Terry Galloway’s memoir ‘Mean Little Deaf Queer’ was first published by Beacon Press in 2009. Since then the author has given numerous readings throughout the United States. DaDaFest brought her to the Bluecoat in Liverpool, where Cate Jacobs saw her tell auto-biographical stories of mental breakdown, queer identity, and a life in a silent, quirky world populated by unforgettable characters.
Terry Galloway has a unique warmth and presence that is tangible as soon as she enters a room. Even before the performance begins she is actively connecting with her audience and the people around her.
It is a solo performance, but as Terry takes the stage there are two spotlights and she invites Leanne Morris, the signer, to introduce herself - this seemingly small act of acknowledgement creates a subtle thread of connection between the two women and for the rest of the performance they appear to move and speak with a natural synchronicity.
Terry is an enchanting storyteller who possesses that rare gift of engaging all of herself, with all of you, the listener. She doesn’t just open her mouth, she opens her life and lets you in with a resounding welcome. She leads you off down the paths of her experience like the Pied Piper and you have no choice but to follow.
She read to us her from her book, Mean Little Deaf Queer - choosing her favourite chapter ‘The performance of drowning’ - an autobiographical account of her experience as a disabled child, growing up in the States, being sent to summer camp which she refers to as ‘Camp Crip!’
Although she writes as an adult reflecting on a child’s experience, she manages to capture the feelings and emotions of a child with startling accuracy, so that her unique experience, touches upon the universal experience of being, not just a disabled child, but a child per se.
Woven into the narrative are many of the uncomfortable themes of growing up, not least of all the yearning to be ‘normal’ and an emerging awareness of sexuality. Her keen observation, raw honesty and twists of humour, at times leave you squirming uncomfortably in your seat, because right now she could be telling your story, with all its bumps, knocks and hiccups of shame. She only leaves you there long enough to ponder: how do you navigate through a world that isn’t kind or mapped by your frame of reference. And what exactly is normal and who decides?
It was a mainly female audience and when the Q&A session begins, she selflessly offers the spotlight, like a place at her fireside, creating an intimacy that allows others to tell their stories and ask their questions. She is gentle in her response but challenging with it; demanding that we shift the boundaries of our perceptions of ‘normal’ to encompass ‘disability’ more meaningfully. She encourages us all to be visible in our differences and give up the misery of trying to be normal!
Later that evening I meet her again at a drinks reception. I watch her greet people she only met for the first time earlier that day, with the affection of an old friend. And that’s her magic. She makes you feel special and important. She doesn’t act or perform her warmth, it just is, and her authenticity radiates out and draws you in. She shares her stories with generosity and listens to yours with equal measure. She is a truly skilled communicator.
My daughter, who is with me, remarks that Terry Galloway is a phenomenal woman and I can only agree, that indeed, she is!
Mean Little Deaf Queer is available from Amazon
Publisher: Beacon Press
To find out more about Terry Galloway go to www.meanlittledeafqueer.com/