I was born to a Deaf family, my mother and father are Deaf, growing up I had a Deaf sister, our aunty and uncle were Deaf. My grandparents were hearing but they could sign so growing up I never thought I was Deaf. That time we lived in Australia where there was a big Deaf community. I felt normal. I would look at hearing people and see that their faces were not expressive, that they moved their mouths a lot but really it all felt very normal.
When we moved to New Zealand, when I was 8, it was the first time I went to a mainstream school with a Deaf Unit. In Australia I was in a Deaf School and everything went along normally. Here the biggest impact at this new school was that it was a hearing classroom with only one Deaf student (me). I cried, I was upset, I was so shocked I ran out of the class. That’s a hearing world! I’m Deaf, I’m in a different place. That really impacted me when I was 8. Wow.
When I turned 13 my mother asked me to help her teach a New Zealand Sign Language class on Saturday mornings. I thought ok, good for pocket money and went to teach the sign language class thinking it would be easy. It was an eye opener, my mother was teaching sign language grammar, Deaf culture. I was amazed, my mother never taught me that growing up. We were a Deaf family and carried on as a normal family. Here she was teaching these things to other hearing people. Whoa. I learnt that sign language had its own grammar, rules and so on. I came to realise that sign language, like English and other languages, are their own unique languages.
After that I started promoting sign language in high school with hearing friends, telling them to stop using signed English.
So that’s my story.