Tuesday, June 27, 2006

317: good luck, rt

Bon Voyage, Turdblossom (just kidding): Good luck to Ridor on his trip to the NAD conference.

Some have criticised me on my friendship with Ridor. I don't really understand why. Here is an individual with quite a sense of wanting to cherish the Deaf community - all of us. I understand he's got a history: so does Rita Skeeter. But Rita used her powers for good in the end! So there's hope. (Ridor, your drag name is staring you in the face.)

Plus... does anyone see how cool this is? We have a group of Deaf people now who blog about news, regularly. As a writer I'm not gonna discourage that... and I hope a lot of Deaf people see Ricky's website and start their own to bring their voices into the picture and help people get over their Fear of English (or hell, start ASL blogs like Joey's.) Now THAT would be an example of the power of Deafhood.

In more interesting news. My foot is swollen with a rather stupid infection, so Erfo, former Foot Infection Victim, has provided bathing advice. I go to soak (I think I look ridiculous.)

A Tropical Depression may be forming off the coast of North Carolina. It seems a bit high up for a TD to be forming. There's one already on the way to hit Asia. So the storm season is well begun, after TS Alberto recently.

THE RAPE OF DEAF PEOPLE: Rape is an expression of power from one person over another, usually formed sexually (but not basically different from one formed, say, from less nuanced violence, like a bat over the head.) In my last post I talked about Deaf people's horrifying image of Deaf children getting experimented on. I decided to post a picture from one protest I went to in the UK in Manchester. We were protesting a conference of CI doctors and practicioners, because at this time it was coming out that many Deaf kids were dying after surgery due to complications. In the US they had caught the infection issue, but not everywhere were there stringent medical standards. Our goal was to convince people to at least discuss the option of waiting till some standard of maturity where the kid could participate in the decision-making process, instead of growing up stuck with an option they might not want. Maybe rape is too strong a word. But we are the people who know what it's like; maybe our opinion needs to be listened to. And when the kid doesn't have a choice - what else would you call it? My parents gave me the choice. I said no. I'm not doing too bad, and I'm happy the way I am. I accept others might be happier with implants. I think they would also be happier with the respect of being offered the choice. Otherwise - you know - we really are disabled.

This photo is from the protest. What do you see in the middle? A coffin. That says a lot. A child's coffin; it was so small.

It was an interesting protest. Of course some people got carried away, but it was pretty powerful while it lasted.

Friday, June 16, 2006

316: rainmound and the demon queen

The Demon Queen is a friend of mine at work; she had the habit of criticising the fantasy novels I still occasionally read ("He stared up the mountain trail, conjuring a fireball to melt the snow.") Sometimes it's REALLY nice to think of evil being localized. Anyways, she made fun of a book with the back cover blurb bleating "The Demon Queen Attacks!" Then she walked around the office trying to look like a Demon Queen. It was hilarious.

This is an essay to talk about cochlear implants, and my own internal wrangling with the concept of Cochlear Implants. I guess they are part of the Deafhood series, but they don't feel like it, because CI and Deafhood really have nothing to do with each other. This is why Deafhood has such a hard problem dealing with CI's. The closest connection they have is that CI is used as an excuse NOT to discover Deafhood, to in some ways pretend an individual isn't Deaf (even though the contracts each family or child must sign, to get serviced, say clearly "I know my child will still be Deaf.") But this is not true. The individual is still different from others in the world. They still have special equipment. If something goes wrong with it, they are as Deaf as you and I. (And isn't that yet another reason to learn ASL? I'd never get an implant without knowing ASL first: it is the only thing which would make me independent.)

Yet the more and more people get them, the more and more I think about it, which is why I had a discussion with the Demon Queen about children and parents and cochlear implants.

Appropriate to her title, the Demon Queen enjoys playing Devil's Advocate. Talking with her can be like verbal fencing, as you dance around all sides of an issue. In a good conversation I can flesh out her thoughts on all sides of things. We go for little walks for break, and get soda, and gossip a little, and then one of us begins thinking of something...

I had opportunity to visit a Cochlear Implant center recently. I saw so many children with implants... I do not like the way they look; I never have. They were designed by hearing people, without much consultation to Deaf people... I'm sure we could design something much more attractive. Especially for women, with all the gear women usually have on their heads anyway. But the word opportunity kept coming up, in posters, in conversations, a word which I have also had much in my mind lately and which hung in my mind as I spoke to the Queen. How to best ensure opportunities for the future? What chances should I take? How do I measure what's right and what's not? Do I want a Cochlear Implant? Would I be better off if I spent a couple years learning to use these crude machines, having the surgery? Would I spend the rest of my life imagining small cracks radiating out into my skull, victim of incompetence? (There are quite a few such victims. Some have become leading speakers in the field.)

The Demon Queen took the position of Opportunity, accidentially, during this discussion, amplifying the thoughts in my skull. Should she have children, would she provide them with the implant? (I did not ask, were she a Deaf woman, would her opinion be the same?) But Opportunity guided her response. The best opportunities, the most chances for Development.

Some of the strongest responses I had, I didn't speak. I'm not very good, yet, in conversation. But it seemed to me that Life itself guided the chances for development, and people with different lives most often were able to do the most special things. It seemed to me that all that was being done was giving the child the widest possible field for life to happen within. No guarantee the baby will have improvement in their hearing, after all; they quite possibly will be even more Deaf than before. But they will have the chance. Is this worth it? I don't know. Frankly, I wake up in the morning these days and look outside my window and think, from the way every politician's talking, and global warming, and everything else, we might all be living in chaos tomorrow.

Should that happen, I'd rather know ASL. It doesn't die when the batteries run out (and when will someone make rechargeable hearing aid batteries? They have them for implants. I could possibly quickly work up a solar-charger knockup...) But if we had a guarantee, signed on the bottom by the Goddess, that the world would continue tomorrow? That the situation wouldn't change? That I am the proud beneficiary of a world dependent on telephones and breathless executives?

Is my Deaf identity so thin that I'm afraid of a rather silly-looking thing implanted in my skull?

Ridor had his "borg" comment. We're already borgs, all of us. We all have blackberries and sidekicks. We probably going sterile from the radiation at our waist (anyone remember THAT article?) And when was the last time you had a Year Without Computers? Many of us already have hearing aids. What's so different? Is it just a slippery slope? For me, one of the biggest fears is becoming eternally dependent. I can't fix this thing. I can't put it in and take it out. I'll always be dependent on someone else, should something happen. (I've learned to do some things with my hearing aid... which is cool. But they never teach us how to do it ourselves, have you noticed? It's another form of oppression, like the CI's woman I knew who was very, very intelligent but still waited for the handicapped bus... at the age of 23... I stomped away from her, furious, and walked stiffly across the field...)

But what about a baby born to hearing parents? Who didn't have time to learn ASL? Working two jobs? Unless we're all willing to start a fund to support such parents while they learn, should we consider that a cochlear implant might keep them from developing problems due to lack of stimulation from the communication center of their brain?

I have so many questions, after that conversation; the Demon Queen seemed almost startled by her own vehemence, and I think she too was thoughtful. Any answers out there, Gentle Readers? One thing seems clear: if Cochlear Implants are the guarantors of Opportunity, then ASL - and Deaf culture - are guarantors of Independence. And it is quite possibly to choose one over the other.

But you know why they don't go together? And this is my theory... but I think it's true. Because some assholes treated Deaf children like lab rats. They decided the children shouldn't learn ASL. They decided to EXPERIMENT. To experiment on something, you need to remove all other variables to determine their success. They had two choices. They could include the Deaf community to make sure all the children knew ASL, so that their results would not vary. They could force those children to not learn ASL. Either of these would have sufficed for an experiment. They chose the latter. As a result Cochlear Implants were a technology, a yong to the chinese word, without the Deaf ti, or foundation. Even today, the most horrific images for Deaf people are of Deaf children getting experimented on. Had they involved the Deaf community in this, would we still be having this conversation? Or would the equipment be different in a fundamental way, uniting both Opportunity and Independence?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

315: tuesday news and coffee roundup

Had some positive responses to my previous post about interpreters - please keep it coming guys, we have ingenuity and drive! I note a great Deafhood-related post at deafdc.com from Shane Feldman (my former Big Brother at MSSD!)

Have been working on the latest DITC project. It will involve a movie. I'm looking forward to distributing it and hoping it makes a difference.

In news: let's all get ready for poverty as our wages fail to keep up with price increases and the government does nothing.

More sad news from the Concord Monitor:
he Laurent Clerc Academy, a charter school for deaf children in Concord, is closing after its first full year due to low enrollment. The school had six students this year, three of whom are the children of the school's director and only full-time teacher, a married couple.

The elementary school, which operates in American Sign Language and written English, also had trouble recruiting its target population: Only half of its students are deaf.

The only public school dedicated to sign language in the state, the Laurent Clerc Academy was unable to hit its target goal of 10 children, despite over a half-million dollars in state and federal aid. As the second New Hampshire charter school to close its doors in a year, it also illustrates how difficult it can be to start a school from scratch.

Last summer, the state's first charter school, the Franklin Career Academy, shut down because of lack of money. Officials say they hope to reopen. Laurent Clerc officials hope their shutdown is temporary too.

"We'd open in a heartbeat if we had a sufficient number of students enrolled," Director Susan Brule said.

Maybe someone knows people who haven't heard about this academy? It sounds like an interesting experiment.

Pootie Corner: I was horrified to hear about this terrible Deaf Cat Experience. Contrast to this article from the Frederick News-Post.

Friday, June 09, 2006

314: war boy

Would like to point out a serious issue which is probably going to face all of us at some point. The NAD is advocating for Federal employees, as per this article by Paul Singleton. It's a great read and an important issue. I'd like to open it up a little bit. What is the issue? Working, and getting ahead, as Deaf people and professionals, when we have to pay for interpreters.

It will at some point hit all of us. It's hitting me now, as I struggle to move ahead in work. It will hit all of us who have any motivation and any desire to get ahead. I think it often kills the motivations and desires of Deaf people knowing this wall is there. Why NOT stay home and take SSI when you know the "cone" of class for Deaf people is a lot more narrow than the one you get at Mary's Dairy? New wealth these days comes from corporate executive boards. Maybe you have the drive to be on one of these boards, participate at this level. Maybe you have the talent. How do you get there and convince the corporation you're worth it, as a Deaf person? Do you stay past the time when your interpreters leave? Do you bitch and whine about not having interpreters, thus giving people "a certain impression" of Deaf people? Is it about just accepting that life isn't always fair? Or maybe just being a little bull-headed? We have to face reality; the small businessman is really struggling these days.

Women used to have to be much better than men just to get jobs; these days there's still salary inequity. They created Universities and colleges where they wouldn't have to put up with the inequity during the process of learning (of course, we're supposed to enjoy learning while mainstreamed.) People complain about Deaf people being part of Deaf society and creating a "deaf world" - well, so what! At least there's a place Deaf people can be the best we are, without having to fight against the strength of having to be worth the cost of people's natural doubt and the accounting department's whining about having to pay for CERTIFIED interpreters and the continual little crunchy bits of Audism. And as you can read from Ridor's post today, even mainly Deaf organizations have problems within, with people abusing their power and connections, and these problems usually get amplified out of all proportion (because Deaf people never see that Hearing organizations have the same complainers, whiners, theives and scoundrels, I think. Plus we like gossip.) Working in the hearing world, we still have to be better than other employees just to stay on top. Faster, so we can keep up with what's going on when it's tough to lipread many people. We have to hedge our attendance to events so we don't have to request interpreters and make people complain about paying for them - we have to consider if we have the energy for that hassle. Consciously or unconsciously, we avoid situations where we'd have to work with others - in the corporate environment, team players are key, and that means communication, and that means... interpreters.

Mr. Singleton's article doesn't address any of this - he just wants to get interpreters so that Deaf Federal employees can get management training. But management is always in endless, endless meetings, which are endlessly expensive to interpret-it really does affect the bottom line. I have some ideas for using technology which I have to think about which might help provide a solution for some things, but interpreters will still probably be better than anything I can come up with for a long time. This isn't a glass ceiling; this is a brick wall - unless you somehow seduce the CFO, work extremely hard to be "worth" all this... ironically, once you get past a certain level, your salary could probably cover a full-time interpreter. (Which is one reason Deaf people are so concerned about the quality of education, standards, work, etc. at Gallaudet-it is a great tool for development for Deaf people, but we all see room for big improvement right now - and we all dream of a place we can work and develop without the constant struggle against people who don't care and don't understand and frankly, don't want or have the time to.)

Please understand - I'm a guy with a pretty good hearing aid which I keep in good condition, I can lipread, and I was DEAD and in migraine-headache-city after 20 minutes last night without an interpreter. The work I was doing is important work, and therefore worth it, but I just wanna make the point that growing up I was the Baby Jane of every audiologist I've ever met, people give me annoying compliments on "how good I speak" (which, to me when I'm depressed, just points out how good I DON'T speak), and this is still a big struggle. There have to be better solutions, but this is really what the field of Deaf studies is for - putting the issues of Deaf people in context, and starting discussions to find solutions to our changing position in the world. Print this out. Share it with people at work. Ask their opinions. Tell me what they think. I'm curious.

I think a big start is going to be finding ACTIVE ways to let go of our need of interpreters. It's still going to be a lot of work for us, yes, I know, it's not fair, they don't have to do it, welcome to the universe. I get really tired of seeing Deaf people refuse to do anything that doesn't have an interpreter, see a movie that isn't subtitled. NO TERP? ME WONT! Sometimes you do something because you have to do it, you know? But we have to find ways that let us a) KEEP OUR PRIDE AS DEAF PEOPLE b) GIVE US OUR DIGNITY and c) GIVE US OUR INDEPENDENCE. The ADA is meant to be a tool, not a crutch; a law, not a weapon; a reason, not an excuse. Be honest about your communication limitations, but be verbal about them. Don't expect other people to advocate for you. Be friendly; ask for written copies of everything that's said if necessary. But don't not be involved because there's no interpreter. I think that's a start... but it's not going to solve the corporate problem.

Sorry this is a long post. I love this issue. I wrote a dissertation beginning to analyze it.

Off to work and later tonight to meet my sister. Zlotte is ill. I'm in a hurry, but still writing like mad. Love to you all. For zlottian entertainment today, follow my trail on Wikipedia. (each of those words was a separate link to an article I read this morning. Ah, and I forgot these, about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Very interesting knowing the truth about him. I am not sure I think his life was worth the death of a child. Should have been another way.)

THIS was also definitely food for thought.

Does anyone know anything about this guy?

And this is kind of... scary. But a little present for Sparkly and Spunky.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

313: karma

The boy had morning mean. He snarled at polite hearing people and ignored cheery anything from his friends. He grinned evilly with people who pushed and shoved, as if they shared a cunning thought. He played Jingle Bells on his hearing aid amid the elderly, to sow confusion. He dressed better than anyone else. He walked straighter. He painted children with his sneer.

He did move fast in his morning commute. His clothes were silk against his skin; he liked to control his muscles individually, taking time (in the infinity of each moment) to sense the glide of thread on pore as he followed what seemed to be pre-programmed vectors of direction, into the ground, down the stairs; through the booths, to his train; through the cars and to a seat; surveying with gracelessness the peons arrayed around him.

Of course he spilled his coffee when he got to work. He had a large stain for the rest of the day, right in front of the dapper silk, to teach him humility.

In the end he cheated, spent sixty bucks on a new shirt from Dolce and Gabbana during a latish lunch, and tried to pretend he didn't notice everybody noticing, with a grace and hauteur which (even he admitted) he hadn't been aware of possessing.

That is the meaning of karma. But also:
The man in blue saw the man in brown falling down the stairs. He gave his hand to the man in brown. He saved the man from harm, but was himself harmed in the process; the man in brown, still recovering from his own pain, could not help him, and wandered off in search of rest and security.

Because the Universe runs on stories, and stories run on pain, so it goes: Others came before him, who he had to help, as price for the magic of life and Life: the woman in grey, the man in red. Slowly pieces of himself were lost in the working of the help, more and more, until only the heart was left, struggling, slowly moving with each beat, raw to the universe, until sleep: sensing nothing, feeling nothing, only aware of each moment next to each moment, the tender membranes between time.

And the next morning, because stories sometimes end looking back at themselves, he woke, fully rested, bodily whole, felt himself, felt the joy in having all of himself, and walked singing back into the day.

That's the meaning of karma, too.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

312: not deafhood, but...

I was very intrigued by this piece on Al Gore at the Daily Howler. If you bear with me...

One of the primary principles of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's novel, as well as another story by Harlan Ellison the name of which I can't remember at the moment, is that eventually a society may get to the point where Equality means Everyone Must Be Kept Down On A Lower Level.

In the Daily Howler, they've been analyzing how the media treats Al Gore. And while Gore has made mistakes, a lot of his "misstatements" have come to be true. He was right on global warming, Iraq, etc. The Press is more interested in making up stories about Gore which simply aren't true, and misrepresenting the ones that are. Update: Gore was even right on the Internet. He claimed he took the initiative in creating the Internet; most newspapers made fun of his statement. In his Wikipedia biography it notes that Vinton Cerf, a Deaf man who spoke at my high school graduation and one who truly helped create the Internet, states that Al Gore did more than any other politician to foster the internet's development. Deaf people get everywhere.

I notice the same thing happens in the Deaf community; we've got to a reasonably comfortable point in our evolution as part of the USA. We still want to improve things, but we're a little scared to leave our comfortable place. So we wind up attacking each other and pulling each other down when we do something amazing. One day we will have to attack the contradiction in our society where we feel comfortable taking massive amounts of government handouts while still claiming we're not disabled.

Not that I'm against SSI or anything. It helped me through college, when I wasn't able to get terps for classes and I couldn't work to support myself and study at the same time. Later, when I could, I was - but that's the appropriate use of SSI, to help you out when you really need it. Let's face it, life is SHITTY for Deaf people in the USA sometimes.

But right now, videophones are a big-ass government handout for Americans, and video interpreting too. And I haven't seen a single peep from Deaf people that maybe they should pay for the interpreting services. I would. I don't think the government should have to pay for my private calls. I don't think it should cost me the world either - a four minute call should cost that percentage of the terp's hourly rate. Calls to each other should still be free. And hearies should pay for the service if THEY call US. Or maybe I'm just sick of people bitching about how deaf people freeload...

But maybe that says more about my internal Ayn Rand than anything else. *shrugs*

And speaking of something amazing...

That's all for today and maybe tomorrow as I run around like a chicken sans head.

311: deafhood diaries part ii

And so my trouble begins: Life is a lot easier when you're a smart deaf boy in a room of students with mental problems. You finish the work easily and spend the rest of your time hiding behind a desk with hobbits. It's a lot harder, and you learn a lot more, when you're in a room with kids just like you... which is something hearing people will never get.

When I left mainstreaming, I had no idea what it was like to have a conversation. I had only ever called someone once on the TTY. Her name was Irene Kambos, and she along with Paul Derevjanik and two other guys (whose names I never managed to lipread) were pretty much the only people I knew. It was a small and very comfortable world. I wasn't allowed to be in a lot of extracirricular programs - I tried to get onto West Side Story (like Greg Scheuer without the shiny shoes) but they didn't want a Deaf person there. I tried advanced courses but they didn't want a Deaf person there.

I made the decision to go to MSSD instead of Stuyvesant or Tottenville Science, which is where I was accepted (we had to apply for high schools.) Once I made it, I stuck with it for four years, but I still remember spending so much time in my dorm room in Dorm C hiding! INFORMATION OVERLOAD! Can you imagine going from a girl named Irene I played scrabble with - that was the extent of personal interaction - to HUNDREDS of Deaf kids, all of them wild and crazy and amazing and individual and, yeah, beautiful?

To this day I still cherish the feeling I had in my first few hours.

It went away the minute I went to the gym, that first day, when everything was overwhelming and full of new papers and new people...

See, my goal was to play football and baseball. But the idiot running athletics, Tim Frelich, didn't realize that I had no idea how to sign. He asked me if I wanted to play sports, I thought he was saying something else entirely. Now, many years later, I wonder if he was a deaf elitist who figured I was just a stupid oral boy and didn't think I was worth taking the time to talk to. Sucks to be him.

Eventually I learned to play soccer, which was my revenge on American sport. But I never got over being shoved out of the room like that and not understanding the look of disgust on his face (I think I must have answered some questions in a really weird way. My signing suxxored at 13.) For me it felt like, great, I go from one place they don't let me do things to another place where they STILL don't let me do things. Of course this wasn't really true - it was COMM BREAKDOWN AWFUL! that's all - but it's what it felt like.

That night I went to an icebreaker. We had to play silly games in the gym in which we, Deaf children, had to run around holding hands. Of course we couldn't talk to each other while holding hands, so I'm not sure what ice exactly we were supposed to break. There I met Mel, darling Mel, who is still the sister of my heart. She was rather annoyed by me, I think, but also equally nonplussed by the chaotic activity around us.

I remember Gallaudet was PRETTY. It really is a pretty place. I was a city boy, so I guess it was like being bussed out of the city on one of those Fresh Air vans. I would wake up early to leave the dorm and go sit in air that smelled different, bathe in the stench of the ozone. There were so many plants, and little hidden places around the building which were very cool for young kids to discover. (One day maybe I'll go back and teach a younger generation some of my places.)

So I had a lot of reasons not to pay attention to communication. And, let's face it, when you don't get ASL, it looks like a lot of flapping - just like hearing people describe foreign spoken languages as a lot of uneducated grunting.

I rebelled by fighting to hold on to English. I managed to hold on for about a year. I'm stubborn.

That year, a teacher, Rae Johnson, would break through my walls by forcing me to stop speaking and signing at the same time. Once I began to sign independently of speaking, I began to see ASL for what it was - a real language. (In 2006, it's easy for me to see SimCom as a technique hearing people use to control and oppress Deaf people, but back then, all I knew was they were making me give up English! They were making me give up English! Would I become retarded? WHO KNEW? WHO KNEW?)

Around the same time I began to see theater. Drama was the artistic form of Sign, in some ways the same as poetry is the artistic form of English. I'm a writer, so it's natural maybe I was attracted to that. With the help of Tim McCarty I became involved in a few performances and signed very badly on stage. I got made fun of a bit, but it was all part of learning to be more of a Deaf person to me - unconscious, blind, head-banging-on-walls learning, but learning.

Even if I felt like a bull in a china shop.

So year 1 in a Deaf school saw me go from refusing (indeed, being unable to use) ASL, to learning drama and trying to PERFORM with it.

I guess I've never done things by half measures.

Monday, June 05, 2006

310: the deaf extinction

No, not cochlear implants: neglect.
Uganda's deaf face extinction at the hands of HIV/AIDS because the country's health authorities have ignored them in their national strategy to wipe out the killer disease, activists said.
About 90 percent of Uganda's estimated 500,000 hearing impaired men, women and children are illiterate and unable to properly communicate, leaving them ignorant of anti-HIV/AIDS messages and vulnerable to sexual abuse, they said.

"Our community faces extinction as the trend of HIV infection is rising due to lack of information on its prevention, care, treatment and even available services," said Alex Ndezi, the only deaf member of Uganda's parliament.

All praise to Alex Ndezi for standing up for our people. The government has a responsibility to help all its citizens. There is nothing more which needs to be said.

I received a comment from a visitor named Pam who stated that "most people never get a chance to learn about" the Deaf culture and "will live their lives with some pre-conceived ideas. I think it would be helpful, and interesting if the Deaf community was given a chance to really educate the "general public." Yes, Pam, I'd be interested in exchanging more thoughts about the Deafhood questions by e-mail, but why not post them in the comments? Let others weigh in.

More on Deafhood soon - been busy editing all weekend.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

309: before deafhood

Join me today on a trip through Wikipedia.

This morning as usual I checked the weather, and found a reference on Weather Underground to a Great Storm of 1703, which was recorded by Daniel DeFoe and was the only hurricane to make it across the Atlantic to England. It destroyed homes. Never heard of this sort of thing before. It impacted the Dutch; I pondered a list of Dutch names and came upon a list of names which, when clicked, revealed that there were Dutch people in one of the places where I grew up.

Staten Island was where I was before I went to MSSD. I knew some sign language; they'd placed me in a Special Program or whatever in Neptune, NJ. when we moved to the Seaside Heights/Seaside Park area. It wasn't a rich place; about 20% of people there were really poor. We survived largely on my mother's strength. A lot of things I go through now, I know she went through then.

Anyways, we moved back to Staten Island to be near my family. Now, the thing about Google Maps is that the satellite pictures they use are much older, to ensure our safety in the case of terrorism. So, curious, I went, and looked back in time, and saw my childhood. even my Grandmother's garden is still there, from far above. Are yours?

On Staten Island I went to Myra S. Barnes Intermediate School for three years where I met the infamous Ms. Peel. Mainstreaming was never kind to me. I was always in special programs, lucky enough to attend programs with the hearing kids with an interpreter. Most of the other kids there were, like me, social misfits. My most vivid memories of school, every year, were the thrills inherent in discovering new libraries. I became friends with librarians - or, at least, they pitied the poor Deaf kid (they were not quite sure whether to believe I could read so much; I would take out ten books a week, unable to pick just one-no interpreter in my classes, what was the point to paying attention to the spit leaker?) I played library games (we had scrabble clubs and chess clubs.) It wasn't yet nerdy; for some reason there it seemed accepted.

It was there I met the books of Robert Heinlein and learned to fall in love with science fiction, even as I was looking towards books of alternate philosophies, including paganism and wicca, to explain my place in the world. Why, after all, was I such a weirdo?

This is generally what my mind was like before I went to MSSD. I want to explain this because in a lot of ways this was pretty much all of my world. I had no real interaction with other kids in school. I knew few names. I was D E A F mothafucka... with nobody to teach me self-esteem and me pretty much accepting the whole situation, which is the worst part (although I had my moments of rebellion)... and the only reason I lucked out with the English skills is because I had nothing else to do. That this translated into a serious love of reading was almost accidential. But I had no Deafhood. I had nothing. All I had was a little yellow bus and a bunch of other children, most of whom weren't deaf, who I was in classes with, and not a whole lot of knowledge about the real world.

The whole cochlear implant thing makes sense to me, in a way. There's not enough interpreters, and before the implants there were probably thousands of kids like me, really deaf but otherwise pretty normal thanks to a supportive family, who were in inappropriate special education environments solely because of the diagnosis of deafness. Could deaf schools even handle such numbers? Could hearing people handle the idea of their children being deaf with cochlear implants being dangled before them? Who really tracks those numbers? Would I even have put down "deaf" on a census then? I don't know. I wasn't lucky enough to meet many other deaf kids. But I knew some sign language, so when they offered me the opportunity to go to MSSD, we accepted. And too we accepted the opportunity for me to go to camp the summer prior - I signed up to study history with the Young Scholar's Program which was kind of a cross between camp and summer school. So I was lucky to begin my journey to deafhood (god, I'm cringing at the corniness of this line, will return to edit later) with a group of Deaf kids, many who already knew each other, who were interested in learning stuff and getting ahead, very motivated young people. A lot of them, I found out later, would be MSSD students.

Of course I was totally f-ed up for this environment. Of course everyone signed way too fast for me - it took me a few years for my eyes to develop to Deaf level (there seems to be research which indicates the pupils of Deaf people, or anyone who begins to learn sign language and use it before the age of 31-33 (when the eyes stop growing) develop into a teardrop shape, slightly wider at the bottom than those of hearing people, to accompany the increased field of vision someone who watches both the face and signing areas will need to fully access communication. This is what I mean by Deaf level, and I didn't have it then.)1

So this is the start of my road to Deafhood. Notice the "place" I am. I have been told quite a few things about Deaf people, sign language, and I have internalized many assumptions about Deaf people from my oral upbringing. In fact one of the reasons my family encouraged my move to MSSD is because they could not find anyone willing to teach a Deaf person to drive.

I also have little experience with and being a Deaf person myself.

I was also pretty chubby from long hours of sitting on my ass reading chunky-monkey books. You have to PAY for what you learn, trust me.

But I am also pretty eager and I like DOING stuff. So I think I was kind of charming, in a weird way, which was nice. But I had those preconceptions, and like Wayne Betts, Jr's video of Clark school students, they caused much merriment!

1. For this reason, if you are learning sign language, take time to eat and consume vitamins of the most healthy eye-licious kind, to give your poor orbs the chance to develop.

Friday, June 02, 2006

308: aint it great

308: deafhood questions for all!

Keep adding stuff to the new blackberry including improving the blog-from-email bit-they changed stuff without notifying us poor saps.
Reading the New York Post; I see the unthinkable-compliments for Hillary. Apparently homeland security cut money for terrorism protection because we have no national landmarks (? Whatever, Chertoff.) So he cut the budget by 40%. Anyone wanna bet they're HOPING we get attacked?

I wrote that I was going to post about Deafhood-a week ago. I chose to fck the city and go to the woods-I was in Vermont for a week enjoying the beauty of the state. Unfortunately ;the campground was covered with wriggly fun.; We survived. I took the opportunity to talk to a lot of faeries about themselves which was a nice change-in the past I've been in some ways shy about personal questions, which are, really, the only important ones.

Right now waiting for an important email and feeling worried. Sigh. So I thought I'd try to write about my perceptions of Deafhood. Patti Raswant got quoted on ridorlive.com as saying that Deafhood is about recognizing the false differences imposed on us by others. This process is very important for all races. Black people were told God intended them to be slaves; we get told all manner of bs about ASL, hearing aids, implants, etc., and how do we figure out what's real? What's a way for people to make money off of our community? Too many people have gotten off light by invoking the "I'm helping poor Deaf people" crap.

We also need tools to help us look at what we're being offered, questions to help us suss things out. Readers, I would love if u can give ur opinion on a couple of the below questions. These are thoughts from my notebooks, really. I want to find guidelines for us to help identify if something will help us towards a more clear Deafhood - a personal search for personal identity without BS.

  • 1. Is this centered on the person? Does this process recognize the individual's native abilities and desires? An example is implants. Some ethical questions: Do parents have the right to give cochlear implants to Deaf children who present signs of mental retardation? If a parent chooses to implant the child and the implant doesn't work, are the parents liable for mental damage done to the child by withholding fully accessible communication while testing to see if it works? Is the Deaf community responsible because we haven't done more to educate parents and prove our community is sustainable and beautiful?
  • 2. Do people try to 'push' the process by categorizing Deaf people and creating artificial separations? I was encouraged NOT to go to MSSD. They told me I would learn ASL and my brain would rot! Instead I became more intelligent. But the thing is they pointed to Deaf people with mental problems which were in my day program. There were few Deaf adults and I was taught to despise them because of what were basically lies. This was in 1990-1993 mind you!
  • 3. Are people concerned about the individual's TOTAL development or do they focus on one aspect and neglect others? This applies both ways-some Deaf people don't accept Deaf people who don't sign perfect ASL. But some deaf people sign GREAT ASL and maybe don't have the best interest of Deaf community at heart. Same with others-Im suspicious of people who focus on "speech" rather than the child's whole development.

I'm curious what you all think.