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BUG: Deaf Identity and Internal Revolution

Christopher Jon Heuer

On Small Things Easily Squished (and Alternative Destinies)

In March 2003, my good friend John Lee Clark asked me if I would be willing to write a column about whatever was bugging me that week.

Well . . . that’s not exactly true. The publication I would write for was to be called The Tactile Mind Weekly (TTMW)—so yes, the column had to be a weekly one. But John never actually specified that my column had to be about something that was “bugging” me. All he really said was that it had to be about deafness. But you see, to me, those two things were one and the same. Lots of things bugged me about deafness. A lot of things still do.

Before I go on, though, I’d like to qualify those last two statements. When I was growing up, my mother’s response to every problem I had was: “Well, he just needs to adjust to his deafness.” Believe me, I do mean every problem. Bloody nose? “Chris, you need to adjust to your deafness.” Homework not done? “I know it’s hard adjusting to your deafness, honey, but. . . .” Acne scarring? “Lots of teenagers get zits, Chris. I know it’s hard for you, dealing with this while trying to adjust to your. . . .”

On and on this went—for years. One day, I got sick of it. I don’t really know how the argument got started, but I ended up banging my fist on the table and shouting, “Ma, stop!” Stop, because it’s not your deafness that spits in your ear and slaps you upside the back of your head as it runs past you in the hallways of mainstream schools. It doesn’t talk down to you, treat you like a Retard, or leave you sitting at the family dinner table, neglected and alone, in the presence of oblivious, yapping multitudes.

Other people do that.

Thus my intention was to kick a little ass in my column. I was mad, and Hearing America has had it coming for years. It’s not easy, trying to tell them off. The problem isn’t the argument. It’s the audience. The ability to hear is not the same thing as the ability to listen. Brutal truths are painful and therefore threatening. Avoidance is easier. Denial is easier. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself” is easier. Their only alternative is acknowledging their part in the problem.

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