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Audism Needs To Die

Audism, is the term that was coined in the late seventies by the Deaf community to describe the discrimination and/or prejudice against people that are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. It was coined to describe the unfortunately common experiences that many in the Deaf community are subjected to throughout their lives and I'm sad to say, while it might seem like it's almost completely died out, audism is alive and well in 2019. 

Sometimes, it's blatantly obvious from people making fun of Deaf voices and other times, it's less subtle such as people acting like they can't communicate with someone d/Deaf/hoh while ignoring the fact that most can read and write just as fluent as their hearing counterparts. I've had people call my Darling "Deaf and dumb" to my face and as shocking as that might seem, I've seen red in the past when someone called him a "Deaf dumb mute" to my face! Yet, unsurprisingly, when I tried to explain to these people why using those terms are offensive and outdated, they get very defensive and say that they have nothing against the Deaf, or say that I'm just overly sensitive. Stuff like this reminds me of growing up and how people would make fun of me and my dad for signing and how awful it made me feel. 

Lately, it seems like audism has just been popping up and rearing its ugly little face and it's seriously pissing me off, to the point where I just want to talk about audism, its history and the negative effects it has.
While the term itself might have originated in the 70s, it's far from a recent occurrence, with Aristole having said, 'Those who are born deaf all become senseless and incapable of language and ideas'. This is a reoccuring theme whenever you learn about Deaf history, that throughout history, the inability to learn spoken language condemned the Deaf community to be viewed as inferior and unintelligent by the hearing community time and time again. Yet even at the same time, sign languages have almost never been taken seriously and were almost always viewed as a simple form of gestures that were nowhere on the same level as spoken languages (there are still many nowadays that still hold this same view). 

And while it is true that there have always been those who would try to help and support the Deaf community such as Abee de l'Epee and Thomas Gallaudet, who both opened Deaf schools and supported sign languages and Deaf children being educated in their natural language, there have also always been people on the opposite side. People such as Alexander Graham Bell who was so against Deaf culture and sign languages, and who did everything in their power to make life miserable for the Deaf. Bell was famous for going to town meetings and arguing that american sign language was unamerican since it was originally old french sign language and he even tried to make it illegal for the Deaf to marry, though thankfully that failed. Even though it's been ninety-seven years since he died, the effects of his actions and bullshit beliefs continue to live on and his shitty association continues to push these same beliefs. 

There's one co-worker who I believe is trying to see how far she can go with her ignorant statements before I snap. When she found out my dad is deaf, she started going on and on about how blessed and lucky I was not to be 'like that' and how I must thank God every single day for being able to hear. As well as deciding to tell me that if she ever lost her hearing, she wouldn't have any reason to go on living and that her life would be over. When I told her (again) that my dad and fiancé are both Deaf, she didn't back down and said basically that that's nice, but she couldn't see a life worth living if she wasn't hearing. It's not just this extremely negative view on deafness and hearing loss as a whole that's harmful, but the fact that it's so normalised. I know that she's not the only one with this viewpoint and belief. It's why people push CIs and HAs so much even when you explain to them that you're not 100% against HAs, but want Deaf children to have access to BOTH sign language and speech. It's why despite my Darling being in his early fifties and being very happy and content with his life, co-workers feel the need to demand to know why he doesn't go get a CI and 'become normal'. It's also why when I told a coworker that my dad (who was a few feet in front of us looking at magazines) is deaf, she gasped and said, 'I had no idea he was like that! He looks so normal!'. 

Deafness is viewed as something that is 'abnormal' and that needs to be 'fixed' and 'cured' at all costs. But my question is quite simply: what is normal? If you're born hearing and I'm born deaf, which is "normal"? Is it my normal or yours? Perhaps someone walks with a limp, is that normal or abnormal? I'm a little person, but if you were to ask me if I want to be "normal", I would tell you I already am. What's "normal" to one person is abnormal to another and the same applies to deafness. Being born deaf or hard of hearing is just as normal as being born hearing. I think it says a lot that people can't even accept something as small as some not being able to hear without making it out to be as if they have some kind of disease. Why is the Deaf community isolated simply because of the hearing world's refusal to learn sign languages and why is this just accept as normal? 

When I first started working at my current job, I remember no one knew my Darling's name or anything about him, yet he'd worked there for six years at that point. Everyone I asked said they'd just never felt a reason, because 'he's Deaf!' and as ridiculous as it sounds, at least one person asked me, 'do Deaf people even HAVE names?'. I was the only one who'd ever seen a problem with the way they treated him and it took a lot to change everyone's views. People used to run up behind him and shove him down, tap him on the shoulder and yell in his face when he turned around and scream and throw things at him when he would take a nap in the breakroom. The managers knew what was happening, but they did nothing to stop it, because to them it was "normal". It took me basically publically shaming these people and getting the entire store to turn on them and say that they weren't going to accept this behaviour anymore. It's been five, going on six, years and whenever we get new co-workers it can be a little bit of a problem, but all of the older co-workers call them out and don't allow any kind of bullying and mocking Deafness. While I'm happy that things are better for him, I think it's disgusting that it took a then-nineteen year old to tell people in their fourties and fifties that they had to treat a Deaf man like a human with feelings and emotions. No one hid what they were doing and yet everyone else simply turned a blind eye to what was going on and pretended it never happened.

I guess what I'm trying to say is if you see or hear audism happening, you need to stand up and let them know you're not going to tolerate that shit. Be it saying that the Deaf need to be fixed or 'aren't normal' or if it's something more intense like in my case, when a whole group is bullying and mocking someone simply because they're Deaf. I know that it won't be easy and you might even be scared, I know I was, but it's the right thing to do. If you just stay quiet and put your blinders on and pretend nothing's happening, you're being complicit in the ongoing discrimination of an entire community. I can promise you that almost every single time, the people doing this will back down very quickly once they realise you're not going to stop. I had men that were close to two feet taller than me scream at me and insist that 'it's just a joke!', but once they realised I wasn't going to back down, they quickly stopped. Things will eventually get better, but we have to be willing to put in the work to get it there.

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