You deserve to have freedom from feeling anxious, sad, and tired. In this video, I briefly talk about my LGBT Therapy specialty.
I’ve seen Edge of Seventeen a few times. Caution: There will be spoilers! I don’t know how to describe a movie without spoilers.
The movie has an OK script and the movie can be a bit cheesy at times, but it was the much needed mirroring of my feelings about being gay and “different” that I needed. The movie was based in the 1980s and features Eric, a teenager struggling with his sexuality. He meets Rod, a confident and out gay man who Eric idealizes. I saw myself in this film because I was also shy and worried about my sexual orientation and I had this feeling mirrored back to me by the character Eric.
Like me, his character goes on a journey of self-discovery as he pictures him and Rod being the perfect couple. Of course, Rod sees things differently and sees Eric as just another gay guy to be with. As Eric discovers that Rod is not as into him as he thought, he blames himself and feels ashamed. His sense of gay shame comes bubbling up, as it does for many of us who feel like outcasts. Throughout the film, Eric finally feels he is able to open up and explore his sexuality, partially thanks to Rod and his summer job that has him out of his normal surroundings.
However, his parents and his friend Tina become very concerned as Eric’s drastic changes are startling to them. It’s sad that Eric’s coming out cannot be supported by his parents and best friend. Eric confides in a new friend, Angie, who finally provides him the support he has been seeking. It doesn’t make the process any less difficult, but you can see he desperately needs the support. The process of coming out is not just one isolated incident. It involves so many factors: social, emotional, etc. that take time to process. Some people complain that the ending of the movie (which I will not give away) wasn’t enough of an ending because it didn’t tie everything up in a bow. I, too, wished for a more concrete ending that was less open-ended when I first saw the movie. But now I see that it adds a humanity to the film as life is not concrete or neat. We also get the gift of imagining what might happen. We hope for the best but also realize that certain things may always be a struggle. This has been true for every LGBT-identified person’s journey.
There are humorous moments throughout the movie that make this “coming of age” drama have humorous edges. The 80’s influence is definitely cheesy at times, but Edge of Seventeen is worth the watch for its tender moments and Eric’s relatable discoveries as he explores his sexual orientation and starts the journey of coming out.
I have a partial hearing loss. In my case, I can hear environmental sounds and many sounds of speech. But the loss of high pitches leads to muffled sounding language as these high pitches contain intricate information that provides specificity and differentiation to sounds so similarly sounding language doesn’t get confused. It certainly gets lost with my hearing loss, and my hearing aid as well as cochlear implant help to bring back as much sound as possible to make things easier to understand.
When people whisper, it’s difficult to understand them. I wish more people would take initiative to go into another space if the current space doesn’t allow for normal volume (such is the case at times in an office or library where one must be quiet in certain common areas). Yes, it can be argued that I should always remind people of this difference, but to be honest I get tired. I get tired of asking for accommodations. I get tired of trying to explain my specific hearing loss to people.
During the first day of school, I would always make it a point to attempt to describe how I heard, which was an impossible task, because one cannot understand this unless one has the loss. I get thrown into the completely non-auditory category instead of valued for utilizing both visual and auditory cues. I think there’s something special about the way people express language that makes visual and auditory information so interesting and intriguing during a conversation.
One of the main questions I get asked is whether I know ASL (American Sign Language). I did not happen to grow up in Deaf culture and do not know anything more about the culture than another person who also didn’t immerse themselves in it. I have not been exposed to ASL and I don’t see this as deprivation but rather as a result of the environment I grew up in. I have nothing against ASL or the people who use it. I just wish people would respect my upbringing and not tell me to learn another language when I really don’t have time to spend to do that.
I have so many obligations, as do us all, that it’s not worth learning. Especially since I do not have friends who sign, I would lose the language and the training would have been for naught.
The automatic categorization is frustrating, and I understand why people do it. We all are trying to make sense out of things that don’t make sense – myself included. We were not brought up in a world where disabilities were normal. We were not brought up in a world where people who identify as LGBT were part of the mainstream. Thus, all we have are our assumptions as well as the experiences of other people that have perhaps a certain hearing loss – and so we have only that to compare others like me to. I can tell you that each person with a hearing loss is in a unique situation.
I am oral and I speak English as my first and only language (for the time being!). I relate the most to people who lost their hearing as an adult, either over time or suddenly. These people knew a world of full hearing that I did not know, but both them and I know deeply the unforgiving world that exists for people like us who have partial losses and who are living lives that rely on understanding people.
I have continued to utilize tools so I would not be lost in such a world. But I have an advantage of time and therapy to learn how to navigate the world. I also have learned that it’s okay to be viewed as an outlier – it’s not you, it’s the people who choose to do that to you. It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to grieve over and over again. Having therapy as well as developing internal resilience are keys to success. We can be successful in this world and yes, we will have to work harder than someone who doesn’t have a hearing loss. But I’ve always known it to be worth it.
Being both gay and hard-of-hearing can be turned into comedy. I used this in my one-person show. I have included a clip from years ago. I hope you enjoy. The character and script were loosely based on real life and had a lot of imagined scenarios. I mention my acting career, which is true, I have had that. But there was plenty added to that that was comedic effect that did not occur in real life. I wanted to place this disclaimer here so people wouldn’t get worried. The show was quite an adventure as it was the first time I had done one. Afterwards, I considered expanding it and touring, but then my practical mindset chose to do what I was passionate about, and that required going back to school.
Anyway, here’s the link to the show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrPY2utejn0
I have to always thank my mentor, Debra De Liso, who directed this show and really helped me both craft the material and also just go for it. This was a wonderful combination, and we have a mutual trust that makes for the best material. She started out as my teacher and then we became close friends. Her website is: http://www.debradelisoartist.com
When I was little, I knew there was something different about me that separated me from the rest of the people I knew. I wondered what it was. It was incredibly easy to categorize all these feelings of feeling different into being hard-of-hearing, but my instinct told me otherwise. There was something else that made me different from mainstream society.
I never dated in school and would see others who did and wonder about how they dated. There were people who were interested in me, females, but I never was interested back, in a romantic way. If I was interested, it was as a friend. I remember thinking about marriage in school and wondering how it worked. I figured marriage was just like on TV where the husband and wife have a clever banter and sometimes didn’t get along, but usually they did.
I wondered about who I would marry. It felt as if I needed to make a right decision, even though I was very young. Now, I can see that the societal pressures to make these sorts of decisions was involved as was my desire to make the right choice and figure out what the choice was without waiting.
At multiple school dances, I would dance with girls I liked as friends or acquaintances. Even as young as I may be, it was very clear that I was different than the other people in the room who were dancing with their crushes.
There was no guidance given as to how to navigate this strange land. Fortunately, as I grew up, I began to understand more about heteronormative culture and how gay experiences are often marginalized. The dominant discourses regarding what is normal in terms of experience frequently don’t include anyone besides straight people.
I am fortunate to have friends from school despite the non-affirming experiences. There were still people who accepted me regardless of my hearing loss and sexual orientation. I will forever remain grateful for their pure acceptance. I think back and am curious as to whether they had questions that they didn’t address with me. We never really talked about it. But maybe they just were so accepting that it seemed trivial to question my differences and how that would impact our friendship. Sure, we might have difficulties now and then with communication, but these friends make the effort to ensure I’m able to hear them.
People who don’t make accommodations seem like a chore are so welcome in my life. These people know how to adjust without suggesting any inconvenience as they see it as simple and not problematic. I’m thankful to have a group of people in my life who do this for me. If you’re reading this, I thank you.