For my Disability Studies class, I’m reading a chapter on bioethics and the deaf community, written by Dr. Theresa Blankmeyer Burke, who teaches in Gallaudet’s Philosophy department. The chapter includes this:
So far, I have posited a fairly strict duality between signing Deaf community members and the dominant mainstream culture, suggesting that research aimed at eradicating deafness is typically seen as good by members of the dominant culture and that this same research agenda is seen as harmful by members of the signing Deaf community. In reality, it is not quite so simple. Those who occupy liminal space, such as hard of hearing people who sign, or culturally Deaf people who wear cochlear implants or hearing aids, must also be attended to. [emphasis added]
Wow, I never thought of it before, but that is a really validating statement for me! As I’ve been working to understand myself as a hard of hearing person, I’ve been trying to understand my place in the hearing and deaf communities. I have observed people at Gallaudet say that “hard of hearing” is a medical term, you are either Deaf or you’re not, and I guess by that definition I am Deaf – and indeed, I’ve had people tell me that I am Deaf and I should reject the “hard of hearing” label and just let myself be fully Deaf. But to the hearing community, I am “almost” a hearing person…I just need a little help like watching you when you talk or having some things repeated. So I feel like I can’t reject the “hard of hearing” label because I don’t have the same difficulties communicating with hearing people that other Deaf people do.
But there it is in black and white from Dr. Burke: a hard of hearing person who signs. In the middle. Here is what Wikipedia says about liminality:
Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives.
Yes. That is me. Neither hearing nor Deaf. In the middle, ambiguous, indeterminate. It feels good to understand this.