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Mark Drolsbaugh

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On many occasions, I have been asked to explain this phenomenon which is known as Deaf Pride. After all, people ask, how could someone possibly be proud of what appears to be nothing more than a disability? On top of that, deafness is a disability which affects communication... it can put an invisible wall between hearing and deaf people. So what's there to be proud of?

If you had asked me this question many years ago, I would have been hard-pressed to come up with an answer. Deaf Pride? What Deaf Pride?

What about all those times in mainstream school when I had to give up and simply say "I don't know" because I couldn't understand the teacher?

What about all those times I was made fun of?

What about all those times when I was put in an audiologist's booth like a guinea pig?

What about all those times a speech teacher squeezed my mouth and said, "C'mon, can you say BA-BA-BA?"

Certainly nothing to be proud of. In fact, as a youngster I was downright embarrassed. That is, I was embarrassed until I got a chance to join Deaf culture. I may have joined it late, after years of unsuccessfully trying to be a hearing person, but the old cliche' is true: better late than never. Meeting other deaf peers like myself, sharing similar stories of oppression and ridicule, swapping humorous anecdotes, learning ASL, and seeing other deaf adults succeed has completely changed my attitude.

I am no longer ashamed of my deafness, I am proud of it. I am proud of who I am, proud of what I've overcome, and proud of my culture. Yes, I recognize there is a Deaf culture.

Some people may be groaning, "oh no, not that old culture vs. pathology argument." Sure, I acknowledge that there are many people out there, even deaf people, who insist that deafness is nothing more than an annoying disability. As my past would indicate, that can certainly be true. On the other hand, there are also people out there who adamantly insist that there is a Deaf culture, that deafness is not a handicap at all (swearing by the popular motto that "deaf people can do anything... except hear"). You can choose whatever side of the argument you want, but I prefer to take somewhat of a middle stance. My own definition is that:

*deafness is a disability which is so unique, its very nature causes a culture to emerge from it.*

Participation in this culture is voluntary (I enlisted in 1989).

Being a part of this culture has given me a sense of pride. I am no



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