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A Blind Eye to People Who Are Deaf: Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco is the latest winner of Tyra Bank’s popular modeling and reality show America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). The show gains rating by not only portraying beautiful models, but also by narrating how many of the contestants had overcome adversity in their lives. In the countless seasons or cycles the audience has witness how contestants, mostly women, have struggled with the pressure of being a model. However, in its closing season, ANTM showed us how diverse struggling could be. ANTM did it by having contestant Nyle DiMarco, its first contestant that is deaf. Nyle came to the show with the typical good looks of a male model and a humble personality that prohibited the audience from ignoring the fact that he was deaf. Nyle is proud of who he is and he forced us to watch, to learn, to listen. Nyle taught us that we do not need to pretend to be blind in front of those who are deaf just because we do not know how to react or communicate with them. And so, episode by episode, we started to learn.

The world of modeling is already a strange dimension to anyone outside of it. The eccentricities of the industry could be alienating to those who do not indulge in fashion. Moreover, the business of modeling has been a safe haven to those who wouldn’t otherwise fit the norm. Take gay men as an example. Many male models are gay and in many occasions their identity is embraced by their colleagues and bosses. However, Nyle opened the eyes of his colleagues by showing how diverse diversity could be. At the same time, he fostered our empathy every time we found ourselves frustrated with him when he could not communicate with his peers and staff and when he felt isolated, misunderstood, and disrespected. Hence, a list of things you should know about people who are deaf in case you would like to continue the journey of understanding, acceptance, and empathy:

  • According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD):
    • About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears;
    • More than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents;
    • Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing;
    • One in eight people in the United States (13 percent, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations;
    • Men are more likely than women to report having hearing loss.
  • Being deaf does not mean that you cannot “talk”.
  • Most people who are deaf do not want to be a “hearing” individual.
  • For many people, being deaf is who they are and they do not want to change their identity.
  • Those who are deaf consider themselves a community regardless of geographical location.
  • People who are deaf are not “dumb” or “less intelligent”.
  • Being deaf shapes a person’s worldview; however, they are much more than the way they communicate.
  • Many community centers teach ASL at no-cost or low-cost.
  • New technology has expanded the way in which people who are deaf connect with the world.
  • The term “deaf” could be interpreted to include individuals who are hard of hearing, late deafened, and deaf-blind.

Learn more about Nyle: https://youtu.be/7IlU06_bM4I

More on ASL: http://www.handspeak.com/word/

References:

  1. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)- http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/Pages/quick.aspx
  2. National Association of the Deaf- http://nad.org/
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¿De Dónde Eres?

Como puertorriqueño, la pregunta “¿de dónde eres?”, la escuché por primera vez en la universidad. Mi contestación y la de mis compañeros variaba según el pueblo adyacente al recinto donde nos encontrábamos. A últimas, casi todos compartíamos la similitud de vivir en el centro o norte de la isla. La contestación no reflejaba tanto los cambios culturales, sino más bien a qué equipo apoyabas en el baloncesto. Sin embargo, como inmigrante en los Estados Unidos, he escuchado la pregunta incontablemente en los últimos 6 años. “¿De dónde soy?”; buena pregunta.

Si mi contestación fuera simplista, contestaría como diría el grupo puertorriqueño de música nacionalista Fiel A La Vega: “Yo sería borincano aunque naciera en la Luna”. Pero esa contestación tan solo sería una porción de la realidad, una percepción incompleta de mi persona y mis influencias formativas. Recientemente escuchaba a la escritora Taiye Selasi hablar sobre la inadecuación de la pregunta “¿de dónde eres?”. La escritora sugiere que no “somos” de un país, sino de los lugares locales en que vivimos y donde forjamos nuestra humanidad. Sus palabras me hicieron pensar. ¡Ni siquiera contestar que crecí en Puerto Rico sería una respuesta adecuada! La respuesta específica sería que crecí mayormente en Morovis. Un pueblo en la montaña, pequeño, donde todos se conocen de alguna forma u otra y donde hasta hace unos años había una sola escuela superior. Un pueblito donde la única sala de emergencias es vigilada por mi tía que es enfermera y donde conocía a la mitad del magisterio porque mi mamá es maestra y mis amigos también tenían padres maestros. Crecí escuchando pájaros y me levanté escuchando gallos. Crecí yendo a una escuela donde las vecinas eran las vacas y los niños se escapaban para correr en el monte. Definitivamente mi experiencia fue diferente a la de los niños que crecieron en el área metropolitana o en la costa. Soy de Morovis. Ahora bien, si tuviera la audacia de generalizar mi identidad como puertorriqueño, excluiría un matiz de contextos que crean la experiencia puertorriqueña.

El puertorriqueño no es solo de Puerto Rico, es también de las Antillas. Las Antillas es esa zona geográfica donde pequeños terruños unen sus diferentes historias, idiomas, colores de piel y tradiciones en una fantástica constelación de individualidad. Soy de las Antillas. A su vez, las Antillas comparten la realidad social del Caribe. El Caribe es típicamente romantizado con música alegre, colores vivos, el hermoso paisaje del mar, cruceros con destino a plena relajación. Pero el Caribe es mucho más que un destino turístico. El Caribe comparte en gran manera la mezcla genética y cultural de nuestros respectivos indígenas con españoles oportunistas que a su vez trajeron africanos para explotar nuestras tierras. Pero eso es tema para otro momento. El Caribe tiene su forma distintiva de ser, de ver el mundo, de ser la llave a la mayoría de los continentes, de sobrevivir tormentas y huracanes, de valorar la vida y el trabajo fuerte. Soy del Caribe.

En cierto momento la vida me dirigió a través de las aguas oceánicas hacia Europa. Viví en España por varios meses y aprendí a moverme, lánguido y pausado, como los locales. Viví entre siglos de historia, conviviendo con niños y familias de otras partes del mundo, visitando países cercanos como Francia e Italia. La ciudad de Toledo alimentó mi imaginación y su ambiente toledano cambió mi forma de ver y entender el mundo. Soy de Toledo. Pero de Toledo, España, la vida me trajo al estado de Georgia en los Estados Unidos. Lugar en el que más recurrentemente oigo la pregunta “¿de dónde eres?”. En un estado donde la mayoría de los inmigrantes Latinos provienen de México o son descendientes de mexicanos, la pregunta tiende a ser un camuflaje para “¿eres mexicano?”. No hay forma de ser preciso en la contestación. Muchas personas asumen diferentes estereotipos o prejuicios basado en la respuesta al emisor. El matiz sociopolítico anclado a la contestación crea una idea mal informada al que pregunta. Al preguntar “¿de dónde eres?” se asume que la persona, ya sea por sus facciones físicas, color de piel, o acento al hablar inglés, proviene de un lugar diferente al que vive. Si se proviene de otro lugar, entonces se asume que la persona no pertenece a ningún otro lugar, que es forastero, que no hay vínculos significativos o formativos con otro lugar que no seas el de origen, que por consiguiente se es diferente. La expectativa simplista de una contestación singular ignoraría que mi Alma mater está aquí en Georgia, que soy el dueño de un condominio a las afueras de la ciudad de Atlanta, que adopté a mi perro en el norte del estado, que aquí he forjado amistades, que soy parte de un grupo de profesionales, que pertenezco. Si mi contestación fuera “soy de Puerto Rico”, todos esos elementos significativos perderían su importancia solo por el afán de encasillarme.

Así que cada vez que oigo la pregunta, introspectivamente digo ¿de dónde soy? Y por mi mente pasan los colores del flamboyán en las montañas moroveñas, el sabor a arroz con gandules de las navidades boricuas, el cálido rose de las aguas caribeñas, el sudor corriendo por mi espalda ante el calor antillano, la imagen de una pintura del Greco colgada en una pared española, el olor al otoño en el sur de los Estados Unidos. ¿De dónde soy? Honestamente aún no sé. Me faltan muchos lugares por visitar, muchas experiencias de las que aprender, muchas tierras en donde echar raíces. Soy de aquí y de allá. Soy del lugar en donde habitan mis recuerdos y del lugar en que pisan mis pies.

La discusión de Taiye Selasi’s “Don’t ask me where I’m from, ask where I’m a local” (No me preguntes de dónde soy, pregunta de dónde soy local) puede ser vista en el siguiente enlace:

http://www.ted.com/talks/taiye_selasi_don_t_ask_where_i_m_from_ask_where_i_m_a_local

Immigration, Marriage Equality, and “Coming Out”

Written in collaboration with Attorney Jessica Oliva-Calderin.

The “coming out” process is a recurrent topic of discussion in the LGBTQ community. Exposing an area of our lives so intrinsic to ourselves could be menacing due to prejudice and stigma. However, what happens when there are three areas of our lives that are hidden in the closet? Many Latinos in the United States face the struggle of what is commonly known as the “triple coming out”. These individuals are often ashamed or scared of revealing that they are lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender, HIV positive, and undocumented. Fortunately, with the overturn of DOMA, undocumented Latinos and Latinas in same-sex loving relationships now have the same legal right to immigration benefits when married as heterosexual couples. Hopefully with this change, the “triple coming out” process will be less excruciating for some.

Following the repeal of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013, the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) has been directed to review immigration visas in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse and to treat same-sex marriages exactly the same as opposite-sex marriages.

Today, the place-of-celebration rule will govern same-sex marriages in exactly the same way that it governs opposite-sex marriages. Meaning that unless this marriage is incestuous, polygamous, or otherwise falls within an exception to the usual rule, the legal validity of a same-sex marriage is determined exclusively by the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage was celebrated. The domicile state’s laws and policies on same-sex marriages will not bear on whether immigration authorities will recognize a marriage as valid.

In this regard, an applicant’s eligibility to petition for a spouse will not be denied as a result of the same-sex nature of the marriage.  Immigration authorities will apply all relevant laws to determine the validity of a same-sex marriage exactly the in the same manner as an opposite-sex marriage. USCIS, however, has made it clear that civil unions or domestic partnerships will not be recognized.

The evidentiary burden is on the applicant seeking the benefit.  However, USCIS understands that because of the nature of a same-sex marriage, some evidence may not be available.  Rather than focus on the evidence that is unavailable, immigration officials will review the evidence that is in the record. The only issue is whether the petitioner met his or her burden of proof (either by a preponderance of the evidence or by clear and convincing evidence) in proving a bona fide marriage relationship. Individuals should not be penalized for failing to produce certain documents that the adjudicator may expect, but rather will be flexible.

The fact that marriage is now an option to solve immigration status helps our Latinos/as open one of the closet’s door more easily. However, opening this door often requires opening the closet’s door of being LGBTQ, and sometimes the closet’s door of being HIV positive to friends and family members. This is not an easy task to do since stigma is still highly present in the conversations of Latino families. These conversations more often require an understanding of acculturation and generational differences among family members. When deciding to conduct these conversations, the partner or couple should consider the following three tips: (1) Talk first with the family member that would be more likely to assimilate the information in a less judgmental way; (2) Try to anticipate the best outcome, worse outcome, and more realistic outcome of the conversation; (3) Decide what place and time is best to disclose the information. Many reasons why these conversations are difficult to have in Latino families is because of language differences when expressing feelings, stereotypes perpetuated for many generations, misinformation about the topics, and sometimes due to religious beliefs. The individual should try to answer questions as honest as possible, thus opening a channel for healthy heart-felt communication.

Getting married is already a stressful and life-changing event in our lives. Adding an HIV positive status or LGBTQ identity does not make it an easier journey for the couple. Optimistically, one day everyone will be able to adopt Elvis Presley’s words “When I get married, it’ll be no secret.”

Luis R. Alvarez works as a psychotherapist and bilingual medical social worker with the HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ, and Latino populations.

Jessica L. Oliva-Calderin is an immigration attorney and managing partner at Calderin & Oliva, PA. See more about Mrs. Oliva-Calderin and her work at http://www.calderinoliva.com/en/.

Children Get Angry Too

She is 5 years old, dressed in a neat and flawless pink dress, saying “please” and “thank you”. She is also helping with household shores, being polite, and smiling while cleaning her room. She has never been angry with mom and dad; nor questioned their decisions. She is also not a typical girl. Most children are attentive, inquisitive, and express a wide range of emotions such as anger. Parents tend to get frustrated when children express anger and are not sure how to address it. Here are 5 tips and facts about anger in children that could assist parents in helping their children manage and express their emotions:

  1. While children can experience a wide variety of emotions like any adult, many of them do not have the wide range of words or vocabulary to match what they are feeling. You could ask your child questions to inquire about what is she or he really feeling. Some children may not be angry, but frustrated, fearful, confused, and/or sad.
  2. Do not dismiss a child’s emotion. Emotions and anger are real even if a parent cannot understand the reason behind them. What seems “logical” or “typical” to an adult, could be experienced differently by a child who is starting to understand the world in his or her own way.
  3. Anger is a protective instinct. Anger originates in our brain and is design to assure our conservation as humans. Children’s brains are still developing; hence, they primarily use the instinctive part of the brain since the rational part is not yet developed fully.
  4. Anger is not a bad emotion. Anger could become a problem if not regulated or utilized as a catharsis for violence. However, anger is necessary and useful to our bodies and minds.
  5. Children learn how to deal with anger by watching their parents. Model healthy communication and express yourself in an assertive way. Your children will mirror your behavior and repeat your words.

Remember to always use honest and open communication with your children. Doing so could help you understand what they are thinking and how they interpret the world around them. After all, Marshall Rosenberg’s words are true: “It’s never what people do that makes us angry; it’s what we tell ourselves about what they did”.

The Multiple Faces of Immigration

The topic of immigration in the social policy arena has always been a big debate. It is such a controversial issue that it is almost a “bad word” that comes out of the mouth of those sitting on the legislative floor. However, immigration also seems to be a popular theme in mainstream media nowadays. We see on the news those who want an immigration reform hold signs in front of the groups that want immediate deportation of “illegal aliens”. These images imprison our society between solely two options that have been colored by the sensationalism of biased reporters. Therefore, immigration is seen as a good-and-evil battle, an illegal-legal argument, a homogeneous issue. Perhaps immigration and those who are part of this movement have diverse stories and reasons that triggered the action of moving from their country of origin. Even though we are only exposed to images of poor, dirty, native-looking immigrants crossing the border, immigration has multiple faces.

For millions of years, people have migrated around the world… for freedom, for economic opportunity… for the pursuit of happiness (Calderin-Oliva, 2014). Currently in the United States of America (USA) for example, “one out of every five children under the age of 18 in the United States is the child of an immigrant and about two of five Hispanics are foreign-born” (De Haymes & Kilty, 2007, p. 104). The USA was built by immigrants who in part moved to the western hemisphere for freedom of religion. This opened the door (or coasts and borders) to others who were seeking different types of freedom. Currently, some of the reasons for immigration respond to personal issues, familial problems, and community discord.

It has been said in the past that many young men from Mexico and other countries in Latin America migrated to the USA as a form of right of passage where those considered “men” would move away to work and provide for their families. While poverty and limitation of financial and human resources in some countries are considerable reasons for immigration, money is not the only trigger for it. To consider this last statement individuals need to understand that immigration not only has the face of Latinos that cross the border, but the faces of families that come from all around the world. The immigration issue is not a matter of “poor illegal Mexicans”, it is a matter of universal freedom.

As a social worker I have worked with immigrants from many countries of origin. These individuals narrate to me their stories, and one time after another, they are never the same. However, sometimes these stories are framed by a common theme: violence. For example, there are people that move out of their country of origin due to domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence arrive daily fleeing from their oppressors. On the other hand, some people migrate due to community violence underscored by drugs and gangs. This violence is hurting those who need us the most, the children. The reality is that,

Three years ago, about 6,800 children were detained by United States immigration authorities and placed in federal custody; this year, as many as 90,000 children are expected to be picked up… a vast majority of child migrants are fleeing not poverty, but violence. As a result, what the United States is seeing on its borders now is not an immigration crisis. It is a refugee crisis. (Nazario, S., 2014).

On the other hand, immigrants are also motivated to scape by hostile political situations. These immigrants seek a country where they are not harassed by police officers, by laws, by criminals supported by lawmakers. Violence is the root of many of our social problems and, therefore, for immigration. However, violence perpetuates a repercussion of other social problems that also provoke exile.

Many immigrants come to the USA for better education or access to education. Others come following a better healthcare system or a more accessible healthcare industry. I have heard of people staying in the USA due to better access to HIV/AIDS care, services, and medications, for example. Furthermore, others escape religious oppression (just like our ancestors) and seek a place that fosters freedom of religion. Others migrate to escape the stigma, prejudice, and hatred targeted towards their sexual orientation or gender identity. Even though there are many more reasons for immigration, these should not be consider as exclusive since an intersectionality of situations are the norm.

The USA seems to have been developing a hostile sentiment towards immigrants based on the ignorance of the abovementioned factors. This sentiment misrepresents the identity of those who arrive in the USA for diverse reasons and with diverse intentions. Entitlement is not a reason I have yet seen in immigrants in my practice as a social worker. Perhaps when we are able to see the multiple faces of immigration we will able to formulate an informed-based opinion and empathy for those who just want a chance for a better life while helping sustain the country’s economy. Our immigrants made the decision of becoming one at the high cost of leaving their children and families behind and at the mercy of faith, death, and illness. Their many faces reflect blood, sweat, hope, trauma, bravery, love, and willingness.

References and Sources:

calderinoliva.com

De Haymes, M., & Kilty, K. M. (2007). Latino population growth, characteristics, and settlement trends: Implications for social work education in a dynamic political climate. Journal of Social Work Education, 43(1), 101-116.

Image retrieved from: http://govbooktalk.gpo.gov/tag/civics/

Ignoran la Diversidad en las Aulas de Puerto Rico

Hace muchos años, muchos, el maestro(a) puertorriqueño tenía la oportunidad de enseñar. Los recursos económicos no eran vastos y las facilidades y planteles escolares no eran óptimos. Sin embargo, el maestro(a) tenía la libertad de proveer el pan de la enseñanza de forma eficiente y aplicada. El magisterio de Puerto Rico ha sido movido de forma fútil fuera de este ensueño. El Departamento de Educación de Puerto Rico cada vez disemina cartas circulares que disminuyen y lastiman la habilidad de los maestros(as) a ejercer su función. Esta función requiere como uno de sus elementos principales el considerar la diversidad de los alumnos y el profesor(a).

Cuando pensamos en diversidad pensamos en diferencias raciales y culturales. Sin embargo, la diversidad va más allá del color de la piel y la forma en que nos vestimos. Esto, por supuesto, lo saben los maestros(as) de Puerto Rico que tienen que hacer planes de enseñanza tomando en cuenta las inteligencias múltiples de sus estudiantes. La diversidad está reflejada en los estilos de aprendizaje individuales, en las materias ofrecidas, en los intereses y capacidades del maestro(a). Sin embargo, el Departamento de Educación de Puerto Rico sigue aumentado el número de estudiantes por salón y disminuyendo el tiempo de capacitación del docente. Más aun, los maestros(as) ahora son requeridos a enseñar otras materias aparte de la que ya enseñan y les apasiona.

La diversidad está siendo ignorada en el proceso de aprendizaje en Puerto Rico y las repercusiones las veremos muy pronto. Ya el maestro(a) no tiene la capacidad de enfocarse en Pepe o ayudarle a Paco con lo que más tiene dificultad debido a su diversidad de aprendizaje. Ya al maestro(a) se le han cortado las alas para poder fomentar la creatividad y la individualidad de los estudiantes. El proceso de desarrollo de nuestros niños y jóvenes está siendo vendido por varios centavos a la mala administración de nuestro gobierno en la isla. La diversidad de nuevos maestros(as) está en peligro de extinción por falta de fondos y los que quedan en el salón, aferrados a los años en que el maestro(a) podía enseñar, se ahogan en un mar de alumnos. Alumnos con potencial de diversidad, pero que son encasillados en la homogeneidad de políticas públicas de aprendizaje. Hoy el maestro(a) no solo saca de su bolsillo para poder enseñar, sino que también reduce sus estándares y pasión para poder cumplir con los del gobierno. La diversidad y la creatividad ya quedaron en los currículos obsoletos, guardados en los archivos que ni siquiera podemos comprar.

estudiantes-somo-el-futuro_cidra

Fotografia recuperada de: http://www.librered.net/?p=33400

We Are All “Conchita”

Have you seen the bearded guy that wears dresses on TV? Who hasn’t!? Conchita Wurst has been all over the news after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The fact that Conchita won shouldn’t be impressive since the girl can really sing. However, most of the news regarding Conchita have been around the fact that she looks “different”. Many may say she is talented, some that she is weird, others that she is… eccentric.

The word eccentric typically appeals to the “weird”, “abnormal”, “strange”, and in some occasions to the “bizarre”.  So yes, maybe we don’t see many bearded ladies walking down the street everyday and it can seem “strange” to some people. However, that is the beauty of diversity; the fact that many of us have distinctive traits not shared with others. Furthermore, Emig (2003) states that “Eccentricity becomes a viable and necessary cultural concept when culture begins to be perceived as having centres and margins”. Centers? Margins? Eming (2003) further explains,

“The concept of eccentricity serves as a field of experimentation, but also tolerance and compromise in times of cultural self-interrogation.  The eccentric is on the margins of the acceptable and conventional, but not outside it. The eccentric is not strange, ill, criminal or perverse, although the borderline towards becoming an excluded ‘Other’ remains close. At the same time what is at the centre of culture at any given time in this concentric model now requires the continual reference to its margin (p. 380).”

So the question is: Who is in the center? Who is in the margin? When someone is displaced into the margins he or she becomes marginalized. Marginalization of individuals who seem “different” has been historically a reality. No, I am not going to start talking about witches or wizards, nor of slaves or indigenous populations. However, we need to address the present marginalization of those who look “eccentric” to society. Those who are physically disabled, dress different, wear different clothes (or none at all), who love someone of their same gender, have a different skin color, who are polyamorous, who talk different. In one way or another, we all fit one or more of these marginalized populations. Hence, how could we establish what is “abnormal” or “bizarre” in our community? 

Every individual should be treated as unique, as eccentric. Prejudice, maltreatment, oppression, and marginalization should not be happening in 2014 when our communities are composed by diversity. At the end of the day we are all eccentric in our very own way. At the end of the day we are all Conchita.

21. Lifeball AIDS HIV Charity Magenta (Red) Carpet

Photo source: http://thunderbird37.com/conchita-wurst-have-a-view/

 

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatry Publisher.

Emig, R. (2003). Eccentricity begins at home: Carlyle’s centrality in Victorian thought. Textual Practice, 17(2), 379. doi:10.1080/0950236032000094890