One of the things I really love about being Deaf is that I get an automatic passport to the Deaf community. It’s a community with our own customs that are completely separate from the hearing world.
For example, if you meet a fellow Deaf person, anywhere in the world, you can expect to stop and have a chat. We’ll cover our names, ages, where we went to school, whether we grew up oral or signing, what we do for work, where we live, and even what we’re doing today. If we have enough time, we’ll go big and deep, covering as many topics as we can. Whenever this happens, and I bump into a Deaf stranger and we both click into gear, connecting, it warms my heart. I come away singing inside, knowing that my community is out there and I’m not alone. There’s automatic warmth there, and kindness and interest in one another.
There’s an honesty too. In the Deaf community, it’s not rude to observe, truthfully, that the other person has become fat. It’s all visual – we say it like we see it. Different from the hearing world where many topics are taboo and need to be carefully negotiated. In the Deaf world, anything goes.
Deaf Goodbyes are a classic in our community. Try to get a Deaf person to leave an event quickly, and we’ll be talking about extended goodbyes of half an hour or more. Don’t expect to slip off quietly!
Touching is fine. It’s good. We touch each others’ shoulders and arms to get each others’ attention. We hug. None of that stiff-upper-lip stuff.
It’s big and vibrant too. Lots of expressiveness, physical, mental and emotional egagement, with our eyes completely tuned to the other person. When we connect, we really connect, on every level. It’s good.
They say that blindness cuts you off from things but Deafness cuts you off from people. True. But not in the Deaf community. We more than make up for it with our connections to each other. I can walk into a room full of Deaf strangers and I know that I will connect, be welcomed and accepted.
This painting is one of the pieces I’ve done for my exhibition.
The exhibition, Looking Out… Looking In… is up at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne until 28th Sept and at 2.30pm on the 11 Sept we are having a Q&A session where we can discuss topics like this. Come along if you’d like. Event details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/565380666920579/
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(And this painting is for sale – you can buy it online here.