Presenting A Deaf Identity At DEAFinitions

[Image Description: four hands (lighter brown, dark brown, white, and tan) spelling out "DEAF" in ASL.]

[Image Description: four hands (lighter brown, dark brown, white, and tan) spelling out "DEAF" in ASL.]

It is the week after DEAFinitions and I am back in my apartment ready to tell you all about the event.

If you don’t know, DEAFinitions is a two-year-old Deaf Studies conference held at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. The organizers of the conference e-mailed me back in November 2016 about attending and giving a presentation and everything was finalized in February.

[Image Description: Rikki standing on the floor with a CDI. Slideshow behind them reads: Rikki Poynter - Finding A Deaf Identity]

[Image Description: Rikki standing on the floor with a CDI. Slideshow behind them reads: Rikki Poynter - Finding A Deaf Identity]

DEAFinitions had many presenters that hosted a one hour talk each. There were multiple ASL interpreters and CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreters) and a fancy CART system. I say fancy because instead of an actual stenographer, you (or an interpreter) would talk into a regular mic and then some sort of recording device and the words would show up on a screen. It was pretty accurate, which surprised me.

I gave a presentation on a topic I hadn’t really talked about live at an event before: growing up as a mainstreamed deaf child and finding Deaf culture as an adult. Contrary to what you might think since I talk about it a lot on YouTube, it was pretty difficult for me to talk about live. I guess it’s because I’m so used to giving workshops and such on closed captioning. If you ask me to talk about this stuff at a panel, that’s easy since there are usually questions regarding specific things. But one hour to talk about my life story live? Much different. I had everything planned out, even wrote a script to go off of, but my brain ended up mixing everything up and things didn’t quite go the way I planned them to.

Nonetheless, it seemed to go very well. At the end of the presentation, there was a line of people waiting to talk to me, something I didn’t expect. (This is the part where a few friends of mine go, “But, Rikki, you’re famous!” and I go, “No, no, I’m not.”) A lot of stories, experiences, and sweet messages were exchanged and it got to the point where I was literally starting to tear up in front of everyone.

[Image Description: Carlisle standing on the floor in front of an audience, giving a presentation in ASL.]

[Image Description: Carlisle standing on the floor in front of an audience, giving a presentation in ASL.]

I did go to a few other presentations, most of them done by people I had never heard of before. Of course, I had to go to Carlisle’s presentation which talked about how comics were a great learning tool for d/Deaf and hard of hearing children.

[Image Description: A photo of three people, from left to right: Rikki, Whitney, and Carlisle.]

[Image Description: A photo of three people, from left to right: Rikki, Whitney, and Carlisle.]

One of the best things to happen that weekend was finally meeting my friend, Whitney Meyer, in person for the first time. She is an actress, model, and figure skater and you may recognize her as Tiffany DeSalle from Scream Queens. She came to Amherst from Boston to see my presentation and she, myself, and Carlisle along with Whitney’s mother went out to dinner, drinks, and dessert. It was a fun time.

Overall, it was a great weekend and I thank the organizers for inviting me and flying me out. Hampshire College in the process of raising funds for a third year of DEAFinitions. If you would like to help out, you can donate to their GoFundMe page here.