My Relationship is Different, Not Lesser | Guest Post

I’m a deaf girl in a relationship with a hearing man, and I consider myself the lucky one by virtue of not (usually) having to hear the ridiculous comments we get.

My hearing loss is progressive—I’m mildly-moderately deaf right now, but I’m going to continue losing my hearing. Moritz, my boyfriend, once explained to his mother that I’ll likely lose all of my hearing one day. She responded with a (genuinely concerned) “Oh no, what’ll happen then?”

“She… won’t be able to hear?”

I imagine that comment came from the same place a surprising amount of comments towards us come from: “How do you two communicate with each other?” Or, if they’re feeling particularly presumptuous, “But you can’t communicate with each other!”

With the place my hearing loss is in right now, I can still actually communicate orally. But as it gets increasingly harder, I’ve been using American Sign Language more and more—when I’m around other people who know it, it’s my preferred method of communication. When my boyfriend and I are anywhere where the background noise is loud enough that communicating orally is impossible for me, we sign.

If I need to ask a question to a store clerk, I sign it to Moritz and he asks them for me; which often results in “Why can’t she ask me herself?”. Because she’s deaf, sir.

The comments given when I’m around can be annoying, but the most annoying ones always seem to be directed to my boyfriend when he mentions that his girlfriend is deaf. I guess people are tactful enough to not say them when I’m around, but not tactful enough to know not to say them at all.

“She should get a cochlear implant!” Nope, thanks for the input.

“Is she, like, really loud when you have sex?” Definitely inappropriate!

“Doesn't that bother you?” If it did, he wouldn’t be dating me.

Of all the comments directed at either of us, though, there’s only one type that really bothers me:

“Wow, you’re such a good person.”

“Hey, good for you, that must be hard!

“I could never date a deaf person.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

Yes, this bothers me more than any of the others. (Yes, including the sex one). These comments are hurtful to me because they’re coming from a place of viewing deafness as something undesirable, something bad. My boyfriend is a martyr for dating me, a saint, because who would ever want to date a deaf person? He deserves sympathy for dating me, because dating a deaf person is inherently lesser.

That’s what bothers me. Deaf people don’t need hearing people looking down on us. My boyfriend and I haven’t been in a three-year relationship because he pities me. There are a few unique challenges to our relationship due to my hearing, but we’re a pretty standard young couple. We go on dates, we video call, we kiss. And we talk constantly—we just talk with our hands instead of our voices.

xo
Miri Josephs
twitter.com/mirijosephs