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The Question of d/Deaf Identity

Katherine and I are presenting at SDS this year on Deaf Identity.

We really wanted to talk about it because we have so many questions ourselves, about what is means to be deaf – or Deaf. She wears cochlear implants, I wear hearing aids. She is fluent with ASL, I am not. Neither of us hears much – if at all – when we take our respective devices out.

After working on our presentation for a while, we realized that we don’t have answers at this point. We have a multitude of questions.

And so… this is about just that. The questions that we – deaf women, deaf mothers – have about deaf identity.

Deaf identity What is it?
What is identity? Is it “an instance or point of sameness or likeness”?
I don’t know… is it? Or is it “exact likeness in nature or qualities”?
I don’t know… is it? Or is it ““the state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions”?”
I don’t know… is it? Or is it “the state or fact of being the same one asdescribed”?
I don’t know… is it? Or is it “condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is”?
I don’t know… is it? Or is it “the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another”?
I don’t know… is it? Or is it, “the sense of self”?
If it’s the “sense of self”, then how does being deaf fit in? Or how does being deaf relate to a sense of self?
What is being deaf anyway? Yeah, what is it?
Is it the absence of hearing? Complete and total?
Is it a type of hearing? Partial?
A perception? A synthesis of sound?
A presence of silence? A type of processing?
Can you hear and be deaf? Do you need to be Deaf to be deaf?
What is Deaf, compared to deaf? Isn’t Deaf related to culture?
What is culture? Isn’t it defined as “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generationto another”?
Is it? Or is it, “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group”?
You really are a dictionary, aren’t you? I don’t know; am I?
Maybe you are, maybe you’re not, but the question remains, right? What question?
If culture is the behavior and beliefs characteristic to a particular social, ethnic, or age group, or if it’s sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another, how does this apply to being Deaf? Isn’t it because the Deaf use sign language as their primary form of communication?
But can they hear at all? I don’t know; can they?
Is hearing or the lack of hearing critical to forming a part of Deaf or deaf culture? I don’t know; is it?
I mean, do you need to have an absolute absence of sound to be deaf? I don’t know; do you?
If sign language is an integral part of Deaf culture, then what about people who don’t sign? People who are deaf?
Yes, what about people who have an absence of hearing but don’t know sign language? Are they considered deaf?
Or do they consider themselves deaf? What would make someone consider themselves deaf?
Is it an absence of hearing? Or a presence of silence?
Is it a way of processing sound? Can you hear and still be deaf?
Can you use hearing aids and still be deaf? Or cochlear implants?
Are you still deaf if you use technology that enables your ear and/or brain to hear sound? Or do cease to be deaf once you can hear?
What’s the criteria? IS there criteria?
Or are there only questions? Without answers at this point?
The end Any questions?!

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What Was Great: Society for Disability Studies 2015 #2015SDS | Meriah Nichols

Sunday 19th of August 2018

[…] Katherine and I had a place at the table, asking our questions about d/Deaf Identity. While we’d both like to go back to school at some point to earn our PhD’s, we can’t right […]


Monday 15th of June 2015

This was great coming from two deaf women. I have encountered the same questions being a mommy of two deaf girls. It was wonderful to hear the both of you explore this topic. You guys have a great sense of humor and thank you so much for this post. I really enjoyed it.


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