Understanding Deafhood: Our Identity

This 12-minute video shows some of the third part of the “Understanding Deafhood” presentation series at the National Association of the Deaf Conference in Palm Desert, California last summer. “Understanding Deafhood: Out Identity” will discuss four areas: 1)A critical examination (examined vs unexamined), 2) deficit thinking, 3) consciousness, and 4) construction of Deaf consciousness. This video will help us understand the importance of Deaf consciousness and identities to the point that it is so critical for all Deaf people to learn, grow, and work together. As always, thank you for your interest in learning more about Deafhood.


  • Tara Bennett 18 years ago

    Loved every one bit of it…very true! Unity is the key of all times.

  • AnneMarie 18 years ago

    Very nicely done! I think this is where we need to have more dialogue in depth. I also had an advocate of blind group who said to me that we deaf people kept on fighting with each others, and know what, blind organizations, even though blind group is a smaller population than we are end up getting a lot more money than we do. It is a fact.

    About the infighting in our Deaf culture, I mentioned in my aslvlog that it seems that many of us have “unexamined” assumption that if there are differences among us, we seem not unified. It is not really the case.

    We need to start identifying these issues within each of ourselves and identify healthy boundaries, that is when we know we are to unify and when it is “that’s their, his, her business” then just let it go. This is where we are developing a COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS within our Deaf group. We even can still be friends with just any one with differences with respect and open mindedness.

    Of course we still need to have something in common among us that will serve our “trademark”, in other terms, our identity, values, rights, advocacy, and so on. Some of them have been pretty clear and some of them are not clear yet. They are where we also need further dialogues for more consenus among us.

    With a more clear collective consciousness within our Deaf group, we as individual become more free with ourselves and become more capable to greatly self-actualize as deaf.

    The pressure in our cultural group has been pretty intense because of being a low number population with less resources and the bottomline, understanding about ourselves as a Deaf group. It is not really same as black and Spanish speaking groups who have their own greater capacities to ladder on to being more successful. Truthfully we are really a very small population that we really need to stop infighting as possible, or we will just never get anywhere.

    Anne Marie

  • Carl Schroeder 18 years ago

    A job well done! In his book, Cratylus, Plato has Socrates question whether words be replaced by signs used by the Deaf. It is clear that both Socrates and Plato examined Deaf people of their days. It was too bad that Aristotle began bigotry for many centuries. Today, if we talk about philosophy, we must include these three thinkers.

  • a GG fan 18 years ago

    Joey Baer,

    I am well disappointed that you didn’t mention the credit goes to the beautiful Genie Gertz for her wonderful presentation at NAD and in a video at your website. Don’t steal her spotlights, Joey.

    Genie Gertz had signed beautifully in ASL to remark a discussion about Deaf Identity. Most of the discussion was brought from academic studies and well done researches, initiated by Paddy Ladd and many. WELL SAID, GG!

    GG is an emerging superstar from Deaf academia. I would love to see GG more on-line (through the advantages of technological advances) and around the Deaf communities. She is so much inspiring and radiant enough to blossom an individual’s understanding of the Deafhood into a better place for all of the Deaf people together. Don’t forget about Ella Mae Lentz, she is very good and talented. Love those people who continually spend all of their energies for making Deafhood possible for those who need for the better quality of Deaf Life.

    Keep going, GG! Many opportunities out there in the frontier yet to come for deaf individuals and for those who embrace the concept of Deafhood. Keep up, Joey Baer, with interesting videos.


    A GG fan from New York City

  • testing_the_truth 18 years ago

    Very enlightening presentation by Genie. A big thanks to all contributors for publishing these pearls! We need time to absorb the messages wholly. As we keep learning about Deafhood , as bonus, we also discover many things about ourselves. This is a great power and benefit of the movement.

    I also would like to emphasize the collective consciousness dimension of Deafhood as Anna Marie did, that includes common thinking, shared feelings, a socially conscious collective mindset, etc. This dimension of collectivity is a greatest value of the Deaf community that will propel the need for more unity and collective engagement in action.

  • DE 18 years ago

    What struck me most was GG’s argument that most of our in-fighting is at the social identity level, not the cultural identity level. To me, that’s my “aha!” moment. We need to let go of perceived “elitism”, “clannish behavior”, etc. and simply view everybody under the cultural identity umbrella.

    GG Fan, I’m not sure what you meant, but cautioning Joey to not steal GG’s spotlight seems harsh to me. Joey is doing a lot for the Deaf community, and if he forgot to explicitly mention GG’s name, it was by mistake- a mistake he will gladly rectify.

    However, I do agree with everything you said about GG!

  • Brance 18 years ago

    Excellence! It may help us to see who we are in three levels (self, social and culture).

    Thank you Joey!

  • AnneMarie 18 years ago


    Why are some deaf individuals perceived as “elitism, clannish etc”? Making everyone not to say this do not solve but continue to repress.

    What could an individual and group being perpetuated as a smug do to reduce this friction?

    At another end, what could individual and group considered “inferior” do likewise?

    I think the friction mostly lies within the competetion in getting a job and being more socially mobile in the hearing society.

    If this is somehow reduced, lesser friction and rejections should happen in our Deaf group. It is a very complex situation. Point fingering at certain groups or individual or telling hearing people what they should do never really work.

    It is easy to identify elements that cause problems and just say them so. Instead of just saying them, ask what we can do and..act.

    How can we at individual level do to change this?

    Anne Marie

  • ToddE 18 years ago

    That was excellent work by GG. Really drove home the point of having an unified front for Deaf people in general.

  • matt 18 years ago

    my hat off to dr genie and dr ella…

    heres a quote worthy of sharing with you and readers-
    The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.–Assata Shakur,activist

  • matt 18 years ago

    And a big thank you to joey-

  • Art 18 years ago

    Watched your video#3, you shocked me also made me disguisted with your anti- audism…
    how can you want unity among deaf while anti – audism… That mean that you also against oralism… both werre encouraged by parents or other within peers in medical groups… So you prevent them into unity of deaf… I think that you are full of baloney,To be real unity you must accept all with out any rejections….

  • Penny 18 years ago

    First of all, Joey owns this website and yet he included others on his blog and Vlog. He gives credit to others i.e. DE, Ella Lentz and now to GG. He could have used himself only but he did not so let us handwave to him and now to GG.

    I would like to share my viewpoint here. Naturally we have multiple identities and our identities can be altered due to age, experience, physical appearance and etc. It is always important to analyze ourselves—our personal identity. If past or present issues are not solved then we need to examine and deal with them as best as we could so we can feel content with ourselves. It is vital to examine our “identities” constantly because this will guide us to have better unity in social identity. Otherwise we may subconsciously bring our own issues to social identity and then fighting, rejection, division can be ensued. It is always sensitive area to touch our own personal identities as we often wanted ignore or not to go “in there” or to acknowledge issues we are dealing. We need to be humble and examine ourselves continually. We can always seek Spiritual Advisor, Therapy or Self Help to guide us to examine ourselves. When we reach at level of assurance or self actualization then we can have better connection with our social and culture identities too. It is not an easy task. It is entirely up to each individual to examine themselves. Once we know our personal identities and feel comfortable with ourselves then we can easily ignore groups with shallow thinking and allow ourselves to build a stronger unity. As I get older, I find myself trying to be with people who are supportive and positive rather than to be trapped with those who do not accept for who I am.

  • Tissa Peiris 18 years ago

    GG, You are a multi-talented with beautiful job!! Thank you very much!!!Amazingly enough, we should tell the hearing world our experiences of social identity, suffering live, deprive our language,oppression, and discrimination. We should express from our experiences to make video tapes in the future to deaf children and it’s generation to generation.

  • greg pindris 18 years ago

    Art- Audism is not a synonym for oralism (so anti-audism isn’t necessarily against it)… it is the discrimination against a deaf person due to his inability to “hear” or “speak”. It is an attitude that our world should be measured exclusively by hearing’s values instead of deaf ones. It describes the treatment of deaf people as result of this attitude.

    Oralism is just a method of communication, and while it might seem like audism goes hand-in-hand with it… it doesn’t really discriminate against anyone. The method either works, or it doesn’t (or in other words, the life of a deaf person gets gambled whether it’s screwed or not). I don’t think anyone really cares if someone can use his larynx to speak.

    It would be audism though, to insist that oralism is best for all the deaf people, or to say that they didn’t try “hard” enough if they’re unable to do it well.

    Audism is NO good for anyone, whether they practice oralism or not.

  • LIz 18 years ago

    I agree there needs to be more dialogue; however I still continue to see the huge divide between people from Deaf families/those who attended deaf residential schools and other deaf people despite awareness raised by the Deafhood message. So how can we expect to make progress when dialogue is limited within groups who only stay within their comfort level? People with different backgrounds need to start reaching out to each other and learning from each other to move forward in unity.

  • Lynnette 18 years ago

    After following Genie her information about the tumults within DEAF culture gives light to the fact that anything or culture worth having is worth fighting for I watched 1 2 and 3 concurently thanks again for the info .
    Lynnette from SRJC

  • Steve Longo 18 years ago

    I felt compelled to write a letter to BOT (Board of Trustees) because a chain of unraveling events has unfolded.
    I fully supported the cause back in 1988 when the message was clear that the deaf can do anything but hear. Then a choice was made and we have had 18 years of presidency by a deaf person whom we have come to known as a friend.
    When I heard I King Jordan’s plan to retire, my first thoughts were “who will we replace him with?” and “How will we find someone to fill his shoes?”
    Then I saw the list of finalists, my immediate thought was “Didn’t we have more qualified candidates than those?” or “How did those names make the final selection?”
    Right then, I had no doubt that Jane would get the job and she did.
    Now protest sets in and it was like “Here we go again”. Then the more I learn about the facts, the more I understand why the protest took place.
    While the Board’s action can not be condoned, I can understand the students’ plight.
    However true that I do not agree with the tactics and the message earlier was not clear but as time went on, it has evolved into a stronger message shared by many.
    I had hoped a resolution would be reached by now but that hope has diminished.
    The tide has been set in and there’s no other option but to investigate on why and how the search process had come to this result that generated such protest.
    In the following is a article written by an unknown author about the difference between the Boss and the Leader which I believe applies here:
    (from Mercer University Center for Student Involvement and Leadership)

    The boss drives the team, The Leader coaches them.
    The boss depends on authority, The Leader depends on good will.
    The boss inspires fear, The Leader inspires enthusiasm.
    The boss says: “I”, The Leader says: “We”
    The boss assignes the tasks, The Leader sets the pace
    The boss says “Get here on time”, The Leader begins on time
    The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; The Leader fixes the breakdown.
    The boss knows how it is done, The Leader shows how it is done
    The boss makes work drudgery, The Leader makes it a game
    The boss says: “Go”, The Leader says “Let’s go!”

    Also a song from my idol – John Lennon “Imagine” as revised

    Imagine there’s no bad leaders
    It’s easy if you try.
    No one to kill or die for
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the deaf people
    Letting teachers teach in PEACE
    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope some day you’ll join us
    And the school will be as one

  • Craig P 17 years ago

    Well, after all I tried to grasp the concept of what Deafhood means and examined . I find something is missing that is related to Deafhood and there are too vague idea of what Deafhood is all about is very basic, I can suggest Deafhood to rebuilt strenght arguement to support the concept of what Deafhood. I see very good beginning at the bottom . Need to study five tprinciples are to be first step – Epistemology: theory of knowledge, second is Metaphysics: study of reality, third is Ethics: rule and value. forth is Politic: theory of legal rights. fifith is Aesthetics: theory of the nature of art. All of these will support the concept of Deafhood that will be great strenght!

  • David L Mills 17 years ago

    Good Well Done and I have been watch your dicussion about your explain What you teach us and i hope deaf people will understabd it. I learning alot that deaf culture Life and I understabd it clear
    explained .I want say Thank you very much


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