AU Pride teaches LGBTQ+-related sign language at Queer ASL Night

LGBTQ+ ASL seminar spreads awareness about Deaf community and culture

AU Pride teaches LGBTQ+-related sign language at Queer ASL Night

AU Pride's ASL night taught students about Deaf community and culture 

American University Pride’s Queer American Sign Language Night taught students about the intersection between LGBTQ+ identities and the Deaf community.

Julia Craig, a sophomore in the School of International Service and outreach coordinator for AU Pride, led the Nov. 29 educational seminar on LGBTQ+ American Sign Language.

“I identify as queer and both of my parents are deaf, so ASL is my first language,” Craig said. “I like to teach my friends ASL and I thought it was important to also teach people queer ASL.”

An estimated 15 percent of the U.S. population — 37.5 million people — are deaf or hard of hearing. However, ASL is not taught in most school systems nor used by a majority of hearing people.

“People mostly know the ASL alphabet or basic signs like ‘bathroom,’ but most people do not know how to sign their identity,” Craig said. “Any way I can teach people and spread awareness about [the] Deaf community and Deaf cultures and emphasize resources available for ASL is amazing.”

The event began with a brief overview of the ASL alphabet and the numbers one through 10. Craig listed some prominent Deaf members of the LGBTQ+ community, including Drago Renteria, Terry Calloway, Nyle DiMarco and Chella Man.

Throughout the event, Craig randomly quizzed the audience with interactive questions. The teach-in ended with a brief overview of the signs students learned during the session and a discussion on the importance of learning ASL, and more specifically, LGBTQ+ ASL. 

“A lot of people think of sign language as the same version of English, just signed, but that is completely not true,” Craig said. “Due to the lack of understanding of ASL grammar, deaf students do not get the help or resources they need to succeed in academic settings. I think that by learning ASL and understanding that it is its own language, I feel people will be more motivated to learn signed languages.” 

Craig provided educational resources for those who want to learn more about ASL, the most encouraged being nearby Gallaudet University, which offers interactive online courses and summer courses for students ranging from beginner to advanced levels. 

Craig said she wanted to emphasize the significance of acknowledging ASL as a language and recognizing LGBTQ+ ASL as a way to empower Deaf and LGBTQ+ communities together. 

“There tends to be low visibility of different identities in different communities,” Craig said. “In the queer community, there is low visibility of deaf queer people and in the Deaf community, there is low visibility for queer deaf people. It is important to understand how these identities differ and interact in society. Teaching queer ASL is crucial to teach ASL and teach about different identities.”

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