By Rikki Poynter
I am a Deaf YouTuber, activist, and Sailor Moon and Pokemon fanatic.
When I was 12 years-old, I was diagnosed with hearing loss, which came as no surprise to me as the person whom I was born from (we have no personal relationship, so I don’t use the m-word around here) has been profoundly deaf since the age of 3 (to make the story flow a little better, we’ll call this person A).
Besides myself, A was the only deaf person in the family tree. She grew up in mainstream school, so I was raised that way as well.
Even after my diagnosis, I continued to be raised as if I was still a hearing child, enrolled in public school, middle and high school life with hearing students. I struggled through those years and that affected my grades and my social life.
As I grew up, I felt embarrassed and ashamed of my deafness.
I felt embarrassed every time I couldn’t understand what someone was saying, but I had no other way of going about communicating. I even felt embarrassed by the idea of asking people to write stuff down.
You might be asking, “Why don’t you know ASL?” or, “Why didn’t you learn ASL?” The answer is because I had zero access to it.
My hearing dad never looked into schools for the d/Deaf/HOH, never looked into ASL classes.
I remember when a Deaf woman and her friend went door-to-door offering ASL lessons, he said “no” and closed the door. There was no mentioning of it to me until he had already said goodbye to them and closed the door.
I wasn’t given a choice.
It wasn’t until I started making YouTube videos about deaf awareness and accessibility, that my life started changing and I began to have a real identity.
When I started making these videos, I knew very little ASL. I still didn’t know how to go about learning the language.
As my channel grew, I started meeting Deaf people on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
That’s when I started having access. That’s when I started having friends and family. That’s when I started having a real identity and started being comfortable with myself and the fact that my ears don’t work the same way as others’.
It’s been a year and four months since I started hanging out with the Deaf community in person and learning ASL.
It’s been quite the journey and I’m very happy about it. I’m not 100% there, but I know that it takes time and that I will eventually get to where I want to be.
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