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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Identities in the Making: Local Lives, Transnational Connections

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I was informed about this later on, that the doctors wanted to operate me. They also wanted me to be raised orally. One of my ears is in fact intact, but clogged. When I was six or seven, the doctors wanted to force an operation on me. I didn’t feel any reason for becoming “better,” so I resisted it. If I should be operated, I wanted to wait. My father refused to let them do anything before I was grown up.

Again, she managed to counter the pressure and the not-too-hidden message that deafness was bad. She was more or less able to grow up knowing that she was a whole person, not lacking in anything essential. Today, she is therefore quite content and in no need for healing.

Nowadays, I think about being operated only sporadically. I have no problems communicating with my family—because we use our own language. It is of course different in relation to hearing friends and the hearing society. I have a hearing boyfriend and when I communicate with him alone, it is quite OK. But I am going to educate myself as a civil engineer. Maybe I need to hear better to tackle the work situation and society as such. But I don’t know.

Here she is thus simply reflecting one of her own mottos that she uses both in her e-mail and on her Internet homepage: “There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”

A Free, but Quite Loyal, Rider

Anita is clearly part of Deaf society through her family and activities in the association for deaf youths. In describing her attachments to the Deaf community, she is nevertheless in an ambivalent or rather free position. Caring parents that have backed her up have actively supported this position. Her father has been of specific importance. She says: “My father is perhaps the most important person in my life. I have always been my father’s girl, while my brother has been a mother’s boy. My father has supported me all the time and he has been interested in my development, that I should have the best opportunities and so on.”

By being so much accepted within the family and by having a totally accessible language environment ready at home, she has been subjected to a sort of mild envy from deaf peers. She understands them and appreciates the situation she is in. However, she thinks that they also misjudge the situation somehow. It is not necessarily easy to have “everything.” She certainly has challenges in family life even if communication runs smoothly:

My deaf friends with hearing parents have always thought that I must be very happy since all my family is deaf and communication barriers are minimal. My friends were happy while visiting us in our home. Of course they are right in one way, but perhaps I am a little bit spoiled, because I have felt that the family gatherings have been and are dead boring. But, of course, when my friends join their family gatherings the hearing members talk and the deaf one has to sit isolated without really being taken into account. When they ask about what they say, nobody can exactly recall the conversations and plots. So I have always been told that I am lucky for being a real part of a family.

There are, however, instances that are less favorable to a deaf youth of well-known deaf parents:

It is not so great all the time. Everybody in the deaf community knows each other, so I cannot do very much without getting comments or my parents getting to know about it. For instance, when it is party-time at the annual cultural festival for the deaf, I don’t always enjoy being quickly identified. My friends with hearing parents can more easily freak out and drink whatever they want, without being identified and hence controlled. It is quite embarrassing that everybody knows who I am and who my parents are.

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