It’s often said that communication is the key to a relationship.
But what if your partner is deaf?
That is the case for Craig Maslin.
The 22-year-old ‘gay geek’ joined the dating app Growlr shortly after coming out of his first relationship. After a week of chatting to ‘pic-swapping whores,’ he started talking to 23-year-old student Glen Fellows.
‘His Growlr name was "deaf guy,"’ Craig told Gay Star News. ‘At the time I thought, "Is he joking? Is he really deaf?"’
Craig said they ‘talked and talked and talked… and we just clicked.’ And when he found out that Glen was actually deaf, he was already looking past it.
‘The first day I spoke to Glen was 14 February 2013. I went to meet him the very next day,’ he said.
‘I was so nervous because I just started speaking to this guy yesterday and I was thinking, "How will we communicate if things go further?"’
Despite advice to the contrary from his ex, Craig met Glen at a shopping center in Birmingham, England.
Craig said it first hit him that he was dating a deaf guy was when they walked past a street drummer and Glen texted him to say he could feel the vibrations from the sound.
‘I don’t know why but that is when it really impacted me,’ he said. ‘It also made me very excited.’
The pair found a cafe and communicated with each other by writing on pieces of paper, which Craig has kept.
Two years on and they’re still together.
Craig said in the early stages of their relationship, they would text each other as Glen was embarrassed of his voice and he didn’t know any sign language. But over time, they began to develop their own way of communicating.
‘A few people have asked how does it work, how do we communicate and things like that,’ Craig said.
‘He does read lips but not brilliantly, so I learned the BSL [British Sign Language] alphabet and I usually say the word and, at the same time, sign the letter it begins with. Glen understands me well when I do that.
‘But I’ve been with him long enough that I can use my hands to sign anything and not use my voice or lips and Glen understands me just fine. I guess the communication just grew with us.’
But Craig admitted that they do face challenges hearing couples don’t.
‘Let’s face it, everyone would know there must be some difficulties with any deaf/hearing relationship,’ he said.
Craig said there are occasions when he’s lying in bed and Glen speaks to him that he will momentarily forget he’s deaf and starts talking back.
‘But it’s too late. Glen can’t see me so he doesn’t know I’m actually talking at all,’ he said.
And it’s hard for Glen to keep up when they’re with his friends, even if Craig tries to sign what everyone is saying.
‘I do try my best and he knows that. But things can get carried away talking with a group of friends and sometimes it is like Glen is left out,’ he said. ‘Same situation when I’m with his friends.’
Glen said dating can be embarrassing for deaf guys as some people are afraid to even talk to them.
He said gay deaf guys don’t mind if their boyfriend is deaf or not as long as they can understand each other. But Glen added that it’s hard for deaf people to speak well enough for a hearing person to understand, and their speaking abilities vary greatly.
‘Deaf people are not brilliant at speaking English as their first language is their sign language,’ he said.
What’s Glen’s advice for others in gay/hearing relationships?
‘Just have patience with each other and actually take the time to learn the way you both talk,’ he said.
‘Get past that and you will have a great relationship, just like anyone else.’
Contact Craig on Twitter if you have any questions about gay hearing/deaf relationships.