Is there such a thing as a ‘deaf privilege’?
The word ‘privilege’ has some kind of stigma attaches to it. But it doesn’t and should’t have to be.
But even for someone like me, I would say that I have “deaf privilege”; where even though I am deaf/hard of hearing, I still have some privileges linked to it so that I can acknowledge what I have, appreciate what I have and be aware of what I have, despite my deafness.
To learn about this further, you can watch the video below…
…listen to the podcast below (or on your platform of choice)…
…or read the transcript below.
For whatever the reason it is, the word privilege has a bit of a stigma attached to it. And I don’t think it should do, if anything, everyone should be aware of their own privilege. Because it makes you acknowledge what you have, appreciate what you have, and being aware of what you have.
And I think in most situations, that’s a good thing because in a lot of a time, we have something that other people don’t have. And I think it’s important that we acknowledge that.
This applies to everything in life.
So, whatever your situation is, think about it. Think about what is your privilege, it could be anything.
But today, I want to talk about my deaf privilege. And some people might be thinking, “What, you have a privilege for being deaf or hard of hearing?”
Well yeah, of course, for me I think there is. And I want to focus on that, and not be negative about it. Yes there are the negative side to it like the barrier and the lack of awareness, (which to be honest, is not always our fault), but there are also some positive sides to it.
And as much as people can be all negative about it or they want to maybe twist my words, I don’t want to do that today. I want to focus on the positive side.
I want to focus on the good stuff around it, so that I can just appreciate what I have and also just feel good about it, feel positive about it.
Why is that a bad thing?
Let’s just be happy with what you have as much as much as we can, it’s good for your sanity, good for your health, good for a lot of reasons. It’s not easy, I get that because some people are in difficult situations, and I totally get that. But I just want to take stock of what are my deaf privileges.
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1. (Some) awareness in the UK
Because I live in the UK, there is some awareness. I’m not going to say perfect because it’s got a long way to go, but I feel like in UK, it has a bit more awareness than a lot of other countries.
You do hear stories sometimes about how people have been completely put aside from the community because they’re just not able to communicate, they’re deaf and the people around them are not aware of it at all. They don’t have a clue what do, not even to try to help them, none of that.
I’d like to think that in the UK there is some awareness, but it’s got a long way to go. That’s why I’m doing this kind of videos. That’s why I talk about it a lot. Because we do have a lot of work to do, Just like the rest of the world.
I think the rest of the world has a lot of work to do, but at least I have it better in UK than a lot of other countries.
2. Grateful for the NHS
The other benefit of being in the UK is that I didn’t pay for my hearing aids, and that’s because of the glorious NHS.
God bless the NHS!
I can’t really understand why people don’t appreciate it enough, but I do. And I appreciate it a lot from my perspective for various reasons, whether it’s myself or for family or friends they require it.
But, if I talk about my own self in terms of having different type of hearing aids across years and when I grew up I had different type of hearing aids. I got to try different things, and they are expensive.
They are expensive!
It makes me appreciate that I had got it for free because of the NHS. And I know in other countries, you pay thousands and thousands of dollars just to have one, probably. And I have to appreciate that.
There’s no way I can just dismiss that, oh yeah it’s normal for me, I should expect it. Yes, having the NHS is normal for me, but I should appreciate it.
And that is definitely a deaf privilege that I have, especially by being in the UK.
3. Having support family & wife
The third thing is that I have been lucky to have a supportive family as I grew up. They’ve all tried to help me, they all tried to support me. And yes, maybe they don’t always care if I, in terms of understanding the emotions and the feelings, but they did the best that they can. I know that for sure.
I appreciate that because I hear stories of other families where it doesn’t work like that and certain individuals in that family have been completely put aside.
I know it’s difficult because you might be the only deaf person in the family. In my case, I am the only one and there were times where it is frustrating and you have to talk about it to them.
But the thing is, I’m lucky that if I do talk about it to them, they listen and they understand, and they get it.
At the same time, I’m very lucky that I have a supportive partner, my wife. Because she does get it, she does understand. When she listens to me, she listens to me.
And I appreciate her as well because I can imagine in certain relationship people get frustrated and it’s like, “You know what, I can’t be arsed” or they say stuff like, “It doesn’t matter, I’ll tell you later, whatever.”
But, I am lucky that I have that privilege of having a supportive network around me.
Despite the challenges, I still have that supportive network, even though they are hearing, but still supportive.
4. Being not deaf or hearing enough gives me access
The fourth thing is about being in that middle bit, of not being deaf enough or not being hearing enough. I’ve done a video about it, you can check it out.
It’s one thing about how it’s an awkward bit in the middle because you don’t really have like a set identity. Sometimes, you don’t feel like you belong anywhere.
But on the other hand, it does mean that, I’m lucky that I have access to both worlds.
So, despite the negative side of having that, the positive is that I got to experience both worlds, I get to have access to both worlds, and interact with different people, and learn about both worlds, quite well if I dare to say.
Then that’s a good thing, because it means that I can observe myself to a different way of thinking and different way of communicating and different way of interacting with people, all these things, all these things. So, that’s a privilege in itself, I think.
5. Having different perspectives of the world with an open mind
The fifth thing is that, it give me an open mind, and give me different perspective on the world. And what I mean by that, is because I get to see different things, quite similar to what I said before about not being deaf enough or hearing enough.
But, why I’m saying that because of this life I’m living, it mean that I get to see things differently in terms, for example, how people communicate, whether it’s spoken, written or signing. I get to see how all that work and I look at it in a different way.
I get to look at how people use their body language and facial expression differently because I depend on that for me as a communication method. I use that as part of the whole package. If you’ll have to understand what that person is saying.
So you get to see that in a different way. And I find that very interesting. And then of course, you have different access to different people and different communities and different life styles.
Again, it broadens your mind. And I think that’s a nice thing to have. And I do appreciate, I have that deaf privilege as well.
6. Peace and quiet when I want/need it
The final thing is that I have that appreciation of just having a bit of quietness when I want it. Maybe take off my hearing aids, or stuff like that. Not silence, because I’m not profoundly deaf, so it’s not like I can completely block out sounds, but sometimes you just want that better peace and quiet.
And sometimes you can excuse yourself from situations where it is too overbearing, because you get concentration fatigue where you focus so hard, or you just can’t really absorb what people are saying and then you get anxious, you get deaf anxiety at the end of it.
It’s a way for me to then, “You know what, “I need some peace and quiet” and to step away and I can just recharge myself and get back into it again later on.
And I kind of sometime like to have that option, just to step away and just chill out, some peace and quiet and just…
It’s so important for you to be aware of, these are my deaf privileges. Doesn’t apply to everyone. Everyone has their own, I’d love to hear yours. Let me know in the comments. But these are my deaf privileges.
But there are people who are also have maybe additional privileges that they also call ‘deaf gain’. Which I might do another video about that one day.
But deaf gain is pretty much essentially the opposite of loss. You hear about the word “hearing loss” and only the negative things, hearing “impairment”, but people see it as a deaf gain.
And what they mean by that is, they have gained that, and it added a lot of benefit to their life. As opposed to what people think, a lot of negative. And some of it is what I’ve already mentioned earlier.
But other things that for example, you get to have different perspective of how people think and how people communicate.
You get to have access to a really proud community, who are proud about their identity and you get to have that deaf identity.
You get to have access to sign language. For some people, that’s very important and very useful to have, but it’s also a very passionate thing for them. It’s a very proud thing to have, the access to sign language.
And this is all around the topic of deaf gain that for me it’s an awkward thing, I’m not sure If I have that because I’m in that awkward middle bit, as I said earlier.
But I do appreciate that. And I do have some access to that, and I do respect that, and I do love it.
So some people have that as their main identity, and you have to admire that, and I do admire that.
So, these are some of the other deaf privileges that could be attributed to some people, but again, don’t assume that it is. I’ve mentioned these are just mine. If you want to know others are, ask them.
At the same time, I’d love to know yours. Let me know in the comments. Despite all of this, and I’ve talked about deaf privileges, there are definitely hearing privileges as well. And because I have that link to that world, I might do a video about that.
It gives me a better awareness of what are the good and bad points about hearing, what are good and bad point about deafness, and then I can look at it in a unique angle.
And again, that’s why I call it as a privilege. I have that way of looking at both worlds in a unique angle. So, maybe I’ll do another video about that.
But, you do have privileges and if that applies to you, hearing privilege, then think about it. Think about what are the benefits of that.
Acknowledge it, appreciate it, be aware of it.
I might do a video about (hearing privileges), if it’s something that is useful for you, let me know. But I think it’s something that people should be aware of in themselves.
Despite all of this, just want to remind you again, these are not criticism. Just because you have these privileges, whatever they may be, they are not criticism. You should not be criticised for what you have. You should just appreciate, acknowledge, and be aware of what you have.
So I’m not blaming you if you are a person who is hearing. I’m not criticising you for that, just be aware of it. Just be aware that there are a lot of goodness that comes out of it.
But at the same time, if you are deaf, then there are also good things comes from that as well. And believe me, people say yes to all amazing things that comes from being d/Deaf.
And then there’s me in the middle bit. I’ve got both sides, and I’ve got my own benefits. I’ve got my own privileges as well.
And that’s why I should really highlight that. It’s not a criticism, it’s just an awareness, just be aware of that.
I would like to know, what are your deaf privileges? And if you are hearing, what are your hearing privileges? It would be interesting to have that conversation.
Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.
In the mean time, I will speak to you again soon.
- What is ‘audism’? Plus my personal experiences of facing audism - October 27, 2021
- ‘CODA’ movie review: my thoughts on the latest deaf movie to be released - October 13, 2021
- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021
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