Monday, September 1, 2014

Fitting In At A Deaf Convention

I was so excited! Someone I had met out in the Deaf community mentioned a convention coming up for people who'd lost their hearing (or what was left of it) after age 18. I was thrilled! Deaf people I could sign with who remembered what things sounded like more than two decades ago. I could mingle with soon-to-be-friends and learn about how others similar to me crossed over to the Deaf culture to a degree. Yea!

Kenny (my hubby) was excited, too. We were sure some of the Deaf would bring hearing family and Kenny would be able to discuss his feelings, thoughts, and experiences with people who knew how he felt. I mean I've always been deaf to a degree, but total silence kind of snuck up on us and it was a way of life that took some major getting used to. So, it was an adventure for both of us.

However, what we envisioned was not quite what happened.

When we walked into the main room from the registration table (where Kenny had to interpret because the people there used only voice), the room was filled to the rim with people wearing CIs, all talking without signs, and lots of booths set up--all about technology that could "make you hear again."

The lectures, which waved a flag stating they were fully accessible, were only captioned (poorly) on a screen at the side of the room. And interpreter for us American Sign Language users? Nope. Apparently most late-deafened adults (as they called themselves) don't use sign language. But I was still thrilled to meet fellow signers and people from such places as Gallaudet University.

To top it all off, the last night of the convention, they had a huge karaoke party where music blasted and all were given a balloon to enjoy the beat. But see I'm totally stone deaf and didn't feel comfortable at that party. Still, I tried to enjoy what aspects of the convention I could be a part of. I even went to more than one thinking maybe the next one would relate more to me. Unfortunately, no. However, I did make a handful of new friends for which I am grateful.

Now, I don't want to seem hateful or judgmental. There were things here and there I enjoyed that didn't so much require ASL or Cultural norms and there were lots of hugs and lots of accepting each other -- no matter how you communicated. But I just don't think I'll go again unless they come to Grand Rapids, MI.

After a while, it all caused me think about my way of going about being the stone deaf person I am. For one thing, I do consider myself bi-bi (bilingual -- ASL and English, and bicultural). Most LDAs do not. I admit I did try a CI a long time ago and it was a total flop. They had to take it out later for a medical reason, so that's done. I'm happy being Deaf, too, but sometimes when I miss my show tunes, it does get me down.

I use sign to communicate. I have the world's worst lipreading skills I've ever known about and I do not like the sound of my voice -- though admittedly I do use it at appointments to make it easier on my interpreter. I like to use big words and so it's easier to make sure exactly what I want to say gets said.

The only big problem I have is I have some mental disorders that prevent me from socializing for the most part. So I haven't made it to many Deaf events and that makes me sad. I do try though. I WANT to go, so I'm working on it.

Long story short, the deaf community is truly diverse. You have to find where you fit in and go from there. You should be comfortable the way you are -- no matter how different that makes you. I'm working towards that myself.

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