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Deaf Identities in the Making:
Local Lives, Transnational Connections|
The two deaf women presented in this chapter both live within the Deaf community in Norway. They share the Norwegian sign language and the joys and challenges of deaf life. Through the medium of sign language, they affiliate with the Deaf community, but this is not all-encompassing and they seem to seek a certain degree of distance. Both are critical of the "extremist" tendencies in the Deaf world, which they experience as limiting. They have strong connections to both deaf and hearing friends in Norway and abroad. However, their stories are very different. Hilde tells a partially traumatic tale, related to nonacceptance of her deafness. Anita, on the other hand, was immersed into the Deaf world, and deafness was part of regular life. The existential uncertainty is very well reflected in Hilde’s story, primarily because she had no chance to appreciate her own deafness as a child. The phonocentric cultural regime surrounding her made her adopt a negative outlook on deafness, with damaging effects to her self-esteem. Initially, her identity quest was to become someone beyond her reach. The self-destructive aspect of this phase is evocatively demonstrated. For Anita this was different, because she could take her being in the world much more for granted. Her difference (being adopted by a deaf family and diagnosed as hard of hearing, not deaf, in terms of medical audiology) led her toward different identity pathways and other challenges in life.
HILDE’S STORY: COMING OUT AS DEAF
Hilde is a woman in her early forties, living alone with her three hearing children in a small city in central Norway. She is an active woman, engaged in her children’s schooling and leisure activities and in promoting certain aspects of Deaf culture:
Deafness as a malfunction looms large and sets the stage for her sense of self to be experienced as tragically different. Continuing, she tells of a complicated childhood with much frustration and confusion. Part of this confusion was due to her parents’ lack of knowledge of deafness as such and of appropriate communication skills:
Her own confusion in childhood clearly relates to her own inability to communicate, and she gives a brief account of how this started to change: