It’s recently come to my attention that I needed a place I could share some things I’ve written, a place that isn’t limited to those with Facebook accounts or connected to my more personal corners on the web.
So today, I created this blog. You’ll notice some entries before this one, even though this is a brand-new blog. Those entries will be things I’ve already written in the past, back-dated to the actual day that they were written. Just thought I would state that in order to clear up any confusion.
I hope anyone who visits this little corner of the web enjoys what they find here.
Thanks for stopping by!
I’m trying really hard to get back into the swing of blogging regularly. It’s not been easy. But yesterday I was spontaneously prompted into writing a story in the comments section of a Facebook post, so I thought I would share that here in the hopes that people won’t forget about me and stop visiting my blog. 😛
Context: A friend posted a picture on Facebook of a sandwich that had onions on it. I said it was too much onion, he responded with a hilarious article about why people who hate onions are stupid, to which my defense was: “Heeeeeey I like onions. Just not that much. I had a traumatic experience… an onion bit me when I was a kid.” Another friend then responded with “Waiting patiently for onion bit me story”. I decided to be a smart ass and actually post a story about how an onion bit me. My original intent was just a short stupid blurb, but it got away from me and 20 minutes later this is what I ended up responding with:
The Day An Onion Bit Me
When I was a child, I was a humble kitchen slave. The head of the kitchen, known only as “Big Momma”, was my master. She was a short, stout woman and altogether vicious. She had salt and pepper hair, skin as white as milk usually flushed red with anger, and slits for eyes. Her big chunky arms nearly always had fists at the end of them, either dug into her sides, stirring a giant soup pot over a fire, or flying at your face with astonishing, well-honed speed.
I myself was scrawny, but scrappy. All knees and elbows, one would think I’d be clumsy, but Big Momma’s thrashings quickly fixed that. I spent much time out in the gardens gathering provisions for Big Momma, and my blonde hair was nearly white from all the sun. My skin would be tan too, if it weren’t black and blue. I’d have been a pretty little girl if only all my teeth hadn’t been knocked out. I’d carefully put each tooth in a little pouch that I wore around waist, in hopes that someday I would meet a magical creature that could put them all back for me.
I’m still not really sure how it happened, but one day I accidentally knocked over a pot of tomato sauce. I barely had time to panic before my world went dark. And then I had the most glorious dream. In this dream, I had parents who loved me, and we all lived in a well-to-do chateau in a wonderful little provincial town. I was free to be a child, run and play, make friends with animals, climb the vines, read books and learn. I had no bruises, and all my teeth were in place. Yet, there was still a pouch around my waist.
When I opened the pouch, I found it full of the most beautiful pearls in all the world. They gleamed in the sunlight and were so smooth. Suddenly I knew what I had to do: I had to plant these pearls, and they would grow the most magnificent pearl trees anyone had ever seen. They would make the whole province twinkle in the sun from afar. I set to work, and sure enough, overnight the pearl trees had sprouted. Pearls as big as onions hung from the trees. So soft and smooth, they felt like peaches. Their beauty brought happiness to all in the province.
Suddenly I woke up. I was back in the dusty kitchen, on the grimy floor. A searing pain ran across the side of my head. I struggled to my feet as quickly as I could. Big Momma was busy stirring her pot, and didn’t notice me come to. But the bread boy saw me. He quickly rushed me outside, whispering the tale of the impressive way Big Momma had laid me out flat. Once outside, he handed me a loaf of half-baked bread and a tin of water and told me I’d been out for 3 days. “One more thing…” he hesitated. “Big Momma threw your pouch o’ teeth out the window.” I looked down, and sure enough the pouch was gone. I was crestfallen.
Once Big Momma realized I was up and around again, she put me right back to work in the gardens. Every day, I looked for my teeth, and never found any of them. Weeks went by, and still I searched for them. The hope of finding them was the only hope I really had. The hope began to fade.
Then one day, as I was harvesting onions, one screamed when I pulled on it’s scapes. A real, human scream. I jumped back, startled. I stood for a moment, and decided I must have imagined it. I yanked the onion all the way out, and it screamed again. I could hardly believe my eyes. There I was, holding this onion in the air – and it had a full set of teeth. My teeth. And it was screaming. It was a very angry onion. I was completely bewildered.
Big Momma looked out her window and screamed at me to stop dawdling around and get back to work or I’d miss supper again. I quickly stashed the angry onion in my harvesting basket, which was hanging on my arm by the handle. Now, as the basket was quite full at this point, the angry onion was laid atop the pile, very near my arm. In my haste, I failed to notice this, and before I knew it I felt another searing pain. This time it was on my arm. The little bastard had bit me. And it hurt!
I did my best to ignore the pain, something I was quite used to doing by now anyway, and continued on with my work harvesting the rest of the onions. The angry onion remained firmly clamped onto my arm, but at least it wasn’t screaming anymore. As I brought the day’s harvest into the kitchen, Big Momma yanked the basket out of my arms and then began to scream at me for trying to steal one of the onions. She demanded I give it back or else.
I squeezed the onion at the sides of it’s mouth, and it let go. Then I hurled it in the deep crevice of her overly large bosom. I lost sight of it as it worked it’s way down her blouse, and she began screaming in pain and terror. While she was distracted with an onion biting her boobs, I yelled for the rest of the kitchen slaves to follow me to freedom. And there we went, the whole lot of us, streaming out the door of the kitchen, across the garden, and deep into the forest to live the rest of our lives in freedom and peace. We built tree houses that large, fat women couldn’t reach, just to be sure.
I never did get my teeth back, though.
In a beautiful park, there’s a crowd of people. They are all so vastly different, but connected one way or another. They interact with each other, moving among the different smaller groups, the inner circles, the outer circles, and sometimes standing on their own doing their own thing. They are all living life; the good, the bad and the ugly. Together.
Suddenly, one of the women in the crowd stops moving, stops talking, stops interacting. She stands there, perfectly still, as though she’s turned to stone. She’s realized she’s not a part of the crowd, not really. She’s nothing more than an outsider, an invader. Why did she previously think she was a part of them? Because of their kindness. Their false faces. Their connections to each other genuine to all but her. Why couldn’t she see it before? She sees it now.
The futility of her very existence strikes deep in her heart. The crowd continues to live their lives around her, hustling, bustling, laughing, crying, and most of all, connecting. If they take any notice of this new statue, it’s only to wonder if it’s always been there and they just didn’t notice.
She’s not made of stone. Rather, she’s fragile. She gradually begins to disappear as grains of sand leave her body and get caught in the breeze, swirling around the the people in the park. More and more sand takes flight until she is nothing more than a round pillar that is shrinking to nothing. No one notices the ethereal fingers of sand in the wind caressing their arms, their faces, a desperate cry to be loved and wanted. The wind overtakes what little life is left and shifts the sands away from the crowd. The sand cries out as it’s ripped away from humanity, but there is no sound. Eventually it’s simply gone.
And no one noticed.
There were swarms of lightning bugs that summer. That’s what I remember most: the lightning bugs. I always found them entrancing, but most summers I was lucky to only see a handful at any one time. That summer, though, anywhere you looked you could count at least 50. Some said it was the unusually hot, humid Oklahoma summer. Some said it was the small town, that the noise and bustle of the city drove them here. Whatever the reason, they were beautiful in the twilight.
Every night my childhood friend Jeff and I would lay on our backs in ours or a neighbors grassy lawn, side by side, and just watch them twinkle around us while the sun set. This was usually when we had our deep philosophical conversations.
“D’ya thank der hawt?” Jeff asked, in that voice most of us kids used when we were simply pondering life. I still had hearing then, even if I needed the assistance of two hearing aids.
“Of course they’re hot, dummy, anything alive would be in this heat!” I shot back with all of my 11-year old acerbic wit. It’d been a long stressful day of chasing the pigs in the 4H barn, terrorizing the neighborhood on our four-wheelers, and swimming in my grandparent’s pool. I was hot, tired and hungry; I certainly wasn’t in the mood for more of Jeff’s stupid hick questions. Of course, my own southern accent was pretty strong too. Most everybody in town’s was. That was small town life for ya. But sometimes I wished Jeff didn’t sound quite so… dumb.
“Ah wuz justassin’, geez loo weez. N’ I mint, hawt like a lightbulb, like d’ya think iffin’ we’s caught one, it’d burn ah hands?”
I turned my head to stare at him. Was he serious? Of course I knew they didn’t actually burn your hand, but I wasn’t sure if he was just screwing around with me like he was wont to do. Fine, I’ll play. “I dunno. Why don’t you catch one and find out?”
I sat up on my elbows while he jumped around in the air, swiping at lightning bugs. “You look like a big ol’ dumb cat!” I hollered after him.
“Shuddup! I’mma gon’ ketch one, you just wait ‘n see.” Not one second after he said that, he tripped on a garden hose and executed the most spectacular face plant.
Naturally, my raucous laughter filled the night air as I rolled around, slamming the ground with my fists in glee. A minute later Jeff’s red face loomed over me and before I knew it, we were “having words”. With our fists. And feet. I won that fight, as I often did. Jeff was strong, but I was scrappy. I’d always appreciated that he didn’t treat me any different just because I was a girl. And to his credit, he took losing fights to a girl quite well.
He just didn’t like being laughed at.
He found out if lightning were hot or not though. Once he realized he was losing the fight he fled. I was right on his heels and it was all he could do to stay out of my reach. We must have run halfway across town, which was easy in a town that size. The crickets and locusts seem to cheer us on. He was gasping for air after about 15 minutes of running, and inhaled not one, not two, but three lightning bugs. In his panic he somehow chewed them as well.
And that is the story of the night Jeff’s tongue glowed in the dark.
A few days ago, in a Facebook conversation, I was discussing the issue of lack of captions and Deaf rights in-depth. I went to the trouble to type up a long response about the struggle Deaf people face to get equal access. I was talking about how my local theater used to show open-captioned movies for the deaf once or twice a month, but they stopped because a few hearing people who attended those particular showings were selfish enough to complain about the “words on the screen” despite the theater people telling them that these once/twice a month showings were for the Deaf. The theater stopped showing open-captioned movies because of it and now all the Deaf in my area are left to wait for movies to come out on DVD/Blu-ray or use uncomfortable mediocre equipment that no one really likes as much as open captions.
It’s just another way that Deaf people got thrown under the bus in favor of hearing people as though we are not worthy of the same considerations as people who can hear. It’s an important part of the Deaf rights issue, because discrimination and prejudice is very alive and well towards the Deaf. It’s not just limited to lack of access for entertainment. It goes all the way up to extremely important things, such as access to medical care, education, government, etc. It’s even just about how we get treated by others in general, which is not well. We are often treated like second-class citizens. As advanced as this society may be with other things, it is very behind on Deaf rights and access.
In this comment, I used the word “hearie” which is Deaf culture slang for “hearing person.” Instead of recognizing the injustice of this discrimination and being supportive, the very first reply was someone, a hearing person at that, taking offense at the term “hearie“. A discussion followed about whether or not the term was offensive. Several comments were made, the hearing person was backed up (by other hearing people, of course), and very little support was shown regarding the actual issue of discrimination towards the deaf, at least compared to the whining about the offensiveness of “hearie“. Finally someone likened their perceived offense to the word to racist terms such as “nigger” and “cracker“, showing that they really didn’t get it at all when I explained that the word “hearie” was a cultural word specific to the Deaf and not meant to be offensive in any way whatsoever. The point here is: a hearing person being offended by a benign word I used was far more important to them than the discrimination I and many other Deaf people face on a daily basis, discrimination against our very humanity.
I just ended up conceding and moving on since I could tell I wasn’t going to get anywhere. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t understand where they were coming from. I did. I know why they thought the way they did. They didn’t know enough about Deaf issues and Deaf Culture to know any better, plain and simple. But that doesn’t change that they are wrong.
“Hearie” and “Deafie” are both used to differentiate between people who are culturally/physically hearing and people who are all manner of deaf – physically and culturally. Neither term carries a negative or insulting connotation. However, it should be noted that both are terms used by Deaf among each other and about each other, but should not ever be used by a hearing person or anyone who is not culturally Deaf, especially “Deafie”. For what it’s worth, I generally try to avoid using Deaf slang with hearing people but sometimes I forget and it slips in without me realizing it, such as in the case I mentioned above.
Deaf people have a lot of words like that – such as, “undy” for “understand“, “remmy” for “remember“. It’s slang that is particular to Deaf culture, which is a subculture of American society just as Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, etc are subcultures of American society and have their own slang, not all of which carries a negative or insulting connotation either. There are a few slang words that are meant to be offensive within every culture, and Deaf culture does have these words – but “hearie” is not one of them.
A common misconception by hearing people is that ASL is simply signed English. It isn’t. ASL is a full language on its own. It has its own history, structure, grammar and slang just like any other foreign language. It is NOT a visual representation of spoken English, nor is it based on English or anything like English. However, it does sometimes borrow from the English language just as other foreign languages borrow from each other. Deaf culture is the same way: while it may share many similarities with hearing culture, it is a still a completely separate culture with its own history, structure, etc. You should not co-opt the rules for hearing culture onto Deaf culture – which is exactly what a lot of hearing people try to do.
There is a single sign that means “culturally hearing person“, we don’t sign “cultural” then “hearing” then “person” except in formal circumstances. The best way to represent that single sign in spoken English is to use the word “hearie” and refers to the hearing culture and people who are culturally hearing. So really “hearie” and “deafie” are no different from if other foreign languages had their own words for “culturally hearing person” or “culturally Deaf person“.
A hearing person taking offense at a benign Deaf culture term is like an American deciding that the world “Papillon” or some other possible French slang for “butterfly” is offensive for the French to be using when they talk about butterflies, even though it’s not meant by the French to be offensive and is just their word for “butterfly“. Can you imagine? An American telling a French person that he or she is using their native tongue improperly just because the American says so, inferring intent and meaning of a language and culture he knows very little about? It’s no less preposterous when a hearing person tries to argue with a Deaf person about that Deaf person’s language, culture and experience.
To be clear, for “hearie” to be offensive it would have to be used in a certain way and usually with another more offensive word, such as “hearie bitch“. That would be offensive because it was meant to offend. This is why it is nothing like racial/cultural terms such as “nigger” or “cracker“. Those are hateful slurs that definitely have negative and insulting connotation and were created for that express purpose and are still used that way. They were meant to be offensive and those who use it in that way make no secret of it. I tried explaining this to the hearing people involved in the above discussion, but they wouldn’t listen or even try to get it. But I digress.
Who is this person, or any hearing person for that matter, to decide anything about a culture they aren’t even a part of and know little to nothing about? And here is where we come to the heart of the matter: “Hearie Privilege”. Yes, I used the word here because it’s appropriate: hearing culture privilege. That’s what this is truly about, not just terminology.
It doesn’t matter why a hearing person thinks the word “hearie” or even “Deafie” is offensive, they will always be wrong. Why? Because no one has the right to judge an aspect of a culture they aren’t part of and know little to nothing about. I’ve already explained in detail why “hearie” is not meant to be offensive when it’s used among the Deaf, and any Deaf person would confirm this.
So it is incredibly arrogant for a hearing person to decide any part of Deaf culture is offensive or wrong when it’s not meant to be offensive, and most importantly, doing so implies that a hearing person’s opinion is more valid than a Deaf person’s. That’s “hearie privilege”, which is very real, very prevalent, and needs to be done away with just as white privilege did half a century ago.
The same hearing person raising the issue of how offended she was also had the viewpoint that she just didn’t like that “there was a word that solidifies a division of people where there shouldn’t be based on a physical affliction” and that it was as absurd as “calling someone a walker because they aren’t paralyzed.” While I get where she’s coming from, she’s still wrong and those views are ignorant of Deaf culture. She might as well have said that Deaf culture shouldn’t exist just because it’s based on physical attributes (or lack of) and it’s “divisive”. This viewpoint is completely dismissive of Deaf culture, which is by definition, a self-imposed and welcomed “division” by the very people of that culture. She, a hearing person, is not a part of that culture yet she is implying that her opinion about that culture she’s not even a part of is right and the Deaf person’s opinion is wrong. Hearie privilege in action.
Yes! We are divided! Deaf like having their own language that makes communication easy. We are human beings that crave socialization, that “division” is only there because hearing people don’t make the effort to learn to communicate with the Deaf in our own language since we physically can’t use theirs. What are we supposed to do, read minds? Or just be socially isolated? No thank you, give us “division”, because ironically that means being able to connect with other people and be part of a community where we have equal access to each other. Deaf people don’t see it as a disability at all. It’s not an “affliction”! To us it’s a physical trait like hair color or height.
Yes, technically, by society’s definition and textbook definition, deafness is a “disability”. But life isn’t about pure technicalities, is it? Disability is a social construct, anyway. What we consider to be disabilities only exist because the world was built around “normal” people with socially defined barriers. If the world had been built around Deaf people, Hearing people would be considered the ones to be disabled. People in wheelchairs are only considered disabled because people built everything with standing and walking in mind. Learning disabilities are only disabilities because things are taught a certain way en masse. A good friend of mine put it well: “Many disadvantages only occur when one set of differences becomes mainstream and others are not given as much allowance.”
For some who are culturally hearing and consider themselves to have a hearing loss, deafness a disability. For those who are Deaf (capital D), it is not. For us, it is a way of life. It is not hearing loss but Deaf gain. It is a full culture and it is every bit as valid as geographically based cultures. And since disability is a social construct, when a Deaf person holds the view that it’s not a disability, it isn’t a disability. It really is that simple.
For a hearing person to say that the Deaf are “just kidding themselves” or say condescending things like “It’s great that you take pride in it but it’s still just a disability” is very disrespectful and is a prime example of hearie privilege. If the people who have this trait themselves are the ones calling it a “trait” rather than a “disability” or an “affliction”, who is a hearing person or anyone else to decide that it’s otherwise? Is their opinion more valid or important than the people with the trait? I don’t think so!
The thing is, hearing people with this ignorant, arrogant viewpoint don’t know what it’s like to be d/Deaf. If they did, they would understand that Deafness is different from other so-called “disabilities”. The very nature of being deaf isolates a deaf person from the majority of the rest of the world which was built around being able to hear. People who are blind, missing limbs, or dealing with serious illnesses can still hear and talk and communicate and while more limited than able-bodied friends, are nowhere near as isolated or socially disadvantaged as a deaf person is in their world.
So the Deaf made their own world by making their own culture and language so they could have fulfilling social lives just like everyone else. When a hearing person says or even just implies that Deaf culture shouldn’t exist or that Deaf should learn to lip-read and speak rather than sign, that hearing person is once again implying not only that a hearing person’s opinion is more valid than a Deaf person’s, but that Deaf people aren’t even worthy of having the same basic human rights as others – such as socialization. Hearie privilege at it’s finest.
For the record, I am not in any way trying to imply that all hearing people suck or are out to oppress the Deaf. I know many hearing people are great people but are just uneducated when it comes to Deaf issues and don’t know any better. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of education to help them understand, and that’s what I’m trying to accomplish here. Unfortunately, there are also many hearing people who are bigoted and refuse to open their eyes to Deaf issues, or even go so far as to be prejudiced against us. These are the people that hurt us, and why it doesn’t help one bit when a hearing person says “But not all of us are like that!” All it takes is a few ignorant, intolerant bigots exercising hearie privilege to make life unnecessarily difficult for the entire Deaf community.
What bothers me about the situation with my acquaintances is not so much that they were ignorant of these issues and had a hearie privilege mindset in that conversation, but that they wouldn’t even listen when I tried to educate them about it. They refused to even read articles written by more articulate, better educated Deaf people than me, that explain it WAY better than I do. They were that dead set in their belief that their views on my own culture were superior to mine. When a Deaf person encounters that level of “hearie privilege” from people they respect, people they consider to be friends or family, it can hurt very deeply. It’s possible I did a poor job of explaining it. I don’t know. But it made me realize that since the majority of my friends are hearing people, a lot of them could hold the same views. Hearie privilege is really hard to overlook, and even harder to battle. This is why I felt the need to write this.
I hope that at least people read this all the way through even though it’s really long, and as a result DO get it. If I’ve opened your eyes on this, please let me know, and if you have any questions feel free to ask!
~ Lily Rayne