Would you mind sharing with us a brief bio? Include where you are from, where you live (just the city or state would be OK), when and how you lost your hearing, your primary mode of communication, if you know any sign, etc., and anything else you would like to add.
I was raised in Belvidere, IL, a small town just outside Rockford, IL, where I was born. I now live in Madison, WI. When I was three, I had tubes put in my ears to drain fluid and I got an infection supposedly. Whatever the case, whether it was congenital, or postlingually acquired, the fact remains that my hearing level was deemed to be audiologically, pathologically, and medically problematic compared to my hearing societies’ norms. I was given one hearing aid. I’m not entirely sure why I did not get two because both ears were ‘bad.’ Perhaps, for social reasons, the deciders of my fate thought I might pass as a more normal hearing person if I appeared merely hard-of-hearing. Like the Miracle Ear ads encourage us to hide deafness by calling their devices ‘discreet.’ My primary mode of communication regarding receptivity is struggling to lipread, pay attention, focus, strain my neck, and constantly leaning forward, forever off-balance. As far as my communication output, it is oral, as that is how I was raised, being mainstreamed. Very often people ask me about my accent. I just started learning sign language last year. I quit wearing MY hearing aids after college. I emphasize the fact that they are MINE because growing up people always asked if I had my hearing aids in, as if THEY owned them for me to wear to hear THEM. Why couldn’t they maybe speak up and directly instead of making me do all the work?
How did you come into contact with Deaf Culture? Why does it appeal to you so much?
I went to Alaska to visit my brother and we went on a long drive up to Denali, I think it was, and he proceeded to liberate my self-identity. He basically told me I was Deaf, when my whole life I only thought of myself as HOH. And actually, I had not even thought about that fact for years. AGBell succeeded in making me forget. It appeals to me, identifying with Deaf Culture, because it explains all the problems I have had my entire life. I was called rebellious, disrespectful, bad attitude, attention deficit disorder, insubordinate, among other things in an effort to understand why I didn’t fit in. My parents thought the hearing aid fixed me and therefore, any insufficiencies were due to lack of trying. Deafhood is my journey of discovering my identity.
You write extensively on incidences of audism. How do you define audism, and how do you see it manifesting?
Audism is the belief that hearing is better than not hearing. Period. Anybody in the audiology field who it trying to fix HOH/Deaf people are Audist. It is discrimination to judge Deaf people as inferior. I am particularly appalled at this mandatory infant hearing screening, especially with national health care initiatives, because Canada for example has more babies violated with cochlear implants. Im my life, Audism manifested when I was fitted with hearing device, instead of given the option to learn ASL. Also, when I have had interactions with police and I misunderstood, they would mace me and cuff me and lock me up. When I grew up in the church, a faith healer took my aid out and threw it. When the service was over, I had to crawl under the pews to find it, and explain what sin was in my life that caused me to not get healed. So, I grew to distrust teachers, doctors, police, and preachers. Unfortunately, this includes my parents since they didn’t protect me from these audist abusers.
Your Facebook profile describes your occupation as Entrepenteur. Could you elaborate on that? You have also written about your previous job. Where did you work before, and how did it affect you?
I’m am an entrepreneur by default because it is too difficult to be an employee. Employers expect me to listen and do as I’m told. Any misunderstanding has always been put on me and resulted in my being fired. The frustrating part about this is that I didn’t know I was deaf. If I was allowed this identity, then society would have been more tolerant. But when you are HOH, they give you no leeway and just expect you to function like they do. My last job was in a deli at a grocery store. It was too difficult and strenuous to actively listen for 8 hours straight. I put in 110% but coworkers only saw 70% because I didn’t hear everything, therefore I didn’t do everything I was told. I hated that they didn’t understand me. Why do I have to spend my life with people that ignorantly judge me and have no idea they are being audist? I was in real estate before because I could choose who I worked with, and I could make as much money as I wanted and still have time to do art and music. But when the market crashed, I was ‘forced’ to employ myself to the mercy of generally audist enterprises.
Your Facebook also mentions that you study Holography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; what prompted you to study this field at that school?
I did photography for years. Photojournalism, weddings, nudes, bands, parties, etc.. I had a darkroom and I wanted to make large scale image exposure on wall. I began to study light sensitive emulsions. I came across a book that was about holographic silver halide emulsion. Next thing I know, I’m obsessed with this. I took a workshop in Lake Forest, IL. Then applied to SAIC. I also applied for MA in sociology at UW Madison, but wasn’t accepted, so I went to Chicago. After graduation, I taught a few classes while also doing real estate.
How and why did you come to start your own blog? What prompted the name “Brotheryellow” for it?
I started a blog because I saw how Internet Marketing is a great opportunity to reach global audience. Based on the books I was reading, a blog is how to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Also, unlike Facebook and other platform/profiles, you own your own blog, so they can’t take your profile down. You own the content. But my first theme/content was about the metaphysical nature of holographic universe. I was interested in this because, being Deaf, I was struggling to feel connected in a hearing world. The holographic paradigm implies we are all ONE. Therefore, I am not separate from society (or ‘god’). Actually, I blogged about coffee for awhile first, because I didn’t know what to write about everyday besides something that I did everyday. Now I blog about my Deafhood, because that is my current mental trajectory and field of interest. I chose brotheryellow because it is easy to remember and spell compared to my name which is Jonsson. One time I was making music with a friend and he was singing and calling me brotheryellow over and over again in the song, so I chose that.
Are the Flickr photographs and drawings your own work, or collected from other sources? Could you elaborate on why you create and/or post these particular pictures? What’s the proccess?
All the work on http://www.flickr.com/photos/icop/ is mine. After studying holography in Chicago, I began painting a bit, then just did drawing. All the Chicken Runners, Vikings, etc are drawings that evolved naturally and organically. I didn’t intend to create this body of work. I would go to the pub downstairs from my art studio in Dekalb, IL, and bring postcards. After a pint or two, or three, I would end up with an image or two, or three. I think perhaps I was a viking in a previous life. So subconsciously, these are like self portraits? The chicken runners would start from a doodle which I would then add legs and eyes, etc to give it life. Not sure what they are all about. Drawing is a great way to be in social atmosphere without having to engage in conversation, per say, with hearing people. It sort of justifies my sitting there alone with a beer. Currently, I am organizing all my work and getting it online..
How did you come across Deafandhoh.com?
I can’t remember how I found it I suppose there was a link somewhere or something. After my trip to Alaska when my brother enlightened my about my identity, I began to research information online because there sure wasn’t anything at the public library except pathological accounts. The internet has been great for me in finding out who I am. Growing up I had no Deaf peers or mentors. So it has only been this last couple years that I have discovered my Deafhood. And I am 39!
Anything else that you would like to add, please feel free!
Thank you for the interview questions. I just want to add that Deaf people are equal to Hearies. In fact, in some regards, we are superior. But I only say that to balance the scales. We can teach audiocentric-based communicators to be more aware of visual, nonverbal cues and such. I think Deaf people get tired of fighting and educating and advocating for themselves. Perhaps HOH people can carry the torch on this matter due to our ability to straddle the fence. I have always been inbetween, therefore that gives me a unique perspective. I can translate the two sides to each other. I like who I am and would not like to be anything else. I believe it is my life purpose to advance the cause of Deaf Power. I realize the potentially contentious posture that term denotes, but when prisons have a disproportionate percentage of Deaf/HOH, and unemployment for us is higher, then clearly the battle lines have been drawn, and not by me. We are under attack, albeit unintentional perhaps, but I don’t need to give them any benefit of doubt. Dysconscious Audism is not excusable. We shouldn’t forget that sign language was banned for 100 years. Deaf people were prevented from marrying each other, driving, owning property, among other things that other minorities now have access to. I think closed captioning should be mandatory. Cochlear implants should not be put in babies. Sign Language should be taught to ALL Deaf/HOH with no exceptions. Police should never assume someone is disobeying a verbal order, but rather maybe that person is deaf! Education is where all this starts. Society will soon come to have Deaf issues be at forefront of discourse, in the same vein that gender, race, and sexual orientation have become popular equal rights issues. Remember: You have a right to be Deaf!