(photo showing hands bending together to make a heart, framing an ocean sunset)
Finally, Ocean, we send you: an invitation to work with us for our event next year, as we have described above; acceptance of who you are as a Pagan and as a member and spokesperson for/on behalf of the Deaf Community; energy to assist you in your work; love to sustain you and to help you understand that we know that you are part of us. While you have advised us that you will not attend the gathering this year, we do hope that you will work alongside us in the future to make your participation in our event next year possible.
Okay…now you’re really confusing me here. After treating me in this condescending manner, speaking to me in a patronizing tone, trying to tell me that I don’t understand, informing me that I am being demanding, implying that my attitude and social interaction style does not fit in with your expectations, you now extend to me an invitation to work with you in the future? You now try to tell me how you love me and consider me a part of you? Sorry, but this doesn’t compute.
I am not just talking about this one email, I am talking about the whole history of my communication with your organization’s representatives. For that matter, it is not only me and it is not just this year. Deaf Pagans have encountered this same sort of attitude from your coordinators and representatives in the past, and it has left many of us reluctant to want to get involved with your community. The bottom line…we don’t feel welcomed by you. I chose to stick my neck out there and risk the possibility of a negative response, in hopes that maybe things have changed in recent years. Apparently they haven’t.
And it is not just your organization. It’s seems that often when Deaf Pagans attempt to advocate for access to the Pagan Community and its events, we are treated in a poor manner. We are shoved aside and our needs are cast out as being unrealistic. We are painted in a negative light by individuals who know little about our community, and couldn’t care less to learn.
There are organizations out there who have made an effort to include us in their events, and to those I must now express my sincere and heartfelt gratitude. Please know that you have the deepest respect and appreciation, not only from myself but from all members of the Deaf Pagan Community.
It’s sad. The Pagan Community prides itself in being inclusive, but sometimes I have to wonder if that is truly the case. Many Pagans advocate for true freedom of religion and the right to express our own spirituality; supporting issues such as the woman recently fired from the TSA for being Wiccan, or getting pentacles for military headstones, or the rights of Pagan prisoners.
The Pagan Community has made efforts to unite on those causes which are considered important to the community – Negative Images on Beer Labels, Transgender Pagans, Raising Funds for Japan. At this moment there is an effort to get a Pagan representative on The Daily Show.
But mention being Deaf and Pagan, and we are given the short end of the stick. We are basically told that our needs are not a priority, that Pagan organizations are not obligated to provide services for Deaf Pagans, that funding for such does not exist, that we need to be cooperative and take the leading role in securing the services and creating the community which we desire. We are treated like recalcitrant children who needs to be simultaneously scolded for our behavior and patted on the head consolingly.
And we are told this by people who know little if anything of the subject of which they speak.
Forgive me if this leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
At this point, I would like to suggest the following:
That you contact the National Association of the Deaf and ask to speak to one of its representatives. For more information on NAD and how to contact them, check out their website at nad.org
That you contact a Deaf organization in your area, such as your state Commission for the Deaf or your state Association of the Deaf and arrange to meet to discuss Deaf issues.
That you contact an Interpreter Referral Service in your area to learn more about interpreting and providing interpreter services.
After you have done this, then get in touch with me and we can discuss the possibility of my working with you in the future.
In conclusion, I would like to leave you with these words for thought from the play/movie “Children of a Lesser God” – as signed by the leading Deaf character of the story:
For all my life I have been the creation of other people.
The first thing I was ever able to understand was that everyone was supposed to hear
but I couldn’t and that was bad.
Then they told me everyone was supposed to be smart but I was dumb.
Then they said, oh no, I wasn’t permanently dumb, only temporarily,
but to be smart I had to become an imitation of the people who had from birth everything a person has to have to be good:
ears that hear,
mouth that speaks,
eyes that read,
brain that understands.
Well, my brain understands a lot;
and my eyes are my ears;
and my hands are my voice;
and my language, my speech, my ability to communicate is as great as yours.
Greater, maybe, because I can communicate to you in one image an idea more complex than you can speak to each other in fifty words.
For example, the sign “to connect,” a simple sign—
but it means so much more when it is moved between us like this.
Now it means to be joined in a shared relationship, to be individual yet as one.
A whole concept just like that.
Well, I want to be joined to other people,
but for all my life people have spoken for me:
As if there were no I.
As if there were no one in here who could understand.
Until you let me be an individual,
just as you are,
you will never truly be able to come inside my silence and know me.
And until you can do that, I will never let myself know you.
Until that time, we cannot be joined.
We cannot share a relationship.