When to yell at a deaf person.

I feel like the increase in demand for instant gratification has stripped people of the patience to communicate with me.

I had a dream this morning about getting into an altercation with two unfamiliar old ladies who insisted on communicating with me verbally through their masks. I responded, on paper, reminding them that I, too, would love to communicate seamlessly with the public, but because I dared to get sick as a child, I don’t get to do this. Think about it, I continued scribbling, you can’t deal with what I have to do 99% of the time, for five minutes. One of the ladies started bleeding at the fingertip and scribbled her response in blood, accusing me of being disrespectful, thus summoning the manager.

What a sinister bitch!

But that was a dream. In reality, I’ve had many people simply walk away from me upon learning that I can’t understand them even if they start yelling at me from behind their masks. The correct response from me is: “Fuck them.” But when it starts happening regularly, there are some days where I go, “Fuck me, right?”

I don’t like that I’m a misanthropist, but it’s hard not to be when you’re confronted with rude, ignorant people routinely. On the contrary, when strangers do something as simple as sign “thank you,” it brings me joy. This is an everyday interaction most people are accustomed to, but for me, it’s like, “Wow, you’re treating me like everybody else. You’re practically the kindest stranger I’ve interacted with all day. If not all week.”

Pre-mask mandate, I could get a gist of what my co-workers were discussing when in the same room as them. Now, I rely on someone to volunteer this information. I can always count on Tammy to keep me in the loop, and a few others have enough awareness to go, “Hey, so this is what we’re talking about…” Most of the time, I get nothing.

I did not watch Nyle’s season on America’s Next Top Model, but I’ve seen a few clips, and I related so hard to this one:

Click on the gif for the full clip.

When I find myself signing to another person in the presence of non-signers, I often let the non-signers know what’s being discussed in hopes they’ll register how nice it is to be included.

I’m still figuring out how to navigate life as a deaf person by being firm about my needs without being intimidating. Whose comfort should I prioritize? Theirs or mine? And when someone treats me the way those hags did in my dream–but without the blood–will I ever truly be able to let it slide?

Now, one of the superiors at work who happened to know some sign language before meeting me has proposed teaching the team a few signs every week. This proposal could go two ways: enough people will try, and it will make my day slightly easier having them know how to sign, for example, “Need help?” instead of scrambling to find a piece of paper to write on. Or, I’ll realize just how many of them really don’t give a fuck.

If you’re wondering why I can’t communicate verbally: I can, but! I’ve never heard my voice. I had some speech developed before I became deaf, and I grew up in a hearing family, but I have no idea what my adult voice sounds like. You want me to share something I don’t have access to with you? I better trust you! I can talk to Yann while he has his back turned to me, and he’ll understand everything. How is that not amazing? It makes more sense to ridicule the accent of someone who can’t hear themselves speak? Cool cool cool.

Three illustrations in order of how to sign the phrase, "I need help."
“I need help.”

Lifeprint.com is a great place to get started. Bear in mind that there are regional differences, so some of the signs on there may not be the ones I use, but I’ll likely understand anyway.

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