Angry That I’m Deaf

I’m angry that I’m deaf. There. I said it.

Think whatever you want, claim whatever you want. But if you’re deaf, chances are you know what I am feeling. Let’s sidestep the “I wouldn’t take a pill to become hearing” argument and look at the feelings we’ve had before.

First, let me clarify myself, I’m awed by our language and proud of our culture. Our community is my home. But sometimes I get those bursts of anger about my disability. I sometimes do get so effing angry that I’m deaf.

I’m just so sick of having people stare at me when I sign.

Ooh, I get really angry when others portray me as dependent. I can order for myself. I can communicate for myself. But, no, sometimes others want to step in and “help” me when I’m perfectly capable and independent. Shoo.

I hate the feeling of being lost or socially incompetent in situations involving hearing members. I have mastered the art of perfecting my face to look like I understand what they are saying when really I’m thinking of how fast I can get out of this conversation. I’m a pro at Keep-Nodding-Your-Head-So-They-Think-You-Understand. If only it was considered a skill, I would add it on my resume.

That angers me. I have so much to say, so many thoughts whirling in my head. When I’m in a hearing environment and I see all of them laughing and talking. That’s when my anger gets worse. I want to know what they’re saying. I want to be able to talk to them directly. Instead, I have to settle for snippets of conversations here and there, only getting half of the picture.

I’m angry that I get humiliated in social situations. It pisses me off when people laugh and I sit there looking like a humorless robot because I miss the joke. Or worse, I misunderstand what they’re saying and I laugh, and it turns out they weren’t trying to be funny. I once laughed when someone talked about her dead grandpa; I completely misread the situation. Thus, I slinked off with a red face and a bubbling anger.

One of the things that annoys me is when hearing people come to me and they are like “I know how to sign!” when they only know how to spell their name. I appreciate their effort and friendliness, but really? You do not know my language and I would never claim to speak Spanish if I only know “hola.

I am furious that deaf children are denied quality access to education. I am fed up with the constant paternalism deaf people face. I am outraged because I am passed over for not being “orally-competent.” I am furious that I don’t meet job requirements because I am not considered “skilled in oral communication.” I am so angry that my skills and qualifications are passed over because of my “hearing loss.” Up yours.

I love our community, but I believe it’s time we stop sugarcoating things. Why is being angry a bad thing? I feel like we are expected to always be so happy that we’re deaf and to shout our joy from the rooftops. No. That’s not what we all are feeling. My anger is real. It’s valid. Let’s recognize it.

It took me a while to figure out where my anger stems from. I’m angry that I’m limited. I’m not angry that I can’t hear; I’m angry that I have to face obstacles everyday. I’m angry that as soon as I enter the hearing world, I am reminded that I am not “whole” in their eyes.  I’m angry that I am seen as less. I am angry that society isolates us.

I’m also angry because I know that for every battle our community wins, there’s another door slamming in our face. This doesn’t mean we should give up fighting, but it’s exhausting.

I am angry that I have a disability. I would never trade my experience with our community, but I am angry.

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21 Responses to “Angry That I’m Deaf”

  1. Anonymous
    April 16, 2014 at 11:15 AM #

    Brilliant. I really enjoyed this.

  2. Meredith
    April 16, 2014 at 11:18 AM #

    Fantastic article, Corinna.

    Some people would say “don’t be angry that you’re deaf, be angry that people aren’t accommodating.” That’s great – and it’s true, people SHOULD be accommodating, and we should be angry when they aren’t. But it’s difficult not to turn that inward and have real, valid anger at oneself. Like you said: let’s acknowledge it. We’re happier people when we fully understand ourselves. And if that means being angry at being deaf, that’s okay.

  3. Aileen Aldalur
    April 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM #

    Thank you for writing this. I completely understand the not wanting to change our Deaf identity argument. I used to think about how great it would be to suddenly become hearing, but then I realized how that would take away from the identity I have today. I do not know what life is without being Deaf, I cannot remember it and I am not ready to just jump into unknown territory. However, I think my feelings of disappointment need to be acknowledged. Yes, sometimes when I am in social situations with hearing people, I wish I could just follow along with the conversation. Sometimes I wish I could just join any of the clubs/social groups/organizations in my community without having to worry about barriers to communication. But that does not mean that I want to become hearing.

  4. Margaret Donegan
    April 17, 2014 at 7:32 AM #

    I fully appreciate how difficult it must be if somebody has a hearing problem, difficult every day of their lives, but I must say I have always found people with hearing problems to be very friendly and happy people.

  5. Adam
    April 17, 2014 at 8:38 AM #

    Hey Corinna don’t be angry, I’ll be angry with you. Anger should not be restricted to one person, it should be shared, that way we as a community become stronger.

    I agree anger is not a weakness, it’s a strength when used properly, much like a hammer. I myself have always been closer to the hearing community than the signing world. I always feel left out by the Deaf community due to them ‘defining’ themselves with their signing. Surely we are all one and the same? We suffer the same strain in social situations so why should there be a language barrier?

    Obviously it would be great if I DID learn to sign but I prefer to talk, and therefore it would be great to be hearing. I envy the closeness of the signing world, communicating in that way, paying full attention to each other – if only speech had that intensity!

    I get asked a lot if I lipread, but I’d rather not lipread, I would only use lipreading to assist me in the great challenge of understanding softly spoken people.

    It seems I’ve always been stuck in the middle, not quite part of BSL and not quite part of the everyday hearing world of speech. What they both have in common is that they are extremely quick, it can be difficult to keep up. So there has been anger. My anger is probably what meant I ended up going to special school. We all try our best but in the end we’ve just gotta persevere.

    Don’t worry about all of it too much, remember to be yourself, don’t feel inferior for not being able to keep up. Sometimes trying to go with the flow isn’t an option, and we have to find a way of being who we are. I’ve dabbled in acting, and it feels good to be able to express myself outside of the ‘norm’.

    It’s up to us to sell ourselves I suppose, it’s just finding a way to do that so that then we are in charge and not always trying to ‘keep up’.

    Hope that helps, one final thought – Anger, to me, shows that you have the passion and determination to do whatever you want. So good luck 🙂

  6. Andrew pilkington
    April 17, 2014 at 11:22 AM #

    I can totally understand that anger as I was born profoundly deaf, I can lip-read and talk and quite fluent in BSL, I am constantly struggling in conversations/group conversations with hearing people and only getting snippets of information as the talks bounce back and forth, I do empathise with BSL users who gets annoyed in pubs/social situations with people staring at them and trying to join in amateurishly, or even mocking them! So I totally agree with this article and do get angry. But normally I’m a happy and cheerful person and have learned to ‘tune’ out normal people who mock me and talk really more slower than normal to accommodate me (in return I talk really fast lol)

  7. Leonard Hodson
    April 17, 2014 at 11:46 AM #

    To Corrina,
    You should not be angry. You are not disabled. Signing deaf people should be together and show the public that they are happy. They can campaign for deaf rights if they join a group. If you are angry you will frighten people away. You will need their support, they need to know what help they can give. The local governments and Members of Parliament need to be told. They may be ignorant but you can educate them, not on your own of course but with other campaigners. I know about barriers and discrimination because I have been through them for years. I get frustrated at times but I have created a deaf rights group in Lancashire and we have over one hundred members. We share our problems and we are happy to do the campaign for deaf people.

  8. Tmood
    April 17, 2014 at 12:26 PM #

    Being angry can be healthy on some level. Knowing what you’re angry about and why you’re angry is one thing. But staying angry about the same point is completely different.

    I get angry when I face obstacles revolving around my Deafness. Sure. Who doesn’t. But as we all should know, BEING angry won’t solve it. “Shoo” “Shove it” “slinking away” does not work.

    I often fraternize with hearing group and they often make remarks that resulted in group laughter. I’ve stopped pretending to understand and just smile. When fraternizing with the same group over and over, you eventually learn more about each other. My group eventually started to understand that I’m only smiling out of politeness because I do not want to hassle them to repeat themselves so I can be up-to-date with their jokes. Instead, they take that cue to repeat themselves to me directly and ensure I understand. Only then do I laugh awkwardly because they all stare at me, expecting me to laugh.

    This kind of reaction takes time. So I’ve learned that when people take the initiatives to step forward to help — whether you need it or not — ACCEPT it. Think if it as ‘pay it forward’ rather than feeling needy and helpless. It’s bad enough that people don’t always hold the door for you or cut you off on the highway that you have to now be “angry” when they try to “translate” for you when you have a apparent impediment speech.

    In short, knowing and understanding why you’re angry is a start. But BEING angry is counterproductive and frankly a waste of energy..

  9. Dave
    April 17, 2014 at 3:37 PM #

    Hi Corinna. Firstly, let me apologise for the ignorance of hearing people everywhere and for every point you have made. I am sure a lot of this stems from ignorance but not intentionally but things will only change by people bringing this into the open like you have. I worked for a brief time in a unit for deaf children and to be honest, was my initial feeling was one of fear simply because I didn’t know anyone that was deaf before this. But I loved it and came out feeling quite annoyed that subjects such as French was mandatory at school and yet there are vasts amount of people in the UK that I wasn’t taught how to communicate. To my shame, that’s where my anger stayed and with all good intentions I didn’t pick up the banner and make enough of a noise about it. For the record, I have to admit I do probably state at people signing and try not to but you see, I did BSL level 2 (with my wife) And I love the expression of it. I think it’s so much fuller and expressive than the spoken word could ever be. That’s one reason. The other reason is that I’m pretty nosey and it’s much easier to eavesdrop on a conversation when you don’t even have to be near to know what people ate talking about. I also listen to people on trains etc too. So yeah that’s just me and I see that it’s rude so will try not to. But anyway, I figure that since you took the time out to write this I didn’t want to give it lip service and felt you should have a full, open and genuine response. As you say warts and all. Please keep raising awareness And I will try to do more too. At the end of the day we are all Gods children and he loves us all the same. I hope that you see justice and equality for all people that are deaf in your lifetime. Godless. Dave

  10. Dave
    April 17, 2014 at 3:47 PM #

    In fact. As well as sharing this, why not start a social media campaign for BSL and deaf awareness to be mandatory subject on the National Curriculum, beginning at primary school? It couldn’t hurt to try could it? I”ll share your article to get the ball rolling.

  11. Deb
    April 17, 2014 at 4:01 PM #

    It’s okay to be angry…

  12. Charlie
    April 18, 2014 at 1:22 PM #

    wow, you pretty much summed up how i feel constantly in the hearing world. You have helped me better understand where my anger and frustration comes from. I feel I can strongly relate to the constant everyday battle we endure to function in the world that is not of our own. It’s frustrating when i have learned to speak english and my family havn’t taken much effort to learn sign language becuase they figured that me speaking is good enough to communicate at family gatherings. I’m frustated when in collge class room environment, because i have a note taker and interpreter, that is should be enough for me to understand the lectures given when it’s not. Im frustated with the lack of accondations small communities must endure. And most recently, I am furious with how interpreters from small communities are not RID certified, lack compencey and skill and just becuase they know sign language does not make them qualified to be interpreters and on top of that with supply and demand, they exploit and overcharge for thier service which really affects me when i need service for community events. Sure we have made huge forward progress within our community, and yet it is not enough. We are not fully understood yet and i am angry. Not angry because of my deafness, but just tired. Your blog strongly reflects my reasoning for my feelings and thank you for letting me know i am not alone in this upward battle.

  13. Darby
    April 18, 2014 at 5:12 PM #

    I understand your feeling, I feel that way a lot. I am both in the hearing world and the deaf world. My family is hearing and so is a lot of my friends in my hometown, when there are parties or clubs it’s impossible for me to hear them so I do the head shaking as well. I rely too much on body language and facial expressions. It drives me crazy. The deaf friends I do have are amazing and help me out a lot. But sometimes I do get angry with my family when I can’t understand the conversation or when they say I’ll tell you later. I just learned to ignore it.

  14. a.g.
    April 19, 2014 at 8:12 AM #

    I’m hearing. I’ve met both deaf that could lipread and those that couldn’t. I get angry when not given a chance to understand. I’ve been given the finger and some just pretend I don’t exist. In a business where customer service is something to take pride in, this snubbing is sad to me. The coolest people I’ve met were deaf. An ex girlfriend was deaf, she dumped me for a younger model. i get your angry, last in the speech and making but honestly half the hearing world doesn’t understand each other! Literally! We have no community, we try but in the end misunderstandings and miscommunication abound. You know what? Many hearing envy the deaf. You have support in each other, your facial expressions actually match what you say, there are few guessing games, you actually face each other to talk which hearing do, but it’s not to pay attention to each other. I get your anger. But have patience and instead of feeling left out be grateful! I knew a guy with cochlear implant after being deaf thirty years. He got so freaked out he took it off and never put it back on. I’ve known a few like that.

  15. Mary Taylor
    April 20, 2014 at 2:12 AM #

    How about the one when your hearing friends laugh or whatever and you ask what did they say and they would brush you off saying Oh,it’ really nothing?

  16. Lauren
    April 23, 2014 at 9:19 AM #

    I’m deaf too, but I wear bilateral cochlear implants (CIs) so that I can hear, and I received Auditory-Verbal Therapy so that I can speak. I don’t know any ASL (or any other sign language, for that matter) beyond spelling my name and a few phrases here and there.

    I find people are more than extremely accommodating because, and please correct me if you think I’m wrong (but please be nice about it), my situation is a little easier to provide help. Yes, I can hear, and with my cochlear implants on, I go from having 100% hearing loss to having normal hearing, but I do miss things from time to time. To solve that, have someone write notes for me in class or use a microphone that transmits directly to my CIs so that the speaker is louder. My processing speed is slower (because of the extra time it takes for me to process sound), so they can give me the extra time I need to do tests or assignments and stuff like that.

    Most importantly, I have never experienced being looked over for a job because of my hearing loss. If I wear my hair down so that you can’t see my CIs, you can’t tell I’m deaf. I’ve had friends that have known me for months before they found out. On my resume, my oral skills look great because I can speak English and French (a bonus if you live in Canada like I do). I’m not sure how true this is, but I think you might be getting blown over because hearing people, for the most part, don’t sign, so wherever you work, you would experience communication difficulties. Even someone who speaks Spanish that applies for an English job would not likely get the job.

    What angers me is that, because I blend in so well with hearing people (not that I try to, but it’s just because I can hear and speak well), my hearing loss leaves me even more vulnerable. Because people are so used to seeing me talk and laugh and listen to other people, my hearing loss isn’t very noticeable. I might not hear something, and then a person will get angry and say, “What are you, deaf, or something?” And then, well, I am. Sorry. If I’m not hearing well, and I explain to the person to whom I’m talking that I’m deaf, they suddenly don’t know how to talk to me and then just say, “Oh, never mind,” which pisses me off to no extent. I can’t even describe how angry that makes me. Or, if I take my CIs off because I want to go swimming or something, I suddenly become a little dependent because I can’t hear if the lifeguard is telling everyone to get out of the water (though I would probably notice a horde of people fleeing the pool), and I can’t hear what sounds are in the surroundings. I have plenty of sob stories of people taking advantage of my hearing loss to make fun of me (i.e., they do it when my CIs are off so that they can do it right in front of me). Nice people, eh?

    I understand why you’re angry, and though I may be able to hear and speak, I face just as many difficulties as you do; they just might be a little bit different. I don’t wish I could change it because it’s such a huge part of who I am, and I haven’t been able to hear naturally in so long that I just wouldn’t know what to do. I also kind of like being able to turn the world off when I want to go to sleep (sleeping in pure silence = perfectly uninterrupted sleep). But do I like that doing the same things is harder for me than a hearing person? Do I like that if I tell them I’m deaf, they suddenly treat me differently? Do I like that I’m so vulnerable when my CIs come off? No, not one bit.

  17. Della
    May 8, 2014 at 5:11 PM #

    Beautifully said, I thank you, I hug you, I love you for being you.

  18. Merike
    May 9, 2014 at 5:53 AM #

    Dier Corinne! Thank you! I know that you feel. That exactly how I felt and still feel, every day. I got deaf ca 10 y ago, and lost all my life in hearing society. I got 5 y ago the Cochlear Implant, I hear again (not perfect, but I hear!). Still, I am hard of hearing… But, hearing gave me back, partially back the independence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

  19. sam
    May 25, 2014 at 3:15 PM #

    Nice said. You realize not only deaf that are angry. Heading people are angry that that can’t communicate with us. This anger exist with everyone not only deafness. So, enjoy yourself and stop thinking of what other thinks or such. If you do, you lost.

  20. Rachel Broughton
    February 13, 2017 at 10:08 PM #

    It’s been about 5 months since I’ve lost my hearing that has left me profoundly deaf in both ears with no options to hear again. I feel your pain. I realize this is an older post but everything you said hit home for me. I love the deaf community but absolutely despise being deaf. It’s the most frustrating thing I’ve ever been through in my life.

  21. Austin R. George
    February 20, 2017 at 3:05 PM #

    Hello, my name is Austin and I am a man in a wheelchair and although our disadvantages differ a little. We do share sone common ground on this. I have been treated like helpless or unable to do things for myself. I also have Aspergers syndrome, for those who are not sure what that is, its mild autism. I ran across a man in the store who was deaf and we had a note pad conversation and it was very enjoyable being able to talk to him. I do not know what you suggest but I found the note pad approach a helpful way to show him I was more then willing to take time to communicate. After all, unfortunately, people may not take time to try and communicate with those who cannot hear or speak and there is somewhat of a barrier- but if there is a will then I believe there is a way and if one really wants to reach out they can be quite inventive even if they know no sign language Thanks for posting this article friend, I appreciate the candor and I think its ok for people to voice frustration and anger. People should not have to mask it, although s we all know there are healthy ways of dealing with it, it is a unavoidable part of the human experience

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