Alex Lu chronicles the similarities between Deaf and queer identity narratives, and how the two communities are coming together to support and empower each other to express themselves.

By Alex Lu at The Establishment:

The efforts of Deaf-queer people to make sign languages classes queer-friendly is also slowly making waves in the Deaf community at large. Exposure to ASL and Deaf culture is encouraging a growing number of queer and trans people to apply to ASL-English interpretation programs. Sara Gold, a white queer interpreter with over 20 years of experience working in Toronto, notes that this trend challenges traditional conceptions of ASL-English interpretation. “Interpreters are generally thought of as neutral facilitators of communication,” says Gold. Because society codes white, straight, cisgender, non-disabled people as more “neutral” or “default,” she says, this has led to a disproportionate number of interpreters who come from privileged demographics. “However, current interpreting theory confirms what we know intuitively: the identity, life experiences, and values of the interpreter will unavoidably influence the way they perceive and relay other’s communication. No communication can be neutral.” The influx of queer interpreters means that queer Deaf people have interpreters who reflect their own experience.

Gold notes that the conception of interpreters as neutral has reinforced institutionalized privilege and respectability politics in many ASL-English interpretation programs. “Because interpreter identities are currently so homogenous, it can be hard for our trainers, leaders, and colleagues to even recognize that we have a problem,” she says. “I am hopeful that our field will be changed by the innovative practices happening at the grassroots.” In the meantime, Gold believes that queer ASL classes provide interpreters from marginalized backgrounds with a sense of community as they go on to work through these programs.

This story was originally published on June 28th, 2016.