hey you guys, we’re not lab rats…

This entry is sparked in part by seeing people, even well intentioned ones, ask the most inane and intrusive questions about the nature of deafness of deaf people or a group of deaf people. It’s certainly not limited to deafness; I see this same behavior with respect anything that’s “different” from the norm.

The person asking such questions seems to feel perfectly entitled to ask them, and seems to expect completely and detailed answers to be obediently offered up. Despite the fact that one can google up all this info in a matter of minutes. Despite the fact that one can read hundreds of blogs, including mine, for all the perspective one could possibly want.

I have some unsolicited advice: don’t treat anyone like lab rats under a microscope. Don’t treat them like they’re an Encyclopedia Britticana that can be flipped open any time there’s a question. Do your own homework, get out and about and just listen to what they have to say. Dont’ direct and control the conversation. Get off your butt and look through Amazon for books written by us, not about us. Don’t think that your credentials will be established merely by learning a little bit of sign, or starting off in some career that will “help” us.

This is especially true for anyone contemplating a career dealing with deaf people (or whatever group; this rant really covers a wide range of things, if you think about it). Why do you think so many of us loathe audiologists, “deaf educators,” and even a fair number of terps? Because so many of these people bring an arrogance and sense of entitlement along with them. “Hey, I’m helping you, so be a good little deaf girl and give me the answers.” In fact, that’s so twisted around it’s not even funny. An audiologist should never think in terms of “helping” her clients. She is providing a service to her clients, she is at their beck and call to answer questions and provide information when you get down to it. A terp is not “helping” us; a terp is providing a service and is not there to feel good, or to wonder if she can become a member of Deaf culture.

This is simply part and parcel of the tendency of most “normal” people to package up anyone who is “different” into a category very close to that of “children”: helpless, needing care and direction and guidance…

If you’re a hearing person reading this feeling hurt and insulted because I’m not grateful for your attention and concern, I strongly urge you to go out and read Harlan Lane’s The Mask of Benevolence. I’m not being mean. I’m here telling you I’m a fully functioning adult, just like you, and I deserve to be treated like one. If you have questions about me take the trouble to get to know me as a person first, don’t sit there with a pen and paper and a list of questions to rattle through. Don’t make me do your work for you.

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9 Responses to hey you guys, we’re not lab rats…

  1. twirlandswirl says:

    Except then you get people like one of my acquaintances here at UF who is mostly deaf and uses it as an excuse or a reason for EVERYTHING. Every time I see him, it’s some new pity party about some reason we should lavish woe on him because he has hearing aids. (Incidentally, he’s also gay, too, and what I refer to as a “gay supremacist,” in that he thinks gays are better than “straights.” Ya know… that ain’t equality….) It took another friend of mine who is also deaf (who I actually FORGOT was deaf until she spoke up to him) to tell him to get over it for him to shut up even briefly. But, she graduated so now he’s all “pity me” again. Hence why I avoid him….

    And it’s people like him who give everyone with a certain “label” (in his case, deaf or gay) a bad name.

  2. browneyedgirl65 says:

    Heh. It’s certain people who give all hearies a bad name, too.

    Ever consider he’s doing exactly what he was taught to do?

    Note: I wrote the following before I re-read two of your sentences more carefully: That doesn’t excuse his behavior, and I’m willing to bet he doesn’t hang around much with other deaf people, who would not cut him a whole lot of slack. Do you call him on that behavior? or do you let it slide and/or continue to associate with him?

    Looks like you answered my questions.

    Oh, another point. When I put my foot down and say I can’t do something, I’ve been then told I try to milk pity for being deaf. Excuse me? Someone tells me Oh if you try just a little bit harder I’m sure you could hear just fine or hear better. Or, did you hear about those new hearing aids? How about cochlear implants..? Erm, ever consider that I already know this? Ever consider that it is impossible for me to hear everything, and if you can’t deal with my asking you to repeat things from time to time, then I’m happy to walk right on out of your life because I don’t need to deal with that kind of aggravation. And I have had that be called a poor me, pity me attitude and all I can do is go WTF?

    Not to say he’s necessarily doing that cause I know the real pity me type, which does exist…

  3. twirlandswirl says:

    Oh, no, he’s the real pity type. He got mad at someone for breaking the tip of his umbrella once because he said he was stuck at home indefinitely and couldn’t leave now because he couldn’t go anywhere without an umbrella because it might rain and that might fry his hearing aids. Like we’d just sentenced him to solitary confinement.

    That was what sparked my other deaf friend into telling him to get the hell over it….

  4. browneyedgirl65 says:


  5. jcortese says:

    I’ve been then told I try to milk pity for being deaf.

    O_O You are SHITTING me.

  6. anonymous says:

    You know, I think interpreters really get a bad name. Sure, they’re providing a service, but you’d be pretty fucked without them, right? Be fucking nice. They don’t get paid much and they get a lot of crap from people like you.

  7. jcortese says:

    “We’ve got your nuts in a vice, girlie. Shut up and kiss ass.”

  8. browneyedgirl65 says:

    Mmm, sweet. Lessee, this reminds me of something I just read today, where was that? Ah, yes, here: Perhaps We Can Blame the Lunar Eclipse.

    You do realize that snotty “Where would you be without us, huh,” is exactly what I’m talking about? Look there are plenty of nice hearies, plenty of good terps. But as twirlandswirl’s own example shows, the rotten ones give a bad name to everyone.

    I can get along perfectly well without terps. They are useful. They are handy. THEY ARE NOT ESSENTIAL. No one terp is the be all and end all. I can always can one and go to the next one if it doesn’t work. I can go back to pen and paper. I think the sooner everyone realizes that, both terps and deaf, the better the interactions can be.

  9. jcortese says:

    That lunar eclipse post is incredible. The older I get, the more I admire people who say more and more with fewer and fewer words.

    And it’s really creeping me the hell out the way that this “you pathetic little cripples’d be nothing without us” thing intersects with what I’ll charitably call “chivalry” so totally. It’s just freaky and disturbing.