August 9, 2022

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  . . His whole life, Jacob Cheek felt like he belonged a little bit...

 

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His whole life, Jacob Cheek felt like he belonged a little bit to several communities, but never fully to one. He is deaf so didn’t belong in the hearing community. He’s gay so didn’t belong in the world at-large. And, with the help of hearing aids, he’s able to speak so was also shunned by some in the deaf community. That all changed when, after taking a chance, he met the Deaf Gay community and finally felt like he belonged.

 

Transcript provided by YouTube:

00:06
Hello, everyone! I’m Jacob Cheek, and I’m from Belton, Texas.
00:16
When I was an undergrad student at TAMU, I felt isolated from
00:23
everyone and everything, as both a deaf and gay man.
00:29
There was no vibrant deaf community nor an accepting and inclusive gay community.
00:39
So, I made a decision to transfer schools. I was stuck between two choices –
00:46
Gallaudet and the University of Texas
00:53
Gallaudet represents the deaf community, and UT Austin is located in a city
00:58
with a vibrant gay community. At the time, I didn’t believe I can
01:06
be a part of both, so I went with UT Austin because I
01:13
stuck into my comfort and went along with the gay community
01:18
instead of the deaf community.
01:21
At the time, I didn’t believe I could be both deaf
01:24
and gay. Ever since I transferred to UT Austin, I felt
01:27
even more like a fraud in both the deaf and gay community.
01:34
Through my experiences, I was too Deaf to be a part
01:40
of the hearing world, but too hearing to be fully
01:44
established in the Deaf community.
01:47
When I first arrived at UT, I attended orientations and joined
01:54
organizations, but I was excluded from everything. Hearing people tend
02:05
to “baby” deaf people, especially me, and I feel
02:10
like I was just there to fill a quota.
02:16
When I met new deaf friends through a Deaf/hard-of-hearing event
02:23
sponsored by the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) department,
02:31
I briefly started to feel less like a fraud – until they
02:43
recognized my hearing qualities, such as using my voice to speak.
02:52
I began to get fewer texts and fewer invites to
02:56
deaf gatherings. I was temporarily excommunicated from the community.
03:02
In the gay community, I was often fetishized by other men
03:09
because I am deaf. I would go on dates hoping to
03:13
search for a long-term relationship or something romantic, but
03:19
in the end, they wanted to take me home and have
03:23
sex with me because they were curious about how deaf
03:27
people sound during sexual activity.
03:29
After a few years, I made myself believe that I didn’t
03:34
belong anywhere. I didn’t belong in the hearing world.
03:39
I didn’t belong in the deaf community.
03:43
I didn’t belong in the gay community.
03:46
I made myself believe I was a fraud and that I’d be
03:52
alone in my own little world for a very long time.
03:57
One day a few months ago, I went to a
04:00
Gay Kickball event on 4th street, which is the gay
04:04
area of Austin. I was with a few of my good
04:07
friends, and we walked past Rain, a famous gay bar.
04:12
One of my friends encouraged us to go in for a quick
04:15
dance before we left. I was hesitant at the time,
04:19
but I got outside my comfort zone and decided to join.
04:26
Right when we walked in, I saw a group of deaf gay
04:30
men engaging in a conversation in ASL. I was so shocked
04:34
and so excited at the same time, but I was also
04:38
overwhelmed and nervous because that was the first time
04:40
I’ve ever seen a group of deaf gay men chatting in public.
04:43
I pulled my friends aside, and I was pacing back
04:46
and forth, back and forth, debating on whether or not I
04:50
should introduce myself. My friend walked with me to the bar
04:58
by the dance floor. As my friend and I were chatting,
05:01
one of the deaf men approached me and introduced himself
05:04
after the group noticed I was deaf too.
05:08
I introduced myself to him and his group, got to know
05:13
everyone, and interacted with them for a while. A few topics
05:19
in, I realized I still had my hearing aids in.
05:22
They encouraged me to take them out – and so I did.
05:27
I took my hearing aids out, and instead of hearing the
05:31
music, I felt the bass pounding in my body.
05:36
There I was – having fun, closed off to the hearing world,
05:41
in the middle of a gay bar, communicating with
05:45
my new gay deaf friends.
05:47
And then, it hit me: I am deaf, I am gay, and I do belong!
05:51
I was in this beautiful bubble with no communication barrier,
05:55
and I felt very comfortable because I was around people
05:59
that are a part of not two separate communities but one
06:03
community intertwined around our Deaf identity and sexual orientation.
06:06
Over time since then, I built stronger relationships with them, and
06:10
I’ve been more confident and lighter as if a heavy weight
06:14
has been lifted off my shoulders. I was getting more
06:19
invites, met even more deaf gay people, and my old
06:25
feeling of being a fraud quickly ceased to exist.
06:29
From that experience, I want to tell everyone, especially other
06:34
deaf LGBTQ people, that getting out of your comfort zone
06:39
will give you a new experience. It doesn’t matter where or why.
06:47
It can be at a bowling alley, a restaurant,
06:50
a hike, a house party, or even a circuit party.
06:56
It might not happen your first time, but getting out
06:59
of your comfort zone while being your authentic self will
07:06
reap the rewards. It certainly did for me.

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This post was previously published on YouTube.

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The post “I’m Deaf. I’m Gay. And I Do Belong!” Deaf Gay Student Steps Out of Comfort Zone & Finds Community. [Video] appeared first on The Good Men Project.