safe spaces

[Please note that I supported the protesters at Gallaudet]

Some random thoughts tossed out there for the more militant of Deaf folk…

Let’s examine the notion of “safe spaces” What is a safe space? Some place where you can air your concerns or talk about issues without fear of criticisms or reprisals for those very things. This came up a few weeks ago in a discussion thread I was in regarding captioning of ASL vlogs. One person said that the reason he didn’t do so on his was because of his insecurities and lack of confidence in his own English abilities. With that, I had to concede the point, although it doesn’t make me any less appreciative of ASL vloggers who do caption. The cold hard fact is, though, that I cannot appreciate ASL only vlogs any more than I can audio only vlogs since I am a deaf person who does not sign. Anyway, “safe spaces” brings me to some related questions:

Do solitaires/HOH/oral deaf feel safe in a Deaf community? Can we feel safe in a place where our main or even only mode of communication is criticized as inherently audist/discriminatory? How is being told ASL is the only way to Deafhood any different from the hearing people serving up oral communication as the only way to success? Notice also the frequent criticisms of the abilities and fluency of late-signers so even worse such people who do try to switch over to ASL still get no acceptance. And God forbid you learn some other form of signing besides ASL.

Even while much hand-wringing can occur in the Deaf community over including or welcoming all deaf, the cold hard fact is the overall lack of a safe space for non-signers likely reduces the motivation for a number of people like myself to join in deaf culture.

Also with the whole issue of ASL as a separate language; recall that different people have different talents for learning language, which will apply equally to ASL as any other language. You can’t count on some solitary/mainstreamed individual to have the wherewithal to “just” pick up another language. So for example, responding to such an individual requesting translations or help with ASL to “just learn ASL” is also unrealistic.

Make no mistake; I have no objections whatsoever to ASL only space and all that that implies. I think it is a very wonderful thing. What has disappointed me, multiple times, is the view that people in such spaces seem to have regarding other deaf folk who are not in their positions. This kind of internal division only weakens us further — and hearing people don’t have to lift a finger!

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