The new hybrid: When hearing and deaf families mix… 

I very recently got married and it’s still sinking in. The fact that I have a new surname and a husband is something that I find myself giggling at like a child. It’s all a bit grown up for my liking despite the fact that I am a thirty year old working mother. 

Regarding the name change, I am remaining a “Withey” for all work purposes but officially and socially I’m a “Richards.”

The downside is that as a deaf person who’s never liked pronouncing S or Ch sounds, this name has both… But the upside is that as its a more commonly recognised name its easier for me to roll off when people ask for my surname. 

Withers, Whitley, Witchy – no. Richards? Yes. Easily understood and easily spelt. 
The wedding itself was a dream though we had a few concerns from the start; how would we seat the guests, how would everyone feel equally involved and more importantly how would we make sure everyone was happy?

Around 70% of our wedding guests were deaf. And the majority of hearing guests were family who had probably never seen me signing amongst my deaf friends and were certainly not used to being around so many sign language users. 

Our wedding planner had told us they had never had a deaf couple and so had to be informed about interpreters, seating placements and so on. 

We booked two of our favourite interpreters (who were also brothers and from a deaf family) to interpret the whole day and our photographer was also hearing and fluent in sign language. 

It was odd seeing my Dad give his speech and having an interpreter sign beside him. But at least it meant I didn’t miss a thing he said. 

Because music is so important to me we hired a video DJ who had the music videos on a large screen as the songs played, with lyrics in full view. This was an absolute delight for me and my friends who can’t always make a song out and usually exclaim “what is it? What is it??” till we figure it out. 

For our first dance we booked sign singer Martyn Kenyon to perform for us and our guests were mesmerised by how he signed five songs in a row absolutely flawlessly. With loud music, visible lyrics, a sign singer, I was completely in my element. 

But what was soooo nice for me was having all the different parts of my life come together. My buddies who are deaf, hearing, my work friends, dancing friends, hearing relatives, deaf family (on the Richards side) all in one room. 

At one point in the evening I saw a hearing relative of mine trying to sign to my new husband and I smiled in awe. This person had never signed before even though I had spent countless Christmasses in their company, sitting quietly and being ignored. But that was only because they hadn’t realised how much I couldn’t hear. 

Contrastingly, I had some deaf friends surprised at how musical I am, as I signed along to countless songs. “Are you going to stay on the dancefloor all night?!” They asked. Oh yes, I replied. And I did. 😉 it’s no exaggeration to say that 90% of our deaf guests stayed firmly fixed around the bar all night… 

So in a funny roundabout way our wedding was the chance for some people to really get to know us and see us at our most comfortable.  Perhaps me more so than my other half as he’s not the social chameleon I tend to be, he’s well and truly a big D with generations of deaf family. 

Anyhow, looking back we really did our utmost to make sure everyone felt involved and included. The result was that I didn’t feel so much an insecure Inbetweener, drifting between two worlds but instead a Hybrid – someone who inhabits two cultures or two skill sets and is actually very fortunate to do so.

So I’m really excited for future gatherings now. Especially Christmas (which is just round the corner, eek!) I don’t need to play Hearing Beckie then Deaf Rebecca when I’m with hearing or deaf friends… I’m a grown up now. I’m a Mrs. *emits silent scream*

So excuse me if I don’t sit quietly and nod along this Christmas, instead I’ll be right where the action is. Possibly mispronouncing my s’s and stumbling over the Ch in my new name but enjoying myself nonetheless. And – no doubt – enjoying a sign song or two to the classic 80’s Christmas tunes. You just can’t beat ’em. 

Wishing all of the LC readers a wonderful Christmas. Whether you’re a big D, little d, Inbetweener or Hybrid; may the holidays be a happy time for you. 

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