Coming Out as a Deaf Cyborg: Struggling to Create Non-Normative Identities

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Translation from French by Chanelle Adams.

I frequently wonder whether or not I can truly identify as deaf because I know that my experience is the exception, not the rule. When I was 18 months old, my parents and nursery school teachers met to discuss my hearing difficulties. My teachers noticed that when they called my name from behind me, I did not respond. Sure enough, following numerous examinations, I was determined to have more than 80% deafness, thus meeting the criteria for so-called “profound deafness.”

I have, more or less, enough access to hearing with my hearing aids to bricolage and experiment with aural and oral communication. My parents wanted the best for me and did not want society to define me by my limitations. They went against medical advice and enrolled me in the traditional school system where I received oral instruction in classes alongside hearing children. Because the intention was that I would learn to autonomously express myself orally without having to depend on a third party translator, I never had the choice to learn LSF (French Sign Language). Not having access to LSF, while still having to survive in the hearing world, left me with only one option: to improve my speech and find a way to be excellent. During private lessons with speech therapists, I studied word construction and phonetics. I learned how to decipher differences in tone and shades between vowels, language pronunciations, and how to lip read with attention to breath. These lessons were meant to provide tools for me to understand those around me, but in reality, they brought me closer to my own body, my own breath and, eventually, led me towards finding my own voice — a voice that speaks as accurately as possible despite my persistent deafness.