Deaf Adoptee Discovered His Hispanic Identity
Treean discusses the life-changing moment when he discovered his Hispanic cultural identity as a Deaf adoptee from Bogota, Colombia
I owe a huge, infinite amount of gratitude to one particular person. Let me explain. I will never forget that precious moment. The moment changed my life in the most profound and incredible way. Every afternoon at my Deaf school, we had after school activities from 3:00 – 5:00 pm. Activities include sports, activities, organizations, clubs and things like that. I will never forget the exact details of what happened during after school on that day. In my mind, I can still visualize everything clearly.
No Sense of Identity as Deaf Hispanic Adoptee
Remembering the scene: there was a long hall outside the cafeteria. On the left side was the science department, then the administrative offices. The hall had steps that went down and then back up again, where the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms were on either side of the hall, and an elevator on one side. The administrative and principal’s offices were on the left. I remember going down to my locker, where I kept my backpack, books, pens, etc.
That day, I had just finished with my classes and was turning the combination lock to my locker. The person came up, tapped me on my shoulder and asked me what my name was. I responded with my name, then the person asked me where I had been born. I replied, Bogota, Colombia. The person looked at me knowingly – I remember that look so well – and said to me, “You are Hispanic” (it was the late 1990’s at that time). I didn’t understand what the word “Hispanic” meant because I had no sense of my identity then, so I asked for clarification.
Deaf Hispanic Students Organization
That person then led me to the Hispanic Students Organization. My mouth fell open as I looked around the room with growing awareness and understanding. My adoptive parents, who were hearing and white, had never taught me one single thing about my culture and history while I was growing up. I thought I acted like a white person because of all the white people at my school – I thought I was just like them. Not until my sophomore year at the Deaf school did I first learn the word “Hispanic” – and my world turned upside-down. All of a sudden, I realized that I had experienced cultural deprivation, language deprivation, sleep deprivation and information deprivation. So that moment hit me like a ton of bricks – and from there, my self-esteem related to my cultural identity grew. I was immensely proud to be Hispanic, South American, Colombian and Bogotan.
Eye-Opening Cultural Identity Moment
Joining the Hispanic Students Organization filled a huge void in my life. It was like I was starving for knowledge about my identity and culture. I was hungry to learn everything I could. Even today, however, I haven’t met my real mother. I hope one day I will. If you are a Deaf adoptee who has met your real (biological) parents, please do share your story with me.
Video: Treean is sitting against a wall with partial view of framed artwork above him. He is wearing a hat and glasses and signing his story.