I didn’t discover my identity until college. I thought I was normal with two hearing aids and thinking that oh! Hearing people are better than Deaf people. I guess you can say that when I was in high school, I tried to be “better” than my own Deaf peer group. I was mainstreamed since elementary (placed in hearing slash normal classes). I had speech therapy, basically from elementary to high school. In my mind, I never truly accept the term, “Deaf”. It makes me feel dehumanizing in some ways. People look at you differently, treat you differently, and speak to you differently. And I didn’t like that.
I put myself in a higher expectation than my own parent’s because I wanted to show everyone, not just my family that I can do what normal people can do. Except for one thing, I cannot hear very well. Some certain people do not understand that even though you do know how to speak, that doesn’t mean you can hear well too. Like, hello. I still need to work myself in ‘hearing’ you.
My best friend and I used to talk each other in simcom, simultaneous communication. We basically identified ourselves as Hard-of-Hearing folks because we can talk at the same time, signing. We were like the coolest people out of our own group. You know how when you were young, you just trying to figure out where you fit in this small group and then, label yourself something to make yourself looks cooler than other people. I was like that. I thought being cooler will make people like me despite that I am Deaf.
I remember going into classes, I get embarrassed that I had to sit down in front of the classes for the interpreters when I wanted to sit all the way in the back. I wanted to hide instead of just standing out and have them saying behind my back, “She’s Deaf?” “Shouldn’t she be in Special class?” It’s annoying that I need to step up my standard to show them I don’t need to be in special class or I don’t define myself based on my hearing problem. I have a lot to offer.
I used to have a lot of hearing friends back in high school. Just acknowledged them mostly. Only a few friends that I knew doesn’t look at me based on my Deafness but look at me as a human being. It’s rare because teenagers judge so much that they want to make sure they’re cool enough.
So before, I transferred to CSUN (my Alma Mater) majoring Deaf Studies. I wanted to become a teacher for the DHH someday. This is where I actually discovered my true identity. I didn’t know much about Deaf Culture, nor Deaf Community as well. I was overwhelmed with the history, resources, and the people. Once I learned about Deaf Culture, I started to truly accept my Deafness. The Deaf part is what defined me. Having hearing aids doesn’t but to show that I am Deaf, I was proud to call myself Deaf.
I signed more than I used to before living with my parents. I got involved with a lot of Deaf events and community. It was amazing to see different people from different background, coming together and actually have something in common. Now, I educate about my culture to hearing people who may not know about Deaf people. I know there are a whole lot of Deaf communities all over the countries and it is not just one country. I embraced my Deafness with the people I socialize with and expose my boyfriend into knowing about Deaf Culture/Community.
With this passion and knowledge about Deaf Culture and my identity, it motivates me to continue my journey in becoming a teacher. I know I will have to face obstacles, but I need to tell myself that I should not give up. I am still learning. I am still learning about everything that is relevant to my identity. If a person asks me this question, “Do you regret being Deaf or being born Deaf?” I will say no. I do not regret one bit. It becomes a part of me, makes me who I am today. Whatever identity you identify yourself, don’t be afraid to tell people who you are. Don’t let people put you down where you should be ashamed. Be proud of your culture (multi-culture) slash identity. Be proud of who you are. Stand up tall and show your pride. Embrace it!
Catch a glimpse of Haya later 🙂