A Conversation with Lauren Putz
Lauren ‘Ren’ Putz, featured in this video entitled “Confidence: Being Deaf in a Hearing World,” is an eighteen-year-old from outside the Chicago area. She has been deaf since she was four years old due to genetics. In the video, Lauren emphasizes the importance of confidence—a message everyone can appreciate, but especially deaf or hard of hearing individuals that may discover that they don’t quite fit in.
Ren, who is “not totally hearing but not totally deaf,” struggled to find a sense of belonging. In the video, she explains, “I don’t quite fit in with the deaf world…but I also can’t walk around pretending that I can hear everything.”
Coming from a deaf family, Ren has been involved with the Deaf community since she was very young. In an interview with DeafandHoH.com, she explained that although she attended a mainstream school until high school, her mother made sure she had plenty of interaction with other deaf people. “I think it’s incredibly important for deaf kids to hang out with peers and have good deaf role models to look up to—representation matters!” she told us.
While attending a mainstream school, Ren had to learn to advocate for herself and her needs starting at a young age. She frequently had to ask people to speak more loudly and insisted that closed captions be used on any movies they watched. “It was harder to be outspoken about accessibility when I was younger,” she explained, “but as I’ve grown up it’s become easier to make my needs known.” Ren had supportive hearing teachers in school, which helped tremendously.
In the video, Ren talks about how difficult it was to accept herself as a deaf person, but when she finally did, it “is something that brings a lot of good with it.” These days, Ren participates in many activities for deaf people, including joining a deaf theater, volleyball team, and Academic Bowl. In accepting herself, Ren says she found the sense of belonging she had always been looking for.
“Being part of the Deaf community instills a sense of pride in being deaf that I feel like many isolated deaf kids don’t ever feel, which is a shame,” she told DeafandHoH.com. “Surrounding yourself with all these amazing deaf peers and being in that kind of environment encourages people to step up and be proud of who they are and what they do. It allows you to embrace your identity.”