Truly My Thoughts

This introductory article originally appeared at i711.com.

I’ve been part of the Deaf community for 30 years. If I also include my family’s years within the Deaf community, then it’s nearly 250 years of the “Deaf experience” that I’ve been raised with.

However, my family’s experiences are quite diverse. My mother didn’t learn sign language until she was 17, and attended public schools with no support services until she transferred to a deaf school as a junior. My dad attended a deaf school for his entire life, and was raised using American Sign Language. My stepdad attended an oral deaf school until junior high, then transferred to a deaf school where he learned ASL and met my mom. I attended public school for most of my education, other than a year at a deaf school, and have been signing since I was six months old. I also have many other deaf relatives, most who attended deaf schools with some public schooling thrown into the mix.

Each and every one of us has vastly different careers and lives. And of course, there are my hearing relatives who have lived with the Deaf community by way of my parents or extended relatives. Needless to say, I’ve seen quite a bit within the Deaf community, both firsthand and through my family’s eyes.

PL 94-142 was passed on my first birthday. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed when I was in high school, enforced when I was in college. I remember life before TTYs (we were too poor to own a TTY until I was five years old), before closed captions, before relay services, before e-mail, and before everything else that I use daily today. It never ceases to amaze me to see how much the Deaf community has evolved over the decades – yet has managed to remain so much the same. And this is precisely why I never will tire of writing about my rich culture and community, its nuances and pitfalls, and its amazing traits.

I’ve been writing since I was 12, but it wasn’t until I was 14 when I wrote my first article about being Deaf: “The Day in the Life of a Hearing Impaired [sic] Student.” The article was a humorous, tongue-in-cheek look at what it was like to be a Deaf student at a public high school, and the stereotypes that I had to put up with being in a hearing environment. The most recent article I wrote was about having to put up with the stereotype of being a poor tipper simply because I’m Deaf. See? I told you not much has changed over the years.

For as long as I’ve been writing about the Deaf community, I’ve had the luxury of meeting so many people with so many stories to tell. They’re folks from all walks of life, of all ages, and of all communication choices. Each of us have had shared experiences, whether it be the experience of being discriminated against, celebrating our diversity, being brought together by a common language and culture, or simply being humans.

It is those people and their experiences that I choose to honor through my writings. There’s also another reason I keep on writing about the Deaf community: there are simply too many issues or stories that need to be shared. I hope you will enjoy reading my thoughts and stories as much as I enjoy writing them.

Copyrighted material. This article can not be copied, reproduced, or redistributed without the written consent of the author.

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