According to Webster’s dictionary, diversity can be defined as a condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.
I always find it interesting that society as a whole places value on the diversity of race and culture, but often forget diversity of ability.
I am composed differently from others; from my family, friends and my UC baseball teammates. I have many blessings that are obvious; my rugged good looks, my athletic build, my engaging smile. What is not apparent at first glance is the fact that I am diverse- I have broken ears.
Earlier I prefaced diversity of ability- My doctor sees my hearing impairment as a disability and I am involved in disability services with the University. This is in direct conflict with my parents, who instilled in me from the time I was small that I am different, I am clearly not disabled. Do I have more challenges than my classmates and teammates? You bet. Do I have a condition that sets me apart or makes me diverse from my classmates and team mates? Indeed.
I have tried to pretend I’m not diverse. I won’t wear an amplification system; I nod my head when I don’t hear the directions/question. I pretend I’m not intelligent instead of admitting I didn’t hear the teacher when I get a poor grade.
Outwardly I project that I don’t care that I am different; I laugh when people talk slow and move their hands in weird gestures or say “What, are you deaf?!” Inwardly I am not laughing. I am crying, stomping my feet and screaming.
I am a champion for the outwardly diverse. I am the warrior breaking down the barriers for kids with special needs, the enforcer standing for the intimidated and the bullied. I do dance routines at fund raisers for adaptive playground equipment and give baseball clinics to youth with mental health issues. I am a tall, Caucasian Christian male with blue eyes from a working class suburban family with college educated parents, two brothers and a dog. Society thinks I am a typical teenage college athlete, with typical clothes and typical dreams- not diverse in culture or race
In reality I am more diverse than anyone thinks or I am willing to admit. There is no fraternity for the hearing impaired and I haven’t seen many parades or telephone marathons to celebrate the deaf. Hearing aids are not covered by health insurance and my parents didn’t have a support group. I avoid attention and minimize my struggle to fit in. I sign autographs for kids with a smile.
I am my own champion, knocking down my own barriers leading my own parade.
I am the poster boy for the un-diverse diverse, the silent forgotten.