Thanks for thinking of me and allowing me to share some of my thoughts.
Living on campus is one of the best ways for hearing students to truly immerse themselves in Deaf Culture. However, when two or more hearing people gather in the absence of a Deaf person, the urge is to switch to SimCom or voiced English (I don’t know which is worse). This means that entire dorm rooms, cafeteria tables, and even classrooms follow this unwritten policy. If one person switches languages, then the entire group is pulled toward English because it is our first and native language. When faced with the decision of choosing a downhill path and a uphill struggle, most would choose the former. But that is not why we are here at Gallaudet. We are not here to practice our English. We’ve done that for our entire lives. We are here to completely dive into a language that is not native to us. But when voicing happens on campus, it becomes a black hole, sucking in all hearing people, regardless of their good intentions. It takes every fiber of self control to sign answers in response to voiced questions. However if everybody understood this, respected the mission statement and language policy of Gallaudet University we wouldn’t feel this internal struggle between which language to choose. But for now all I can do is surround myself with as many Deaf people as I can find so that both on and off campus I will not have to choose which language to use.
Although there are many hearing students who voice on campus, I believe that there are even more hearing students who are uncomfortable with this unwritten philosophy. These students are just not confident enough in their signing to surround themselves with Deaf friends, not confident enough to ask their hearing friends to “Please for me, voice-off”, not confident enough to stand strong in the presence of a black hole. However it is our job as allies to stand up for a voice off campus.
I was just thinking about some of my frustrations regarding this issue and two things that hadn’t yet come to mind did.
Many hearing people here, even ones who are very skilled in ASL, have difficulty signing all day and feel the need to speak English as a way to escape, to have a moment where they can feel themselves. This can be true of any person in another culture, or if they moved to china spoke Chinese all day, they may need some times where they speak English. So, when hearing people live on campus with only hearing people they treat their room as “the escape.” They feel their room is the only place where they can be themselves. I think that anthropologically this makes a lot of sense.
2. Hearing Culture Conflict
However, this becomes a problem when the entire suite is hearing because then the suite allows hearing culture to take over which can be a problem for someone like me who does not feel the need to participate in hearing culture. Hearing people behave certain ways in hearing environments because of their hearing and there are also certain manners that accompany that. As a hearing person who does not feel like I need a “break from using ASL” I don’t have the ability to only sign in a suite where everyone speaks because it is considered very rude in a hearing environment for someone to speak to you and for you to not speak back if you have the ability. In doing so i would be rejecting their right to speak which they do have in their own bedroom without deaf people around. This creates a culture conflict amongst hearing people on the campus because how their hearing culture exists changes, and it affects the way ASL exists in Gallaudet when there are all of these pockets of hearing culture due to the fact that there is such a concentration of hearing people in the graduate school.
Didn’t come to any conclusions but i thought i should share it.
Copyright © Jason Tozier
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