Becoming an Agent of Change as a Hearing Interpreter

Our intersectionalities, which make up who we identify as, can affect our relationships with the people we surround and interact with. While my goal is to become an interpreter, I must simultaneously continue to self analyze my privileges as well as how my intersectionality can affect the Deaf community. There are many factors that make up my intersectionality; for instance, I am a woman, hearing, straight, no strong religious base, spiritual, person of color in a mixed race relationship, etc. Any one of these factors or one that I have yet to discover can affect my position as an interpreter and the way the Deaf community views me. I will be discussing how it can affect my interpreting assignments, my decisions and the relationships I’ll build or individuals I’ll come into contact with, within the Deaf community. Being aware of my identity and privileges can further advance my knowledge of others while I build relationships with Deaf individuals in diverse cultures. As an interpreter with various factors within my intersectionality, I must identify when to code switch relating to cultures to appropriately fit the Deaf consumer’s needs. Being able to take a step back and self analyze if I’m a good fit for that Deaf consumer (DDBDDHH or POC) is crucial for the equal access of the individual. As I go through my interpreting career, I must become aware of my boundaries, what model type (liberal, helper, advocate, conservative, etc.) I choose, and how I can better give the reins to the DDBDDHH consumer so they can advocate for themselves rather than me taking that place. Overall, how I can support the Deaf community with the knowledge, articles, readings, etc. I’ve learned throughout the semester.

Being aware of my hearing privilege can either negatively or positively affect my DDBDDHH consumer on assignment. Suggs, talks about disempowerment (situational and economic). In the article, she discusses an experience she had with an interpreter who exercised their hearing privilege in a negative way. Suggs had an unsatisfactory experience dealing with a rude receptionist who later apologized to the interpreter (who covered her mouth while talking). The interpreter took it upon herself to accept the apology and tell the receptionist that is was okay; furthermore, proceeded to lie and hesitate to the Deaf consumer (Suggs) about what happened. This is an example of how not to use my hearing privilege and role as an interpreter to speak on behalf of the DDBDDHH client. If the interpreter took an ethical and effective approach to inform the receptionist that she can directly apologize to the Deaf consumer, then the interpreter could then be an agent of change. By choosing to do so, the interpreter gives power and voice to who it rightfully belongs to in this situation. In an article Coyne wrote, he talks about social justice and how the interpreter shouldn’t make decisions for the consumer but rather turn control to the DDBDDHH-POC leaders. Coyne states, Again, most injustices experienced by Deaf people are types that interpreters will never fully get’, because as hearing individuals, hearing interpreters may only have secondary experiences to associate with individuals who experience our world differently. This is one way myself, as a future interpreter, can support DDBDDHH growth within their community/culture and diminish situational disempowerment in the interpreting field. Also, it’s important for me to understanding DDBDDHH rights and how I may relate to a few factors within their intersectionality, but can never relate to their DDBDDHH identity.

As I mentioned before my intersectionality plays a big role in my future interpreting work and how others connect with me. In 2015 RID memberships were made up of 88% White interpreters and 12% interpreters of color. Being able to relate to a DDBDDHH person of color due to my intersectionality factor of being of color (Hispanic), can further evolve my interpreting work. In Oyedele’s article she discusses the lack of diversity within the predominantly White, female field of sign language interpreters.’ Oyedele is a Black interpreter and conducted a Black Deaf focus group to discover the struggles that Deaf people of color go through while having an interpreter who doesn’t understand their ethnic culture. My intersectionality can provide linguistic and cultural understanding and perspective to further connect with the DDBDDHH consumer of color and provide a better interpretation for them. Oyedele states, Let’s consider what that means for consumers of color. It means they are working overtime to assimilate to the needs of interpreters, instead of interpreters working to accommodate their needs. With my collective identity and upbringing, I can ensure that when I accept assignments, that I am the right fit for the DDBDDHH consumer’s ultimate goal. This can teach me that if I feel comfortable and confident to accept an assignment, I must be able to fully incorporate the DDBDDHH person of color’s culture; moreover, be able to interpret multicultural discussions. The competency of an interpreter in a culturally, linguistically, and diverse environment can either hinder or diminish the DDBDDHH communities intersectionalities of who they are. If I as an interpreter don’t fully comprehend or agree with an identity, then I will not produce adequate work.

Lastly, in Leeson’s presentation at Gallaudet, she talks about how the interpreter should think to oneself, what is my role? what is my identity? because identities are dynamic and fluid in an ever evolving society. She speaks on structural, political, and representational intersectionality and how all three can deter from the DDBDDHH consumer’s individuality, community and culture. As I set my future goals, actions, and plans as an interpreter, I must take into account that I should not be the ambassador of the DDBDDHH community or culture but rather a supporter during all assignments. Leeson states, Interpreters must be reflective and think about how to better harmonize with the Deaf consumer. The fact that each deaf, deaf blind, deaf disabled, hard of hearing person has different upbringings and intersectionalities, my goal as an interpreter should represent the DDBDDHH consumer, as well as, utilize all my knowledge/experience that I’ve accumulated throughout my academic journey about the Deaf culture.

Overall, I have learned to accept and analyze my privileges and identities and how it can affect my work and the DDBDDHH community. Especially in reading My Deaf is not your Deaf, the authors really show a new perspective of different DDBDDHH identities growing at different speeds and how the individuals discovered their DDBDDHH pride in various ways. One author, Noppawan, states I felt that I needed to gain more knowledge and understanding about Deaf culture, identity, community, education, language and all the meaning of being Deaf. As a future interpreter, when I read this I understand that some DDBDDHH consumers may still be searching for who they are, maybe not only within the Deaf community but also in other aspects to their intersectionality. As an interpreter, I must be flexible and supportive to the Deaf community and ready to learn and adapt to new factors that involve the Deaf consumer. As long as I stay fluid in my work and stay versatile then I can better support the Deaf consumer with equal access rights and integrity.

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