‘Ps. I am so sorry and will be praying for u deaf people. Just remember god is there for u’
– From a review for sign language software
Disclaimer: I am not (completely) deaf, and thus am not the best person to discuss how a Deaf person would feel about such statements.
Nonetheless, I’ve never seen a Deaf person – or a person with any disability – actually appreciate pitying statements.
And this attitude is expressed with irritating frequency in regards to every marginalised group on Earth.
‘You’re deaf? I’m sorry. I’ll be praying for you!’
‘Autistic? Clearly, you need my prayer!’
‘I feel sorry for these poor/non-Christian/foreign people. Our church should run a prayer group for them!’
‘Muslim? Gay? Dyslexic? God can fix anything!’
Let’s get the religious bit out of the way first: not everyone is religious enough to appreciate an offer of prayer. You might, at best, get a ‘well, okay. It’s the thought that counts’.
I say ‘at best’ because vast numbers of people use prayer as a way to feel good about themselves without actually doing anything else, and those frequently receiving such prayers know this. For every person praying with sincerity, another dozen or so are simply looking for a quick self-esteem boost, which makes us feel pretty cynical about them.
Now. On to the pity bit.
Telling us you feel sorry for us is not helpful, or comforting, or reassuring. It’s actually incredibly annoying.
I have a few problems caused by my hearing. I can’t triangulate sound and it’s easier for me to understand people if I can see their face while they’re talking.
I also have issues with closed-captioning because some people find it ‘annoying’ and refuse to use it. People will try to talk to me while I’m on the phone with someone else, which is a difficult task even without distractions. People make fun of me when I mispronounce words. A person with similar hearing problems was harassed by a co-worker because he could never immediately tell which phone was ringing at work, and I know of a teenager with CAPD whose family refuses to acknowledge they need to see something to understand conversation.
Note how many of these problems are directly caused by partial deafness or auditory processing disorder, and how many are caused by people being assholes. It’s not life-changing for a hearing person to have captions on their screen. It’s common courtesy even with fully-hearing people to wait until they’re off the phone to try talking to them. It’s plain abusive to tease, bully, or harass a person for something they have no control over. Turning your face so you’re looking at the person you expect to ‘hear’ you is not much more difficult than praying for them – and it’s more effective.
Problems caused by transgenderism consist of: dysphoria (actually caused by being transgender), bullying, harassment, threats (caused by individual people), fear of losing one’s job, getting kicked out of public restrooms, difficulty in getting treatment, and entire laws set up against us (caused by societal standards which put the values of cis people above those of trans* people).
Homosexuality? Smaller dating pool (actually caused by being gay), plus bullying, harassment, high odds of living in a state with no job protections, and limited legal marriage. Even the HIV/AIDS crisis, typically seen as a ‘gay thing’, is at least in part caused by less gay sex education – which is caused by an unwillingness by society to give the gay population the same level of medical education and care as the straight population.
Tell me you’re sorry for me – or any other marginalised person – because of some perceived problem, and I’ll snap back you should be sorry for us because of the way other people treat us.
You could argue pity itself doesn’t hurt anyone – feeling sorry for someone doesn’t mean you’re bigoted or abusive towards them.
There’s two problems with this argument.
First, a good many abusers do ‘feel sorry’ for the group they’re victimising. Nobody forces children into ex-gay therapy for their own amusement – they do it because they feel sorry for their gay kids and want them ‘fixed’. Access to trans*-related surgery and hormones is blocked by well-meaning cis folk who feel sorry for our desire to ‘mutilate’ our bodies. Intersex children are forced into non-consensual surgery at birth because parents and doctors feel sorry for them needing to go a few years with unusual genitals before they make up their own minds. Deaf children are forced into non-consensual surgery at young ages as well, and when deaf teenagers purposely break their cochlear implants, their parents refuse to understand the potential problems of the implants and instead merely feel sorry for their child who will now be deaf until a replacement can be obtained and forced onto the adolescent.
Second, even among the pitying people who aren’t mistreating us, pity is often all there is. Maybe prayer. Sometimes the expectation of gratitude on our parts: ‘Surely you prefer pity over being ignored!’
Again, the best reaction to this is ‘it’s the thought that counts.’
But look at it this way: Nobody ever started a war out of pity. And when it comes to true equality, there damn well ought to be a war against mistreatment.