Home' LOTL : January 2007 Contents 42
It was only when she died at the age of 75 in 2002, that the
world learned that Australian crime novelist Patricia Carlon
was deaf. Carlon, whose story was told by Sofya Gollan in
her play The Cat Lady of Bexley last year, was compared
to Ruth Rendell and Alfred Hitchcock, but refused to give
interviews and lived much of her life as a recluse in order to
keep her Deafness a secret.
Nowadays, the majority of Deaf people are no longer
ashamed of the fact they cannot hear, and derogatory terms
such as ‘deaf and dumb’ or ‘mute’ have fallen into disuse.
However, misconceptions about what it means to be Deaf in
our society still remain.
“People think we are wrong, or not capable of things at all,”
says 40-year-old Kasey Murray who was born Deaf and is
currently in a relationship with another Deaf woman.
In fact, the notion of Deafness being a disability is a
controversial one. While many Deaf people acknowledge
their need for specific services such as access to Auslan
(sign language) interpreters in work meetings and subtitled
television and films, they do not consider themselves
disabled, but rather part of a culture with its own identity
and language, hence the use of the capital ‘D’. “Deaf is who
we are,” Murray says. “We have jobs, own a home, drive a
vehicle, travel around the world and we share ideas.”
Being Deaf and lesbian could be considered by some to
be a negative double whammy, but this is not the case for
Claire Dunne, an Irish-Australian woman in her late ’30s. “I
am sure there are people out there that think, ‘Oh, how sad,
she is Deaf. Oh, and a lesbian too. Poor thing!’,” Dunne
laughs. “But I am proud of who and what I am. I am a Deaf
lesbian which means I am the member of two small minority
cultures, so if anything, that means I have double the fun and
a more interesting life full of unique experiences!”
However, being a member of two minority cultures can mean
discrimination from one or the other, or both. For Murray,
who repressed her lesbian feelings for many years, marrying
a man and having children, homophobia is the major issue,
from both Deaf and hearing people. “I have faced so many
challenges since I came out as a Deaf lesbian than when
I was married,” she says, although she has found support
within the Australian Deaf Gay Lesbian Association NSW,
which organises social events for Deaf LGBT people and
their hearing partners.
By contrast, Dunne has experienced little homophobia and
more discrimination on account of her being Deaf, even from
within the lesbian community. “One common reaction when
someone finds out I am Deaf is they walk away,” she says.
“Quite a few times I have had women approach me to start a
conversation. As soon as I tell them I am Deaf, they turn and
leave. I really hate that, but it is their problem, not mine. One
of the biggest challenges of meeting hearing women is that
many people don’t understand what it means to be Deaf;
they might not understand my culture, language, my identity.
But a relationship is about sharing and learning about each
other – maybe the person I meet will have a different racial
background, a different faith, a different culture too.”
There are several things that hearing lesbians can do to
make Deaf women feel welcome in their spaces, apart
BEING DEAF AND
AS WELL AS ITS
L-R Claire Dunne, Bek
Cramp, Kasey Murray;
and a portrayal of deaf
writer Patricia Carlon.
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