My friend Meredith is teaching a class over on Clickin’ Moms – check it out – it’s more than interesting; it’s fascinating. I don’t want to talk much about it since that would be giving it away and I think you should just sign up since it’s worth it – but the major thing she is talking about in her course is telling the truth. That is, the truths that we tell people and how that’s reflected in our photography.
I have been thinking about that a lot lately – truth telling. I think it’s because here on this blog I talk about being deaf all over the place. It’s in the bio, it’s in the About section – I say it over and over, right?
Why do I talk about being deaf so much?
I think I like saying it partially because I have this fierce desire to connect with other deaf folks – I want people to know who I am in that regard right off the bat in case they are too. I also want to help normalize being young and deaf. This isn’t an old people thing, y’all. Anyone can be deaf and I hope I show through my own life example that it’s soooo not the end of the world. You can be deaf and be and do anything you want – and I hope to offer that to parents of kids who are deaf who read this blog.
And then – in deeper vein that you can’t politely talk about very often, it’s also a matter of reclaiming my own identity. You see, I was ashamed for so long in a way few people can comprehend about being deaf. I was ashamed to my marrow, I questioned my worth as a person, the validity of my own existence. It took working in Berkeley and being around the powerful disabled community there for me to really understand what disability – all disability, including my own – is about. Which is to say, it’s about a new type of diversity, it’s a different way of seeing, feeling, navigating, hearing this world – no more and no less and like all components of diversity, it makes our world stronger and richer.
So I talk about being deaf.
I talk about being deaf for those reasons on this blog but in real life, I don’t talk about it very much, if at all. The reason that I don’t is mostly because it’s so intensely uncomfortable to go through all the stuff that people just don’t know what to do with.
People don’t know how to handle deaf people.
They don’t know how to handle deaf people – they wonder if they should try and make up signs for me? Like hey, “sun!” and point to the sky and make up something that they think looks like the sun. Or pull out their broken finger spelling? (I always feel pretty embarrassed for them)
Or people do crazy shit like over-enunciate while talking EXXXXXXXTTTTTTRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA SSSSLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLYYYYY. Oh my God. I had this former co-worker that would say stuff to me like, “do you have your hearing aids in, Meriah? DO YOU HAVE YOUR HEARING AIDS IN? ARE THEY IN???” before she’d talk to me, or others who would never, ever, but NEVER talk unless I was looking directly at them.
You can’t blame me for not wanting to talk about it when I get such asinine responses, can you?
I normally just wade through – I lipread, I pay attention, I do my best. When I’m tired, I turn off. And that’s that.
Here on the beach though, where I spend so much time without my hearing aids on, it’s different. I can’t hear almost anything. If Mikey is around when people interact with us, I might wing it, but if he’s not, I find that it is easier to just tell people right off the bat… and then I get to have fun wincing through the responses.
But back to the subject:
telling the truth
My being deaf is something that is enormous in the context of who I am as a person. As a fundamental part of my physical identity, it should be something that I always tell people in real life, but it’s not, simply because I don’t feel like dealing with people’s reactions that end up making things uncomfortable in my relationship with them.
They don’t treat me normally anymore. And since I enjoy being treated normally, I don’t want to tell them.
My friend Meredith is talking about how truth telling is reflected in our photography in her course, and like I said, I think you should check it out.
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Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.