I’ve been having such a hard time on working out the definition of “deaf” because of its complexity and the number of sub-categories or labels it has under it:
- hard of hearing
- Deaf & Disabled/deafdisabled
- hearing impaired
One of the biggest reason for my confusion is because of how it can (and has) caused rifts, segregation and even abuse within the communities, which is not something that I would ever encourage.
So I wanted to share my personal thoughts on the definition of “deaf” and what it also means for each labels.
Please note that in the video, even though I say label, it can also be interpreted as “sub-categories”. That’s the thing: some people like one or the other…or even neither. Do be aware of that when making comments.
You can watch the video…
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcript below.
Haha, yeah…this might get messy. But screw it, I’m going to do it because we need to talk about it, so I’m just going to do it.
I am having such a hard time trying to understand the definition of the word “deaf”, because here’s the thing: there are many different “labels” (or sub-categories) and when you ask different people, they’ll all give you different answers.
And there isn’t a perfect solution to “deaf”.
But I feel like we have to talk about it because it’s getting really, really complex. It’s not only a complex topic, but it’s quite sensitive one for some people.
So I feel like we need to talk about it anyway. And if it’s going to anger you or make you really annoyed, well, then first of all, hear me out.
Listen to what I have to say, read the transcript, all these things, and then make your mind up on what you think I have said.
If you’re angry still after that, well, then that’s OK. I would still like to hear your opinion, what you have to say about it, and just so that I can learn and other people learn and you can share your own thoughts.
This might anger some people, might annoy some people but if it does hear me out first, read the transcript. Listen to what I have to say, because I’m not having a go at you.
I just want to create a debate, a conversation, because I feel like a lot of people want to have that conversation to learn, myself included.
If you agree, share your thoughts, if you disagree, share your thoughts anyway.
I want to hear from you. I want to know what you think.
If you disagree and then you get angry and then you get abusive and then you get really, really aggressive, well, then I’m not going to take time to listen to what you have to say, because I’m just not going to accept that.
The idea is that I want to create a conversation. But if it results in being aggressive and abusive, well, then I don’t have to listen to you.
And if you do leave comments, I can just delete them. So if you want me to listen to what you have to say and you want to provide counter-argument or you disagree with anything, share your comment.
Anyway, I am willing to listen. But not if you are abusive, not just to me, but anyone else who have left comments if you are abusive to them, I won’t accept it.
And also, don’t twist my words. If you need clarification about anything, just ask. Don’t just twist it to what you think I have said.
Don’t forget I also have a Patreon page, where you can support the channel and also help me to create more content around deaf awareness because that’s what we need.
We need an increase in deaf awareness and you can help with that.
So let’s break it down and look at all the different definitions, and different labels that exist when you talk about deaf.
1. Small ‘d’ deaf
The first one will be the small ‘d’ deaf, which is something that I apply myself. These are the people who grew up mainstream or maybe they just don’t really speak in sign language, mainly oral. They are medically describing themselves as disabled instead of culturally.
2. Capital ‘D’ Deaf
Then there’s the capital ‘D’ Deaf where you have been going to Deaf school, you have been going through Deaf community, you grow up in Deaf culture, mainly communicate in sign language and that is your identity.
And that is something you’re proud of; that’s capital ‘D’ Deaf.
If you want to know more about the differences between small ‘d’ deaf and capital ‘D’ Deaf, I’ve done a separate article about it, which ou can check it out to get more in-depth about it.
3. Hard of hearing
Then there is hard of hearing, which I also put myself in that category.
And that is what it is like, you can hear something, but you don’t hear everything. So you are hard of hearing on occasion.
And you’ve been brought up mainstream and you generally mix with different people rather than associate with, for example, the Deaf community.
Then there is late-deaf, which is also known as late-deafened or even deafened, and these are the people who later in their life, they started to go deaf. They started to lose their hearing and that its own label.
Then there are deafblind and it’s quite self-explanatory, dual sensory loss.
And there are different levels, just like in deafness in general, could be
mild, could be profound, could be severe. Whatever it is, there are different levels.
5. Deaf & Disabled
And then there’s even a bonus one, where some people even label
themselves as ‘Deaf & Disabled’.
The reason being because they associate themselves as capital ‘D’
Deaf, culturally Deaf. But in most occasions, people don’t see themselves as disabled.
However, those who are Deaf & Disabled, well, then they will classify themselves at that capital ‘D’ Deaf, culturally Deaf. But then they have other disabilities, which could be something around mobility, could be dexterity, could be chronic illness, etc.
Two different labels beside each other, but deaf is not a disability in that sector, just like a capital ‘D’ Deaf, they are not disabled. They see themselves as a minority in a cultural and linguistic community.
What is the issue regarding these individual names?
The big, big debate is whether that really necessary to have small ‘d’ deaf and capital ‘D’ Deaf. Because there is a big argument that it actually causes segregation, causing people to separate.
And there are also evidence of people have been at the end of aggression and even abused by people who are in the capital ‘D’ Deaf community, and they are being abusive to others. And that caused a bit of a divide and that’s not really necessary.
So now there is a discussion about do we need? Should we scrap it?
In terms of people who are hard of hearing, and sometimes people who call themselves small ‘d’ deaf, they feel like they are not “deaf enough” or “hearing enough”. They’re in that weird middle bit.
And again, that is something that not only I go through, but I have explained more detail about not being deaf enough and not being hearing enough. We are in that middle bit and there isn’t really a community as such.
But that is also an issue that people who are hard of hearing or in that middle bit, they don’t belong in anywhere, and that can cause a bit of self-identity issues and also, again, cause people to feel like they are being excluded.
They’ve been separated, they’ve been pushed away. And that’s not cool.
Within the labels of late-deafened and deafblind and Deaf & Disabled, there isn’t so much of a debate, although you can argue that Deaf & Disabled, it’s kind of causing separation, but maybe it’s not. Again, it’s just not that simple to explain, to understand the culture in all of these labels.
So here’s my personal viewpoint: I believe that self-identity is important and it can apply in many areas like even you are patriotic about your country.
That is part of who you are, your identity.
The same applies to the topic of deafness overall, and it’s a complicated one for different reasons.
From my perspective, I have talked in the past about being not deaf enough and not hearing enough, and I tend to come with the deaf, hard of hearing or deaf/hard of hearing, and one or the other or both.
I’m fine with that as well.
It’s a weird one because you’re in that weird bit again, and you can create your own world, make it your own and you can be around people that you want to be around.
But sometimes you want to be around different groups or sometimes you feel like you belong in one group and that could be in the hearing or the deaf world.
The problem is that unfortunately, there are some people out there who feel like they decide whether you belong in that community or not, as if they are the gatekeeper, which is ridiculous.
It doesn’t exist, but they feel like they need to be and they take it upon themselves to exclude you and even discriminate you and push you away and get abusive and get aggressive.
And it’s just completely ridiculous, in my opinion, that it gets to that situation.
It hasn’t happened to me, but it has happened to a lot of people.
And people have shared their own stories about how even those who are
fluent in sign language, those who have been part of Deaf culture and they have been involved in different people, all these things and they are still being told that, no, you are “not deaf enough”.
And in this case, I’m not talking about, “no, you’re not deaf enough” in terms of, “you’re profoundly deaf”.
They’re talking about “no, you’re not deaf enough” in terms of “you’re not capital ‘D’ Deaf enough and you’re not really part of that community, so go away.”
How ridiculous is that?
It’s just…it’s ridiculous and stupid and pointless and ridiculous some more, and all of it.
I don’t understand any of that: discrimination within a minority
group and causing these separations and pulling people apart and pushing people away.
And ultimately, the abuse and and aggression that people get is stupid.
Despite all of that, I am not sure if the label of capital ‘D’ Deaf should be scrapped. The reason being is because I am a big believer of how only you can decide what you should call yourself.
Other people don’t decide for you, (within reason).
And this is something that I kind of want to share that with you.
It’s like, if you believe that you are in this group and that is how you fairly (and within reason) label yourself, then it makes sense for you to decide that because that’s who you are and your comfortable with that. and that’s OK.
On the other hand, if that causes the segregation and discrimination and the abuse, then it’s not OK at all.
So it’s up to you to take responsibility of your own action and how
you treat other people.
And if you want people to accept that is your label, well then you kind of have to conduct yourself in a way that represent most people and also conduct yourself in a way that you don’t get to decide what other people should feel like.
And that’s where the big issue lies.
And yes, I have talked about all the different labels that you can go through, but really the two main one is about capital ‘D’ Deaf and small ‘d’ deaf. The others, maybe not so much of an issue.
Maybe there’s an issue about hard of hearing, and about where do
you belong. And they might be something more deeper in terms of deafblind and late-deafened.
And there might be other things in there that will be relevant to the story. But I’m not experienced enough to know what goes on there. I’d rather talk to more people than assume like I know what I’m talking about in this category.
And even in Deaf & Disabled…there’s some overlap in that label with the capital ‘D’ Deaf.
But really, the big debate is about whether should we or should we not scrap capital ‘D’? Should we have these two deaf labels?
Is there any point? What do you think?
The whole topic about disability is another story. I don’t think it’s worth talking about it right now, because it can go on for ages. I’ll talk about it another time.
And that is something again, it’s a personal thing. People should decide if they see themselves as disabled or not.
The label that I personally don’t agree with is ‘hearing loss’ and especially ‘hearing impaired’ because they have that negative connotation that there is something wrong with you, as if you are broken.
Again, there’s a link to capital ‘D’ Deaf, but even then, most people don’t really feel comfortable with those labels.
And notice I said most people, not all people. There will be some people, they’ll be perfectly fine labelling themselves as hearing impaired.
But really, you should ask that person what would they prefer to be called?
What we definitely should not ever, ever say is to use the word “deaf and dumb/mute”.
Never, ever, ever, say that.
There’s never a good time to say that ever.
So is there a “one-size fits all” solution?
So one thing for sure is that there is no best answer, there’s no clear answer, there’s no best solution for it.
But I think things will change over time as we talk about it and my feelings will change, your feelings will change.
And that’s why I thought it’d be a good time to talk about it. However, because things will change, I just thought “well, this is how I feel right now. in this video.”
I have created a page on my website where I talk about the definition of deaf from my perspective when I talk about ‘deaf’, when I talk about deafness.
And on this page, this is where I define “deaf”. And this is where I will be able to update it and you’ll be able to access it any time.
And the idea is that what I want to say is that when I mention the word “deaf” (and on this occasion, small ‘d’ deaf), I am actually talking about everyone.
All these labels I’ve talked about, I have really wanted to talk about all of them and I want to cover every single person, but not really excluding anyone.
It just covers that whole category under that one umbrella as deaf, and then you have all these subsequent labels.
So any time you see me mention on my website or anywhere else, that’s what I’m going to be saying when I say “deaf”.
The reason being is because I personally see it as one big thing and I see it as a way to appreciate and respect different labels, but also to make it like a unity of one thing that really, we’re all facing the same thing.
We all have similar challenges in the hearing world that we live in. And that page will allow me to update you over time, tweak it and adjust it, because my feelings will change the society, the culture; all these will change over time.
And that will be a place where I can update how I feel about certain things over time.
Having a label is fine.
I have no problem with people calling themselves in certain labels within reason, and that is totally fine.
I don’t really feel like I want to scrap it (just yet).
What we should be thinking about instead?
But what I feel is that we are already a minority group and if we need to create a minority in a minority, that will create a bigger problem.
And this is especially the case if we kind of push people away separate them or don’t want to be attached to certain people or whatever, that will cause a bit of a minority in a minority and cause a more of an issue in terms of an already marginalised group.
Like I said, we face similar problems in a hearing world where we face the issues of equality and accessibility and discrimination and barriers; we all face that together.
So it’s easier that we all fight that together, than separating everyone because there is strength in numbers and having that one big group, is one big number.
So I’m not deleting or removing any label (or sub-category). If I do want to talk about a specific label, I will specifically mention it.
For example, I’ve got a specific content around small ‘d’ deaf and capital ‘D’ Deaf. So (as you can see on this occasion), I am very specific about it.
But if I want to talk about topic overall and just cover the category overall of different people, well then it’s just not only more convenient, but I want to make it one big powerful group and that we’re all fighting together and we’re all facing the same thing.
And really what we all need is, let’s face it, an increase in deaf awareness.
We all have that responsibility to share, to support each other and to fight the same cause that we all are fighting. That’s the idea.
So let’s do that together. I just don’t see what’s the issue with that, if it means that we we get what we need in life.
But if we end up fighting each other and cause more segregation in this community that we are in right now, well, then we’ll be losing that battle and will be further behind in what we want in terms of breaking down the barriers and equality and increasing awareness.
That’s not what we want, is it? That’s not what we want.
So let’s just fight it together, but let’s fight it together while also respecting each and every individual identity and have respect for all of them and have respect for everyone else.
That’s it. It’s really that simple.
But again, if you don’t agree with me, let me know, shared it with me. And I would love to hear what you saying because I am curious to learn more about that.
But I feel like more people need to learn more about that as well and have a debate.
But like I said, be respectful, don’t be abusive, don’t be aggressive, because I think it to be to all deny you and I’m not going to listen to you if you want me to listen to you.
Well, then let’s just have a sensible debate and we’ll take it from there.
Let me know what you think and again, don’t forget also to subscribe, make sure you click Like, make sure you support whatever you can.
And of course, I will speak to you again next time.
- The power of non-verbal communication & how deaf people depends on it - August 5, 2020
- My personal viewpoint on the definition of deaf* - July 30, 2020
- Hearing privilege: What is it and why it’s important to acknowledge them? - July 23, 2020