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The Deaf Gay Community:


Rebecca Pless

The Gay and Deaf Communities


          There are some intriguing similarities between the Deaf and hard of hearing and Gay communities. They share the important characteristic that what makes them a minority is not passed down through families like other minorities such as race or religion. Members of the Deaf and Gay communities lack structure and common ground as minority groups supported by families and communities. Both groups' struggles for civil rights have had similar paths as the communities fought to develop their own history, culture, and mobilize their individual populations (Healy). Both the Deaf and Gay communities have their own obstacles and stigmas, and the people at the intersection of the two groups inherited the challenges of both communities. 

          These two minority groups had to fight similar social stigmas. These stigmas were based on intolerance and ignorance. Deafness was and continues to be seen as a disability. Because deaf children could not speak, people assumed they would grow up with "mental retardation" (Healy). People doubted their ability to drive, be a part of the work force, or even raise children. Members of the Gay community also fought stigmas and low social standing. People also doubted their ability to be a part of society and healthy families. Another struggle many deaf and gay members of society faced was that they did not entirely fit into either community. "Tom Shakespeare (1999) conducted interviews with disabled LGB people in Britain and found that one of their most distressing concerns was the hostility that they faced in either or both the LGB and disability communities" (Harper).

          In addition, members of both the Deaf and Gay communities are disproportionally affected by HIV infection. One possible cause for this imbalance is that preventative measures are developed in and for the hearing community. Communication is essential in the education and prevention of HIV and AIDS. The numerous methods of communication within the Deaf and hard of hearing community are very different from each other and can cause a language barrier within the community. There is a strong correlation between substance abuse and the spread of HIV. The gay deaf community has a 40% higher rate of substance abuse than the hearing community, fueling the the higher rate of HIV (Glenn 2008).

          Although there are many challenges for both groups, members the Deaf and Gay communities belong to two communities of pride. Both communities' pride started with major incidents of resistance. In 1969, the Gay community had the Stonewall raid of the New York gay bar and in 1988, the Deaf community had the incident at the Gallaudet University in which the students and staff protested the appointment of a hearing president of the university over two well qualified deaf candidates (Healy).

          Despite an early lack of tolerance, the Deaf community has made considerable progress in the support of Gay rights. Before the Deaf community advocated for LGBTQ rights, gay people had to hide in the Deaf community as non deaf gays did in the hearing community. In the 1980's to conceal their sexual identity from the straight Deaf and hard of hearing community, some gay and lesbian men and women even created a set of signs used only by the Deaf Gay community (Harper). Recently the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Board of Directors came out in support of gay marriage. It was once commonly believed that two Deaf adults should not be allowed to marry and become parents based on the fact they cannot hear. This history with marriage inequality led the Deaf community to support the fight for same sex marriage (Polaski 2012). Although the announcement of this support was an important step for the Deaf and Gay community, it was made in response to an unpopular and controversial decision made by the NAD. The NAD invited Dennis Daugaard the South Dakota Governor who supported the constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a women to speak at the Biennial Conference (Renteria 2012). While there is still progress to be made, the Deaf and Gay communities are now political allies and advocates.

          The Gay and Deaf community is prominent socially as well as politically. The first Deaf Queer social networking sites appeared as soon as the technology was readily available. Ever since then there have been social media sites, resources centers, and alliance groups for, by and about the Deaf Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer communities. These sites find and connect people, provide accurate and available information, and promote Deaf Gay pride (The Gay Alliance of Genesee).    

          While the Gay and Deaf communities are not passed down through families like other minority traits, both communities are thriving in the United States. The intersection of these two groups led to a strong political and social support that made it possible for the Deaf Gay community to have it's own culture and pride. 



Anderson, Glenn. "Lessons Learned From More Than Two Decades of HIV/AIDS           Prevention Efforts: Implications for People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing" 2008. The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Aug 17, 2012  < >


Harper, Gary. "A Journey Toward Liberation: Confronting Heterosexism and the           Oppression of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People." University of Miami. Aug 17, 2012 <      chapnineteen.htm >


Healy, Catherine. "Living on the Edge: Parallels Between the Deaf and Gay Communities in the United States." Swarthmore. Aug 17, 2012 < http:// >


Polaski, Adam. "National association of the Deaf Supports the Freedom to Marry." July    20, 2012. Freedom to Marry. Aug 17, 2012 < >


Renteria, Dragonsani. "Beyond the One-Dimension: An Open Letter to NAD." May 30,     2012. Deaf Queer News. Aug 17, 2012 < >


The Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley. "Deaf Queer Resource Center." 2011. Gay Alliance. Aug 17, 2012 < >



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