Deaf and don’t sign?

Sign language is strongly associated with deaf people. But what if you’re deaf but don’t sign?

Being deaf and not knowing how to sign can seem as if you’re part of yet another minority. But you’ll be surprised to know that out of roughly 5 million people in the UK who are deaf/hard of hearing, only around 16,000 are fluent BSL users. Here are some examples as to why sign language isn’t more prevalent:

· You may live in a rural area where contact/travelling to meet others to give you opportunities to sign is difficult.

· Sign language lessons are not available in your area or too far to get to.

· Learning a new language can be frustrating and time consuming

· Only been taught basic signs

· No one else to learn/practice outside of lessons with.

· Never had the need to or don’t feel necessary to.

· Speed of signing by other fluent BSL users can be overwhelming.

· Communicating without using voice may feel strange to you

With the above points in mind, very much like the LGBTIQA community; the deaf community is a vast spectrum of people with varying degrees of signing or oral ability. Given we’ve established that the vast majority of deaf people in the UK aren’t fluent in sign language, it can feel difficult to place yourself into a community of Deaf identifying individuals that do.

But that’s no reason to stop you from meeting others like yourself. As those in the deaf community will be very familiar with most of communication pitfalls that can happen on a daily basis, as they would have had the same experience as you have in that area!

If you are with an individual or a group of signers and don’t understand what is being talked about, don’t be embarrassed to ask them to repeat what was said, as they will normally be more than happy to make sure the information is clearer for you in order for you be more involved and to communicate more effectively! We’ve all had someone say ‘never mind’ when asked someone to repeat what was said, so it’s very rare for a deaf person to do the same.

Living in a rural area can limit your options, however connecting with others online is easier than ever, also you don’t need to understand sign when reading messages. Joining the deaf Facebook ‘DeafLGBT-UK’ Facebook group is a great place to start. You’ll encounter deaf LGBT people all over the UK on there. You might even be surprised to find someone who lives nearby! It goes without saying, please be careful with whom you meet online.

Should you do meet another deaf person and find that you’re unable to understand, even after asking several times for them to repeat the conversation, your trusty mobile can be of great help here by typing out each other conversation. There’s also gesturing, which I’m sure you’ve had experience on your travels when meeting foreign people. If all else fails, there’s always the trusty pen and paper! Others in the deaf community are pros at using this method at certain times in their lives, so don’t feel silly to use this!

At first, coming from having little to no contact with those who sign to those that do can seem overwhelming. But don’t get discouraged if you think you’re getting it wrong, nobody is perfect. After all, you’re familiarising yourself with a new language and new people! Enjoy it!

If you enjoyed this article and wish to keep updated on any Deaf LGBTIQA news and events, please subscribe to our newsletter: