Being Named…

In the deaf world, to avoid the tedious task of having to finger spell out a person’s name every time you refer to them, a “sign name” is assigned to the individual, which usually depicts a prominent physical characteristic which is often on the person’s face. I mean, with long names, like Hadassah, I certainly would get finger-tangled if I had to finger spell her name ever time that I wanted to mention her.

The girls were assigned names which point out prominent freckles on their faces, followed by the alphabetical letters that their names start with. It took no time before they recognized their new names, and Hadassah does the “2 dot – H” signing with such confidence and really flicks out the “H”. If you have a physical feature that is prominent, whether it be a mole, a big nose, acne scars or a double chin, be sure that your sign name will probably highlight that. For a hearing person, this is incredibly intimidating, as for example, if you have ears that stick out, no one ever mentions it, as most of us feel self-conscious about those features that make us most different from one another. We like to blend in with everyone else and tick all the boxes of what society deems attractive, so to be called “scar on my forehead – G” for example, is not something that a hearing person would feel comfortable with.

I’d been around the school for the deaf for a while, and was always just referred to as “mother 2 dot-H” or “mother 1 dot- T”. I was comfortable with that, besides, their little freckles are too sweet! I knew the time would come, however, for me to be “named”. I was dreading it! I was invited to join a sign language class at the school, which I eagerly accepted, but knew that this was probably going to mean receiving a sign name. I stared into the mirror for a good few minutes that morning…freckles? Skew nose? Chubby red cheeks? PLEASE, No!

My first sign language lesson started with everyone in the class having to introduce themselves to me using their sign names – gulp! And then I was asked whether I had a sign name. After admitting that in fact I did not, I had to endure at least 6 pairs of eyes staring holes into me as they scouted my face over and over for the right feature. This. Was. PAINFUL! Eventually our teacher decided that she’d give it some thought. I managed to escape the physical feature and received a name that highlighted the fact that I am a mother and a doctor and that my name starts with a “B”. So it kind of looks like the sign for mother (or doctor) with the hand shape of the alphabetical letter “B”. What a relief!

What I have to admit, is that I really admire and appreciate this aspect of deaf culture. We’re different and that’s what makes us identifiable and beautifully unique, get over the awkwardness of having the feature that everyone sees everyday anyway, pointed out, and enjoy being embraced “warts and all”. Isn’t this expression of beauty, lovely? “There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection.” If I want my girls to embrace their “perfect imperfections”, I guess that I’m going to have to lead by example.

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6 thoughts on “Being Named…

  1. WoW!! Now there is something I didn’t know about the deaf world & find it really interesting!! I shudder to think what my name would be!! Bianca, you have really opened my eyes to a new and interesting World 🙂 I love reading of your family’s progress & challenges and the way you deal with each “bump in the road” (big or small) & I most certainly have learned so much from you sharing!! Your little girls are absolutely gorgeous & its amazing how much we can learn from kids 🙂 love to you all!!

  2. Hi Bee, great artical, you have enlightend me on a subject I wouldn’t have given much thought to. By default the hearing world are generally indifferent to the earing impared. Thank you for opening my eyes and heart.

    • Hi there! 🙂 Thanks for your comment! hope you guys are well!! Yes, the deaf world really isn’t given much time and often not taken seriously (by me included before all of this) I hope our experience will sometimes shine the spotlight on a people group that deserves as much recognition and opportunity as the hearing world! 🙂

  3. In Australia, well in my community anyway, we fingerspell people’s names, or their initials, e.g. MM for someone with a first and last name starting with MM. Sign names are reserved for someone famous or really well known in the deaf community. But I like being able to give people a sign name anyway 🙂

  4. Hi, I came upon your blog through a search of blogs about deafness. I am a former teacher of the deaf (I am hearing) and taught for many years in an ASL bilingual/bicultural school for the Deaf in Massachusetts. I remember getting my first sign name and the whole immersion into ASL, the Deaf world and Deaf Culture. There are so many options out there; you are brave and are honoring your perfect children and who they are and will be. Thank you for sharing your journey…I have worked with many parents experiencing the same confusion and hard decisions…you are leading them by your heartfelt example. -Courtney

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