Accepting My Disability
My name is Madeline, and I’m deaf.
That’s a sentence I don’t say very often; I tend to opt to shy away from disclosing that part of me in fear that it brings a negative connotation to me as a person. Maybe that it will become my whole identity instead of sitting on the sidelines like I want it to. However, in the past few months I’ve realized that by forcing myself to assimilate into the hearing world I’ve forced a label onto myself I’m not so sure I can actually identify with, and its left me wondering. where do I belong?
I don’t have deaf friends, I cannot use sign language past basic conversation and the alphabet, and I am unaware of any goings on in the community. My hearing loss simply serves as an annoyance in everyday activities. I admit that I am lucky, I get through life with a disability usually without discrimination, but not without disadvantage. However much I try to ignore it, I stay reminded of when I learn that I am not eligible for a career I may have loved, when I just nod and pretend I heard a conversation because I feel like I’m burdening someone for asking them to repeat what they said several times, or when I’m at the beach with friends only to deprive myself of conversation for the next few hours because unfortunately hearing aids are not waterproof (someone please get on that).
Subtle discrimination is present more often than we realize. While writing this piece on my experiences I have been forced to think back on moments in my life, and only in the past week have I realized something I was previously proud about now slightly bothers me.
An article was written in a local newspaper congratulating me for my acceptance into an accelerated class at the high school I’m attending, they didn’t do this for anyone else, just me. they specifically talked of my disability and used it to show that anyone can do anything with hard work. It sounds innocent enough, but when you think about how nobody else in my class was praised this way its underlying nature becomes more sinister. It innocently seems to work to try to defeat the longstanding stereotype that deaf people are dumb, but instead almost promotes me as the exception to that rule. No deaf person is inherently dumb for being born without hearing, we’re the same as everyone else, just with one more hill to climb. Maybe I made a problem out of nothing, but to me It’s subtle and it’s there. And it rubbed me the wrong way.
Spending a life feeling different from my peers has meant that I’ve always felt as though I do not belong. I stay torn between two identities and it seems every few months I have a sort of crisis about which one I belong to. I’m too deaf to be hearing and too hearing to be deaf. I know I’m not alone in this. When growing up with something that makes you different; whether it be race, sexuality, disability or anything else that you cannot change, It seems the most likely path you choose to take is rejecting the side of you that is viewed negatively in the world you grow up in and choosing to assimilate into the majority, but you lose a part of yourself in that too. Life is a struggle for the minority but facing different hurdles than the rest of society makes us stronger.
We all have something about us we reject, but it should not be anything you cannot change. Maybe you don’t like your hair or your clothes, but you shouldn’t hate your sexuality, your culture, race, or disability. It builds the person you were born to be. Try your hardest not to be ashamed of what you cannot change. Instead, embrace what makes you unique and take advantage of its positives, no matter how small they may be. I made the mistake of believing that I could only be deaf or hearing when I cannot deny that I am both. We are more than labels, and no decision you make or ‘difference’ you are born with is everything that you are. Don’t ignore your uniqueness in favor of fitting in, you’ll miss out on all the benefits it brings.
I have a long way to go towards accepting myself, but I ask you to do it with me. Look out for your friends and accept yourself and your differences, because you are the only person who can be you, and that is so much better than being someone else.
Written By Madeline McFarlane
♥ Featuring baby Madeline in the photo ♥