Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Fabulous ASL Learners of RC

Last night was the 1 year anniversary of the Fabulous ASL Learners of RC! As always we met for the 2nd Monday of the month at 6:30 at Victoria Gardens in the courtyard between Starbucks and the Food Court. Being able to relax and communicate in a group setting is a blessing for a late-deafened person. When I first lost my hearing and would go to hearing functions, assuming everyone would include me, I was sorely mistaken. Even when people try, they try for a few minutes and then move on to conversate with people who don't need everything written for them. After a few months of being deaf and incredibly lonely, I began to seek out Deaf culture events in my area. I assumed that with my hearing gone I could make a new social home with other who cannot hear. At my first Deaf culture event I was so pumped up and excited to finally communicate freely with other people. I knew a little bit of ASL, mostly fingerspelling and basic words. I was absurdly wrong to think that I would just melt right in with another subculture simply because I lacked the ability to hear. That would be like taking a Spanish class and calling yourself Mexican! Being Deaf is not just about being incapable of processing sound. It is a culture, with its own norms and language, that most members are a part of from a very young age. At 21 I had definitely missed the boat.

I left that first Deaf event feeling very alone in the world, an island unto myself. A hearing person would attempt to speak to me and finding I could not hear them immediately categorize me as Deaf. Deaf people would see me speaking rather then signing, able to voice clearly as a hearing person would while not signing fluently, and classify me as hearing. What about how I see myself? Why do I need to be either or? I float somewhere in between both worlds, never fully able to participate in either as a full fledged member.

A year ago I decided to step up and do something about it. You aren’t surprised by that are you? I hate complaints without action! I started a local ASL group on meetup.com. I posted flyers, and by word of mouth I have 100 members today. When I am at our monthly meeting it is the only time out of the entire month I am able to communicate with both Deaf and hearing people with equality. There are all levels of signers who participate, from ASL 1 students barely learning to fingerspell, to Deaf members who sign ASL fluently while gladly slowing down and assisting the rest of us. I have learned so many new signs, but more importantly I have made a lot of really awesome friends. The entire premise of the group is that all are embraced and made to genuinely feel welcome. All you need is the will to participate and learn. If you are interested in our group please check us out here!


Cindy said...

you could start an ALDA chapter. Agree nothing like the scene you paint once become deaf. Its ALDA coffee night at starbucks in Clearwater FL tonight. similar scene will play out. Love it

Bekki said...

Hi! I saw your flyer posted at the Starbucks in Victoria Gardens and found your blog through google. I am very interested in attending the meetings. I am hearing, but would love to learn more about the deaf community and ASL. Hopefully I will see you in October!

bill said...

Hi there! My name is Bill Hodgson and we met at Victoria Gardens and I wanted to say that your website is really an inspiration. My wife and I admire you for all you're doing and all you've done. It was a real pleasure to meet you and we're behind you all the way!

Olivia Hernandez said...

Bekki hope to see you in the group soon!!

Bill it was great to meet you make sure you recommend our Mom's group to your wife! :)

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