Note from Uncle Dale: Cultural Self-Mediation or What Did I Tell You Five Seconds Ago?

I am Uncle Dale. I don’t mean to state the obvious, but the gender pronoun I use to identify myself, I think, sets of alarms in the heads of many of my colleagues. I work in a profession where my gender identity is in the minority.

In other words I sometimes say “man crap.”

I know that for a fact (shout out to Cameo who pointed this out beautifully in a graduation speech in Pheonix: see

As an academic in the field of Language and Culture the impact of inborn ethnocentrism (and gendercentrism) is fascinating and sometimes terrifying. As the Broadway hit Avenue Q says:

“everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes, that doesn’t mean we go around committing hate crimes… stereotypes may upset you but we laugh because we know they’re true.”

I was in a discussion about racism recently with a friend who is brilliant, witty and shares NO similar political views with me. He said he could not possibly be a racist because he had adopted several (personal note, ADORABLE) children of widely varying racial backgrounds. I interjected that having a racially diverse family is not an inoculation against racism any more than my having a daughter means I couldn’t be sexist. I went on the explain that I’m not talking about being a racist or a sexist, I’m talking about being racist or sexist. Action not identity.

“Well,” he asked, “are you saying that you are a sexist?”

“Every time I do something sexist,” I replied, “for that event I am, including the whole time that that act, and the thinking that brought the act about, is left uncorrected. For that whole time I am being a sexist by reason of my engaging in sexist behavior without correction.”

Please know that I try to stop that behavior before it happens, or learn from my mistakes as quickly as possible when it does (there is no “if”). I try to guard against acting in a sexist way lest I actually live as a sexist more than I don’t.

Aunt SuperTam is an able, if weary, teacher in this area. She is always more than willing to make observations on my behavior when I suffer from the symptoms of Y chromosome poisoning (an affliction I was born with, hopefully asymptomatic, but it builds up).

For example, I recently walked into the office of the Department of Language and Culture at the university where I am an Associate Professor and asked the Administrative Assistant how to get a travel card. Our fantastic and hard working Admin (bless her heart) looked at me and said, “that was supposed to have been done months ago!”

I said, “I remember something about it, but I was not traveling anywhere.”

She sighed, “but I sent follow-up e-mails!”

I said, “as my lovely bride says, as much as she loves me she had to admit long ago that I go through life very much like every other man, if I can’t eat it, pee on it, or have sex with it, I tend to ignore it.”

She told me she had known me long enough (and men in general) to see the truth in that. So she kindly agreed to send me the instruction e-mail again.

When she moved her mouse the screen on her computer lit up. The picture on the screen said ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF. There were four pictures, the two Admins, the academic counselor that works with my students and… some guy.

I asked, “who is that?”

Her jaw dropped, “Kyle? that’s Kyle.”

I stared blankly.

“KYLE! You’ve met him! He is the academic advisor over all the languages but ASL (my language).”

“Sally?” I replied, “what did I just tell you 5 seconds ago? Not my language. Has he brought me cookies? No? Then I don’t care.”

Not saying it’s ok the act like this. I’m just saying I prove Aunt SuperTam’s observation to be the truth on an uncomfortably consistent number of occasions (see Avenue Q on stereotypes quoted above).

That is what I mean by Y Chromosome poisoning. When it builds up it causes temporary blindness (to clothes dumped on the floor). Y chromosome poisoning causes temporary amnesia (regarding important dates that she “told you three times and marked on your calendar,” but you accepted an appointment at the same time as your own mother’s birthday party).

Y chromosome poisoning makes men want to fix things instead of just listen, (but in our defense

What does this have to do with interpreting you ask? Well, everything. When I am interpreting for a person who is a different gender than I am, I must never forget that I am a male and check and mediate for the level of Y Chromosomes in my blood stream.

I must always remember not to “man-fix” the question “how much longer do you think it will be until the doctor will come I’m only asking because it feels like we have been waiting a long time…” by interpreting it as “we have been waiting a long time, please get the doctor.” I must self-mediate to the question that was asked and not phase it as a demand (even though my Y chromosomes are screaming that the demand will be more effective). It’s not my question. If it’s not mine, I have no business messing with it.

Now. With that introduction I am about to swing this conversation in what appears to be a wildly different direction; but it not. I am also about to risk the accusation of “mansplaining.” I am monitoring my levels of Y chromosome, so here’s hoping.

We have, as a profession, what I call a “humility problem.” We are terrified to take pride in ourselves and our work. We eat our own if our own makes a comment that sounds… prideful (I’m not talking about the sin of Pride, I’m taking about the feeling that comes from doing your job and doing it well). We poke at each other on social media for perceived sins of self-aggrandizement. The biggest of all “sins” being posting about your work on social media. We will get there in a minute.

As interpreters we tend to deprecate ourselves and our work fairly often. Like at the end of interpreting a public event:

Random Hearing Person: “I loved watching you, you seem so good at that.”

Interpreter: “oh, well, if you knew ASL you would see how many mistakes I made.”

We need to stop that. We need to stop making ourselves, our profession and the Deaf community seem… less accomplished, less important, and less like a profession by doing this. We must stop making ourselves “just the interpreter.”

Might I suggest:

Interpreter (more effective answer): Thank you, I enjoy my work and I’m glad it showed.

And, if you are feeling it, you could add “access for people who are Deaf is important and I enjoy being a part of that access.”

Random Person-hearing or Deaf: “You [seem/are] very good at this.”

Interpreter (more effective answer): “Thank you, I’ve worked hard to be so.”

I see students squirm in their seats during this discussion in my Professional Issues in Interpreting class.

It’s hard.

I got into a long discussion on a Facebook group when I said I have no problem with interpreters posting pictures of themselves interpreting at public events or even being interviewed. I have no problem at all with interpreting being in the spotlight. It’s not ego, it’s not vanity, it’s advertising.

Hearing people don’t know what quality, skilled professional interpreting looks like. Nor can they differentiate competent interpreting from incompetent interpreting. They need to see it, quality interpreting. As many hearing people as possible need to see it.

By the way, I can hear all y’all screaming at your computers “CPC!! Confidentiality!!! The CPC does not say that public events are different from doctor appointments!!!! Confidentiality!!!”

Deep breath. CPC 1.0 Guiding Principle, second paragraph:

Each interpreting situation (e.g. elementary, secondary and post-secondary has a standard of confidentiality. Under the reasonable interpreter standard, professional interpreters are expected to know the general requirements any applicability of various levels of confidentiality.

Each of the examples cited has an attached legal or policy requirement of confidentiality. Education has FERPA, Legal has Privilege, medical has HIPAA. Wheezer and the Pixies have… none. The standard of confidentiality for this event is no expectation of confidentiality. Except for the client. Their confidentiality is sacred and it belongs to them.

So, if I post a video of myself interpreting “Indie Cindy” by the Pixie with the caption “love this song! That was awesome!” who’s confidentiality have I infringed on? Let’s walk it through. The band has been advertising for months so they have no expectation of privacy. The venue is a public place that sold tickets to this event, no expectation of privacy. I am not included in the expectation of confidentiality as I am the one who is burdened by the code, so I’m out. That leaves the client. Who is… you don’t know.

The video doesn’t show the client (I was careful to make sure) and I never said their name. Their confidentiality is not damaged.

“Ah,” you say, “but what if this video is seen by another person and they comment on the video and mention the name of the Deaf client?”

I did not have any part in that “outing”. The CPC burdens me. I cannot confirm nor deny the presence of that Deaf Client, that is my requirement.

“But!” I hear it out there, “you posted the video!!!” Yes I did. But I did not make any comment on the presence of the client.

I am offering and opinion not making a pronouncement. Maybe we need to reconvene the “Grand and Holy NAD/RID counsel of CPC” to deal with the new realities of social media. But until then I offer this thought (more “man-thought” so it’s stabs like a blunt knife) if that posting is by its very existence unethical or unprofessional then good quality interpreters will never do it-because good quality interpreters are faithful ethical and professional interpreters.

So the only people who will post pictures and videos will be “unethical and unprofessional” signers. When hearing people type into google “ASL interpreter” or “signing at Muse concerts” the images and names they will see will be limited to examples of unethical and unprofessional interpreters. How does that benefit the interpreting profession or the Deaf community?

So, if, let’s say Imagine Dragons comes to town and the tour manager heard that Chance the Rapper is having an interpreter at all his shows. The Tour Manager thinks “we should do that too!” So he looks at his staff and says “does anyone know how to get a sign language interpreter?”

There is a shrug. Then the sound tech says, “my sister lives here. She is always talking about how much my niece liked this signing class she took after school.”

“Let’s stick a pin in that,” says the Tour Manager. “No idea is a bad one let’s go!”

“Got it!” says the advertising coordinator, “let’s google it!”

And they do and the only videos and names they get are by definition unethical and unprofessional interpreters.

Or we stop with the pearl clutching and keyboard stabbing at each other and make Social Media our tool to show what real interpreting looks like. We post videos of our competent and professional work. We post videos of CDI teams and show what “access” really means. We ask the Deaf community to comment and critique our work so when the clueless hearing people who are usually the gate keepers for access can see if what is being produced is actual quality work. We join with the Deaf community in creating a world wide forum where we open ourselves and the Deaf community has control of what is or is not competent work. The Deaf community educates the hearing world on their expectation, needs and wants! And when the hearing promoter googles “interpreters at concerts” what they get is a market place of quality and community vetted interpreters.

But we have to get past this hang-up about posting pictures or video of your our work being about ego or vanity. It’s about the next appointment. It’s about showing quality work now so they next appointment will be staffed by quality interpreters.

By the way. Imagine a dentist office where the dentist says, “we just got a call though a video thing and the person made an appointment for someone who is Deaf and so I guess we need a sign translator or something. Does anybody know where we can get one?”

The hygienist says, “Oh oh my niece is taking this community ed sign class…”

The dentist says, “I think we need some one with more experience, maybe.”

The receptions says to the dentist, “oh oh I went to a Tim McGraw concert a couple of weeks ago and there was this signer there and she looked awesome.” So the dentist goes to her office and googles “Tim McGraw, interpreter.”

It’s not vanity.

It’s not about how great you are at this one appointment. It’s about making sure people see what is great work and choose that level of work for all the subsequent appointments.

But if we label the act of posting on-line “unethical and unprofessional” then only unethical and unprofessional interpreters will appear in the search window.

One last example of the “humility issue.”

I was in court one time and it was obvious we needed a CDI (it was needed even before I got involved (There should always be a CDI, discussion for another time).

I asked to approach the bench and made the request.

Judge: “so you want to fix the communication problem by bringing in another Deaf person? That doesn’t make sense. Are you saying you two (referring to my team) don’t have the skills for this and I need to get better interpreters?”

What would you answer?

Here was my answer: “your honor there are no better interpreters than us. We are awesome at what we do. There is no question that if I was sitting in your seat the person I want interpreting is me and the other one you want is her. But even with our prodigious skills there is a gap between the top of our game, which is impressive, and the legal standard of “effective communication. If you replaced us with interpreters who told you that no CDI is needed that is your first indication that you have chosen the WORNG interpreters. Now according to the Rules Of Evidence Rule 604 an interpreter is subject to qualification as an expert. You have appointed us and given us the oath so you have qualified us as experts and in my expert opinion, which I can defend if subjected to examination in a hearing (it’s called a Daubert hearing by the way. I’m saying that to you, I didn’t say that to him.) In my expert opinion to reach the legal requirements of “effective communication” and “linguistic presence” (shout out to Carla Mathers! TAKE A WORKSHOP FROM HER OR AT LEAST READ HER BOOK!) at a level which I would feel comfortable testifying on appeal preserved the defendants access to his constitutional rights to confront witnesses, access his counsel and participate in his own defense, we need the highly skilled services of my team and I as well as a CDI.”

Ahem. I am a lawyer. So the legal jargon was easier for me. I’m not saying that is THE answer or even the right answer; but it worked, and the defendant got a CDI and it made all the difference.

The point is if I had told that judge I was, “very good at interpreting,” or worse agreed with her that we needed help to do our job the conversation, my appointment as the interpreter, my team’s appointment as the interpreter and any chance the defendant would ever have to access a CDI would be over. Done. Gone. (Unless, hopefully the next team she hired said the same thing).

I started this Note by saying I am a man and I stumble through life making “manstakes.” I don’t believe this Note is one of them. But I fear my ham-fisted approach may be perceived as such.

I am not making a pronouncement. I am inviting a discussion. Deaf community, CDIs, hearing interpreters. Discussing confidentiality is treated in much the same way as racism or sexism; fraught with accusation and defensiveness. Knock it off.

Knock it off please.

I am not saying that this is a gender issue by the way. I am saying that I fear the way I present the question may cause irritation along gender lines and I am owning it now.

Let’s have this discussion. Social media is here and it seems it’s here to stay. I have thrown out one perspective. Let’s hear other solutions. No calling each other to repentance for differing interpretations of the CPC or starting with YOU CAN’T! Let’s talk about what we hearing, Deaf, east, west, north, south, liberal, conservative and any gender identifier you choose, can do to make this work. What are the edges and parameters? What benefits the Deaf community and interpreters and makes Social Media work?

If I have said anything in a way that it offends I am sorry. I have tried to self-mediate my message but sometimes it’s just beyond me. Because, sometimes Y Chromosome poisoning sneaks up on us.

Rule 332

CPC compatible answers to the question, “How was your day?” (An on-going series):

Well, first thing this morning… wait, did you cut your hair? It is so cute! When did you do it?

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: Employee vs Independent Contractor (MLM)

I got this question a bunch this week. Many people who are Deaf and a few interpreters are outraged because there is a multi-level marketing convention in town and it has refused to provide interpreters because it says that the Deaf attendees are not “employees.” The MLM is right, they are not employees-but 100% wrong that it does not need to provide interpreters for them.

If you are not familiar with the idea of an MLM, it’s one of those companies that sells soap or skin care products or essential oils or found some awful tasting fruit that they now sell as a health drink.  They don’t sell them from stores or on-line. One person gets a few sales reps “under” them or in their “downline” who then get people “downline” from them and so on and so on… its a huge business.  

Anyway.  Most of these companies are run by lovely people, but every now and again I run into this issue.  A Deaf person joins the group as a sales rep and buys a ticket to a MLM convention (where they have motivational speakers and sales trainings and opportunities to network and build your business) as all sales reps are encouraged to do.  The person who is Deaf requests an interpreter and the MLM says no.  The MLM doesn’t believe it has to because, as I said, the person who is Deaf does not “work” for the MLM; the person who is Deaf is not their “employee.”  The MLM is right.  The person who is Deaf is an independent contractor.  If they try to force the issue using Title I the person who is Deaf will lose because Title I does not apply.

But, if you are not an employee you are “the public” and that falls under Title III.  Once a person who is Deaf bought a ticket to the MLM event that person became a “qualified person with a disability” under Title III (I know the who disability thing leaves a bad taste in your mouth–I wrote a paper on it, me too–but if you want to use the ADA…).  A person with a disability because the Deaf person is… well… Deaf, and qualified because a person is qualified to attend the MLM event if that person has a ticket to the event.  So when the MLM said it would not provide interpreters the person who is Deaf got the last thing they needed to have “standing” (the legal ability) to sue.

[t]o establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she has suffered an ‘injury-in-fact’ that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to being merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by the relief requested. Tandy v. City of Wichita, 380 F.3d 1277, 1283 (10th Cir. 2004).

MLM’s at this point will scream and cry that is not on the list of “places of public accommodation” that is contained within Title III, it is not a store nor does it maintain a place that “accommodates” the “public” (not the same thing as a reasonable accommodation— different thing/similar name… different discussion for a different time).

Again, the MLM is right.  It is not on the list of “places of public accommodation” found in Title III.  But the convention center it is using for the convention is.

“Oh,” you say, “so the convention center must provide the interpreter?”  Nope. Well, the MLM can allocate the responsibility to provide interpreters to the convention center by contract… but usually the convention center will be responsible for the physical accessibility (more permanent structures) but the MLM is “operating” the venue (selling tickets, controlling access…) so the MLM would be responsible for non-structural access (psst. interpreters).

The person who is Deaf paid a price to attend the conference, the conference is held in statutorily defined place of public accommodation and the place public accommodation is operated, at least for the duration of the conference by the MLM, which Title III says makes the MLM, for the time frame of the conference at defacto public accommodation (even if the “lease” of the space is for a very short time).

So an “independent contractor” sales rep has the ability to enforce the ADA against an MLM using Title III, not because the person who is Deaf is an independent contractor… but because the person is NOT an employee, just a qualified member of the public.

I included a case that shows how it all works.

Jensen v United First Financial

This blog and the attached vlog are informational but not meant to be legal advice or replace discussing your situation with a licensed attorney in your area.