29 June 2010

Day 94: Kyle B. (guest blogger)

I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin. ISBN: 9781439102855.

Let’s talk about labels for a little bit. One of the themes of Matlin’s life is her constant struggle to deal with the Deaf/deaf community. She routinely gets praised for her work furthering Deaf causes and helping deaf kids to avoid being victimized by the hearing world around them, but then is shunned because she does acting work as a hearing woman. Even being profoundly deaf, the fact that she doesn’t follow the same “guidelines” as other Deaf people gets her a lot of punishment.

I can sympathize with Matlin on a couple levels. I was born half deaf, which is about as natural an introduction as you can get into deaf culture. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time researching being deaf, reading articles and interacting anywhere I could. I took sign language courses through college and even got involved with a couple Deaf groups around campus and regionally.

The problem was that I was never “Deaf” enough to fit in with the rest of the group. When I was at gatherings, people would sign too quickly, or use signs I didn’t know, and they didn’t want to bother with explaining it because I didn’t need it, I could hear. I know it seems bizarre, but Deaf culture is a very proud thing in a lot of ways. Some Deaf people feel that they are the only handicapped that can still interact with the world in every way anyone else can, with the exception of hearing; even so, you can replace that with sight and feel the same in a lot of cases. It’s restricting a bit, but being able to support yourself in a world not built for you is a source of pride, for some. Thus, Deaf as a group, and not just a word.

I could never fit in with these groups. I was half hearing, but I was still deaf, just not capitalized. I wasn’t involved when there were jokes to be told, but when a Deaf issue was brought up, people expected me to march along with them. I had different social ideas, I guess, and that kept me from being as much a part of that group as I might’ve liked.

I have similar problems with being gay. Even though I’m definitely gay, I just don’t fit in with a lot of gay people I’ve known, almost to the point that I’ve nearly gotten into fights over things. I’m not “straight-acting” or “flaming,” because neither of those things should even exist. I am a regular guy who hangs out at his apartment in a t-shirt and shorts. There is unfolded laundry on my bedroom floor and I eat some frozen food. I am not a snappy dresser and I dislike that musical TV show (you know the one). There’s some gay stuff that I do get into, but for the most part I am just a man who loves his boyfriend. Heck, I’ve even made a couple political decisions with some weight on gay rights policies here in Ohio, where we’ve managed to make it a big issue annually for what seems like at least two administrations. I may not be all the way out all the time, but I walk close enough to my boyfriend to get us called “fags” pretty regularly.

The area where I get in trouble is where the group disconnects with the thoughts of an individual. I’ve had gay guys tell me that I’m not proud of who I am because I wouldn’t just sign a petition simply after reading the phrase “gay rights” at the top. I’m totally for gay rights – can’t I also be for rationally considering what I support? Also, people will take you a lot less seriously as a real force for change when you’re wearing a harness, shorts, and nothing else, friend.

I get the idea of what labels are supposed to do sociologically, and it can be an important part of a society. It’s just that, even though I am so many things, I can be none of them – and so much more.

Kyle B. is some guy you've never heard of, but he's okay with that. He's a writer and journalist (also both a lover and fighter) that graduated from Kent State University a few years ago, with some slight gainful employment since. He loves to read but pretty much puts a new book back on the shelf if a couple of the first words on the jacket are "murder mystery" or "romance."

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