Hearing People? Screw the lot of em???

grimWe symbolise the deepest darkest fear for many of you. You cannot comprehend how to live without your drug. Without your god. Without your need to be heard. And so you rape us, you molest us, you break us, you “fix” us. You spit on us, you laugh at us, you mock us, you make sure you are always superior to us. You create impossible loopholes in the system that cannot be circumvented by us without the benevolent help of ‘qualified’ people from your supreme race. You are the disabled people, not us. Glutting on sound, your literacy has drained slowly away. Your music, once a joy for us to read the lyrics to, has become what you accuse us of being. Your newspapers, radio shows and television news, once touted to be beacons of truth have withered away to propaganda machines pumping fear and hatred to ensure your consumerism is fed. You force-feed us images that haunt us both waking and sleeping. You beat us down with stupidity and always win because you are the experts. (Which you aren’t.)

Edan Chapman – We Are The Deaf. (Click on the paragraph to read the full article)

I was mesmerised by this piece of writing by Edan Chapman. Chapman is a brilliant man. He has Usher Sydrome. Usher Syndrome is a genetic condition that leads to the person becoming both deaf and blind over time. Despite this Edan is an artist and photographer. He is well known and respected throughout the Deaf community. He does not hold back with his views. He is also, very clearly, an angry man.

Many who read Edan’s piece, We Are The Deaf, will be horrified. The language of the article is blunt and deliberately provocative. It makes you sit up and take note. At its best, and worst, it is horrifying, even cringeworthy. But what sparked Chapman to write this? What motivated him to paint people who are hearing as hell on earth?

Interestingly it is all indirectly related to Deaf model Nyle Dimarco. Of course Dimarco is the Deaf man who won America’s Top Model and is currently the most recognised male dancer in the world, bar none. (Ironic that)  Dimarco is brilliant. He uses ASL and promotes the Deaf community as a vibrant and talented community that it is.  He makes it very clear that he is happy being Deaf and would not have it any other way.

Through the positive imagery of Dimarco the Deaf community has had a kind of rebirth in the eyes of hearing people. People are fascinated by sign language. I imagine in America hearing people are lining up in droves to learn ASL. I imagine parents of deaf babies, seeing the positive vibe of Dimarco, are lining up to have their deaf children learn ASL and become Billingual, just like Dimarco. Its been an absolute boon.

So spectacular has Dimarco’s impact been that it spooked the Alexander Graham Bell Association. So much that they felt the need to respond. I am not sure what came over them. But writing a letter that stated that sign language was in decline right in the middle of the Dimarco craze was not very bright.

In part the letter said,

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing applauds DiMarco’s achievements and recognizes that ASL exists as a communication option for deaf children. However, it is just one such option and its use is declining. The reality is that most deaf children – more than 95 percent – are born to parents with typical hearing, and 90 percent of these families are choosing listening and spoken language for their deaf child, according to data from BEGINNINGS for Parents of Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing in North Carolina.    (Click on the paragraph to read the full article letter.)

The underlying intent of this letter seems to be to undermine sign language and belittle its significance in the development of the deaf child. It was a really ill thought out response and the Deaf community erupted.  Facebook abounded with Vlogs of Deaf people signing their outrage towards the Alexander Graham Bell Association. They refuted that ASL was in decline. The Vlogs showed a loud and very proud Deaf community. They showed a Community that were not going to let anyone besmirch Dimarco or their language. The Bell letter also motivated Chapman to release his article.

Chapman indicated on his Facebook page that he has been sitting on this article for several months and that the Bell letter was the straw that broke the camels back. Perhaps he worried that the article was too strong for the mainstream. Perhaps he worried that the language and allegory he used within the article would be too offensive. Only he knows why he sat on it but the Bell letter was the last straw and he published.

I loved the article. I loved its structure. I loved his passion. I loved Chapman’s guts for calling the shots. But there is a lot wrong with the article and I think it needs to be challenged.

Firstly the title WE ARE THE DEAF needs a disclaimer. The title and the language within the article makes it seem like Chapman is speaking for all Deaf people. It makes it seem like he is expressing the views of the whole community. Of course he was not. The article was simply expressing the frustrations that many in the Deaf community feel about the oppression that they often receive at the hands of hearing professionals.

These professionals like Doctors, teachers, journalist in the media and so on are constantly portraying deafness in a negative light. They paint deafness as a disaster and tragedy that needs curing and fixing. Deafness is a deficit that needs eradicating.  That there are hearing professionals that feel this way is certainly true. The problem with the article is that it seems to make a sweeping generalisation that all hearing people are like that.

Of course this is far from the truth. There are many hearing people who are allies and supporters of the Deaf community. There are many hearing people that have spent a good proportion of their lives supporting, encouraging and advocating for people who are deaf. These people include among them teachers, interpreters, doctors, audiologist, researchers, social workers and so. Chapman has, unfortunately and probably unwittingly, lumped all hearing people in one basket. He needed a disclaimer somewhere to acknowledge this fact. He didn’t and he has unfortunately put many people offside as a result.

Then there is his choice of language. Chapman is a brilliant writer and does not hold back. But he has said that hearing people have raped, molested and disfigured deaf people. We all know that this has occurred. Deaf kids were sexually abused in schools for the deaf and in the catholic church for example. There was a recent DOCUMENTARY highlighting this.

This abuse probably was committed by both hearing and deaf people but Chapman has not acknowledged this. He has simply lumped all hearing people into the category. Then and again Chapman may have been trying to highlight how hearing people destroy everything that deaf people hold dear as they try to make deaf people hearing like them. Either way the language was damaging and for many very offensive.

Worst for me is that Chapman appears to criticise the choices that hearing parents make for their children.  Chapman says this,

“Instead of listening to us (oh the irony!) you insist on ‘fixing’ us. Drilling holes into our barely formed skulls and installing decades old technology to break something that was not even broken in the first place,”

I can only imagine the pain this will cause parents who decided to give their deaf child a cochlear implant. Parents do this, not because they want to harm or damage their children, they do so because they are acting on the expert advice that they have received. Sure the advice might have been biased but for many the deaf child is their first ever experience of deafness and they are grieving and wanting their child to be hearing. They want the best for their kids. They don’t need nor deserve this sort of criticism.

I know Chapman was probably targeting the professionals and doctors providing the advice to parents when he wrote this but it can be interpreted either way. The bottom line is we have to acknowledge that the cochlear implant has benefited many kids.  Anecdotally I can say that many have better English language skills than the deaf kids in the 70’s and 80’s. These kids with implants are finding their way to the Deaf community and they still wear their implants. That shows they value it.

I just feel we need more sensitivity to the trauma that parents face in making a decision to implant their child. Chapman’s choice of language would have been incredibly offensive to many of them. And besides, even Deaf parents of Deaf kids have chosen to implant their children. They have recognised the dual benefits of hearing and sign language and this is a good thing.

This was incredibly hard to write. I am a great admirer of Edan Chapman and remain so. However, this article, unwittingly, paints a picture that this is the view of the Deaf community and Chapman is representing them. It also unfortunately tars every hearing person with the same brush and overlooks the great support and the many allies who are hearing and who support the Deaf community.

Mostly, for me, much within is really challenging and offensive to hearing and deaf parents of deaf kids who are have had to make difficult decisions for deaf kids. They do not deserve this sort of attack. They deserve our empathy and fully respect.

For these reasons Chapman’s article needed to be challenged. Dimarco has shown what positive imagery can do, we need more of that.


12 thoughts on “Hearing People? Screw the lot of em???

  1. Well Paul this will be one where we won’t agree.

    Firstly if you detach yourself from an emotional response you will see that I have actually validated many Edan’s views. What I have suggested is that many will read the article and over generalise.

    Many of themes raised by Edan will be triggers, particularly to parents. They will v cause great distress.

    For these reasons I have challenged Edan on some of the issues. I have done this because I feel the many hearing people who are great allies to the Deaf community need to be acknowledged.

    I have also written this article and shared the link to Edan’s so people can make their own judgement and share their own view point, as you have done. In this way great awareness is happening and in a way this is actually allowing people to get a greater understanding of Edan’s perspective.

    The article is pro hearing and also prodeaf but unfortunately people often only see what they want to see.

    It’s out there and respectful debate is happening … That’s a good thing.

  2. When I read Edan’s blog the very first thought that came to mind (after feeling concern for Edan, wondering if he is okay, as this type of savage prose is most uncharacteristic of such the gentle man that he is) was that this battle cry will surely incite hate. Paul’s response to The Rebuttal’s re-post and subsequent comments on EC’s words just proves, so sadly, that I was right.

    And Paul, once you start to draw the atrocities of Nazi Germany into the discussion to illustrate a point, you risk losing everyone’s respect. I’m sure Edan would by outraged by the comparison.

    I intend to read the articles that may have inspired EC’s post and think about how I might further respond, if at all, but for now I feel really hurt by his words.”

  3. I agree with Edan and disagree completely with your take. Whilst I’m for integration and all that, your article comes across as being biased against deaf people. Edan was speaking figuratively and this is clear to everyone. When he says the hearing he was referring to the collective concept of hearing people and not individuals. I think you’re reacting like AGB are. Nullify the impact his writing had, which is the first time I’ve seen it.

    Your piece comes across as being very pro-hearing. A hearing sympathiser who is looking for normalisation. Edan talks of deafness being the deepest darkest fear of hearing people and he’s right. That’s why deafness is just about the most maligned human condition there is and which is why hearing people are doing their best to eliminate it, to wipe it out like the Nazis and the Jews. I think your article should have highlighted some deaf perspectives.

  4. Just read your latest piece.

    If I could ask the whole Deaf community one question it would be this – what exactly do you want?

    Of course everyone has the right to express themselves, but I’m so tired of it all – aren’t you? The blaming, the biases, the ignorance, the divisiveness – I’m over it. I see all sides and it just does my head in.

    • I suggest the while we have the right to have any opinion we want, we do not have the right to express an opinion that is racist, humiliating, hurtful, downgrading, insulting etc of others.

  5. This is an extremely complex situation. Culturally deaf people are proud of their deafness, proud of being members of the community, and have little or no desire to be otherwise, I am the same. I am affronted by people who try to take away our Deaf Culture by “normalising” us.

    This gives rise to several “problems”. Most hearing people do not see it this way, and we applaud those that do. Those hearing people who cannot see Deaf Culture see deafness as a problem that needs to be fixed, and this attitude is perpetuated to those who are not members of the community, or became deaf later in life. Another problem is, the more deaf people are “normalised” the more the deaf community suffers as putative members are integrated into the wider community, out of reach of the specialist deaf services, and thus the number of “available” deaf community members shrinks, and this has led to the phenomenon of culturally deaf families implanting their deaf kids because they have taken a pragmatic approach, who will their deaf kids play with as they grow up, and what jobs will there be for them in the future?

    Implantation by those people is an attempt to rectify this situation, which would never have arisen had those well-intentioned hearing people not decided to practice genocide. Another unfortunate situation which has arisen is that of hearing people such as ENT and deafness activists without a lifetime experience of deafness, advising the Government on how all aspects of deafness should be tackled.

    This is all and well. But taking putative members away from the community by deliberate actions does have consequences, the main one being the high incidence of mental health issues amongst deaf people. These these people may be so well integrated that they have no use for “deaf services”, they are nevertheless twice as likely to develop mental health issues, and are effectively out of reach of specialist services.

    There will always be a place for well-integrated oral deaf people, and deaf community members, and the potential is for them to march side by side. However the divisive and genocidal actions of those well-intentioned hearing people are robbing us of our culture, of future community members, and giving rise to increased incidences of deaf people who require mental health treatment.

    As I said earlier, this is an extremely complex situation and impossible to summarise in a few paragraphs.

  6. The worst response to this article is see it has “hate and abusive speech”” – which it is.
    Having this response means that every argument raised is invalid – why should anyone respect the view of someone who is clearly being verbally abusive.
    I see Edan (based on his writings) as someone who is hurt and angry and striking out at everybody – and therefore his attitude is the verbal equivalent of people who go on shooting rampages.
    I hope he sees a psychiatrist, particularly before he does any more damage.
    I feel for him that he is so hurt and angry.
    I know I may be totally wrong in my conclusions, but if this is my response – then what good is such an article that alienates people.
    We need people to build bridges and co-operate – not articles like Edan’s that seeks to destroy!
    I am hearing impaired, with Deaf, deaf and hearing impaired friends and family. I am hearing impaired myself with two cochlear implants, and I have been working so hard to bring people together. This article by Edan really makes me wonder why I try so hard when he is effectively actively destroying that co-operation.

    To conclude, their is Edan with his feelings, there is what he was trying to say in his article he has written, there is what he ended up saying in his article, and there is the way this article is received. If you are writing an article for others, the most important issue is how it will be received (not what you where trying to say).

    Hopefully, most will see his anger and hurt, and disregard the article, rather than being offended (as they should be) or alienated!

    • I personally hope people first critique this as an insightful and talented piece of writing. Secondly I hope they see some the darkest thoughts that all of us deaf people feel from time to time when a largely hearing world excludes and devalues us.

      When you look past your emotive response Edan’s piece articulates many things we have all felt from time to time.

      But yes there are aspects of it that are divisive and hurtful. It certainly doesn’t help with the bridge building either.

      But Edan is a great and gentle guy . Before writing I contacted him go let him know I was about to write this piece and he encouraged me to do so. He wants open and frank discussion. As I do .

      If anything I hope Edan’s piece allows some of the more narrow minded hearing people to see the damage and hurt their actions can cause.

      • He may be a great and gentle guy, but that doesn’t give him the right to say anything he wants, same goes for all of us.

  7. Clearly the medication isn’t working for some people. Without hearing deaf would be infinitely worse off. You cannot blanket label all hearing people for the ignorance of the few, or we could use the same maxim and apply it to sites like this who appear to have personal issues and suggest all deaf share the same view… Where would deaf be without hearing terps ? Some hearing won’t accept the deaf, OK move on, there are deaf clearly here who would rather not integrate with hearing either, swings and damned roundabouts. Most hearing as are most deaf are reasonable people, try some positivity instead of moaning.

    • Mervyn .. clearly you did not read the article properly .. which basically said exactly as you did … Eg not to generalise all hearing people and actually defended parents who had decided to implant children.

      You clearly are a bigot who cannot see shades of grey and appreciate different perspectives and values. As such I have little tolerance of you. Now those interpreters who earn a living from the deaf, pay for their homes, food and bills on the backs of the Deaf wouldn’t exist otherwise .. its a reciprocal and beneficial relationship both ways.

      Now fuck off back from the neanderthal age from which you came.

  8. I’m Sorry

    I’m sorry ….
    I didn’t understand the confusion …..
    Crowds of faces closing in on you ,
    Mouths opening and closing, no sound, no understanding
    Rushing here and there but not understanding why.

    I’m sorry …
    I didn’t understand the fear ….
    Not only dark,
    But silent too……

    I’m sorry …
    I didn’t understand the frustration ….
    People laughing at jokes you didn’t understand- why?
    Are they laughing at you?
    Everyone engrossed in the movie or TV screen telling you to “shhh” – why?

    I’m sorry …
    I didn’t understand the annoyance ….
    Hearing aids, implants stuck in your ears, itching, aching, loud, buzzing, sweating….
    Use your hearing! – Would they tell a blind man to use his sight?
    Disappointment on their faces. What have I done wrong?

    I’m sorry …
    I didn’t understand the isolation …
    No quick chat on the phone, no impulsive decision to go to the movies with a friend,
    Difficult communication – why bother?
    Stay home – alone.

    I’m sorry …
    I didn’t understand the rejection …
    “Sorry, I missed that. Can you say that again?”
    ”Oh, no, doesn’t matter, don’t worry, not important”.
    Walk away. Left alone – wondering.

    I’m sorry …
    I didn’t understand the exhaustion …
    Lip-reading, straining to hear, concentration, signing, fingerspelling,
    Your brain in overload – can’t take in anymore
    Needing a break but demanding more and more.

    I’m sorry ….
    I didn’t understand the anger…
    You didn’t need my pity,
    You needed my support
    You deserved my respect
    and I didn’t understand.

    I’m sorry …..
    I didn’t understand
    Now I understand
    For now, I too, …………am DEAF.

    © Lynne Graham 2007

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