sound is an inconstant, untrustworthy sprite

Being born profoundly deaf in a hearing world is inherently full of challenges. So this is an issue I have dealt with all my life and make no mistake while it is a challenge, it’s also just the way my life is. And it may be more of a challenge in ways that people don’t expect. Everyone says to me, “Wow, your speech is great,” and to my mind, that’s the least interesting thing about me. But where to start?

Sound is an inconstant, untrustworthy sprite. It flickers in and out of the corners of my eyes. It teases as tiny glitters caught in a spider web only to disappear when you turn to look at it more closely. It skitters around corners just as I turn around. I could frustrate myself to no end chasing the figments and fragments down, or I could simply accept it for what it is: a mischievous, lurking pixie, a fable, a legend, a story that people tell and which may or may not be true. It is a giant cosmic joke that everyone takes so seriously.

I have spent hours, days, years tangled in games of sound, how to watch lips, how to shape morphemes, play a tape in the background while talking, all these senseless and purposeless games for something that isn’t really real. It can’t be real if you can’t see it. But as a child I am forced by others to play with these things, I am taught how important these things are, I am shut out of many things because I can’t play the games. So I watched and learned and mimicked and played my own game, skipping along to a beat you thought you gave me but I created for myself because nothing about sound is really real or dependable or constant. I kept my eyes open, always open.

But because we look so carefully, because we glimpse all these fitful and fleeting bits, because we pay attention, we capture so much of the world through our deaf eyes. Whatever our personal legacy, our personal deaf heritage, this is one thing we all share, seeing the world of sound through our eyes. We focus on everything with our eyes, our bodies, our hands, and communication flows through and around with it.

My heritage is mixed; my biggest challenge is not in how to function in a hearing world; I dealt with that one as a child. I may be a changeling, never a true part of the hearing world, but that is no longer a challenge. My challenge is deciding how to straddle the cultures of the hearing and of the deaf. I belong to neither; raised in one while denied the other, I am a outsider to both and the process of integrating the two is a complex, daunting task, one that I may well work on for the rest of my life.

But you zombies, I don’t know who you all are, you walk through life not seeing the sounds, not looking out of the corners of your eyes. You laze through and don’t look at who is talking with you, you don’t communicate through your eyes, your body, your hands, your other senses. You force all these tricks and cards and games on deaf children, you penalize them in the box for no apparent reason. You devour things unseen and are blind to so many nuances, how do I even begin to explain these things?


I wrote this two years ago, and am republishing it here.

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