excerpt from Lend Me Your Ear continued…
In this passing, I spent a good deal of time watching—an act for which I had, as a hard-of-hearing person, lifelong experience and impeccable credentials—watching myself, watching the students I was doing case studies of, watching everything in the ethnographic scene of Gallaudet Deaf culture before me. I kept seeing myself in and through many of the students I worked with in the “basic English” classrooms. They were the mirror in my ears. These students often had volatile, if not violent, histories of passing—especially academically. Most of them, by virtue of finding themselves “stuck” (there is a powerful sign for that—two fingers jammed into the throat, a desperate look on the face) in English 050, were still floundering mightily, struggling violently, to pass at basic English literacy. Having negotiated that passage rather adeptly I now, oddly enough, found myself struggling to squeeze through another doorway as I was myself engaged in a mighty, violent struggle to pass in basic d/Deaf literacy.

I don’t think I ever got it right. Almost, but not quite. I couldn’t be deaf any more than I could be hearing. I was hard-of-hearing; and therein I was as confused and displaced, in either Deaf or Hearing culture, as this multiply-hyphenated term indicates.

The mirror in my ears threw back odd images—distorted, illuminating, disturbing, fantastic, funny—but all somehow reflecting parts of me. It put my passing in various perspectives: perspectives of tense and time (past, present, future); perspectives of repeated situations and relationships in my personal and academic life; and perspectives about the ways that stories are told, identities forged, arguments made. These are but some of the things I saw as I passed through, by, on.

For some twenty-five years of my life, from age five on, I went to the movies. And while I think I always more or less got the plot, I missed everything in the dialogue. For twenty-five years I sat, passing time with a Three Musketeers candy bar, some popcorn, a Coke. I sat with my sisters as a grade school child on weeknights when my Mom had to work and my Dad was running the film from up in the little booth (both my parents had two jobs). To be sure, we often didn’t sit so much as we crawled the aisles, playing hide-and-seek quietly in an always near-empty theater. Sometimes, more sensibly, I went to the lobby to do some homework. Through some films, though—the Disney classics and the cartoons that opened and closed each feature film—I did try to sit, to listen and watch. I don’t think I had a conscious knowledge of it then, but now I know that I heard nothing, that I was a pro at passing even back then.

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