We invite you to an interview with Kinga Sankowska and Lukasz Krysa, sexologists who participated in the IV Sexon Conference - about sexuality and parenting of people with disabilities
[Małgorzata Urbańska]: We are today at the Avalon Foundation Conference. Kinga Sankowska and Łukasz Krysa are with me. Please tell us, why are we here? What has happened, That the audience became heavily involved in your meeting?
[Kinga Sankowska]: Good morning. Yes, indeed, the audience — we had that impression, That it was very interested in in our speech. The speech was quite unusual, because it was bilingual. I spoke in Polish, while my colleague Lukasz in Polish sign language. It turns out that the topics of sexuality of deaf people is of great interest also for the hearing world. We are glad that there was such a cool energy on stage.
[Małgorzata]: Well, precisely, because the topic of your speech was “Let’s sign about sex!” („Pomigajmy o seksie”). Luke, a question for you. Hearers often complain, That it’s basically hard to to talk about sex, sexuality, because either in the Polish language we have words related to the medical view, or, in turn, more vulgar ones. And Polish sign language seems to to be such a body language, visual-spatial. Are deaf people really easier to talk about sex? Is it more a matter of language, or of the culture in Poland in general?
[Łukasz Krysa]: Good question. It’s actually hard to answer, but there are different groups. Can these words be boldly shown in sign language? Well different. There is a group of people who are not familiar with this vocabulary, they look for signs, sometimes they spell and such people I help. Sometimes it is the case that people know the words, their meaning, but they don’t know what sign sign they should use. There are people who sign, for example, But they are the vulgar versions, so I have to teach them. More or less analogous to hearing people. For example, we have a word, but we don’t have a sign language sign, so I have to explain what it’s about. Many times there have been various borrowings from other countries, From abroad, we borrowed sign characters, and now I see that there are more and more new words, so I have to start working in that direction. And that’s it.
[Małgorzata]: Kinga, you work both with both hearing and deaf people. From your perspective, is there any difference in communication, telling, problems, That you notice between hearing and deaf people?
[Kinga]: Yes, of course. These discussions or consultations look completely different. I always have to be sure, during a sexological consultation, That I have indeed correctly understood my client, That we are talking about the same thing. Why? Because I am approached by people not only from Warsaw, but also from other places. In Poland, there is also the problem of regionalization of Polish sign language. A little bit different signs we use in Warsaw, a little different in the south of the country, still different in the north. Therefore, this confidence, that we are well connected and that we are talking about the same topic and that I understand one side well and that in a good way I am understood — that’s where the difference is.
In sexological consultations With hearing people I don’t think about this part anymore think about it that much. I can use some different words. It is known that for me Polish sign language is a foreign language, also somewhere I can get confused with something, That’s why it’s so important that I have to be sure that I am understood correctly.
[Małgorzata]: The theme of the Conference is, among other things “corporeality,” among other things. I would like you to explain, what exactly does it consist of? What does this concept mean? And what kind of reactions do you encounter, When you conduct workshops, Do you meet in any wider group at conferences? And how is this trend of of body-positivity is being received? And here I may say what I’m getting at, Because Kinga at the Deaf Development Center (Centrum Rozwoju Głuchych), conducted workshops for teenage girls and that’s where we promoted this element of body positivity, and there were negative comments, That it is promoting and ugliness and obesity, That it is something negative. Are we sure we understand correctly, Whether the audience is aware, What is this corporeality is and what it means?
[Kinga]: Then maybe I’ll start. Indeed, there were such comments at the occasion of these workshops on body positivity, Where I had already explained at that time, That with this aspect comes primarily acceptance. We cannot predetermine that a different appearance or dissimilarity, is something bad. So is the deaf community, for us, for the hearing – we often isolate ourselves from this environment, because we don’t know them. When we hear different sounds, a group of deaf people, different sounds when they speak, well we are a little bit scared, we’re afraid, so with that we just we wall ourselves off from this social group. Body-positivity is first and foremost acceptance. Let’s accept ourselves and others. Let’s not judge.
[Łukasz]: Just like Kinga said, I wanted to make a little supplement, to add from myself. Mostly the main problem is the impact on people, That is, if one is a body-positive, is aware of his body, he accepts himself. Well, that’s what it’s all about.
[Kinga]: I will still add such a point like just translating different terms from Polish into Polish sign language. I bet if we would have in sign language say “body-positive”, then most of the deaf probably wouldn’t understand what was going on. On the other hand, when we talk more broadly on the subject, as we are doing now, answering you, Margaret, to this question, of course the deaf will understand what this is all about.
[Małgorzata]: Luke, during your speech, you talked about this, That deaf people face with such seclusion, you talked about loneliness, About the fact that often people hearing, during a conversation, speak: “Oh, never mind, I’ll tell you later.” What do you think the impact is on this kind of building of the very acceptance that you were talking about, That kind of sense of identity, of being at peace with yourself, When by such behavior of the environment, we have the feeling of being someone unimportant, Who is not even worth reporting on, what the immediate family is discussing?
[Łukasz]: Long question. Good. I have to think. I feel… I don’t really blame my parents. They have the right not to know. Times used to be a little different. There was not some kind of promotion or theme Polish sign language, How to establish correlations with deaf people. There were no such trends. I have already learned to accept myself. I searched, I found my world. Yes, I say I have found my world. In fact, parents -. I can say that I am very grateful to them, That I was able to develop myself because of this. And I don’t want to say “get away”. No! It was I myself who decided to to move to Warsaw, to change my life a little bit. My parents, let’s say, guided me in life. Thanks to my parents’ help, I became independent, I was able to make this decision. Yes, well I think that’s it.
[Kinga]: I’m happy to add in terms of just this identity. Deaf people have – from research at least that’s what it appears — huge problems precisely with their sense of identity, to which world they actually belong. Is it the world of the deaf, or is it the world of the hearing, Or is it somewhere in between? Still another situation is with people who are hard of hearing. Still another situation with people deaf who are implanted, or my hearing aids. These are very complex issues and certainly an important topic for further research.
[Małgorzata]: Well, that’s exactly what it seems to me, that we often forget about it, how diverse the environment is. Today you also talked a lot of people Deaf people – about capitalized spelling, That is, about those people who identify with the Deaf culture, who know Polish sign language. But we also have, as you mentioned, many people who are deaf, because of that little letter “g”, (from the Polish “głuchy”=”deaf”) Or people who are hard of hearing, Which are somewhere basically in between these worlds — Too deaf for hearing, and too hearing for the deaf. You are also specialists, brilliantly educated, So I have this question for you: Whether the knowledge of sexuality of deaf people, you acquire more from experience, from observation, From practice, from being in the environment? Is it really the level of science in Poland provides you with such data, such information, That would make your work easier? However, is this largely based on your experience and knowledge? I’m asking about such strictly scientific questions.
[Kinga]: Me, I’ll admit it frankly, That I gain my knowledge from experience and from contacts with deaf people. Unfortunately, there is virtually no research, when it comes to issues related to sexuality. This research is extremely necessary, so that we can just all sorts of solutions implement on the basis of just research, Based on some hard data, and not based on our thoughts only. This is something that clearly needs to be improve in our country.
[Łukasz]: Yes, yes. I can add — I agree with Kinga. What she said about. It may be that we have experience in observation, and it could be that we are wrong. It’s true that we need to start doing research in this area. That’s right.
[Małgorzata]: Lukasz, you’re a Polish sign language teacher, in addition to being a sexologist. I saw the reactions of the audience, How interested they were at the time when you were showing different signs Polish Sign Language related to sexuality. Are actually people hearing people interested in this topic? Do you often encounter questions: “And how does one sign this?” “And how does one sign that?”?
[Łukasz]: Often yes, the hearers ask: “And how do you sign it? And this is interesting for us.” For example, there are vulgar words, vulgarisms, Words related to sex, but vulgar when it comes to sexuality. They often ask how to show it in sign language. But in general, hearing people are not are interested in sign language. If it’s related to vulgarities, then they are more interested. I had such a situation at sign language course Or in a philology class, Where individuals already knew sign language, But they are curious about sign signs related to sex. I say, “That’s something we’ll study later learn, now let’s focus on the basics.” – there were situations like this.
[Małgorzata]: Thank you very much. I think that today’s speech gave a greater dose of knowledge and built some awareness about the availability of knowledge, needs of deaf people, also on behalf of the Deaf World Foundation we thank you very much. Well, and we hope to see you during the next speeches. Thank you very much.
The 4th Sexon Conference was held in Warsaw on October 15-16. Speakers at the Conference included sexologists who use Polish Sign Language: Kinga Sankowska and Łukasz Krysa. They were interviewed by Małgorzata Urbańska of the Deaf World Foundation. For and from the sign language in the movie, the interpreter was Tomasz Smakowski. The Conference was organized by the Avalon Foundation. The entire Conference, with Polish Sign Language translation, is available on YouTube.
Viewers of Deaf World will surely remember Kinga Sankowska from the video in which she talks about why she started learning sign language and from the Deaf Development Center, where she taught classes on sexuality. Those who haven’t yet seen the aforementioned video are strongly encouraged to watch it.