Artist Mia Sanchez, Who Is Deaf, Uses Her Work to Help Her Connect With Others

"Art is my preferred method of communication," she says.

Mia Sanchez, an artist and mother, grew up navigating two different communities. As a Deaf person, she learned sign language and became friends with others in the Deaf community. But the communication methods she learned in that world didn't translate to the one she lived in at home.

"I have a large family and I am the only Deaf person in my family while everyone else is Hearing," Sanchez tells Health in the video above. This sometimes left her feeling isolated at home. "I could see my family—watching them do things and feeling awkward as to not knowing exactly what was going on," she recalls. "I felt like an outcast."

Sanchez also struggled to learn when and how she wanted to use her voice. "When I started learning sign language, I would speak and sign at the same time. My Deaf friends would tease me and say that I was 'Hearing.' And I said, 'I'm not trying to be 'Hearing.'"

As a result, Sanchez began "turning her voice off" to gain acceptance in the Deaf community, she explains in her video—part of Dotdash Meredith's See/Her "Multiplicity" series, which follows various women at different stages in life and explores who they feel they must be in order to fit into mainstream culture.

Another difficult decision Sanchez had to make was which sign language to teach her daughters, Yui and Liya. "Here in America, during segregation, in our Deaf community we were also segregated—the White Deaf community had more accessibility to resources, language, exposure, and formal educations when the Black Deaf communities received less," Sanchez says. "So I taught my children American Sign Language [ASL] instead of Black American Sign Language [BASL]. ASL is preferred in comparison to BASL because of white privilege."

She adds that members of the Black Deaf community had to pivot to understand both ASL and BASL since the former is preferred. "Our Deaf community had to shift to show respect to both," she explains.

Going back and forth between the Hearing and Deaf communities have often made Sanchez feel left out. "I know how it feels to be excluded for most of my life," she says. For this reason, she uses her art to represent herself. "You don't need to speak, and you don't need to sign: the art itself is universal," Sanchez explains. "Each person can look at my work. They can have their own view, their own image of what it means, and I feel heard."

She hopes her art brings people together in a world that can sometimes isolate those in minority communities. "My hope is for my artwork to represent inclusivity, diversity, to really help people," she says.

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