NOTE: This Video Story is told in American Sign Language, so you might need to turn on the Closed Captions at the bottom right of the video.
NOTE: Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of more than ten books, including Assembly Required: Notes from a Deaf Gay Life (RID Press), Men with Their Hands: A Novel (Rebel Satori Press/Queer Mojo), Eyes of Desire 2: A Deaf GLBT Reader (Handtype Press), and Mute: Poems (forthcoming from A Midsummer Night’s Press). He is also a playwright and filmmaker. His web site is www.raymondluczak.com and his YouTube channel is DeafWoof.
Also, when I emailed Raymond asking if he wanted to do a Video Story, he agreed and just so happened to be visiting New York that weekend. There was only one problem…I don’t know sign language and we were meeting the next day. It took a lot of people to come together in a very short amount of time to make it work and I just wanted to thank them for pulling through.
My friend David Hawkins (He’s From Easley, SC) hooked me up with his friend, Leah Pilon, who met with us the day of the filming so Raymond and I could communicate easier. Leah then hooked me up with her friend, Anthony Adamo, who’s a professional ASL instructor and interpreter, who spent half his Saturday sitting with me and translating the video sentence-by-sentence. Thanks to all of them, and to Raymond for taking the time to meet with us.
One last note, I was just recently directed to a great resource for Deaf Gay coming out stories. You can watch and read them at the Deaf Queer Resource Center.
Interested in being in a Video Story? Just let me know and we’ll set up a time and place to meet.
Watch all the IFD Video Stories here.
For the transcript, Continue Reading.
Hi, my name is Raymond Luczak, and this is my sign name. And I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I want to tell you a story about how I discovered what the word and concept of Deaf Gay means. Back when I was about 16 or 17, I’ve always known I was gay growing up, but I thought I was the only Deaf Gay person in the world, like I was the only one out there. I knew that there were other deaf people out there–now also keep in mind, one more thing before I continue…growing up, I was not allowed to learn sign language. It was prohibited. So that added to the sense of searching for where I fit in, and that feeling of being the only Deaf Gay person out there.
Anyway, when I was 16 or 17, after high school one day, there was a bookstore around the corner, near the high school, and up a little ways was a college. So I went into the bookstore and I knew they had…you know how bookstores are where you come in and there’s a sales clerk here and then you have rows of magazines, and in the back there’s the porn section. So I would just look back there, being curious, because in there, you know, back then, things were covered in plastic, more discreet. Okay, so there’s that. It just so happened that day that I noticed the cover of a magazine called The Advocate. On the cover there was a man posing and next to him were the words, ‘Deaf Gays.’ Wow, there it was! That was me. At that time, I felt uneasy since the magazine was near the cashier, I couldn’t buy it, possibly because I was under age. Anyway, at the time I didn’t realize that this was just a news magazine, not porn. And it would be just there. So, I took the risk and went ahead and bought the magazine. And then what happened was, I noticed this guy looking at me, he looked to be about in his 20s, he was in college obviously. He just kept looking over at me. I felt scared, that he was going to tell on me, maybe he was an undercover cop or something. So anyway, I just kept my cool, went up to the front of the store to buy the magazine. And then I was afraid the woman was going to ask to check my ID, but she didn’t ask. So I got by and I put it away. So I went out of the store and started walking and I could sense the guy following me out, so I turned around and said, ‘What do you want?’ And the guy got scared and took off. I was trying to understand why. Now I see, but back then I didn’t understand the concept of making eye contact. Also, unfortunately, no one took the time to explain to me that you shouldn’t do that in a small town. Something so insignificant like approaching someone was such a big deal. But unfortunately, no one explained to me how I’m supposed to approach other gay people. It’s unfortunate. So obviously he wanted to communicate with me and I felt bad. I was scared.
Anyway, I got the magazine, went home and after the family wasn’t around, I read it in privacy. And there was this big article about the Deaf Gay community mostly focusing on a dancer by the name of Sam Edwards. It was about how he was the life of the party, and the many different Deaf Gay people he socialized with and some of the friends who came into his social circle. Suddenly I realized, I am not the only one!
Some day I decided, years later, to move to New York City after I graduated from Gallaudet University. When I arrived at Gallaudet University two years later, after I read the article, two years later I went to Gallaudet. I met many Deaf Gay people. Lesbians, bi, the whole spectrum. Socializing with them, that was my realization that I wasn’t the only one. After I graduated Gallaudet, I moved to New York. Ironically, that man, Sam Edwards, had died and we had just missed each other, almost 9 months after I moved to New York. …As if one era ended and a new one emerged. I’m not saying that I personally represent the start of that era, but what I’m saying is that there were two generations. The old Deaf Gay community which was before and then the one after. So I guess if there’s anything more, let me know.