DARE TO ASK: No linking deafness, being gay
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why are so many deaf men gay? Is it something genetic connected with the
disability? Or does it come from early experiences at boarding schools for the
Scott, 46, straight, Denver
Being a Deafie myself, I know a lot of deaf gays and lesbians. I've asked
them how they "became" gay, and some said it was because of their experiences in
the dorm at the schools. It's easy to experiment in those places -- raging
hormones, kids of the same sex stuffed six to eight in a room ... come on! I
went to The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, and I can tell you, there
are a lot of "out" gays, lesbians, bisexuals there, and a high percentage live
in the dorms.
Ashley, deaf straight, St. Augustine
There does seem to be a large number of deaf or hearing-challenged gay men.
Guess I need to learn sign language.
B.T., 35, gay male, Philadelphia
Straight deaf people associate mostly with other deaf people, while gay deaf
men go to gay bars that are predominantly hearing because there are fewer gay
deaf people and they need to date hearing men sometimes. So if you go to a
straight bar, you will seldom run into a deaf person, but if you go to a gay
bar, you will often see deaf men.
Johnny, 25, gay, Washington
Nope, there's nothing in the water at schools for the deaf that might cause
students to suddenly break out in Broadway tunes, obsess over ab crunches or
redesign each others' rooms. Nor is there an international gay cabal
infiltrating the ranks of the deaf.
Still, given the chance to ask a top-notch specialist a really odd question,
we'll take it.
No one knows exactly how many gay deaf men there are in the United States,
says Virginia Gutman, a clinical psychologist at Gallaudet University, which
caters to deaf students. And there aren't scientific studies supporting a
genetic link between deafness and homosexuality.
However, "because of using sign language, deaf individuals are very visible
at public events," notes Gutman, who authored a chapter on gay-deaf therapy in
Psychotherapy with Deaf Clients from Diverse Groups (Gallaudet Press). "Hearing
people see a group signing [at a gay event] and say, 'Hey, look at all the deaf
gay people.' ... Some may not be gay, but instead are heterosexual friends or
allies. The impression that is formed may not reflect the reality."
Also, with studies showing less homophobia in the deaf community, deaf gay
people are likely more open about their sexual orientation. So it may be easier
for them to come out in the general population, further skewing perceptions, she
Philip Rubin, former president of the Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf, a
national deaf-gay organization, agreed. Oppression against deaf people means a
deaf gay person has weathered bias much of his or her life, anyway, so "perhaps
we've learned to develop thick skin about being ourselves, whether we're deaf or
gay. My motto is 'Life is too short for games.'"
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his