Rilian wrote:It can be just as much a culture as a group of friends can be. But your culture comes from your family.
How about calling it a subculture? Would you accept that?
To suggest that there is a real deaf culture is to imply that deaf people largely abandon their families. If that is true, it should not continue, and no one should encourage it.
In a lot of US TV series (crime stuff and so on) it is mentioned at one time or another that apparently a significant number of deaf people in the US choose to live in something like a "deaf family" ... deaf people to whom they are not related by blood. Because they feel not understood by their natural family.
One could argue that TV series are not that great an indicator for the real culture of a country, but I think to a certain degree they are. (Not necessarily literally ... e.g. the behavior of a person in a TV series might also be an indicator what most people of that culture would find to be outrageous.)
There are a lot of things I consider part of my identity (AS, wearing glasses, my hair color) but I do not form a culture around those things with other people who share those qualities. Seriously. To do so would be idiotic. My culture comes first and foremost from my family, and secondarily from my friends. And just so there's not any confusion, I don't just mean my culture. Your culture comes from your family, too. If you're in a different culture than your family, that means you abandoned them. Maybe you had a good reason, but being deaf is not a good reason.
Wouldn't you e.g. consider the way of dressing, music, typical hair styles, way of greeting each other, style of talking to be a kind of culture (or maybe subculture)? Don't think of deaf people, think of teenagers. They are so different from their parents and they fall into various groups in middle and high school. Each group preferring a certain type of music and a way of dressing, hair, talk that goes with it. It's definitely a subculture, and one might want to call it a type of culture, too.
In some ways, deaf people are a lot less distinct. They don't dress different from hearing people and so on. But in other ways, they are more distinct. They have their own language, their own poetry and so on. And there are more things, they behave differently in some ways. I don't know about American deaf people, but in Germany it seems the deaf are less afraid to offend others. E.g. in spoken German to say "you are fat" or about a person "he is fat" is really offensive. (The same in the US as far as I am aware.) But my sign teacher is called ("name-signed") "the fat one" by his deaf friends. (The name sign he uses himself is different.)
So if you consider it to be a culture or a subculture depends on what makes a different culture for you, what is most important. Does clothing, food and such matter most? Then the deaf certainly don't have their own culture, only a subculture. But I think one can certainly argue that the most important things about culture are language, literature, poetry and the way people behave to each other. In that sense there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying "deaf culture".
The class I took (with all the events I went to, and the videos, and lessons from the book) gave the impression that deaf people spend time largely only with other deaf people. That's -stupid-.
Why do you think that's stupid? It's natural. How much time do you spend with Chinese who don't speak any English (or other language that you can speak)? Probably not so much. Some deaf people can lip-read and speak (voice-speak) very well, but many have a lot of trouble with this. Spending their free time with hearing people who are unable to sign would be about as much fun for them as you spending your free time with Chinese who don't know English. In Germany, deaf people have their own meeting centers in cities and large towns, where they spend much of their free time with each other (or so my sign teacher said). I don't know if it's the same in the US, but it certainly wouldn't be stupid if it is.
Also, getting into another thing which annoyed me (which I said before I wasn't going to get into): I've been interested in ASL, as I said, since I was 7. I finally took the class, along with 2 other second language classes (and I've added another since then), because I think that it is good to be able to communicate with as many people as possible, and there's no reason why they should make the effort rather than me. Therefore, I go to great lengths to learn as much as I can of many languages. I thought ASL was a great choice because it is far easier for me to learn ASL than it is for some deaf people to learn to speak. I felt that it was my obligation as a person to try to connect with everyone, including deaf people. But I was met with obnoxious behaviour. For a hearing person to enter the deaf community at all, they have to go in as a 3rd class denizen. First come the deaf, then the coda's, and then the losers like me who apparently "don't know" and ought to just shut up most of the time, according to the "deaf community".
You really put much effort into learning other languages, but it seems you are not so willing to learn about other cultures. Have you spent time outside the US? Maybe it would help you be more open towards people of other cultures, including other subcultures inside the US.
I went to this thing called SLK as part of the ASL class. It was a lunch where everyone supposedly communicates only in ASL. It was stupid to go because I knew almost nothing and could not really talk to anyone. And they didn't seem to want me there, anyway. But there was another student there, and he was "hard of hearing" and had a hearing aid. He was "mainstreamed" and was now trying to learn ASL. He sucked at it though. He said he had trouble spelling his name because it was so long, so I said "Just make up a sign name and tell people that." Then this girl next to me went off on how *you are not allowed to make your own sign name* *a deaf person has to give it to you* Seriously, wtf? Deaf people do not own sign language, nor do they own sign names. Also, that guy was deaf himself. Also, in this book we read for the class, Deaf Like Me, the character Bruce made up his own sign name. That day, right before the lunch, a deaf woman who worked at the school saw me and said hi and then was signing, "you *sign name*". It took me like 10 minutes to realize what she was saying, because the idea of someone else telling me what my name is is F-ing Ridiculous. I reject that sign name. That woman does not own me. There was another person who was a coda who ranted at me for like 30 minutes about the sign name thing.
Well, that also seems kind of weird to me. In my German sign language class, we were all asked to select our own name signs. Never was it mentioned that a deaf person should give it to us.
But then, as I mentioned before, my (almost deaf) sign teacher was given a name sign by his deaf friends. He uses the sign for "hearing aid" for himself, because he has one. His friends call him "fat". Doesn't seem so nice, but apparently it's no problem for him at all. Even though he still prefers to be called "hearing aid"
How do deaf Americans get their name signs? Do they choose them or are they given them by parents, sign teachers, friends?
I'm pretty much soured on ASL at that school, but I don't blame all deaf people for it. I'm still trying to learn. A friend I met last year (who is now in my fraternity) is deaf and so our group uses a lot of sign language. Also, we had a brother before who was hearing impaired because of a neurological problem, and he used sign language also.
Erg. To sum up that angry rant, deaf people do not own sign language; nor do they own sign names; nor do the deaf americans own ASL. And I'm really pissed off that I was treated so poorly when I was clearly making an effort to communicate with them by learning ASL.
I am sorry for you that you had such bad experiences.
But you also have to consider one thing: For a long time, deaf people, in America and all over the world, were kind of suppressed. For example in many schools for the deaf the children were punished for using sign language until a short time ago! Can you imagine that? They had to fight to get accepted and get their rights. In Germany in most states deaf children are still mostly taught orally (even though they don't get into trouble for signing). So many barely get the lowest of the three levels of high school diplomas that exist, because they can simply not understand their teachers! If all of this weren't so and had never been so, deaf people probably wouldn't put as much emphasis on having their own culture and pointing out that it is just as valuable as the mainstream hearing culture. For you it's natural to think that deaf people are just as valuable as hearing people and that is good! But many deaf people have experienced that they were considered less valuable by some hearing people, that their sign language was considered inferior or not a real language at all, even by people emotionally important to them like teachers or maybe even parents. It's getting much better now as far as I am aware, but of course adults can't just simply forget that experience.