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Interview: Terol Galien
Interviewee: Terol Galien
Permission to use name: Yes.
Terol is friendly and approachable. Coming from the black community he has views and opinions that are interesting and different from the mainstream. He did his undergraduate work at Gallaudet.
This interview was conducted in-person via ASL.
Bill: Are you Deaf or hard of hearing?
Bill: Is anyone else in your family Deaf?
Terol: Just me.
Bill: Did you go to a Deaf school?
Terol: For 13 years, then transferred to a hearing school for a year and a half.
Terol: The LA School for the Deaf.
Bill: Was that a day program or what?
Terol: It was a DEAF school
[Note: he emphasized the "residential deaf school sign"]
Bill: They have a Deaf school in LA? L-o-s A-n-g-e-l-e-s???
Bill: Thanks. I see.
Bill: When and where did you learn ASL?
Terol: At the Deaf school. Outside of class. In class we used SEE, but after school we signed ASL.
Bill: When did you realize that you were deaf and that not everyone else was deaf?
Terol: What do you mean?
Bill: When did it first hit you that you were different? That some people could hear and you couldn't?
Terol: It was a process. At first I thought I was stupid--that hearing people were smart. I figured that was why they could speak and learn English and I couldn't. I thought the reason I couldn't make friends was because I was stupid. Later I found out that the reason they could talk was because they could hear.
Bill: What attitudes did your teachers and your community have about Deaf people and ASL when you were attending school?
Terol: The attitude was that "ASL" was bad and I should learn how to fingerspell because it represented written English better. The kept changing on us. First it was signed English, then fingerspelling, then later signing was okay.
Bill: What attitudes did your employer and co-workers have about Deaf people when you started your first job?
Terol: They expected me to read lips. They'd ask me if I could read lips. Then when they found out I couldn't some of them would say, "Oh I'm sorry." Others would just ignore me after than. Some would start questioning me and ask, "Why not?" Like I should go "learn how."
Bill: When you were younger, what labels were used to describe Deaf people and ASL? What changes have you noticed over time?
Terol: We didn't call it ASL back then. I didn't know it was called ASL until I went to Gallaudet.
Bill: What is your favorite Deaf joke or story?
Terol: I'm not good at telling jokes and stuff.
Bill: Yeah, but do you have a favorite? One you enjoy watching?
Terol: Oh…well…you mean like ABC stories?
Bill: Sure, or any other Deaf stories.
Terol: I enjoy watching ABC stories. [He starts telling a story] …like that--I'm not good at them.
Bill: No problem…thanks, I like ABC stories too.
Bill: If you could take a magic pill and become hearing, would you? Why and why not?
Terol: NO! [He shakes his head. It not even an option.]
Bill: Why not?
Terol: I've got better things to do with my time than become a hearing person. I've spent my whole life as a Deaf person. Why would I want to leave all that and try to fit into a world that isn't mine? My time is precious--I'm not going to waste it in the hearing world.
Bill: If you could push a button and make everyone in the world deaf…
Terol: [Not waiting for the rest of the question…] That would be nice! [He draws out the sign for "nice" as a large smile crosses his face.]
Bill's notes: When people ask if I'm hearing or Deaf, I just respond "hard of hearing." I am bicultural and experience the attendant conflicts of living in two worlds. Terol is monocultural and doesn't have to play that game. He doesn't want to. He knows who he is and he had no qualms whatsoever about pushing the button to make everyone in the world Deaf. I'm sure he would include their dogs and cats too. To him the idea of getting his hearing back was simply an invitation to waste time. He has no use for the hearing world. If a magic pill where given to him for Christmas it would sit on the shelf and become covered with dust.
After I finished with the questions…he and I got onto the subject of the Black Deaf experience. He shared with me some of his challenges growing up black and deaf. Now he hopes to go on to become a role model for other deaf blacks. That is why he is pursuing a master's degree in Deaf education. More deaf-black role models are needed in general and acutely so here in the Southwest. Acculturation takes time and effort. The majority culture may feel acculturation to their way of life is "worth it." Members of the minority culture however may view acculturation as a simply a waste of time--because what they currently have is precious to them.