David Cowan is a 55 years old gay Freelance Deaf Interpreter who lives by a lake in Atlanta, Georgia (USA). He enjoys boating, swimming, jet and waterskiing, also driving his old classic convertible and spending time with Deaf and Hearing friends and families. David has become a web star when his rendition of Beyoncé's “Get Me Bodied”, at the Atlanta Pride, went viral.
1) What does it mean to you to be Deaf?
It means a lot to me. Growing up as a Deaf person, I did not have the opportunity to know the history and the language and the culture until I attended Gallaudet University. Thanks to the people at Gallaudet University who taught me the value as a Deaf person. It's who I am. Hearing people are trying to fix me to become someone that they want to see in me. It's so wrong. Deaf people know and understand what it is like to be Deaf. I'm very proud as a Deaf man, Deaf father, Deaf son, Deaf Gay, Deaf friend and Deaf member.
2) When did you first gain access to ASL?
I learned ASL for the first time at Gallaudet University in 1983.
3) Has the American Sign Language been officially recognized in your State?
Yes, American Sign Language was officially recognized as a language in 1960, throughout United States. Dr. William Stokoe, a well known hearing researcher on linguistics, with help of two Gallaudet colleagues, received a funding to do a research to verify that ASL is a language. It happened in 1960. And it became official in 1965. Nowadays, all colleges and universities are providing American Sign Language classes as a foreign language requirement.
4) How did you become an American Sign Language Interpreter?
In 1984, there was a training called "Reverse Sign Communication" (RSC certification). It allows the Deaf students to learn to become an Interpreter. I completed the training and became certified as RSC. Then later it created a new certification called "Certified Deaf Interpreter" (CDI). Another trainings and hours of experience to learn to become a Certified Deaf Interpreter. Unfortunately, as of this moment, the CDI tests are on a hold for a new revision by Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. I'm now labeled as "Deaf Interpreter". Hopefully as soon as the CDI tests become available, I will be taking the test.
5) How would you describe your experience at Gallaudet University?
I'm so blessed to be selected as a candidate to become a student at Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University is a mecca for everyone. I am honored to witness the changes of Gallaudet College to become Gallaudet University. And also to be part of the historical moment of "Deaf President Now" at Gallaudet University. Gallaudet University has taught me to become a stronger person as a Deaf person. I have strong passion for language accessibility. No more language deprivation. No more cultural appropriation.
6) Do you mostly work as a self-employed professional or also as an employee?
Yes. I am both self-employed and employee of businesses or organizations. I worked as Executive Director for Georgia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. And worked as a Coordinator of Georgia Interpreting Services Network. I hire and train hearing interpreters to become professional interpreters. Now I work as a freelance interpreter. Providing a language accessibility in courthouses, police stations, hospitals, doctor's visits, mental health services, and community events.
7) Which is your preferred field of work?
Freelance interpreter. It allows me to interpret anywhere. Flexible schedules. And it allows me to reach out to the Deaf Community.
8) Which organizations in the U.S. offer interpreting services to the Deaf as a public service? (hospitals, cities, towns, universities, TV)
Due to Americans With Disabilities Act law, it requires that ALL service providers/organizations/businesses to provide interpreting services. It passed in 1991. It doesn't matter which organizations as long as there's a language accessibility out there.
9) Does this sole occupation earn you a living?
Yes. It does provide me to earn a living. With the number of years of experience, number of workshop/trainings that will determine how much money you can earn for a living.
10) Have you ever had the opportunity to work with hearing interpreters?
Yes. I can't do my work as an interpreter without a team of hearing interpreters. Hearing interpreters work for us.
11) Based on your own debut, have you noticed any significant development in the professional interpreters to date?
Based on my own debut, it's nothing new that hearing people are fascinating and wanted to videotape me doing the interpreting. Development of professional interpreters are just the same. It just that "Deaf Interpreter" is still somewhat a new profession to other countries. The profession has been in America since 1970's.
12) Interpreter and Performer: two sides of one coin?
I am an interpreter. I am not a Performer. There are times when there are difficult of translation in music from English to ASL. For example, "Slap my Booty". There is no sign language for the word, "Booty". So I had to put in action to help Deaf people understand what "booty" means. Sometimes, the music itself can cause to lose the translation so I had to create a body language to preserve the translation.
13) Did it ever cross your mind that your interpretation of Beyoncé "Get me Bodied" would reach over a million viewings?
Never cross my mind. It just happened that a hearing person was videotaping my interpreting. The person did not turn on the sounds. It caused a "guessing game" of hearing people trying to figure out which "songs" that I am interpreting. That's the reason why it garnished to million viewings.
14) When and how did you start your interpreting collaboration with the LGBTQ community?
I started interpreting at Atlanta Gay Pride in the year of 2000. Been interpreting ever since. Developing networking and relationship with hearing LGBTQ people which helps me to maintain the language accessibility at the Pride events every year. It's the ADA law (Americans With Disabilities Act) that requires all public events to be accessible to all walks of life.
15) Are there, in your opinion, common aspects in both Deaf and LGBTQ communities?
There is a parallel between Deaf Community and LGBTQ Community. We both share the same struggles: hearing people try to fix us with cochlear implants and straight people try to fix LGBTQ with conversion therapy. Anything that doesn't follow their cultural rules must be changed. LGBTQ Community has been amazing to Deaf people, because they understand the language and cultural appropriation. I do not have any research or statistics to support my theory. It seems that there is a large percentage of LGBTQ in the Deaf Community. I've never met any CODAs who are straight. Most of them are LGBTQ.
16) What could your motto be?
LOVE yourself first before you can LOVE someone else!
In questo articolo si parla di musica, cultura, politica, USA, asl, gay, sordità, servizi, comunità, lgbt, performer, corpo, identità, esperienza, barriere, articolo, lingua dei segni, Michele Peretti, Gallaudet, interpretariato, passion