Deaf Want Deaf Babies

When I worked in the federal government, I attended events and meetings of our department’s deaf group. It had about 40 members — an amazing number to me as throughout my life, I never met more than a couple of deaf people at one time. But that’s Washington, D.C. for you. After all, it’s the home of the largest liberal arts university for the deaf and hard-of-hearing — Gallaudet.
The group held a baby shower for three of us who were expecting around the same time — me with my first (seems so long ago). I couldn’t believe it when I heard (read) that one of them had hoped her child would be born deaf. I’m all for being proud of your culture, but to wish this?
I bring this up because the director of the London-based theatre company Deafinitely Theatre felt the same and succeeded. Why wish for something that will make your child’s life harder. It’s very difficult to live in a deaf-only world even with a town in South Dakota, but obviously not everyone can live there especially those in other countries who prefer to stay where they are.


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  1. The article from London is pretty much explanatory as to why Deaf people would want Deaf children.
    If we use the approach that it would “make the child’s life harder” then that should be applied to everyone else. Those with diabetes shouldn’t mate because why would you want your child to have diabetes and take insulin shots. Those with recessive genes for cystic fibrosis shouldn’t mate as well because that’s just terrible for a child to go through. Etc., etc., etc. We don’t want our children to suffer anything.
    By doing this, we’re approaching/practicing eugenics (keep in mind that I’m not saying that it doesn’t exists nowadays).
    Life is about challenges.
    My 2 cents. 🙂

  2. I’ll never debate that Deaf culture has a lot to offer its members, but the rest of the world is not Deaf. Despite all the benefits of the Deaf community, daily communication in the hearing world is hard and life is harder. I’m not saying life is easy cheesy if you can speak and hear, but I too have trouble understanding why you would desire a harder life for your child.

    • Alicia on April 25, 2006 at 1:12 pm
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    We all live in a world of our own choosing. Members of a minority tend to gravitate towards members of their own minority groups. If a Hispanic American wished to attend a predominantly Hispanic church, attend a predominantly Hispanic school or work at a Hispanic-oriented organization, would we accuse them of isolating themselves from the “real” (a.k.a., white) world? I hope not!
    I would also hope that people don’t presume that Hispanics who associate primarily with Hispanics instead of whites are “suffering” from a lower quality of life. That would be the height of arrogance, not to mention racist.
    So, the natural inclination for human beings is to gravitate towards those most like themselves. Nothing wrong with that. Yes, there are deaf peole who intentionally choose not to associate with other deaf people, but that’s another topic for another time.
    My point is that many deaf families will often associate primarily with other deaf people, especially in their social lives. In my experience, those deaf people often have a much better quality of life than those who reject connections with other deaf people. Deaf children of deaf adults get the very best of this interconnectedness and the richness of deaf culture. It’s not a bad life at all.
    Hearing children of deaf adults, on the other hand, can have it pretty rough. Movies have been made (e.g., “Love is Never Silent”) about the struggles of these children. There’s even an international association dedicated to CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults).
    A lot of the hardship happens because of the ugliness directed at deaf families by hearing people who don’t get it. Because the child is hearing, they’re stuck in the middle and experience the brunt of it. This happens regardless of whether or not the deaf parent associates with other deaf people.
    In some ways, a hearing child born into a deaf family can be like a deaf child born into a hearing family. Many deaf adults do not enjoy spending time with their hearing parents, aunts, uncles, etc., because they will always be an outsider in their own family. Likewise, a lot of complicated issues of identity and belonging can arise with a hearing child in a deaf family.
    Considering all the above, I think it’s no wonder that some deaf adults wish for deaf children. It’s not a wish I agree with personally, because I think any child – hearing or deaf – should be cherished. But it’s a wish that makes perfect sense to me, and I don’t judge those who have this wish. Just like I don’t judge hearing parents who wish for a hearing child.

    • oneninefive on April 25, 2006 at 4:29 pm
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    I am Deaf and I know for sure I want my child to be Deaf. I am very happy being Deaf and have been offered the chance to get free cochlear implants and I rejected them – why?
    I do not think being Deaf is hard, I think me becoming Deaf when I was 3 years old was the best thing that ever happened to me.
    Being Deaf is not as bad as you think it is, it seems bad becasue hearing people have oppressed Deaf people for a long time, once you get involved with the Deaf community, understand the culture, and embrace it you will be glad or wish you were Deaf.
    I am just sick of hearing people thinking life is hard or awful being Deaf, well face it, being Deaf is wonderful and if you think being Deaf is hard, maybe it is because the hearing world does not understand us and continues to oppress us by thinking we want to be fixed.


  3. I’ve talked with some of my friends, and they basically share the opinion that it is the majority who should be sensitive to the minority. I don’t want to frame it in the sense that there is this white, male, straight, society that is oppressing the minority, but it’s important to see things from the perspective of people who are not part of those in power.
    I could talk about straight parents wanting straight children instead of gay children, but I should frame it instead in terms of a tradition that existed in ancient cultures and even now: a preference for having sons.
    When China imposed a one-child policy, hundreds of thousands of parents killed their infant daughters because they want only boys. Sure, this act came from a sexist belief that only boys can accomplish important things, and girls cannot. But that mindset existed because girls were not allowed to work, own property, or do anything except be a wife, a mother, and a daughter. So they were seen as worthless for more than child-bearing.
    Girls could also be said to have a harder life, because they are not seen growing up to be a leader, a scientist, an engineer, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a president since they have a ‘handicap’ that men don’t.
    If you believe that women should not have to change themselves to join a male-centric world, that it is mainstream society that ought to adjust to women’s style of management rather than exclude them, then why should mainstream society not adjust to the uniqueness that Deaf people could bring to society if they were given a chance and an open mind? And that uniqueness includes the freedom to appreciate a disability as a way to share the bonds of human ties and circumstances that other people could not?
    Deafness is a disability hard to place, because it is unlike other disability. Even Helen Keller once said that between blindness and deafness, deafness is worse because while blindness cut her off from things, deafness cut her off from people. And yet, for those only deaf and born of deaf parents, they can find a greater union with others of the same caliber that isn’t possible outside of it.
    That’s my 2 cents, and I don’t have a conclusion.

    • Alicia on April 26, 2006 at 11:40 am
    • Reply

    Alan, great comment. I agree with your question of why shouldn’t mainstream society adjust to the uniqueness that Deaf people could bring? This is true of anyone who is “different.” In nature, diversity is how a species adapts and evolves. In economics, studies show that areas that are more accepting of diversity tend to attract more talent and be healthier economically with higher quality-of-life indices. In finance, diversification of your portfolio allows you to better weather stock market downturns.
    On a more local and concrete level: I had a hearing college friend who was a deaf education major and very involved with deaf people. She had a TTY, was fluent in ASL, and worked with various deaf-oriented organizations. And then one day she woke up deaf, due to illness. It was a traumatic experience for her. But if not for her already having been exposed to deaf people and how they live full lives, it would have been much more traumatic.
    Although the above example is dramatic and rare, this concept also applies on a more common and ordinary level to the millions of aging baby boomers who are now losing their hearing. A society that is more accommodating of visual communicators would benefit those baby boomers. So many older people put off getting help or learning how to adapt because of the stigma attached to hearing loss. If that stigma were removed then it would be so much better for everybody.
    A few years ago I read a quote directed at mainstream society that I really thought made an important point: “People with disabilities are the only minority group that you could end up joining one day.” The implications are profound – any work that is done to accommodate a group with a disability is like insurance for your own future.

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