Bicultural in a Deaf Home

“She didn’t want to force a difference.”

Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions
  • Why does the speaker consider himself bicultural?
  • What does the speaker mean when he says his “mom can communicate well?”
  • How does he explain that deafness is not a disability to deaf people?
  • Where does the speaker says his curiosity comes from?
Interpretive Questions
  • Why is asking questions sometimes dangerous?
  • Why does the speaker ask questions anyway?
  • Is it good that he does? Why or why not?
  • Would you have assumed, by appearance, that the speaker didn’t “know anything about diversity? Why or why not?
  • How do you feel about your assumption knowing more about the speaker’s experience?
Implication Question
  • What’s one thing you might do the next time you catch yourself making an assumption about someone?

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Transcript for Bicultural in a Deaf Home

I grew up with my mom for most of my life. She was a single mom and she’s deaf. But she’s the only deaf daughter of a hearing family. She has three siblings who are all hearing, and both of her parents who can hear.

I do consider myself bicultural, probably more bicultural than bilingual. A lot of times when I was little I had to interpret for my mom between restaurant waiters and the grocery store. Every time we would go out to a restaurant, like, cause I could hear, but we’re all signing usually, and you could hear people talking about like, “What’s wrong with that family, I wonder how they drive, I wonder how they do anything, I wonder where they work…” And my mom has her master’s in education and she teaches. And I could hear them the whole time, so things like that would happen a lot.

She didn’t want to force a difference. It was obvious enough already that she was deaf and we were hearing. She didn’t want us to feel like she was forcing her deaf culture on us. One thing about deaf people that people assume a lot is they don’t know how to read or write or the old adage of deaf, dumb, and mute. My mom can communicate well. I’ve met countless deaf people that can communicate. It doesn’t matter that they can’t hear. It’s not a disability to them. It’s something to be proud of, and so I think that’s something everyone else can learn from is to be proud of who you are no matter what your weaknesses might be.

Because I grew up in a bicultural home, for me when I moved to a different culture, it’s easier because I know my culture. I know what I grew up with. And then being around people with different cultures is not a big shock to me, and so maybe I don’t notice it as much.

I didn’t grow up where everybody was the same, so I’m a very curious person. I’ll always ask questions and sometimes maybe it’s dangerous. It borders dangerous. I just want to learn. I care about other people so I want to know. And so for me, it’s just when I encounter something new, I just ask because I’m open about my cultural experiences and I want you to ask me because I want to talk about it. I’m going to ask you also and then if it’s silent, well, that’s what I grew up with, so that’s fine.

People have always kind of assumed that I don’t know anything about diversity and they always seem a little shocked when I’m like,”Yeah, I know what it’s like to grow up with a different experience.” And they’re like, “You don’t get it. It’s different so don’t talk about it because you don’t have the face or the experience. There’s no way you have the experience.” And then when it’s like, “Actually my mom is deaf,” it’s like, “Oh”.

I think anyone can talk to diversity because they grew up somewhere different than I did. They grew up with different experiences than I did. You don’t have to have been oppressed in the same way to understand anger, or sadness, or rejection. You just have to know rejection, sadness, and anger. You don’t have to have gone through it the same way.

  • Jessica Jachim

    This is so interesting. I never thought of diversity in that way. It was enlightening to hear the speaker describe diversity as living your life and experiencing life in a different way than others. As he said, everyone can speak to diversity.

  • ndziubasik

    This was really cool. I like the idea of looking at languages in general as cultural ideals instead of just speech. Being able to communicate with another individual in a different way definitely opens up concepts of culture and understanding, so looking at being deaf and using sign language as a cultural experience makes total sense. I love the thought of just interacting with various cultures and seeing how your understanding of the world changes as a result.

  • Emily Doherty

    This video is empowering for a number of reasons. It explores the intimacy of diversity–that it is not merely a topic of race/religion, but a topic that can go beneath the surface, such as growing up in a household with parents who were unable to “normally” communicate with the outside world. The judgement placed upon his mother and him were intense, especially with the comments received from others who assume/are ignorant to what being deaf actually is. He states that being deaf is something you can be proud of, which is a great point and can be taken and applied to a lot of other diversity cases.