AGING DEAF LESBIANS: A STUDY OF STIGMATIZATION, MARGINALIZATION, RESISTANCE AND RESILIENCE FROM 1945 TO 2020
Drawing from the theoretical frameworks of crip theory, stigma theory and intersectionality, I explore lesbian Deaf women’s experiences in the United States from 1945 to 2020. This is a span that includes several civil rights milestones affecting Deaf lesbians. Relevant events, such as, the second wave feminist movement, the publication of the first American Sign Language dictionary, the recognition of ASL as a legitimate language, and the activism of the post-Stonewall riots in 1969, which was a major turning point of the gay rights movement, all served to fuel the resistance by, and resilience of, Deaf lesbians. My research focuses on the lived experiences of lesbian women who are Deaf, how they learned the social norms of their time related to gender, sexuality, language, race, class, and age, as well as their strategic adaptation to, and resistance of, a societally-imposed definition of “normalcy” within any of these stigmatized identities. The questions guiding this research ask how did these women learn about stigmatization and/or marginalization across their lifespans, and how did they adapt to and resist normative, socially-constructed notions of identity as women who are Deaf lesbians? This dissertation presents and analyzes narrative histories from Deaf lesbian women born between 1937 and 1960 in the United States. I argue that Deaf lesbian women’s multidimensional identities are shaped by pivotal incidents and experiences of language, gender, sexuality, religion, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, political atmosphere, and other, as yet unidentified factors. Specifically, the findings from this group of women demonstrate how various spaces and systems (family space, Deaf space, education, lesbian space, hearing space, women space, employment, and racially minoritized space) informed their notions of normalcy and deviance, and how they negotiated their interactions with others and within different contexts through acts of resistance and acceptance in their everyday lives.