancing, I reflected upon the weekend’s events. The interview process had been grueling–for the judges. Example: A contestant, who could barely sign, was asked what she had found most enjoyable about the pageant experience. She said with genuine awe, “Deaf people are sooooo friendly!” Never mind that she was deaf herself.

Last week, I wrote about how state association conferences aren’t so well attended anymore. This is also true for state pageants, which often have low contestant turnout or are cancelled. In fact, the 2000 Miss Deaf America pageant only had 25 contestants. Nowadays, we’re lucky if we have even two contestants at the state level.

Again, like with the state conferences, I’m not sure why participation is so weak. We could probably come up with a hundred reasons why, but the real question is what we can do to better represent our state associations (and ultimately the national association).

In 1993, members of the Maryland Association of the Deaf approved a resolution, proposed by Robert Weinstock and Astrid Goodstein, that would have changed the pageant structure. Instead of having young women strut their stuff on stage, a female and a male would be chosen to represent the state as “young ambassadors.” They could make presentations, work with legislators and various entities throughout the state, and then enter a national competition with their counterparts from other states.

When I first learned of this idea, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Unfortunately, this bill never made it through at the national convention, but I’m still convinced by this idea.

I’m convinced that having not one, but -two- representatives would command more attention from hearing legislators and community leaders. It’s hard to take someone seriously when she wins a contest based on how good her evening gown and talent presentations were.

The ambassadors would definitely bring an updated image to the state associations. And trust me, I’d enjoy the ambassador competition far more than ballet or signed songs.

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