Are you allowed to get married? Do you read Braille? Do your ears get cold in winter?

As a deaf person, I'm sorry to say I've fielded all these questions. The hearing world's prevailing ignorance has always irritated me, but one night several years ago I reached my limit. I was at a party in New York, in a warm apartment bustling with writers having smart conversations, when I found myself having a not-so-smart one. After politely replying—yes, my ears get cold; they're attached to my head—I went up to the roof and cried. The next day, I joined Twitter.

I wanted to raise the hearing world's awareness, so I tweeted fact sheets about deafness and sign language. I also found a huge number of fellow deaf people. Slowly, Twitter transformed from a soapbox to a home base where I could chat with people like me—swapping jokes about stupid questions, spreading sign language poetry and webcasts and music videos.

Then last year, after The New York Daily News interviewed a hearing actress who was playing a deaf character—the latest example of Hollywood's practice of shutting out deaf actors—the deaf community on Twitter rose up in protest. Eventually we got #DeafTalent trending, which landed us at a roundtable hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts. In a New York conference room, we talked about how to support deaf actors, writers, and artists. It was exhilarating to see a discussion of deaf art coming from real live fingertips. I wasn't far from that rooftop of several years ago, but now I felt understood—and the ridiculous questions of old were nowhere to be found.


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