First Ever Q&A! | Part 3: Deaf & ASL


[Lightly edited transcript from the video.]

Haven’t read part one and part two? Read them first!

Hello and welcome to my first ever Q&A part three. In this one, I will be answering all the questions about being deaf, ASL-related questions. Let’s get started!

Favorite thing about being deaf? My favorite thing about being deaf is that we have a very rich language, culture, community, history. Many people don’t have that. In the deaf community, you’re not limited to one language in most cases. We often know at least two. And it’s so easy to travel and meet a lot of other deaf people in other countries, and have relatively no problem communicating with them. Yes, we have different sign languages, but it’s a lot easier to figure out a way to communicate than people who speak only.

Funniest deaf/hearing culture clash moment? Funniest, I don’t know, but I do really enjoy it when hearing people are shocked at how loud deaf people are. They think, because we can’t hear, it means we’re completely silent. Oh no, no, no. It’s the complete opposite, the complete opposite. We can’t hear. Therefore, we don’t know how much noise we’re making. Also, hearing people think that because we sign, that means we’re quiet when we’re chatting. Ha! Signing makes a lot more noise than you think. Our hands hit each other often, so there’s noise from that. But also, we will hit or slap the table to make a point. If we’re trying to get someone’s attention, we hit things, stomping… We make a lot of noise.

What’s the most judging thing people have done? The person gave an example of asking the interpreter instead of me. Yes, that is a little bit… Really? Hi. I’m here. I see you. You can see me, I know you can. To expand on that, often people think because we’re deaf, it means we don’t have a brain. Not true.

It’s a long comment, but to sum it up: They don’t sign in a group often, so they get tired really fast. They’re wondering how to get through that, so they can socialize and not get tired out, miss half of the conversation. Welcome to our world. I don’t mean that in a mean way, no. I mean, that’s how we feel in the hearing world. We get exhausted from trying to lipread, trying to understand, fill in all the gaps, so that’s how we feel. But really, the only way to through–maybe not only, but only thing I can think of right now–is get involved more often. Practice signing, watch videos of people who sign, reception. Receptive practice is really important. That’s really the only way to not get tired. Keep at it. It’s like a muscle, if you don’t use it, it becomes weak and gets tired easily.

Who’s your most idolized deaf person? Well, for who’s alive right now, I would say Haben Girma. This woman is amazing. She graduated Harvard, in law, she’s DeafBlind, she’s a brilliant woman. She’s amazing. If you don’t know who she is, check her out.

How many other sign languages do you know fluently? I kind of answered this in my Q&A part one, but I thought I would add more here, because this is specifically about sign language. Like I mentioned in part one, I know Auslan kind of well. International Sign. Understand this, International Sign is not a language, it’s more of a system. But knowing International is very useful when you travel. With sign language, it’s hard to say what I know “fluently.” Because there are a lot of sign languages that I can understand. Like for example, with LSF (French sign), Dansk Tegnsprog (Danish sign), and a few others. I can understand them if I’m watching a video, or someone’s signing in that language. I can understand it, no problem. But me signing it myself, that’s a different story. So how many I can understand, several. How many I can sign, just ASL, Auslan, and International.

What’s your favorite sign? I know I included this, but I hate this question because it’s like asking what’s your favorite word? I can’t really pick one favorite, but I would say I do really like ASL slang signs. I made a video about that. Because those have no direct translation. A couple of my favorites are [slang:sick] That is a versatile sign. I love it. Second, [finish]. If you know ASL, you can understand that!

A couple of you asked what my opinion is on hearing people learning sign. I have no problem with hearin people learning ASL. Thumbs up, please do! Whatever the reason. BUT! A lot of hearing people will be, “oh yeah, I want to learn sign language because I want to help the poor deaf people.” Don’t. Learn the language if you want, yes please. But don’t approach it like you’re helping deaf people. We don’t need help. We do appreciate interpreters, yes, fantastic. But we really don’t like it when you’re doing it as “hearing savior” riding in on a white horse to save the poor deaf people. Just, no. One big reason why I’m pro more hearing people learning sign is because the more hearing people that learn sign, the more they can educate parents of deaf children. Encouraging the parents to learn sign language, that it’s not a bad thing, it won’t affect the kid badly. Hearing people are increasingly learning ASL and deaf people that do know sign are decreasing. But I’m hoping that eventually, that will change. Because there are more hearing people that know sign, that means they influence and change that decrease.

It’s annoying when ASL students do _______. My first thought is it’s annoying when you practice your basic vocabulary like apple, tree, bathroom, I love you. Don’t do that. That’s not how you have a conversation with a deaf person. If you really don’t know how to get through a conversation, try anyway. Try to have an actual conversation. If you’re lost, write. That’s fine, we’re okay with writing. It really depends on the person. I, personally, don’t really take anything to offense, not when it’s ASL students. I’m like, you’re ASL students, you’re still learning. You probably don’t know everything about deaf culture. Hell, not all deaf people know everything about deaf culture. Just… Try your best. And if something is annoying, I will be sure to tell you. Deaf people in general… There are some that are very… standoffish with ASL students. Some are laid-back and encouraging. So… I can’t answer for the whole community.

I’m curious what your opinion is on hearing people teaching ASL? This is a very sticky question. Many deaf people’s gut reaction is, “NO! It needs to be taught by a deaf person.” But MY response: I don’t see a problem with it IF the person is qualified. The same thing applies to a deaf person. Not every deaf person is qualified to teach ASL. I know some deaf people who are teaching ASL right now that really should not be teaching ASL. Because they themselves don’t sign ASL. The point is, it really doesn’t matter to me, deaf or hearing. The important thing is they must be qualified. Being deaf is a bonus, yes. Knowledge of deaf culture is a must, regardless of being deaf or hearing.

Can you talk about hearies getting a sign name? I may make a longer video about this, but basically, it doesn’t matter who you are – deaf or hearing – you can’t get a sign name unless a deaf person gives it to you. The general rule is that you can’t give yourself a sign name, it has to be given to you by someone else. I personally think some deaf people should be banned from giving sign names, because they don’t really understand the rules of ASL signs, or whatever. I’ve seen some sign names that I’m like, whoa, whoa. No, no, this is NOT a natural sign name in ASL. Noooo. Yeah, it sucks if you live in an area that has no deaf people, or a small community, yeah. But that’s a fact of life. My sign name, [half of the sign for lose/lost], I didn’t get that until I was 22. So don’t assume that all of us have a sign name. There are a few deaf people who don’t have a sign name. Either because they don’t want one, or because their name is so short and easy to spell. Just drop it, no sign name. So… Not every deaf person has a sign name, not here in the US anyway.

In ‘hearing culture,’ I see a lot of the “I love you” sign on clothing, things, what’s your take on this? First, I already have a video about this. Go see it here. I’ll wait. Done? Now you know my answer, and my feelings about this topic. Let’s move on.

A few of you asked how to meet other deaf people, still learning ASL, will I be accepted in the community? First of all. If they don’t accept you in the community, I WILL FIGHT THEM. I get pissed off when deaf people don’t accept new people into the community. I’m like, we’re already small enough! We don’t need to be excluding anyone who doesn’t know sign, anyone who doesn’t know deaf culture. Some of those people who exclude once were those people. They were people who didn’t know any sign. They were people who didn’t know deaf culture. So WHY do you do that to other people? You once were in that place. Stop! Okay. I have strong feelings about this, let’s put that aside. As for resources, there are a few linked in the video that’s linked at the beginning of this post. There’s some great resources out there for learning sign. ASL That! is a good place to go if you’ve been looking and can’t find a sign for something, post in there or look in that group, Facebook group. Another YouTuber, Jessica Flores, made a Google spreadsheet with all of the names of people who teach ASL or resources for learning ASL. It’s hard to meet other deaf people when there aren’t any in your area. So the only suggestion I have is try to find the nearest community. Try looking for a DNO (Deaf Night Out). There are a lot in big cities, try to find one near you, try to go when you can. Really, there’s no way to meet deaf people unless you’re near a community of them. That’s the best I have.

Roughly how long for someone to become conversational in ASL? It really varies. It depends a lot on the person, depends on how much they practice. I know you asked about how fast they can become conversational if they practice, but really, it still varies. Some people have an innate skill for it, they easily pick it up. I’ve known some people who become conversational in just two months. I’ve known some people who take three years to really be conversational. So really, it varies. Depends on the person, depends on how much they’re motivated to learn ASL, depends on how much you’re involved with the deaf community, how often you talk with people in sign. That’s really the best answer I can give. It varies.

Do deaf people understand the concept of accents? Yes. We actually have accents in sign! You can often tell where someone is from based on their signing alone. Like if they grew up in California, they will sign differently than someone who grew up in even Washington, someone from New York – depends on where in New York – but often, you can look at them and go “you’re not from here.” So, yes, we do understand accents. We have them in our own language!

If the world became fully accessible in ASL, like hearing and deaf people can sign, communicate, would deaf schools still exist? First, I want to emphasize: ASL means American Sign Language. It’s signed only here in the US. Canada has Canadian ASL, it’s pretty similar, but has little differences. Anyway, American Sign Language. Meaning, sign language is not universal. It’s not the same everywhere. I just want to emphasize that. To answer your question, that’s an interesting thought experiment. I would say it could go either way. One way is they’re gone, no need for them because everyone signs. There’s no need for special accommodations. But it could go another way, they stay because of the culture, identity, connection with people who are the same. Even if all hearing people knew ASL, there are still parts of deaf culture that I feel people will never fully understand. So… Where do you get that? In deaf schools. It’s actually possible that deaf schools may actually grow, there’d be more deaf schools, because parents know sign language is fine and has no problem, and send their kids to a school where they can sign. But does that mean hearing schools would still speak to teach or teach in sign? That’s an interesting question.

As a queer person, do you feel like they didn’t discuss or provide enough information based on the topics of queer and deaf through books? I mentioned this at the end of my Q&A part two. If I ever wrote a book, I would want to write about the queer deaf community. Because in fiction and nonfiction, there is pretty much nothing about the deaf queer community. There are some here and there, like the commenter mentioned – Mean Little Deaf Queer. I haven’t read it, I’ve added it to my TBR. Another one I haven’t read, Men with Their Hands written by Raymond Luczak. I don’t know what it’s about, or how good it is. There are a few, just not enough. Not enough.

Have you seen Sundance Now’s series, “This Close” and if so, what do you think? Yes. And as of today, they’ve released the last episode in that series, six episodes long. I love it. I love it, yes. I think it’s amazing, it was written and acted by two deaf people. We need more like this. Yes. We. Need. More. Yes, yes. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. You can get a free trial week at Sundance Now. You can watch it on either the app or website. But six episodes, 20-25 minutes each. So please watch it. Watch it! I’ll explain a little for those who don’t know what this is. “This Close” is a show about two best friends who are both deaf, they’re both going through life. The show is not about their deafness at all. It’s about their lives, and they happen to be deaf. It’s a show that we all need. Fair warning though, this has sex in it. And cursing. And a little bit of fighting. Basically, it’s not a “clean” show. It’s not. It’s gritty, it’s in your face. I love it. I want more.

And that’s my first ever Q&A done! If you have any questions that you still want to know the answer to, go ahead and leave them on the video. Let me know what you think about my opinions, or whatever I said. I’m happy to answer them. I probably will do another Q&A eventually. But go ahead and leave your questions on the video, I may answer them. And I think I’m finally done with this. So thanks for reading!

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Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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