I caught up with Gretchen Hoffer and i’m really excited to share her point of view on GRRRL Live. Before attending GRRRL Live I was completely ignorant to the needs of the deaf community and I have to say, I still have so much to learn. I appreciate Gretchen for being patient with my questions and truly educating me. I’m so thankful that topics like these were addressed during the panel and that we GRRRLS have been given the opportunity to become better humans. – Kelly aka Spunky
“My experience with GRRRL live 2018 was nothing short of amazing. I also attended GL17 and while it, too, was life changing, this year really brought home the idea of sisterhood as well as bringing us all together in such amazing ways. The opportunity we had to build connections with each other as well as the work that we were able to do on ourselves really made this year so much better. When I think back to what I took away from that weekend it is always the moments where I was focusing on what I wanted to improve about myself or an experience in connecting with another Grrrl. I seriously cannot wait for GL19 because I know that it is only going to be bigger and better than each year before it!!
I was brought into GRRRL Live last year and this year as interpreter for one of our fellow Grrrls, who is deaf and uses ASL to communicate. It was exciting to be part of the movement and also to advocate for the deaf community in this way. My husband is deaf and I work with the deaf as a mental health therapist so being able to connect with others in the community, help bring awareness to the community, and support deaf Grrrls has been so amazing.
- Can you please tell me your thoughts on being involved in the panel?
When I first saw this question I immediately clarified to Kelly that I wasn’t actually on the panel and that it was Clara Baldwin and Amber Galloway Gallego who were on the intersectional feminism panel. I was just one of the interpreters for them. Kelly informed me that she wanted to get my perspective on my experience. It took me a while to think about how to answer this question as well as if I even wanted to answer it. The reason for that is because my role was as an interpreter and in that role I am not important. I am not to take away from the Deaf individuals who I am interpreting for because I am their voice and that is it. A great example of this is Clara’s friend and fellow interpreter, Brenna, who was at GRRRL Live and worked with me to interpret for the weekend. When we were given nametags to write our names on and wear she wrote on hers, “The interpreter has no name.” It was the perfect way to symbolize our role as interpreter. In interpreting situations, we are not important and should not be recognized.
Why is it more interesting that the interpreter knows sign than the fact that this is a Deaf person’s language that they use every day? It is just something to think about and ponder. Often it is the interpreter who gets the attention, praise, and notoriety. That is not our purpose and takes away from the reason we are there and also does not then give the attention to the Deaf individual. Both Clara and Amber talked about this during the panel and it is important to recognize and be careful who is getting the attention in these situations. Instead of commending the interpreter on their skills maybe we can communicate to the Deaf individual how beautiful ASL is as a language or another way to appreciate their culture.
- There is a video floating around social media with you teaching Rose Namajunas some important ASL signs. What was that like for you? Can you tell us about the signs you were teaching her?
I first met Rose and Pat last year at GRRRL Live 2017 during a car ride over to the venue. I was immediately aware of their genuineness and how humble they are in their lives as well as how easy it was to just chat with them. Meeting Rose and Pat again this year was such a great experience and in no way did I think that Clara and I would end up teaching Rose and Pat some ASL!
It really all started with some of the other GRRRLs at the VIG lunch asking me questions about ASL in an effort to try to understand the language better. Pat overheard the conversation and had some questions himself about the language, how the hands were used, and it led to me showing him a few signs to help him understand those parts of ASL, specifically the difference between one handed signs and two handed signs because he wanted to understand what you did with your other hand that you weren’t using to fingerspell/sign. I showed then taught him the signs “work” and “mountain.” After the VIG lunch was over Pat was going around showing every how to sign “mountain” and that included coming up to Rose and showing her. That prompted the explanation as to why Pat was running around the room signing “Mountain” to everyone. So I also showed Rose how to sign “work” and “mountain.” Since they are from Colorado I showed them how to sign their home state. Clara saw us signing and taught them how to sign Denver and then I showed them how to say “I live in Denver, Colorado.”
Clara then came over to see Rose and Pat sign and told them that she was going to test them on their ability to remember the signs that they were taught. She tested them on work, mountain, Denver, Colorado, and then added in some new signs that they hadn’t yet been taught. This is where the video started and it shows Clara asking them to sign “Champ,” which they didn’t know, and then “Rose.” The time we had together was so much fun. Both Rose and Pat were so awesome to take the time to learn more about the language and communicate with Clara, who is a huge MMA fan.
While this experience was really cool and amazing, what was also amazing was all the times that different Grrrls came up to me throughout the weekend to ask questions about ASL, Deaf culture, the Deaf community, and how they can be more respectful and understanding of the needs of a Deaf person. Especially after the panel on intersectional feminism, which really opened the eyes to many Grrrls about the struggles that individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing struggle with on a daily basis. It has been such an amazing experience to see so much growth happen not only in myself but from all the Grrrls around me and how much GRRRL Live created a place for us to do this kind of exploration and development.”