When studying Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University, I was horrified to find out that Alexander Graham Bell actually published a paper titled “Memoir Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race,” in which he basically suggested that deaf people should not marry each other.
Bell wrote: “Those who believe as I do, that the production of a defective race of human beings would be a great calamity to the world, will examine carefully the causes that lead to the intermarriage of the deaf with the object of applying a remedy.” His suggestions on how to stop marriages amongst deaf people were: “(1) Determine the causes that promotes intermarriages among the deaf and dumb; and (2) remove them.” *
Bell even went as far as saying this to deaf audience in 1891: “I am sure that there is no one among the deaf who desires to have his affliction handed down to his children” and he “promoted marriage with a hearing partner so that the undesirable ‘blood is diluted’ by ‘admixture with normal blood’” (“The History of Special Education” by Margret Winzer). I cannot imagine how livid the deaf community must have been.
Of course, the angered deaf community and advocates placed so much pressure and criticism on Bell that Bell decided to have Dr. Edward Allen Fay do a study on deaf marriages. As a result, Fay found out that about 10% of deaf parents had deaf children (“The History of Special Education” by Margret Winzer). That rendered Bell’s arguments to be invalid. Still, Bell had already done so much irreversible damages to the deaf community. (Not to mention his stance on supporting Oralism, on focusing on destroying ASL, deaf clubs, deaf schools, and many more)
I cannot imagine what it was like for deaf people at that time period. I am sure that many of deaf people’s family relatives were persuaded by Bell’s words against deaf marriages. As a result, deaf people suffered pressures from their family relatives to NOT marry their deaf partner, to marry a hearing partner instead. It is possible that, thanks to Bell, some deaf people were prevented from marrying (deaf) ones they truly do love. That is why my heart goes out to supporting same-sex marriages nowadays. Nobody deserves to be denied from marrying the ones they truly love. Nobody.