Hi, my name is Arya, and you probably don’t know me. You probably think I’m another normal high schooler just trying to make it through life. Funnily enough, that’s actually pretty accurate.
I was born profoundly deaf in both ears. My parents were shocked, I mean, that’s not supposed to happen. I was supposed to be a perfectly healthy baby who brings nothing but light and love into my family’s lives. Instead I came with my own instruction manual and set of problems. But my parents worked through it. They got me implanted instead of placing me within the deaf community. It’s understandable why they wanted me to be raised on auditory language, considering everyone we knew and loved was hearing, but they never considered keeping me in touch with people like me. Me being the only one in school, or my life for that matter, caused me to have a lot of interactions where people can only see my single story.
When I meet people for the first time I don’t introduce myself with, “Hi, I’m deaf.” I act like I think a ‘normal’ teenage girl would act, resulting in others treating me like a normal hearing person. However, when they inevitably find out, with the careless brush of my hair, revealing the processors behind, or when I pull out my fancy earbuds that go into my implant and not my ear, they treat me different. A lot of people reduce me to only my deafness and nothing else. People lean in and start screaming at my ear, or they try to make excuses for me when I have trouble hearing something. The worst of all is when they do not have patience with me.
When I was younger, I didn’t view myself as different. I thought it was normal to have to ‘charge’ my hearing every day. When a girl walked up to me on a playground and struck up a conversation, I was thrilled, but she mumbled, and talked very quickly so I asked her to repeat herself multiple times. Soon, she got tired of trying to be my friend as she believed I wasn’t going to be able to understand or that I was too much work, and only saw me through a single lens, the deaf lens. Around the age of 6, this was heartbreaking to realize. From then on I resolved to always work ten times harder than anyone else, just to be seen for who I was and not just my deafness.
Funnily enough, after all this, in the political spectrum I’m not really considered fully deaf. I can hear, even if its man-made and I can talk after all the speech therapy; being deaf only when you take the processor off does not get a label. The differences have always caused controversy between deaf children who are implanted and deaf children who aren’t. This line between deaf genocide or deaf salvation is very thin, and since about 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, a large majority of them will end up being implanted to be a part of their parent’s hearing world. However, the deaf community believes that these parents are killing the community. Being deaf forces all the members of the community to become extremely close and tight-knit, but the declining number of members every year as becoming implanted and mainstreamed becomes the norm causes them to believe their community is being pillaged.
My parents have always told me how lucky I am. Lucky that they had money to get me implanted. Lucky I was born in a time when being bilateral was becoming normal. Lucky that I was in America and had access to all the best doctors and speech therapists. And I do feel very lucky. But because of this, I’ve always viewed people in the true deaf community, where sign language is the primary mode of communication, as people with less full lives.
I’m currently learning ASL to further connect with this part of me, but being in the class has made me realize that I would have been lucky either way, even if I wasn’t implanted. My teacher showed me how the deaf community interacts with each other, and how they have full lives with lots of love and happiness. Even though I am technically in this community, I still found a way to judge it. I was so often spoon-fed with people telling me I should be happy to be mainstreamed, that I started viewing the deaf culture as unlucky. Meeting some more people like me has opened my eyes and allowed me to see that I would have been very happy either way. Both being a part of such a tight-knit community, or being mainstreamed to share my journey to allow other people to feel like they aren’t being seen as just a single story are very special ways to live my life.
Guest Author: Arya Mididaddi is 16 years old and is extremely passionate about making a difference in any way she can. In November 2017, Arya hosted a fundraiser for Listening Together where she shared the mission of Listening Together. “My hope is to make a difference in the lives of children who are deaf or hard of heairng by helping provide them with all the support that I had, to give everyone, a fair chance at life,” says Arya.