Deaf identity, pride and diversity

ISIW - Sherrie profile photoThis year’s National Week of Deaf People theme is Strengthening Human Diversity.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been proud to be Deaf.

I have been exposed to sign language and Deaf people since I was an infant, and because of that I learnt not to see my deafness as a stigma. Instead, I was taught to see it as an identity.

I identify as Deaf.

 

What’s the difference between deaf and Deaf, you ask?

Deaf – culturally deaf; uses sign language; active in the Deaf community.

deaf – audiological ability to hear, or rather from a medical perspective.

The Deaf community is extremely diverse; not everyone are the same. It not only consists of Deaf people, but it consists of people from every walk of life.

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.”
Ani DiFranco

There are Deaf people who are juggling other identities. I am one of those people.

There are Deaf people who are:

  • Deaf and Aboriginal
  • Deaf and gay
  • Deaf and Muslim
  • Deafblind
  • Deaf and Indian

…and so much more. Diversity is clearly evident in the Deaf community.

Everyone within the community are constantly unpacking their identity as a whole. Identity is like a jigsaw puzzle; there are pieces that makes you unique when put together.

Deaf Australia (NSW), The Deaf Society of NSW and Parents of Deaf Children along with Helen Westwood (Member of Legislative Council NSW) hosted yet another successful NWDP launch and panel at the NSW Parliament House last night.

Alex Jones (co-founder of AI-Media, actor and advocate) facilitated the panel, and there was a special guest, Nareen Young – one of Australia’s leading diversity thinkers.

The panel was very diverse and definitely gave us food for thought, and we learnt more about diversity within the Deaf community.

It made me think about my own life experience, especially growing up in a diverse background.

To give you a snippet of my diversity:

  • my mother comes from a Middle-Eastern ancestry, although she was born in Malaysia. She also comes from a Muslim background.
  • both paternal and maternal sides on my father’s side can be traced back to Germany and Ireland. Apparently one of my grandmother’s cousins was Hitler’s secretary…!
  • I was a child of a LGBT parent from the age of 10.
  • I don’t like labels. Instead, I’m me and I like women, but I can identify as a LGBT person.

I was thinking recently about how it would have been fantastic to have access to Deaf LGBT people when I was younger, especially in my age group. Whilst going through a confusing time in regards with defining my sexuality, I wished I had someone to talk to, especially throughout my teen years. I wish I had someone tell me at the age of 16 that it was perfectly okay to love women.

From my memory, there wasn’t many – if any – Deaf LGBT people close to my age, so it was one of the main reasons why I repressed my feelings towards women until approximately 4 years ago when I realised I did actually like women A LOT more than I did men.

It’s now coming up 1 year anniversary of my coming out on a public scale – see my post here: Coming out as Deaf and Gay. To date, it has received nearly 400 views, which makes it the top read post on ISIW.

My family and friends accept and love me for who I am. My coming out experience has been a positive one, and I am incredibly grateful for that.

As I mentioned that I did not have a Deaf LGBT person as a role model in my younger years, I would love to be someone that young Deaf people can come and talk to, especially so I can tell them that it’s perfect okay to love someone regardless of their gender.

Role models with diverse backgrounds should be prominent for the Deaf community, especially for Deaf teenagers when they’re starting to figure out themselves and their identities.

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
Maya Angelou

Not just parents, but the Deaf community should also teach one another about the importance of diversity – after all, we live in a diverse world. Schools should also teach children about diversity.

Diversity is what strengthens us. We learn from each other. We love and accept each other.

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”
Stephen R. Covey

I am Deaf, gay and multicultural…and I am goddamned proud!

Happy National Week of Deaf People!

S xo

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