Thursday, October 23, 2008


I got an e-mail today that inadvertently got me thinking. (Heaven forbid!)

UVU's deaf retreat is coming up next month. Unfortunately I have a scheduling conflict and won't be attending.

What caught my attention, oddly enough, was the price break-down. Since it is sponsored by the college...excuse me, University...I was not surprised to see a different price for students vs. non-students. What I thought was interesting was the the third price group for "deaf community" members. Makes sense...good marketing strategy to draw in people with "more experience" thus giving benefit to those without as much experience. But the terminology "deaf community" made me wonder where they draw the lines to define "community."

Depending on who you talk, the reference to "deaf community" can be very broad, or very narrow. It may or may not include every deaf or hard or hearing person, it may or may not include family members of those who are deaf or hard of hearing, it may or may not include interpreters or even friends that take an interest in ASL and deaf culture and become an active participant in events, gatherings etc.

Since everyone has a different definition of "community" how do you draw the lines?

I started thinking about it in a much broader sense as well, thinking of other communities. How do you know when you've really become a part of it? And once a part, is there a time you leave?

I've been interested in genealogy since I was 10 years old. But I definitely wasn't part of the "community" back then. In fact I've worked for the Family History Department for 9 years now and feel like I'm still just barely breaking in, maybe not even that far kind of touching the outskirts of it, almost making my way in.

On the other hand, other than a couple of brief stints, I haven't lived in the city boundaries of Pleasant Grove for 16 years, yet PG is still 'home' to me. Granted I have spent several more years since then, living in Cedar Hills which might as well be a part of the PG "community" but still...for argument's sake, I don't go to town events anymore, I don't think I've been to a high school football game since I graduated, I have no active part in the community, but it still calls to me, and all it takes is to hit those streets again and I feel a part of that community again. I would love to move my family down there, to get involved in organizations there, such as Kiwanis, and DUP, maybe even run for City Council one day. I can't see myself doing that up here except of course DUP. But in PG I can see myself getting into costume to participate in Heritage Days or something, giving tours at the schoolhouse. I just couldn't get that involved up here I don't think. And its largely due to the community aspect. It's too big up here, I don't feel the 'community' vibe. There's a lot to be said for the city, a lot of advantages to being here, but its missing that feeling. I'm sure there are others who find it here, mostly in neighborhood groups, but it hasn't come for me yet.

But the point is, since community is that feeling, how do you decide if someone else is really a part of the community or not? Or even if you really are?

Some people accepted me as a part of the deaf community when Steven and I started dating seriously, others didn't accept me in until we had married, and I have no doubt there are still many who would say I'm not because I'm still not skilled enough, or that I'm not and never will be since I'm not deaf. But what about those deaf/hard of hearing indivduals who want nothing to do with the deaf community? Obviously they probably aren't going to be going on an ASL retreat, but nonetheless... And if I am a member because I'm family, what about the other family members that barely sign, if they sign at all, and who know nothing about deaf culture, especially those that have little to do with their deaf/hh family member, let alone the community? Are they still a part for definition's sake? And the same could be said of many communities.

In the genealogy community, there are some spouses who are very supportive and whose face may be seen at 'community events' to the point that they're recognized by members of the community. Are they then a member by association, even if they have no interest in genealogy per se?

What binds us together in these communities? Is it the common thing we share; the home within certain boundaries; the love of something, like genealogy or our favorite sports bar; or a common trait, such as deafness, or being of a certain decent? Is it the understanding that we gain either by sharing that, or by being associated enough with those that do? Is it knowing everyone within a certain group? Where are those lines? Can you define those lines? Does it matter?

Obviously for this case it does. I may have to e-mail the contacts for the retreat and find out what the definition is, or if they even know. Are interpreters part of the community? Is there a difference between the interpreter who even attends the deaf wards and becomes a part of the community, versus the one for whom its 'just a job' ? What about the spouses of those interperters? They barely sign but since they attend the ward each week, they are much more invovled than others more skilled in the language? Well at least in some ways.

Even if we can't draw the lines, I'm feeling benefits just from thinking about the different communities I'm a part of. What communities are you a member of?

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