Today, I am a career-driven married woman, happily pursuing the little moments in life with a passion for human services, teaching, traveling, cooking and animals.
Ten years ago, I didn’t think it would even be possible to be married–and twenty years ago, I only had a glimpse into what life would be like for Deaf individuals.
Back then, I knew I could pursue any dream and I wanted to be a writer, however, I only met a few Deaf adults until college so I had a limited view of the opportunities that lay ahead as a Deaf individual. And back then, as a member of the LGBT community, my views were narrow, full of others’ fears and opinions thrust upon me, not my own happiness. Once I realized that I had to love myself first, that my worth and happiness were important and I was surrounded by people who saw me for who I was as a person, not my identities, my perceptions changed as I grew older.
When I was born, two identities were gifted to me. I was born profoundly Deaf, due to a premature birth, into a hearing family. I also realized I was not straight. Growing up with these two identities were honestly just like having two arms and legs, ten fingers and toes, green eyes, and a beating heart. I didn’t know any different inward. But outward, I realized quickly that growing up with dual identities was not simple. Many factors were at play – others’ opinions and social perceptions – and I had to navigate them.
I focused on growing up as a Deaf person first, and kept my second identity at bay for a long time. I thought it was impossible to grow up with two identities. It would be too much and people would look at me through different lenses if I revealed my second identity. And when that happened, I found I was still breathing. I survived. Many children and young adults do not (are not able to) speak up about it and feel safe in the process.
The five main things I would have told my younger self are:
1. Be gentle with yourself.
2. You are more resilient than you think.
3. Connect with those that you trust to be yourself with.
4. Meet others who are or have gone on similar journeys as yours.
5. Don’t change who you are for anyone else.
I want to tell these children and adults who grow up being Deaf and a member of the LGBT community – you are loved just as who you are. And I want to tell their parents that, even though it may feel overwhelming walking by your child through their identity journey when you may not have been on either yourself before you met your child, your child is just meant to be exactly who they are. Nurture the core of who they are, focus on the things they CAN do, meet other adults like them, and help them thrive. It is important to ensure the child is heard, understood and loved first, and then go through the journey with them, not above them.
Once I realized my worth, things naturally fell into place. I met my wife and we have a rich life together–full of laughter, faith and adventure. I have to pinch myself sometimes. How did I get so lucky? Then I realize immediately after, these two identities are a gift…and I embrace them wholly.
Katie McCarthy can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org –she is willing to talk with families who have children with dual identities.