Transcript of 1st Session between Charles Balis, M.D., Ms. Kelly Wiseling, and Ms. Ann Maxwell, Wednesday, July 29, 1998 at 2:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Ms. Wiseling?
Ms. Wiseling: Yes, that's me. It's nice to meet you.
Dr. Balis: Is this your mother?
Ms. Maxwell: No, I'm Kelly's sign language interpreter.
Ms. Wiseling: I don't need an interpreter. The Deaf Center insisted she come along, but I don't need her help.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Maxwell: This situation is highly irregular. We, at the California Deaf and Blind Services Center, offer counselors who are specially trained to help people with disabilities, such as hearing impairment.
Ms. Wiseling: Why can't you say "deaf?" It's a four-letter word, but it's not a bad word, like fuck or shit.
Dr. Balis: Would you like to sit down? I'm sure we can find a way to settle this.
Ms. Wiseling: It's already settled. I'm not going to a deaf counselor or a counselor who signs. I have a hearing aid, I can read lips. I understand you just fine.
Dr. Balis: I'm sure you do.
Ms. Wiseling: I do not appreciate it when you talk down to me, Doctor Balis. I may be deaf, but I am not stupid.
Ms. Maxwell: Kelly, please be nice. This nice man is trying to help you.
Dr. Balis: I didn't mean to sound condescending, Ms. Wiseling.
Ms. Wiseling: That's okay.
Dr. Balis: May I call you Kelly?
Ms. Wiseling: Sure, Chuck.
Dr. Balis: All right, Ms. Wiseling, then.
Ms. Wiseling: All right, Doctor Balis, then.
Dr. Balis: What brings you here, Ms. Wiseling?
Ms. Maxwell: Kelly had an incident at work...
Ms. Wiseling: What am I mute, too? I'm a deaf and dumb? That's news to me. I didn't know I couldn't talk.
Dr. Balis: Ms. Wiseling, would you like to tell me what happened?
Ms. Wiseling: I've been working as a programmer at SII for a few months. The California Deaf Center put me there as part of their job placement program.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Wiseling: You see? Well, good for you, you must not be visually-impaired then.
Ms. Maxwell: Kelly! You're being very rude!
Dr. Balis: That's all right, Ms. Maxwell. I think Ms. Wiseling was making a joke.
Ms. Wiseling: Hey, you're quick. You must not be learning-disabled either.
Dr. Balis: What happened at work?
Ms. Wiseling: This guy, Scott, was standing around, talking to the other men at work. He didn't know that by reading lips, I can understand what people say even from across the room.
Dr. Balis: What did Scott say?
Ms. Wiseling: He and those other apes were making fun of the way I talk. He said, "I wonder what they sound like in bed?" He made these disgusting noises.
Dr. Balis: Are you sure they were talking about you?
Ms. Wiseling: I'm the only deaf person there! I went up to him and told him that he would never know what it was like to fuck a deaf woman, because we have better tastes than to date losers like him and it was his loss. And do you know what he said? He said, "Who said anything about dating? I just want to fuck one!" He exaggerated his mouth like I couldn't understand him. What does he think, that I haven't heard that a million times before? I have a hearing aid, you know! I can hear when people make fun of me.
Dr. Balis: What did you do?
Ms. Wiseling: I told him if he even thought about it, I would kick his ass. Then I pushed him hard enough so he fell back.
Dr. Balis: Did anyone else witness this incident?
Ms. Maxwell: The entire department...
Ms. Wiseling: Were you there? Were you? I didn't think so. I was mad, so I got loud. A lot of people saw what happened, including Scott's boss.
Dr. Balis: I see. What happened after that?
Ms. Wiseling: I went to the bathroom to cool off. I locked myself in the stall, sat on the toilet, and cried like a little kid. When I calmed down, I went back to my desk. Scott's boss called me into his office. Scott was in there, too. Scott told me he was sorry and that it would never happen again. He didn't even mean it! He only said it because his boss made him. I told both of them that it better not happen again. I can easily find a lawyer who would love to sue this company for discrimination. I bet the ACLU would kill for a case like this: a deaf woman being sexually harassed at her work place. When I said that, Scott's boss turned pale. Then I walked out of there and went back to my desk. I turned off my hearing aid, so there would be no distractions, and I went back to work.
Dr. Balis: This must have been very upsetting for you.
Ms. Wiseling: Like I said, this happened before. A lot of hearing men make jokes like that about deaf women. I should get used to it, right?
Dr. Balis: Not necessarily. This sort of humor is offensive and grossly inappropriate, especially in a work setting.
Ms. Wiseling: But things like that will always happen. People will always make fun of me, of the way I talk. Believe it or not, my speech is actually pretty good. Most deaf people sound a lot worse than I do. It's like talking to a walrus.
Dr. Balis: I find you very easy to understand. You have very good communication skills.
Ms. Wiseling: For a deaf person, right?
Dr. Balis: That's not what I said.
Ms. Wiseling: But that's what you meant, right? I'm a pretty good speaker for a deaf person.
Dr. Balis: No, that's not what I meant. I meant your communication skills were excellent for anyone. You seem to speak directly to the heart of the matter and express yourself clearly. But if you want to focus only on the way that you sound when you talk, it's true that you speak in a manner characteristic of someone who is deaf. But you're perfectly intelligible, and I'm having no problem understanding you.
Ms. Wiseling: All right.
Dr. Balis: Ms. Wiseling, why did this incident bring you to my office?
Ms. Maxwell: Kelly wants to function independently in the hearing world...
Ms. Wiseling: Do you mind? He was talking to me.
Dr. Balis: Please continue, Ms. Wiseling.
Ms. Wiseling: Okay. The reason I came here is that I need to stop being so sensitive about stuff like that. I can't go crying like a baby every time someone makes fun of me. I'm an adult, I'm twenty-five, and I've been deaf almost all my life. It's time for me to get over it. I want you to help me with that.
Dr. Balis: Ms. Wiseling, while I understand your concerns, your reaction in this situation was understandable. Most people would get angry given this situation...
Ms. Wiseling: Watching four or five hours of television a night is normal, too. But it's not good, is it, Doctor?
Dr. Balis: How do you think you should have handled the situation?
Ms. Wiseling: I want to be like that woman on the Howard Stern show.
Dr. Balis: Pardon?
Ms. Wiseling: There is a black woman on the Howard Stern show, Robin Quivers. You are probably thinking, "How can a deaf person listen to a radio show?"
Dr. Balis: I...
Ms. Wiseling: I watch the televised version on the E! Channel.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Why do you want to be like this woman from the show?
Ms. Wiseling: Robin. She is the only woman on the show. Howard and his buddies always make fun of her. Once they even made jokes about her being molested by her father. But she laughs along with them and gives it right back to them. She can insult them just as much as they insult her.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Do you see this woman as some sort of role model?
Ms. Wiseling: Yes, I do. I read her book, and it was very inspiring. She understands what it means to be a strong person. A strong person doesn't run to the bathroom crying every time someone makes a joke about her. When you do that, you let them win. The way you fight back is by giving it right back to them.
Dr. Balis: It sounds like you did just that when you confronted Scott and his boss.
Ms. Wiseling: But I sat on the toilet and cried like a little kid afterwards. And I knew they could tell I did when I came back--my face was red.
Dr. Balis: It's all right to be emotional. There is nothing wrong with crying if you get upset.
Ms. Wiseling: I don't want to let them get me that upset. Crying is for kids. I don't want people to feel sorry for me.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Wiseling: After the incident, when I was working, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Tom, the guy from the Help Desk. He saw the whole thing. I heard Scott tried to steal his girlfriend or something like that. Anyway, he hates Scott, too. Tom said Scott is a big ape. Tom made these monkey-gestures, scratching under his arms, making faces. I knew he was trying to make me feel better. I had to laugh.
Dr. Balis: It sounds like your co-workers empathized with you.
Ms. Wiseling: Empathize? Hmm.
Dr. Balis: It means...
Ms. Wiseling: I know what it means, I had a 710 verbal SAT score. I have a very good vocabulary, Doctor. I don't need you to tell me what "empathize" means. There are some words I don't use because they are harder for me to say. I can't use lots of fifty-dollar words like you do, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid, okay?
Dr. Balis: All right.
Ms. Wiseling: Anyway, I told Tom I thought Scott was an asshole. I showed him and some of the other programmers how to make the sign. It's like this. Now when Scott walks by, we all make the sign of an asshole when he's not looking. Asshole in ASL
Dr. Balis: I see. Where did you work before coming to SII?
Ms. Wiseling: I worked for DeafTech, a computer company that makes educational software for deaf people. I was hired at DeafTech right out of Gallaudet. I really wanted to get out of there, it was a dead-end job.
Dr. Balis: Why?
Ms. Wiseling: It's very limited. Deaf people are a small minority. There are more opportunities in the hearing world.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. May I ask why you didn't want to see a therapist recommended by the Center?
Ms. Wiseling: You're the therapist with CalaCare HMO, right?
Dr. Balis: Yes, that's correct.
Ms. Wiseling: And I'm an SII employee. My therapy sessions with you are covered by CalaCare. I don't want to deal with the paperwork and expense of a different therapist. I don't need a deaf therapist or one who knows American Sign Language. I'm here talking with you, and we understand each other, don't we?
Dr. Balis: Yes, that's certainly true.
Ms. Wiseling: Good. Our fifty-minute-hour is up. I'll see you again next week at the same time.
Dr. Balis: I'll look forward to it, Ms. Wiseling. Thank you for coming, Ms. Maxwell.
Ms. Maxwell: Thank you, Doctor.
Ms. Wiseling: So long, Chuckles. Don't work too hard.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Ms. Wiseling.
Ms. Maxwell: Doctor Balis, can I have a word with you now that Kelly left?
Dr. Balis: Certainly. How may I help you?
Ms. Maxwell: Kelly's a very bright girl. She's actually quite exceptional. She's at a stage in her life where she wants so much to be independent, but she's not well-suited for that kind of life.
Dr. Balis: I understand your concern, Ms. Maxwell.
Ms. Maxwell: Kelly would be better off with a counselor who has experience working with the hearing-impaired. I'm sure you are an excellent psychiatrist, Doctor Balis, but hearing-impaired people have special needs that you might not be aware of.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Ms. Maxwell: We--the counseling staff at the Deaf Center--went along with this to humor her. We hoped Kelly would get it out of her system. I'm hoping you will help support us in this endeavor.
Dr. Balis: I think Ms. Wiseling is capable of making her own decisions.
Ms. Maxwell: I don't want her to cut off her ties with the Center. It's important for a young, hearing-impaired woman to have a network of support. Of course she can have friends and associates in the hearing world, but she needs the support of the deaf community as well.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Ms. Wiseling can still use the services of the Center, even if she does become one of my patients.
Ms. Maxwell: I don't want her to be too isolated. This is a big city, and there are many predators and unbalanced people out there. A young disabled girl isn't safe all alone.
Dr. Balis: I understand your position, Ms. Maxwell.
Ms. Maxwell: Good...
Dr. Balis: But the decision is Kelly's.
Ms. Maxwell: I see. Well, thank you, Doctor Balis.
Dr. Balis: You're welcome. Goodbye.
Ms. Maxwell: Goodbye.
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