Despite the fact that my cable carrier provides me with a ridiculous number of channels it can be difficult finding anything of interest to watch. Flipping through the channels the other night I was fortunate enough to come across the documentary See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainer’s Documentary. I don’t remember hearing about it when it was first released, but I sure am glad I found it.
Directed and produced by Hilari Scarl, the film follows four deaf entertainers, Robert DeMayo (actor), Bob Hiltermann (drummer), CJ Jones (comic), and TL Forsberg (singer), as they work towards finding their way in the entertainment industry.
Despite their obvious talents and success in the “Deaf world” the entertainers are virtually unknown in the hearing world. The documentary is not preachy, but instead it highlights the divides and separations between two cultures, and what it might take to break down barriers.
One of the most powerful moments for me came when Ms. Forsberg, who is not “Deaf” but rather hard of hearing, describes how her hearing loss leaves her trying to fit into both the hearing and the deaf world, and in some sense being rejected by both. I get that. That is exactly where my son and I fit in, or don’t fit in.
This lack of fitting in is one of the parts of the Deaf community that I don’t understand. Many of the complaints I hear from the Deaf community are about the barriers that the hearing world sets up, what I don’t hear though is that the Deaf community puts up just as many barriers to those with different degrees of hearing loss who want to enter the Deaf community. I get the pain, frustration, and discrimination that the deaf community has gone through, but I also get that there is strength in numbers and that it’s important to allow new members into a community. Erecting barriers won’t lead to greater acceptance, but instead to further isolation.
I used to be hearing, now I have hearing loss. I know others who used to have hearing loss, and are now deaf. Hearing, hearing loss, and deafness are all just different points on the same continuum. Realities that can shift seemingly overnight.