Deaf identity and BSL
A few years ago, I “came out” to my family as a BSL user, and informed my parents that I wished they’d brought me up bilingually from an early age, rather than forcing me to struggle with oralist methods.
While I just about managed to cope with oralism, and get a good education using oral methods, it was always a struggle. I guess I sort of became acclimatised to it, because I don’t remember school being exceptionally difficult even though I didn’t have any communication support. It must have been difficult, but as highlighted on Grumpy Old Deafies, there’s an useful analogy whereby “if you’re given or created a certain character at the start of the video game, you go with it. Deaf included”. Not knowing anything different, you just get on with it, don’t you?
It wasn’t until I joined RAD that I started to become accepting of my Deaf identity, as I was exposed to BSL on a daily basis, and learnt to love and use the language. While insistent on using Typetalk and lipspeakers, I was eventually weaned off these methods of communication and instead prefer to use BSL to English Interpreters. When you have a shit-hot interpreter either translating English into BSL or vice versa, it’s so effortless for the Deaf person to take in and comprehend the information. Believe me, I know, because I used lipspeakers during the PG Diploma in Law and Legal Practice, and it was hard work – you’d sit there lipreading (70% guesswork) and trying to understand what’s being said around you, which doesn’t leave you enough time to actually digest the information.
Also, it’s so much more fun hanging out with Deaf people than hearing people! You never that old issue cropping up: communication, hearing vs. Deaf etc.
I digress. My family were rather taken aback by my outburst, as they hadn’t realised just how strongly I felt about BSL, and when I asked them all, “why don’t you learn BSL?”, they were all, “Ohh, no time; what’s the point, would never get to practise enough etc.”
Nonetheless, my parents, sister and Sam have now all booked a place to do “Introduction to BSL” at St Julian’s Community College, Newport from September. Hopefully, they will then go on to do Level 1 and Level 2. I’ll be practising with them, don’t you worry!