Note from Uncle Dale: A Harsh Examination of the Interpreter  

So, you ask, Uncle Dale who are you… I mean in relation to the Deaf Community.

Good question.  I can only answer for me and certainly not for the Deaf Community.

As I see me, I am a facilitator of communication. I can be an ally, when it is appropriate (sometimes it’s not-sometimes what I see as ally behavior is actually Audism. All of my passion and experience and fluency does not save me from the things my hearing privilege hides from me).

Sometimes… sometimes I am a necessary evil (mental health treatment should not be interpreted–it should only happen directly in the language of the person needing therapy-oh and education. But this is not the world in which we live).

I am not the savior of the Deaf Community. I’m the hired help.

I always remind myself that the Deaf Community was resisting Audism before I got here and will still be fighting long after I’m gone.

I am not needed. What is needed is the work I do.  The work I do is needed and always appreciated, but sometimes the appreciation is… grudging; and that is fine. The Deaf Community does not need to love me AND THAT IS FINE.  I don’t have any say about how the Deaf Community should or should not feel about anything.  I can only make observations on what I see.

There is a level of ambivalence that always seems to exist between me and the community I love and serve. I exist in world where my work is greeted with appreciation and frustration at the same time.

Why? Well. I think of it this way. Imagine that, in order to breathe, you must employ the services of a person who touches the end of your nose-a certified nose toucher.

Now, it may not be that you can’t breathe, but in order to breathe effectively, and specifically at times of stress or when breathing effectively is vital, the services of a professional, certified “nose toucher” is needed (can’t do it for yourself, oh and you have horrible memories of the education system trying to teach you to touch your nose with your elbow, and everyone seems to have a suggestion of installing dubious microchips in your nose, but I digress).

So how would you feel toward the “nose toucher?” You would of course appreciate the “nose toucher” each and every time you took a clear and effective breath. But, you would also resent the fact that you had to depend on this other person for something so basic as breathing.

You would surely be angry each time someone talked to the “nose toucher” instead of you, as if you were unable to think instead of breathe.

Out of necessity you spend time with your “nose toucher,” and so you develop “a relationship,”  sometimes beyond the realm of “nose touching,” maybe even friendship.  But, that can lead to problems of its own. Line between friend and professional can be dangerous if it’s blurry.

Of course sometimes you will be assigned a “nose toucher” that you just do not like.  That’s a whole new level of frustration.

In the end no matter how much you appreciate the work of the professional, certified, “nose toucher” and even despite perhaps liking some of the “nose touchers,” they are people you must be with, not people you choose to be with. Every time they do their job you are grateful for it and also reminded of the fact that you are dependent on them. Appreciation and frustration. Sometimes you just want to go into the bathroom all alone and just choke. Sometimes you would rather just choke.

This is the way I imagine it, but I may be way off.  Even if I’m deaf on ambivalence does not diminish the importance of what I do or my love of doing it. It just keeps my head in the right place so I can do it effectively.

Who am I in relation to the Deaf Community? I am as helpful as I can be, as often as I can be. Nothing more nothing less.

Rule 278

Unrecognized Personal Bias is the enemy of understanding.

For example:

Psychiatrist: do you think your anxiety and anger are related to your “hearing problem.”

Deaf Person: No, I think they are because of hearing people.

(not quoted from a real interaction–quoted from hundreds over 25 years.)

Rule 274

We all know THAT interpreter.  You know the one who… I mean… you know who ALWAYS…. just… arguh…

Yeah. Don’t be THAT interpreter.

Rule 264

Spend more time preparing to do a job well and you will waste less time developing excuses as to why it did not go well.