excerpt from Lend Me Your Ear continued…
It was a young woman, a new and very much struggling student, that I met at Gallaudet when I first went there and was so engrossed in my own coming out, so obsessed with my own identity, who first showed me and let me feel the shards of that mirror. She had been a student in the English 50 class I was a teaching assistant in; I had also tutored her individually and she had served as one of my in-depth case studies, meeting with me weekly for interviews and videotapes of her in the process of writing. We had come to know each other well. And although she looked, figuratively or literally, nothing like Lynn, the older deaf woman I now know I fetishized, I think the mirror drew us to each other—in the way most of us can hardly resist glimpsing ourselves, can hardly resist turning to stare at ourselves, when we pass by any reflective glass. This younger woman (whom, interestingly or conveniently enough, I had assigned the pseudonym “Lynne”) turned to me as her model and mentor—me the mainstreamed, academically and somewhat socially successful woman, who had married a hearing man and got along, so it seemed, rather well in the Hearing world.

I hadn’t realized how much she had turned to see me in her mirror (and I, in that way that we do when the mirror flatters us, not only had let her but had probably encouraged her)—I hadn’t realized until toward the end of the semester I received several desperate long-distance phone calls from her mother in Nebraska. Lynne was not doing well at Gallaudet. It wasn’t just her grades, although those were bad enough, to be sure. (Lynne was one of those lifelong products of mainstreaming—now found in abundance at Gallaudet—who arrived as a college freshman with little sign language skills and found herself immersed, even drowning, in Deaf culture and the precedence of sign language—yet another language now, in addition to English, that she didn’t quite get.) Lynne was failing miserably in the Gallaudet social arena: she was lonely, depressed, even cast out. She just didn’t fit. And her mother suffered for her, with her.

Back home, it turns out, Lynne had a hearing boyfriend. In righteous anger, her mother wanted her out of the “meanness” of Gallaudet, and so she had begun contacting me to seek my counsel on both the meanness and on getting Lynne out. Essentially, she wanted me to talk to Lynne and encourage her to abandon her long dream of studying at Gallaudet. Lynn’s mother, understandably, wanted her back in the hearing world. It was mean there, too—but I think her mother had forgotten about that for the moment. What’s more, she wanted Lynne married to a hearing man.

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