Dissension in the Ranks?

We get along great – thank you very much!

One of the big arenas in which I connect with others struggling with some of the same issues as I do, is Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me some of the criticisms I read among not only the hearing loss community, but the disability community as a whole.

Take the word “disability” itself. Some people have a good ol’ fashioned hissy fit if someone uses the “D” word.

Others may get uptight if someone brags on the brand of hearing aid or cochlear implant they use. Some folks may get up in arms about who did the right thing by whether or not they owner trained an assistance dog, or trained for a “program” service dog. I actually saw a conversation about whether or not people who lose their hearing should – or should not – use ASL (American Sign Language).

At times I just want to throw up my hands and whine loudly, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Nothing Wrong with Being Proud

Pride is often vilified. The phrase “Pride goeth before a fall” is used frequently to remind us that a prideful (almost disdainful) attitude not only turns others off, but ultimately may cause a person to fail or not achieve their goals. Pride is often categorized as a negative trait. However, pride may also be a GOOD thing. We can be proud of our kids, our skills/talents, or of our affiliation with a group or organization. It may instill a sense of identity. Zia and Katzenbach (2010), suggest that a healthy sense of pride can potentially motivate an individual to doing good work for others; to serve, inspire, and ignite a passion to do your very best.

Sometimes I “rag on” my husband about being prideful. It is usually with an eye roll while inferring “we all know how you can be”. Men are often accused of being susceptible to a negative kind of pride and ego. But ya know something? One of the things I love most about my husband is his healthy sense of pride. He knows what he is good at and in that knowledge comes a sense of urgency to share those things. He recognizes his gifts, talents, and skills, and uses them to assist others. I’m reminded when I choose to give him a hard time about being cocky occasionally, that many of the things I love about him actually stem from his sense of pride.

Part of embracing who you are “now” may mean you begin to associate with a group or community of people. Chandler (2009) believes that people with chronic illness or visible and invisible disabilities should use disability pride to their advantage. This doesn’t mean we become our disability, but rather we embrace who we are despite our disability. “Fundamentally, Disability Pride represents a rejection of the notion that our difference from the non-disabled community is wrong or bad in any way and is a statement of our self-acceptance, dignity and pride. It signifies that we are coming out of the closet and are claiming our legitimate identity. It’s a public expression of our belief that our disability and identity are normal, healthy and right for us and is a validation of our experience” (Triano, 2009).

So Why Do We Criticize Others?

If you follow Hearing Elmo, you know that I get really excited about guest authors. (If you are interested in writing for Hearing Elmo, shoot me an email at denise.portis@gmail.com). I know there are experiences within the community that I do not understand because I do not live it. It is good to get other’s perspectives and thoughts about issues that relate to our community.

Being diagnosed with hearing loss can frustrate patient, family, audiologist, and doctors. It is not “one size fits all”. Causes, degrees, implications, and symptoms may be extremely varied. Having balance problems does not mean that we have similar experiences, or erm… all FALL THE SAME WAY. My life with hearing loss and the balance problems I have, may be completely different from someone who shares the same diagnosis. We are still individuals.

So why do people within our community argue, posture, and belittle someone else who chooses a different path? Through the Hearing Loss Association of America, I have heard the motto “whatever works”. This means that whatever a person chooses to mitigate their own challenges is supported by the community as a whole. Have a hearing loss but do not want to learn ASL? No problem. But don’t blast those who chose to embrace the Deaf community and use ASL as their primary means to communicate. Don’t criticize those who choose to use the language (or variations of) when batteries die, or environments are not conducive to communication. Love your hearing aid? I’m happy for you! But if someone else chooses not to use them or horror of horrors… chooses another brand, don’t verbally bash them!

The picture at the top of this post is a photo of some of my dear friends who I met as a result of my own hearing loss. Our hearing loss is as different as our appearances – and ACCENTS (grin). We struggle with different things and may have chosen various coping skills by which to live a victorious life despite our challenges. Yet, we celebrate our SAMENESS. (Hey! That is a word – – look it up!). Is it not hard enough to keep a positive attitude and strive to make a difference without cutting down those who have challenges of their own?

Does this mean we aren’t entitled to our own opinion? Of course not. However, there is a big difference between having an opinion and expressing your opinion. To do so and deliberately criticize or demean another is never the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, to insist “it is my way or the highway” makes you disabled instead of a person who happens to have a disability. ‘Course… that is just my opinion as well!

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Chandler, E. (2009). Pride and shame: Orienting towards a temporality of disability pride. Radical Psychology: A Journal Of Psychology, Politics & Radicalism, 8(1), 2.

Triano, S. (2009). What is disability pride? Retrieved June 30, 2009, from https://www.disabledandproud.com/power.htm    

Zia, K., & Katzenbach, J. (2010). Getting back on the fast track with pride. Leader To Leader, 2010(58), 33-38.

2 thoughts on “Dissension in the Ranks?

  1. Denise – Excellent post! Like you, I wonder why we all just can’t get along. Then I realize we each have different experiences and personalities that can either encourage or limit us in getting along. Do we come from supportive families? Did we get full access to educational opportunities? Are we naturally open-minded or cautious, extroverted or introverted? Were we exposed to sign language early on? Did we have positive role models who were deaf or hard of hearing? Are we likely to take reponsibility for our present choices and actions? Are we open to change? Can we allow others to teach us every day? Taking the time to look inward can help how I relate to others.

    Shanna / http://LipreadingMom.com

  2. A compelling and provocative post. My life partner is late-deafened and has somehow manage to straddle all worlds quite successfully, but as a peripheral viewer, I see how difficult that can be. He works in a deaf environment, and focuses on his work instead of worrying what anyone else is saying/doing/critiquing. Somewhere I learned this phrase that has helped me enormously, and seems apt here as you talk about criticism: “Keep the focus on yourself.”

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