by Anthony Greer -
SGN Contributing Writer
Between Tuesday nights at the Elite, Saturday nights at the Cuff, and Seattle Central Community College's excellent ASL curriculum, the Gay deaf community in Seattle has become anything but silent.
'Deaf people all over the USA are aware that Seattle is very Gay/deaf friendly, so people move here for that reason. It's a good community.' Michael Cooper, an ASL teacher at Bellevue College, said. He added that it's not necessarily a perfect community, but compared to other cities, the Gay deaf community in Seattle is thriving.
Cooper emphasized he believes in the important of capitalizing the 'D' in deaf. According to Cooper, the difference between a 'Deaf' person and a 'deaf' person is significant in deaf culture. 'When you capitalize the 'D' in Deaf, it means [you] take cultural pride in being Deaf. If you don't capitalize it, it means the medical perspective on deaf people: that their ears need to be 'fixed.'
Cooper, who became deaf at age 1 due to fever, said deafness 'is who I am. I am proud to be Deaf, and also proud to be Gay, so to me, my ears don't need to be fixed. It is who I am, period.'
It is laughable to even suggest that Cooper's inability to hear is a disability for him. Despite it, Cooper has a 'very active social life.' In fact, it's so active that he sometimes finds it difficult to have peace. 'As I get older, I have made a new rule. I go out two nights per weekend, but one night is my night. I stay at home by choice. My friends are aware of that, but they don't respect that.' He said. He then looked at his phone and laughed. 'Another friend just texted me because he wants to go out tonight.'
Besides work and social engagements, Cooper also sometimes attends ASL lessons held at the Elite and taught by Foster Larson and Chris Eisele Tuesday nights and deaf LGBT nights at the Cuff on the first Saturday of every month.
There are also other events for the Gay deaf in Seattle to attend held by Northwest Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf, or NWRAD. This is a non-profit organization established in 1981 by Daniel Mansfield after he attended a Gay convention for the deaf in San Francisco. For more information on this and other events held by NWRAD, their website is www.nwrad.org.
'NWRAD is one of the many options for the deaf' LGBT community in Seattle, Cooper said.
Buddy Elledge, another member of the Gay deaf community, is part of a committee for the Seattle Deaf Film Festival, which is another event for the deaf scheduled to happen this year. The SDFF will 'have movies that are made about deaf people,' Elledge said. 'There are about 10-15 people, all deaf, who are working for the festival. Some are straight, Gay, and Bisexual. There's a lot of diversity in the organization.' The goal of the SDFF committee is to have it take place in October of this year.
Elledge, a freelance graphic designer, was discovered to be deaf at age 1. He has a cochlear implant and can read lips and, unlike Cooper, he speaks more often than he signs. 'There's more than one way to communicate with a deaf person,' he said.
Elledge said that there are a lot of people on Capitol Hill that know how to interact with deaf people. He agreed that Capitol Hill is a great place to be a Gay deaf man. 'There's a big, big deaf community here and it's very easy to get around. Everybody knows people.'
This allows for the rest of the community to better understand the deaf community. 'We are like any other people,' Elledge said. 'Yes, we are deaf, but we are just like any other people.'
Cooper agreed, and added that 'Deaf people are proud to be Deaf, just like we as Gay people are proud to be Gay.' The deaf community is just as diverse as the Gay community. 'Never assume that Deaf people are all the same.'
Cooper also said that the deaf community is a very patient and open-minded community, but would like others to be 'patient in communicating with us. We don't want to carry the burden of community. We would like to share the communication together.'
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