Twin (my identical twin brother, Alex) and I were both born Deaf. We have never worn hearing aids as our deafness was diagnosed as too severe for them to offer any benefit. Now, before I proceed further into this post, I should add here that deafness is a condition that is found in both our maternal and paternal families. We have first cousins who are Deaf on both sides of our family tree and my favorite aunt (mother’s sister) is Deaf as well.
It has often baffled not only myself but Twin (that’s what we call one another instead of using our names) as well the reaction that we get from hearing people when they discover or realize that we are both Deaf bare practitioners (naturist/nudist). It’s as though the two aspects are totally incompatible and completely alien. It would be easier for them to accept that we were from Mars than we are who we are.
We both recall the first time that we encountered a hearing man who couldn’t believe that we were both clothes-free and Deaf. We were home for the summer after our first year of secondary school. We knew there was a riverside spot near our home where men would go and skinny-dip and sunbathe nude. We went there shortly after our return home.
We met these older (maybe late twenties, early thirties) guys who watched us using sign language with one another and they approached us. We both carried a notebook and pen with us so that hearing people who wanted to communicate with us could write notes to us.
They were curious. They asked if we were aware that this was a section of the riverside frequented by nude men. He passed the notebook back to Twin and I. Upon reading his question, the both of us broke out into laughter.
The strangers looked at one another. Clueless as to what we thought was so funny.
Twin, the more mischievous one, wrote back to him: “Yes. That’s why we’re standing here and talking to you. The both of you are naked and we are, too!”
They wrote back that they were nudists. They preferred being naked whenever possible.
Twin answered: “Cool. We are the same. That’s why we’re here and not wearing any clothes.”
The men again looked at each other and exchanged some words (their mouths moved). They were obviously confused about something Twin wrote.
They hastily scrawled a return note asking how could we possibly be Deaf nudists?
“Because we’re both Deaf and we’re not wearing any clothes,” Twin replied.
We continued to visit that particular area of the riverfront several times a week that summer. Most of the men who joined us there were friendly and welcoming. They didn’t mind writing notes and towards the end of that summer, one did write to us that none of them ever considered the possibility that Deaf people could even comprehend what being a “nudist” meant.
I guess they thought that all Deaf people wore their clothing perpetually.
The following summer, Twin and I returned to the same place along the waterfront. Some of the men that we’d met the previous summer were there along with a number of new faces. These newer naturists/nudists appeared to be closer to our age than the men from the previous year, but they were friendly and welcoming.
Our initial visit that second summer both of us noticed that this one man kept staring at us and smiling. We smiled back at him and one of us waved. He waved back and motioned for us to come sit with him. We walked over to where he sat on his towel and sat down.
As we were approaching him, Twin signed to me that, “he’s really very handsome.” That previous scholastic year we had both acknowledged to one another that we were attracted to our own gender and had started to figure out all that entailed.
Once Twin’s “object of affection” realized that we were Deaf, Twin pulled out his notebook and wrote him a note introducing us. He immediately replied with his name (Zack) and that he was a student at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University). The campus was near the riverfront park where we were all bare together. He also wrote that he was a member of the GLSA at his university.
Twin asked about the “GLSA” initials. Neither of us were familiar with what it meant.
Gay and lesbian student alliance was the reply. Twin looked at me and grinned. It seems as though his new “heart-throb” just might be a “member of the club” also. I knew by the twinkle in his eye that he was already imagining getting to know this man…Zack, better!
Before they had even shared their first kiss, Zack had two questions that he wanted to ask us. Twin answered yes and passed to him the notebook. Knowing that “three’s company,” I left to take a skinny-dip in the river.
On our bike-ride back home later that afternoon, I asked what questions Zack wanted answered. Twin laughed and explained: “First, how could we be both Deaf and gay.” Easy, I retorted, we are attracted to guys. We both laughed.
Twin continued, “Second, he wanted to know how we could be Deaf and nudists.” I stopped pedaling at that point and offered, didn’t we already answer that one last summer. We did, Twin then added that Zack wasn’t there (the river) last summer!
The most recent instance involving hearing incredulity at Deaf nakedness happened not to Twin and I but to Aaron and myself last summer on a weekend trip to Sandy Hook, a clothing optional beach in northern New Jersey. We arrived early on a Thursday morning and were able to get a prime location near the water and in a space that was relatively level and not too close to foot traffic.
At this point I remind everyone reading here that Aaron, my spouse, is hearing but is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). He’d better be, we’ve been together now for nine years!
We were leisurely sitting on our beach towel, absorbing the sunshine (after lathering ourselves in sunscreen) and watching people walk by when Aaron overheard two guys walking past. One commented to the other that “I never thought that Deaf people would want to be naked. That’s like a double handicap.” He immediately interrupted my observation on the two men coming out of the water and relayed the remark to me.
I asked Aaron to point out the guys who made the comment to me. He did and I saw right away that they were both as bare as he and I. If they can both be nude, then why can’t Deaf people?
Almost all of us are nude when we step into the bathtub or shower. We usually are naked several other times during the course of the day. Some of us are bare by choice because we prefer the freedom of not wearing any clothes. There is little to distinguish a person’s preference for being naked with their ability to hear. There is no relationship between enjoying being clothes-free and sound.
Please don’t try to convince me otherwise. I can’t hear you. I’m Deaf and naked and also gay.