The deaf community is diverse.
We’ve been reminded of that since the Deaf episode of ABC’s You Can’t Ask That went live on Friday morning.
Since sharing my thoughts about the episode, I’ve had people notify me that they were hurt by my comments. I’ve had people comment about how they were re-questioning their identity.
When I compiled my thoughts, I forgot about the following:
- the role language plays in the formation of Deaf identity, particularly for those born to hearing parents;
- the diversity of deafness;
- grassroots being given a platform to educate the mainstream community (non-grassroots deaf are often seen on this platform);
- grassroots finally being given a voice on national television;
- the true purpose of the program;
- deaf people born to hearing parents identifying as native signers;
- and most importantly, how diverse the deaf community is.
I have realised my mistake and I have since made a public apology. I have been thinking about how we can work together to make our community stronger and united. I have had healthy conversations with a number of people who have given me their perspectives.
This has been a huge learning curve, and a very empowering one too.
As a member of the deaf community, I am accountable for my actions and words.
The deaf community is a collective.
The majority of deaf community are deaf people born to hearing parents. Statistics shows that approximately 92% of deaf people are born to hearing parents. The number of deaf people born to deaf parents are getting smaller and smaller as years go by.
Some deaf people have been signing since they were infants. Some deaf people started signing later in their lives after growing up predominantly oral.
Deaf people who discover the deaf community later in their lives might struggle to be accepted. They might feel the deaf community is not inclusive.
That said, we need to start embracing the diversity of deafness and to make our community more inclusive. We have a social responsibility to empower each other. We also have a social responsibility to strengthen the diversity within our community.
The diversity of the deaf community is so much more than just various racial, religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.
– Thomas Holcomb (2013)
To work together to strengthen our collective, we need to embrace community accountability. We can work together to do the following things:
- Affirm the values of our community;
- Address behaviours that is not tolerated and to educate;
- Create safe spaces for all;
- Encourage the community to grow as a whole;
- Work together to transform the community for the better;
- Provide support to each other, especially those who are new to the community;
- Educate the mainstream community about us;
- Empower each other;
- Respect all types of deaf people and their experiences.
We need to have a conversation (or twenty) on how we can work together to make our community more united. Please keep in mind that what I’ve suggested isn’t a solution; it’s an opportunity for us to start this conversation about community accountability.
We’re all representatives of the deaf community, and we are accountable for our actions and words.
In a blog post from 2014, I said (and forgot about):
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.
Diversity is what strengthens us. We learn from each other. We love and accept each other.
The last couple of days has been an incredible learning opportunity for myself and for many others. It’s also forced me to remind myself of the importance of diversity within the deaf community. What I have learnt will be applied to my personal and professional work from this point on, and reflecting on this again in the near future will be a good reminder should my judgement & thoughts become clouded again.
To those who reached out to me, I thank you. To those who allowed me to reach out to them, I thank you. To the Deaf community and everyone else who shared their thoughts and perspectives, I thank you.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank to each one of you for being vocal and passionate about your identity and values, and for educating me about what is important to the deaf community.