Studies show that roughly 10% of the deaf population is also gay. Lucas explains the social rejection that came with being both, and how he managed to embrace who he is.
Talk to us about growing up as a deaf boy.
I was born deaf and I have to say, it wasn’t easy growing up in a hearing environment. I felt different from everyone and had absolutely no role models to look up to. I was brought up in a village in France where my sister and I were probably the only two deaf people. She’s older than me, and I cannot say that she’s a role model because we grew up in different environments. I went to school for deaf people and she went to a regular school. It was reassuring to communicate with other kids in sign language because at home my family didn’t know sign language, but things got more complicated when I went to an ordinary high school. People started judging me, they didn’t want to talk to me and they didn’t want to be friends because I was deaf or just because my voice was strange to them. I felt very rejected at that time and life was rough but it taught me to better surround myself with loving and caring people.
How do you communicate with people who aren’t deaf?
I have a couple of friends who aren’t deaf and who know sign language but those are rare. If I meet someone I’m lucky because I can still vocalize, so it’s easy for me to communicate with people who aren’t deaf. It’s a lot of work for me because I need to focus, read their lips, it requires a lot of effort but then I can answer back so that we can have a conversation.
Is enough done to include deaf people in society?
No, unfortunately not. We are 3 million deaf people in France and yet the real issue is that it’s difficult to get interpreters or subtitles, so it excludes deaf people from society. Obviously we want to have access to knowledge like everyone else, we need it just like anyone else. So we would really appreciate to be more included. I’m aware that it’s expensive to pay for interpreters for TV shows or news for example but it would really help us feel like we belong a bit more in society.
What are the usual reactions when people don’t know you’re deaf?
Often when I meet someone, we start chatting but then for some odd reason, the person starts talking back to me in English. So I ask them why they’re speaking to me in English. People think I’m foreign because my voice is different. I just tell them: “no, it’s because I’m deaf, and this is what my voice sounds like”. So then they’re confused and sometimes even answer back in English again… So then I laugh and tell them “I’m French, speak to me in French or I won’t understand”. It’s funny because I’ve had this situation in a couple of different languages.
When did you realize you were gay?
I was probably 16 or 17 when I kissed a boy for the first time. Before that, I thought I was straight because of what society teaches us. But I found a guy cute and gradually there was some kind of sexual attraction and I thought, why not. So I kissed him and it felt 100% right. At that point I thought I may still be bisexual but today I know I don’t feel any attraction for girls so I can confirm that I am gay.
How is it like to live as a deaf gay man in today’s society?
First, my deaf identity was difficult to accept. Growing up as a teenager, I was often rejected and so I had trouble accepting my deafness. And since most of the world’s population is not deaf and that deaf people are not very visible, it got really tough and I had a hard time understanding who I really was. But when I met other deaf kids, I slowly started to accept myself and embrace my ‘difference’.
Then, similarly, it was challenging to accept myself as a gay man because there is also of lack of visibility and so I really felt like I wasn’t normal. But once I moved to Paris, four years ago, I finally connected with people who were like me - deaf and gay, but also gay and hearing. It was like finding a new family. We had lived similar experiences, we could talk about everything and for the first time I felt like I belonged and that there was nothing wrong with both my identities.
How would you describe your dating life?
Non-existent? (laughs) I’ve always been single. I’ve never really had a boyfriend actually.
To be honest, once I start meeting guys, it’s never easy because I’m deaf. Some guys don’t understand my situation, because sometimes I try to speak and so they don’t understand if I’m really deaf or not. For some reason people often think that deaf people are also mute but in fact some of us can enunciate quite clearly. Or I’ve had times when it’s really noisy, some guys will talk to me in the ear and I have to forcefully back them off and say ‘no no, i’m actually deaf’. I try to lipread what they’re saying and all this just confuses them. What usually happens is that they just run away… It’s a lame reaction but I guess it is what it is, they’re probably just scared or don’t know how to react.
Do you use dating apps?
Yes I do, but unfortunately guys usually block me the second I tell them I’m deaf or sometimes they make fun of me and ask me dumb questions, so you can imagine that it’s not always easy. However sometimes I do meet people who don’t care that I’m deaf and are actually curious and interested in knowing more about it or even want to learn sign language.
When it comes to serious relationships, that’s a whole other issue, because it depends if we have a connection. I don’t always get rejected because I’m deaf sometimes it’s just a lack of chemistry. For example, if I meet someone who is deaf and gay, I can easily connect with them. But the issue is that the deaf gay community is very small, the gay community itself is rather small, so then I don’t want to end up dating the friend of the friend, of the friend, leading to rumors and issues.. So that’s why deaf gay people tend not to date each other that much.
Would you have a relationship with someone who isn’t deaf?
Yes of course I could have a relationship with someone who isn’t deaf.
However, sometimes it gets difficult because in the long run I can’t be reading his lips all the time so they’ll have to learn some sign language to communicate but they usually don’t really want to put that much effort. I understand it requires much patience and sometimes we even have to write things to communicate and they get lazy after a while so I have to say relationships are a tricky thing for me.
When and why did you decide to create a Youtube channel?
I created my YouTube channel 5 years ago, because there were no deaf YouTubers in France. My goal was to show that you could be deaf, make videos on YouTube and show that we exist, we’re here. A while ago there were no subtitles on YouTube but when they finally started including them it was a way for me to encourage people to read and look past the fact that I was deaf and create a bridge between those who hear and those who don’t.
At the same time, I wanted deaf people to feel like they could identify with each other through comments that are written, that they could do many things, and stop listening to people telling them what that they can and cannot do.
Recently I have also focused my videos on shedding more light on the LGBT community. Now that I’m more comfortable being myself, I wanted to show that you could be gay and deaf at the same time, and that you were just as much a part of the community as everyone else.
Is there much gay and deaf representation in media?
Gay and deaf representation in the media does not really exist, there is none here in France. I strive to give more visibility to the community, hence my YouTube channel, but there is no visibility.
The only person I can think of is Nyle DiMarco, an American who really is a role model because he’s a true activist when it comes to the deaf community, and also an activist for queer issues. Other than him, I don’t know of anyone else in the media.
I’ve been living in Paris for the past four years and have met a lot of deaf gay people who have done a lot for the community too, they’re in associations like Act Up, or AIDES, so these people are very important and helpful to me, but they’re not visible at all in the media.
Do you feel included in the LGBT community?
Yes and no. It’s strange because I see that a lot of people are excluded even within the LGBT community, and I don’t understand that. What I hope is that in the future, there will be a real diversity, that we will really all be together, and that people, whatever their disability or rather ‘different ability’, will feel included.
Today, what I see is that there are people, gay or not, who still look down on disabled people. The LGBT community already gets a lot of rejection because of what people believe is the norm, so if we also do that to disabled people and we’re not together and united, it’s a shame. I think we should really be more united, and I think that will happen in the future especially if we, deaf LGBTs, become more visible.
What would you say to deaf gay people who are struggling with either or both identities?
I would say that’s it not easy and that I’ve been through it. But being gay and deaf is something you have to accept because it’s your life, that’s the way it is. Sure, a lot of people make it hard for us to accept ourselves, a lot of people try to correct us, so we need to put that aside and dig deep inside.
I know that it’s not always easy but you learn to become proud of both identities. Reach out to people who can help you, and that’s what I want through my channel. I try to be a role model for those who are struggling and my message to them is that you are not alone. We are many out there it’s just a matter of reaching out and sharing your story. I can’t really give people who are deaf and gay advice because it heavily depends on their background and context and I know it can be hard but one thing I do know is that there’s always a way.