Video Transcript: Deaf talents discuss inequality and ASL

(Music plays)

- Hi! You're finally joining our first Chef Sesma's dinner with all these Deaf talents here! Now let's see what we have here. This is bruschetta.

- Looks good!

- We have bread, ricotta cheese to spread on, and toppings.

- This is my favorite.

- I don't know if you guys like garlic? It's never too much garlic for me! You guys don't mind my breath tonight?

ALL: No.

- It's important there will be no vampires.

- And then we have baked herbs meatballs. It's all with different herbs, the Italian way, and onions.

- Ooh more meatballs!

- Wow!

- I want to talk about something and ask for your opinions. Since you all are Deaf talent yourselves. I did think about this and it's interesting. On Google, you know when you type something and it automatically gives you a list of suggestions ready. There is a list with the phrase "Can deaf people..." And I am surprised that there are questions like, "Can Deaf people drive?" "Can Deaf people hear?" and "Can Deaf people make love?" One question did confuse me. "Can Deaf people cook?"

- I love cooking!

- Of course Deaf people can cook. I think we start off with basics. Like cooking my favorite food, ramen.

- Ramen?

- That's so easy!

- You sign RAMEN?

- Oh, that's a sign for RAMEN?

- That's how I sign RAMEN...

- Ooh, I thought it was this sign for RAMEN.

- Oh, RAMEN!

- Well, I thought it was RAMEN.

- I wonder if hearing people can talk while eating?

- That's our Deaf gain! YES! Deaf people! Deaf power!

- Let me say something. Ya'll know growing up in a black family, while in black culture, it's different. When my mama gotta do all the cooking, and you don't eat the food... Then you will get slapped to finish up the food. Gotta respect mama's food from now on.

- For me, my mom fed me and took care of me all the way. But one thing that bothered me... Until the age of sixteen, my mom told me that when I get older, it's important to find a wife who can cook well for me. And then I realized that it is typical in Latino culture. Men don't do cooking, they work while women do the cooking. So... Recently I called my mother and said, You gotta teach me cooking now.

- I do wonder if these two are factors. The visual and culture. The visual, we understand better through visual things. And culture, I have so many memories of cooking with my grandmother. It's how we bonded, through cooking. Communication wasn't needed much, because we just cooked. Although my grandma does not measure her cooking at all. She just grabs a handful and throws it in there

- all improvised.

- I do not cook. I confess. I don't cook, I know. But... I can still make eggs, Put hot dog in there... I can make a sandwich. I can make rice. All basic survival foods.

- I would've cooked at home, but I can't help it. I still eat at McDonald's. Well, I like their French fries. French fries... Did you know that fries taste so good because they cook it in beef oil?

- No way! Yeah! I just found out because my sister is a vegan. She normally eat fries, so then she found out that it was cooked in beef oil! That's why the fries tasted so good! I forbid McDonald's. (Music plays) Who wants a refill?

- I'm glad you're refilling because of this one question, "Can Deaf people drink?"

- Did you guys see that recent viral controversy about a professor from Gallaudet University named MJ Bienvenu. She talks about how it is frustrating that the community nowadays they change some ASL signs to something that doesn't follow the rules.

- You know how ASL doesn't require much lexicalized fingerspelling. MJ caught some signs without letters like CULTURE, RESTAURANT to without an R. So MJ is bothered and wondering why these must change when we already have our signs. What MJ commented had me agreeing. It's exactly what I've been thinking all along. I found myself a little conflicted with new signs like RESTAURANT, CULTURE, and FAMILY. I thought maybe it was just me. I used SEE and thought I had to change my signs. So when MJ talked about it, it amazed me, because it takes someone like MJ, with her full knowledge on ASL, to start this discussion. So I want to applaud her for that. With all the different perspectives, I think it's important now that all people can recognize the true definition of ASL evolving, yet staying true to ASL.

- For me, in my experience I grew up using SEE in mainstream schools. But when I entered CSUN, I transitioned to ASL. When I established Pah! Studios, its mission statement says, "We thrive to expose Deaf culture through media using ASL." I was wrong

- I should not have said that, because ASL is not used all over the world. I've traveled internationally with Deafies in Drag and I've seen International Signs. I've worked with people that do not use ASL and yet I understood them. I feel like it's more of sign language itself. ASL is one, among many others that I wanted to recognize, not just ASL.

- Yes, I felt ASL rules were based on white people's perspectives. Many rules are based from Europe

-centric ideas, and I feel that black communities don't fit in with ASL rules, and I'm damn sure that the Latin communities don't fit in with ASL rules. I felt that this discussion is based on ASL rules and how flexible it is, but really, ASL rules are f**ked up to begin with. Being white

-based, the ASL rules are flawed. It needs to be thrown out, and it needs to be restructured and revisited to fit in with today's society. End white supremacy.

- I've recently discussed this with Harold Foxx, Melissa, and Karla, and we discussed the entertainment industry. I felt that the industry is still white dominated. There are so little people of color that get a chance to show their skills. I felt disgusted, but it doesn't just apply to hearing talents, but the Deaf community too.

- I remembered you mentioned it felt like, people of color in drag in general have a hard time getting opportunities. Deaf and hard


-hearing drag queens can be easy, because they are unique, but, in fact, it isn't.

- It's really interesting that you've said that drags... Well, from my experience, it is really interesting because when I act for a new video, I wore a blonde wig and I almost looked like a white woman. A white character. That video gained a high view count. But when I dressed like a latin character, the view count was low. So, I decided to test the theory by dressing as a white person again, That video view count went up high again. It seems like being white gains more attention than being latin.

- Wow.

- Did you know that for white people, they get hired and get a job. But for people of color, they will wait, and ask people for their opinion about if they're good. Why? That is one thing I'm tired of.

- I understand your perspective, it's the same concept as white cop pulling over a black man and asking for ID, license, registration, and whatever the bullsh*t is, then they investigate while on intercom, but for white people who get pulled over, the police will let them go. It's the same concept.

- I'm curious, have you ever experienced this yourself?

- Oh sh*t. Yes, I have experienced that before. When I got pulled over, they made me stand up, put my hands up and asked me questions. I don't have no sh*t on me and I don't carry any sh*t. I am an innocent, an innocent man in the world. But they got me stood up with my hands up while they were frisking me and asking me all questions for a good goddamn 30 minutes. Then when it was all done, they said I am good to go. I was like WTF. I was like

- my record is clean, with all the questions they asked me, I felt like I was already in prison. I felt like I needed to hire a black lawyer to clear up my case.

- If that situation happened, what happens if you go out in drag?

- Being in drag, I still don't feel comfortable driving or walking in public. The world still views drag queens as taboo. Most people think it is wrong for a man to dress as a woman. Being in drag, I try to educate everyone that I do drag as an art form of expression.

- RuPaul once said, "Every one is born naked, and the rest is drag." This is drag. This is drag. So it is not just an art form, we all are doing drag too.

- Another thing I've experienced in drag, men actually have grabbed my ass without permission. Yes. It is a really awful experience. I felt violated. It was an invasion of my privacy. And it was done without my permission. I am still struggling.

- Wow. It happened to you in drag, but you have experienced what we women go through on a daily basis.

- That's why I respect you.

- Yeah... That.

- When I first started doing drag, that was where men approached and touched me everywhere as if I was a toy. The experience opened my eyes about my two oldest sisters that I grew up with. I've seen many men give them free things and expect something in return. That is when I learnt to have a lot of respect for women. I now understand they went through a lot. That is why women stood up and I support that. I've seen a lot of transphobia. Here, people say trans are wrong. I wonder if people are more accepting of trans people being in drag?

- In drag culture, there is a controversy about drag queens accepting trans doing drag. You know what I mean? For example, if I was born a man doing drag, people would be okay with it. But if I had an operation and transitioned into a woman and do drag, they will doubt.

- You know MichFest, a festival about women? A few years ago was the 40th annual festival. That was the last festival. Because it became a political controversy, women struggled to accept trans into MichFest Festival because it was woman based, and every woman had to be biological. I learned what it meant to be a woman at a very late age, I grew up without awareness of being a woman until a late age. MichFest gave me that, but they stopped because of trans. Why? Woman's definition today is not about being biological. It is about expressing. Why so much hate?

- Wow. Tonight was filled with good topics and discussion with Deaf talents here. We need more of that! Remember, there will be more dinner parties to come. Thank you for watching. Have a good night! (Music plays)

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