I learned about a word, “deafhood” for the first time in a presentation. According to Genie Gertzone, one of three presenters, deafhood means a process, a journey for all Deaf people. It is not a measurement who is Deaf and who is not. It is a process of becoming the best Deaf human being one can become. This presentation made an enormous impact me. In fact, the presentation helped me find my identity again and analyze or examine myself. I began to recognize that I was making a journey to reach my identity thanks to the presentation.
I found my identity by meeting many deaf and hard of hearing people who have different backgrounds in an organization during my university days. Most of the members of the organization are deaf and hard of hearing students who attend hearing universities in Japan. The purpose of the organization is to assist deaf and hard of hearing students to find a reasonable solution under the circumstance where they have no opportunities to receive services such as sign language interpreters.
After graduating from university, I did not join in any organizations for deaf and hard of hearing for a few years because I had to study laws to prepare for the National Bar Examination in Japan. But, I came to increase my stress as the days went by because I did not get in touch with any deaf community. I had forgotten the importance and the necessity of involving in deaf community during those days.
I had been away from a deaf community until I came to Gallaudet University in fall 2005. Although I wanted to continue to analyze myself as I used to do in my university days, it had not been easy for me to do it. But, I could find my identity again thanks to deaf community at Gallaudet University. I learned that deaf community helps me keep on maintaining my identity. Also, I learned that deaf community gives me many opportunities to analyze myself such as the presentation.
So, I will keep in mind the word “deafhood” and its meaning and continue my own journey into the deaf world. Also, I will be involved with some organizations for deaf and hard of hearing people after leaving the deaf community at Gallaudet University.
By the way, I want to mention the Gallaudet Protest. To tell the truth, I had not been interested in it before school was closed by some students who did not support Jane K. Fernandes who would take office in January 2007 as Gallaudet’s ninth president. At first, it seemed to me that they just were complaining about the new president because of not their taste. Also, I thought that the protest would end without being settled soon. I did not expect that some students took action against the new president in this fall. However, as the days passed, I was aware of something to change in my mind. Why do they oppose to the new president? What are reasons why they do not support her? Why is not she suitable as the new president? What is she lacking for a deaf leader? What is required of a deaf leader for? Such many questions have crossed my mind since school was transiently closed. Sometimes, these questions caused by the protest movement are stressful to me. I have not found the answers to these questions yet, but I began to consider that Jane K. Fernandes was not worthy of the next president. So, I decided to take part in the protest parade last Saturday.
During I paraded toward the capitol, I talked with my friends. The topics of our conversation were not only about the next president, but also about our personal matters. I noticed a difference in a characteristic between a parade by deaf people and other demonstration parades in general. Oppression that deaf people have experienced is difficult to be recognized in society. A deaf parade seems to be a kind of festivals when I judge it from the outside only. On the other hand, other minority groups tend to hold general demonstration parades, expressing their serious faces. I can catch a glimpse of deaf culture from such an appearance of a deaf parade. When we arrived at the capitol, we held a big meeting. When some speakers made speeches about the next president, they expressed their thought by showing their serious faces. Oppression that deaf people have experienced could not be recognized during their parade, but it could be recognized in their speeches. That is the difference between deaf people and other minority groups.
I want to come back to topic “deafhood.” What I learned in the presentation can be applied to what I experienced in the past, what I am experiencing now and what I will experience in the future. I have thought that people, who were born from deaf parents or have grown up in deaf school and also use sign language as their first language, can live together in deaf community while people, who were born from hearing parents or have grown up to attend hearing school and also communicated in an oral method, are outside of the deaf community. But, I have believed that deaf people can find their identity even though they have grown in hearing world such as hearing school and hearing family. It is that because “deaf is deaf.” From the point of view of oppression, deaf people who have grown up in both environments should have experienced same oppression. I think that maybe a difference can be seen with regard to how to interpret this circumstance between both sides. But, when we try to improve the oppression, we need to discuss about it on the point of view of “deafhood.”
In my opinion, the arrival of “deafhood” gives hope and courage to deaf people who found their identity in adulthood, and also implies that deaf people always have to analyze theirselves as long as they live even though they have grown up in the deaf world such as deaf school and deaf family. I believe that having a journey into deaf world sometimes causes us stress, but causes us finding life worth living, too. I strongly expect that “deafhood” will penetrate into other countries as well as the United State, and play an important role in society. Also, I cannot help to dream that deaf people all over the world will push their oppression out to acquire equality with hearing people some day.