Friday, May 9, 2008

Communication in relationships

So I recently dated a deaf guy. He was the first deaf person I had dated in a few years; the previous people I had gone out with had been hearing.

Let's call him Recent-Dater #1.
Recent-Dater #2 was a hearing interpreting student who signed fluently.
Recent-Dater#3 was a hearing graduate deaf ed student who signed pretty well.

So now that you have some semblance of my recent dating history (and that "history" covers the last four years), I'm going to try to get right to the point.

Communication was HARD at times. In a way, I expected it to be easier because we were both deaf and we both sign. But apparently, that's where the similarity lies.

I prefer to express myself in English.
He prefers to express himself in ASL-PSE.
I voice relatively well.
His voice is pretty damn unintelligible.

I like communicating via voice or written English (IM, etc.). I don't have a problem discussing heavy issues over IM, especially when it's important and I don't think the issue should wait. He prefers to wait until we can both meet and then discuss in person, so he can "sign it out."

Of course, this led to frustration for both of us. Especially since I'm not the most patient person in the world. (Or even the most patient patient...but I digress.)

I almost always had to ask him to fingerspell two or three times because I never understood his fingerspelling the first time around.

He thinks I sign better when I'm "singing."

I found myself wanting to make things easier in public by voicing for him sometimes. In the beginning, he told me he did not want me to interpret for him. Then he started glancing at me every so often. And I would go right into "deaf interpreter mode." Without even thinking about it. One night, we had dinner with my parents. And I interpreted the entire time, taking time out to eat for myself. Not that I minded, but... it would definitely have been easier if he could communicate with them directly.

So perhaps the importance of communication isn't so dependent on the hearing status of both parties or communication mode (signing, cueing or speaking), but rather...

the ability of both people to express themselves in similar ways -- or at least to be able to understand how the other person expresses themselves and not struggle.

Admittedly, I want a partner who is as comfortable with English as I am, who doesn't need me to proofread written communication and, admittedly... one who enjoys musicals as much as I do. :)

And someone who can speak relatively well, so that I don't feel like inequality in communication exists. Because communication with others is just as important as communication with your partner.


ETA (edited to add): I am NOT upset/annoyed/mad with this guy. We just encountered difficulties in communication that I didn't expect. So many people assume that deaf+deaf = easy communication, but that's not necessarily true. It's not just about the language (English or ASL) or mode of communication (signing, cueing, speaking).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hiatus & PepsiCo thoughts

So apparently, one of the drawbacks to having a job that requires me to focus on writing, editing and working with web site projects means that I have no motivation for focusing on my own blogs. A friend of a friend last night asked whether I had a blog. I directed him to this one, then looked at it myself.

April 22, 2007.

That's the date of the last blog I posted. Sigh. Didn't realize it had been that long.

A lot has happened since April. I can't believe it's been almost 10 months since my last "politically incorrect" blog. And, of course, I've mused over many a topic that I've considered blogging about, but when push came to shove... I didn't do it.

I had thought part of the problem is that I'm too apathetic these days or just too much in a routine to feel fired up about anything. Then, last week, I was at a friend's house and we were discussing the whole PepsiCo commercial issue. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, first, view the video, and then meander over to and check out these two blogs:

AGBell Tackles Pepsico SuperBowl Commercial

My Response to Karen Youdelman’s and Alexander T. Graham’s Pepsico Letter

First of all, I just want to say that I have met Alex Graham. I do not know Karen Youdelman, nor do I envision meeting her in the near future. My meeting with Alex Graham was fortuitous, in that it occurred before this PepsiCo commercial "controversy" came up. Alex is the new executive director of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. He comes from a background in health management, and he is a businessman/organizational manager. He joined AG Bell having very little knowledge of "deaf politics." His goal is to streamline operations and make the organization's staff more efficient. The flak that he has received for being a co-signer of the AG Bell letter to PepsiCo essentially "complaining" about the lack of deaf oral participants is thus unwarranted.

Oftentimes, when an organizational letter is disseminated, both the President and Executive Director sign it. The president, however, is ultimately responsible not only for the contents of the letters, but also for maintaining the integrity and mission/goals of the organization. The president of an organization is the leader; he/she directs and oversees the board of directors. The executive director actually serves the president and board of directors. EDs do not have power over the president/board. I feel as though this is a mistaken perception on the part of many individuals.

The above is not to say that I agree with AG Bell's position or with their decision to write this letter. I personally feel it was uncalled for. In fact, just a few short days after the letter link was posted on the AG Bell home page, it was taken down. The PDF still exists, though.

Here are a few excerpts from the letter:
Although we appreciate Pepsi’s efforts to encourage new promotional ideas from your rank-and-file employees and your willingness to celebrate diversity, we would be remiss if we did not call your attention to the fact that your advertisement offers a limited view of the deaf community.

Your advertisement perpetuates a common myth that all people who are deaf can only communicate using sign language and are, therefore, isolated from the rest of society.

Of the more than 30 million Americans who live with hearing loss, the majority use spoken language as their primary mode of communication.

My thoughts regarding the excerpted comments are:

All commercials are sensationalized. Show me any commercial that shows no bias and I'll show you a pig flying. In other words, the fact that this commercial shows signing deaf people DOES portray a limited view of the deaf community. While I can understand AG Bell's desire to have oral deaf persons more "visible," I find it ironic -- AG Bell touts the ability of oral deaf persons to be mainstream, to be part of hearing society, and not to be "differentiated." This excerpt from AG Bell's "Who we are" page illustrates this concept pretty well:
Through advocacy, education, research and financial aid, AG Bell helps to ensure that every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to listen, talk and thrive in mainstream society.
With regard to the second excerpt, I actually had to laugh. I didn't see anything in the commercial that shows that signing deaf people are "isolated" from the rest of society. I will accede, however, that the commercial does perpetuate the idea that deaf people sign.

The last excerpt is actually true, and I do applaud AG Bell for not putting a number to represent "majority" because then, I'd really have a bone to pick with them. My own father would be considered part of the number of Americans with hearing loss, as someone who lost hearing as he got older. He and I are different in that I use sign language to communicate sometimes, and he never does. He never had to, really.

So, to pull my thoughts together into a coherent summary:

All commercials are misleading.
Therefore, the PepsiCo commercial is misleading. ;-)

I'm sort of kidding. But seriously, what is advertising if not promoting a product or service? One would think that, looking at all the other commercials out there, that no deaf Americans exist (that is, if you follow flawed logic processes). So the fact that a major corporation produced a commercial utilizing their own deaf and hearing employees and showcasing a spinoff of a popular joke within the signing Deaf community definitely is a break from the trend. It was a risky project, and the attention it got -- both positive and negative -- was amazing.

Would it be nice to see commercials showcasing deaf oral individuals? Sure, of course!

Would it be nice to see commercials showcasing deaf signing, oral AND cueing individuals? Oh wow... utopia...
Main Entry: uto·pia
Pronunciation: \y-ˈtō-pē-ə\
Function: noun
Etymology: Utopia, imaginary and ideal country in Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More, from Greek ou not, no + topos place
Date: 1597
1: an imaginary and indefinitely remote place
2: a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions
And, with that... I leave you to ponder.