Confronting One’s Own Audistic Attitude

Posted on 3 December 2006. Filed under: Audism, Guest Bloggers |

In my last post, I linked readers to Zoee Nuage’s post, entitled Confessions of a Deaf Girl Who Had an Audistic Attitude”. She has now given me permission to cross post her story here, in entirety. She has her own blog (of course) entitled “Busy Hands

Thank you, Zoee!

Confessions of a Deaf Girl Who Had an Audistic Attitude

As a young child, I had this good friend, I’ll call her Carol. She was deaf, like me, and signed in mostly SEE [Signed Exact English]. However, her writing skills among other skills were severely challenged due to a learning/memory disability. She had a hard time even remembering me if she did not see me for a while. I remember in grade one when we both returned to school. I greeted Carol like nothing changed and she looked at me blankly, and then signed to her mother, “Who’s that?” She explained to Carol that I’m that girl who would come to her house and play with her. She then smiled and gave me a hug, I don’t know if she really remembered me or not but, that didn’t matter. We were still the friends I knew and loved. I will confess though, that I was not always the best friend. Carol also was bald, and wore a wig. I would occasionally snatch the wig off while everyone laughed at her . . . She would laugh along with us. I was only six years old but I feel horrible about that now.

Later, I was mainstreamed, and was the only deaf girl at school and did not have any d/Deaf friends outside of school until I met Anna during the summer after grade four. I remember meeting her at the ‘Hands On’ day camp for the Deaf. I was instantly enthralled by this girl. She signed beautifully, and was so expressive. I could not understand her very well because she communicates in ASL [American Sign Language] but we seemed to bond right away. Immediately, I stared to sleep over at her house during weekends. I slowly began to understand her without any problems and she taught me how to sign in ASL. Before her, I barely even knew that ASL existed. She was the first Deaf girl I befriended who was truly Deaf in every way, very involved in the Deaf community, had a Deaf parent, and was strongly fluent in ASL. I adored this girl, and she was my best friend.

After a while, I noticed that her writing skills were very bad, we were in the same grade at separate schools. So I often would bring homework to her house during the weekends. I would look at her homework and notice that the things she was learning were at least two grades behind mine. I did not really understand why it was like that, as Anna seemed to be a very intelligent girl to me. When Anna needed help for homework, she would come to me instead of her mother, and I wondered why. Eventually I noticed how Anna’s mother would often ask that I help Anna with the homework. I tried to help Anna but I’ll admit, sometimes I got impatient and just did the homework for her so we could go play! I did not care that she was grades behind, I still considered her one of the most interesting people I have met. I often would communicate for her to the hearing people who were not ASL signers, I would act as the middle person, often writing what she said to the hearing person who could not sign.

I remember one day I came to stay with Anna for a weekend. I just learned about the process of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and was very excited about it. I decided that Anna had to learn about it too, so I sat Anna down. I told her that I learned something very interesting in school. I explained system to her in [flawed] ASL [keep in mind I am translating this into written English]:

Zoee: We all breathe air right? But there are two types, one that humans and animals inhale and one other that plants inhales.

Anna: *nods* [note: Anna did not know that there were two types]

Zoee: Humans and animals inhale oxygen [I formed circles with my hands to represent oxygen], and then we exhale something else out which is Carbon Dioxide [I then formed flat circles to represent Carbon Dioxide] . . . Now where do the flat circles go? Plants! They inhale the flat circles and then exhale circles again!

Anna: *nodding rapidly, understanding*

Zoee: So this is why we need plants, if there are no more plants. What will we do? We will have no more circles! Also the plants need us, because without us, there are no more flat circles!

Anna understood right away and then went to tell her mother about it. I wont say that the mother did not work hard with Anna at all as she may have when I was not around but, I wondered to myself why the mother did not tell Anna about this already? The mother definitely already knew about this. I could see that Anna was intelligent enough to understand anything as long as it was signed to her. I don’t think she had a learning disability that made it difficult for her to write and read, because she definitely had no problems understanding things via ASL. I honestly think the responsibility falls on the parent and the schools that Anna attended and they clearly failed her.

Anna moved far away in the seventh grade. I went on and made a few d/Deaf friends in grade eight when I attended a school that had a program for the deaf. Some were able to read and write with no problems, and some had difficulties. Anyway after grade eight, I returned back to my usual life where I interacted with only hearing people most of the time due to the fact that I returned to a school where I was the only deaf student.

Somehow, during this time, my attitude toward d/Deaf people who could not read or write well, changed. I started to look at d/Deaf people and refusing to be friends with anyone who I did not feel that was at least as smart or almost as smart as me [smarter was even better]. I avoided people . . . I even avoided Anna when she moved back to my hometown when I was a teenager. I am sure I hurt her feelings, and I feel quite bad about that now. However, at that time, I was very idealistic and stubborn. I repeatedly told myself, if this person cannot read or write that well, how can this person even begin to converse with me about issues that I am passionate about?

I was a part of the hearing world, and I expected them to meet the expectations I had for my fellow hearing friends, who had to write to me in order to eventually learn how to sign in SEE. I carried this attitude for years. I actually began to realize my errors recently, when I pondered on how there are Deaf people who would choose to not accept me as a part of their world because my ASL is obviously very flawed. If it was wrong for them to not accept me because I was unable to sign in their language, then how could it be right for me to not accept them because they cannot write the way I do? If one does research, they will see that ASL was never supposed to be based on written and/or spoken English, so it would be unfair to even attempt to compare English to ASL. However, I must make this clear so there are no misconceptions. ASL does not mean one would be bad at writing in English. Many native ASL signers are one of the most brilliant people I have ever known, and would make me feel embarrassed of my writing skills. It’s really an issue about the parents and school system that did not push the child hard enough to succeed.

Another thing that made me realize how wrong I was to do this, was the discovery of the term ‘Deafhood’ and ‘Crab Theory’. I was pushing my own people down because I thought I was better than they were because I could read and write better. What good comes from this? Nothing. I was doing nothing except hurting the Deaf community by choosing to behave this way and my actions would then reflect onto my hearing friends who knew nothing about the deaf community and Deaf culture. They would see that I dismissed any Deaf individual who did not have good writing skills, and then in turn, behave the same way. I was doing serious damage to my own community and people. Deafhood taught me that we all are deaf, and we all came from different backgrounds, and that we need to help each other. Encourage each other to succeed.

While thinking about all this, I began to recall moments where hearing people would look down at me because my writing skills did not match theirs. As a child, I definitely made many errors while writing. My journal from grade five was just terrible. I remember how much it hurt me to know they thought I was stupid because I was unable to write as well as they could and that it took me a bit longer to realize how to spell certain words and how the English grammar system worked. Even to this very day, I still make grammar mistakes [I bet you can find several here!!], and use certain words too often, which would make English elitists want to vomit all over me. So how dare I pass judgement on others when I am obviously not that perfect either?

I was an audist in a way without even realizing it. I apologize to everybody that I may have hurt because of my actions. I don’t expect forgiveness. I am simply happy that my eyes are finally open.


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[…] Posted on 3 December 2006. … As a young child, I had this good friend, I??ll call her Carol. … Confronting Our Discomfort: Clearing the Way for … confronting Our […]

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