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?!|
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.