Interview with Dale Dymkoski, Actor & Deaf rights advocate

We sat down with Dale Dymkoski @daled_33 the hunky critically acclaimed actor and comic who has emerged as a role model for several Resistance communities including the disabled community. We asked him about what The Resistance means to him.

1.  As we are part of the resistance our first question is totally serious and definitely not a joke, your last name is Dymkoski, are you a Russian spy?

Hahaha. No. Definitely not a Russian spy. But I totally understand the skepticism, given we met via Twitter.

2.  You  are highly vocal in your views regarding politics and rights, what does “The Resistance” mean to you?

To me, “The Resistance” means standing up for what’s right, for what’s morally correct. It goes beyond politics. The current occupant of the White House has shown unabashed hostility toward every minority group: women, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, people with disabilities, immigrants. Even further, he disparages and dismisses critical thought and entire groups of people in professions that are the backbone of our society: scientists, teachers and journalists.

I find it utterly reprehensible this morally bankrupt man is our leader. I have great concern for what it says to young children — that one can be born into great wealth, treat people with disdain and hostility, and rise to the most powerful office in the land. He does not belong there. And based on what we now know and continue to learn about just how he got there, should be removed. “The Resistance” to me is about using whatever means available to say “No. You and your beliefs are antithetical to what this country has stood for over 200 years. You are not worthy of our respect. We will fight you every step of the way.”

3.  You are a highly visible actor who has played challenging roles which represent disenfranchised communities.  Can you tell us about what has drawn you to those roles and how does it make you view what’s happening now in the era of The Resistance?

Haha. I quibble with your word choice to describe me as “highly visible”. I’m just an actor trying to work more. It’s interesting to hear you describe me as an actor who plays roles that represent disenfranchised communities. My very first acting teacher’s career advice upon graduating his 2-year program in NY was to “get in ANYTHING you can.” Basically, say yes to acting. Whenever and however you can.

4.  You said that recently identified as being disabled and that your role in the critically acclaimed “Tribes” helped this process, can you describe that journey?

I was born with severe hearing loss. Growing up, I never knew any deaf people, had no understanding of Deaf culture. I was encouraged to believe I could do anything I want, anything I set my mind to. I was pretty much in denial that I was different. All I wanted was to fit in. I tried to hide my hearing aids so people wouldn’t think there was “something wrong with me.”

When the opportunity arrived to audition to understudy in the original LA production of “Tribes”, I was surprised to even be considered. I told my agent I don’t think I’m deaf enough for this role. She assured me they really wanted to meet me. So I went. I thought I was THE WORST actor ever. It was a very challenging process for me. Basically, I have hearing loss that is just shy of profound. Profound hearing loss is what most hearing people would identify as “deaf”. There is very little, if any, residual hearing and speech and articulation are affected. I have just enough residual hearing that, with hearing aids and amazing technological advances, I am able to achieve normal hearing and have no detectable speech impediment. Everything else about the character was very much like how I grew up: in a hearing family that demanded I not be treated differently because of my hearing loss, separate and apart from the Deaf community.

What I learned was that the Deaf community is comprised of deaf, hard of hearing and users of American Sign Language. Basically, I was a member of the Deaf community without even knowing it! I was, and continue to be, embraced by the community. The self-discovery I’ve been able to go through has been amazing. All because some key people in the Deaf community felt I could be a worthwhile advocate, I guess. It was all rather humbling, frankly.

5.  Do you accept that you are seen as a leader in the disabled community and certainly in the deaf / hard of hearing community?  What does it mean to you to be seen that way?

I do. As I said, I had always tried to hide this part of me. I’ve since come to realize my hearing loss is what makes me a good actor. Deaf people are exceptional observers of behavior and have keen intuition. I believe I am in a unique position to bridge the deaf and hearing worlds. Because I am able to function in the hearing world (with today’s technology, my hearing aids are virtually invisible) without being perceived as disabled, I am able to communicate with hearing people about deafness in a way that perhaps is more relatable to hearing people. At the end of the day, I am who I am. I simply want to be of service however I can. And if people find inspiration in me being me, that’s great.

6.  What are the major battles you see for this community in the current climate of Resistance?

The most obvious affront was the inhuman mockery of a reporter with a physical disability. That it was so cavalier and instinctual for the current president to behave that way. (I do everything I can to avoid using his name.) He is a bully and has zero empathy. People like that make my blood boil. Beyond the personal affront, is the policy: breaking down public education, which is essentially the front line of access for people with disabilities into society. It’s unconscionable.

7.  In Lucky Bastard you played a Pansexual meth addict, do you identify as pansexual yourself? (*Asking for a friend) Do you identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community or as an ally?  What does that mean to you right now, in terms of the battles we are fighting as the Resistance?

I’ve never been a fan of labels when it comes to sexuality. For me. Other people feel differently and I respect that. Also, as an actor, I want to be perceived as able to play a wide range of characters. Gay, straight, bi-, whatever. I am interested in the human experience. I think, too often, people are obsessed with being able to label and put you in a box. And it’s for their own security. People who know me know what I’m into. That’s good enough for me. I just want people to be free to be who they are and express themselves however they choose. I am anti-bigotry in all forms. As with the Deaf community, the LGBTQ community has loved and embraced me every step of the way. I am a big fan of gay pride and am 100% behind gay rights. I am someone who, depending on the situation, can be perceived as gay or straight by those doing the judging. That’s okay by me.

8.  ‘Intersectionality’ is a new theme that has emerged in discrimination, in that many people identify in multiple minority groups such as disabled AND minority race AND LGBTQ+ etc., what does that mean to you?

As I said, I’m not a big fan of labels. At first glance, I imagine it’s easy to size me up as a privileged white male. Especially since my disability very often goes unnoticed. I understand the empowerment people feel identifying with a group and a shared experience. I realize that is important for people and I don’t want to diminish that. For whatever reason, I’ve always resisted being categorized or labeled within a particular group.

9.  You are a stand up comic, can you tell us a joke?  (or three!)

Whatever you think about our recent election, America is STILL the greatest country on earth. Right now, as we speak, a sexual predator sits in a prison cell and dreams, “I, too, can become president of the United States.”

I think of myself as an actor who does stand up. I’ve done shows with legit comics. Like, that’s what they are. My experience was that of training as an actor and daring myself to get up and do standup. Then I kept getting asked to do shows. I never thought of myself as funny. It was just one of those things I had to do. I enjoy writing and politics and I have pretty strong opinions. I’ve found the funniest comics are those who are willing to say things other people won’t say.

10.  How do you find humor helps people who are experiencing discrimination?  Are you touring or doing jokes in relation to disabilities, the resistance or other groups?

We HAVE to keep laughing. Comedy and laughter heals. And absurdity is our greatest weapon against the clown show in the White House. It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve been on the standup stage. I have a personal goal of getting up on stage in the next few months. I have a few bits about being hard of hearing and wearing hearing aids. I found that sharing about my disability in the form of jokes and humor a) got me laughs and b) really helped me fully come to terms with myself.

11.  You are also involved in writing, music and fitness, could you tell us a little about those projects?  Can we look forward to more acting projects?  Where can we see you next?

Well, I’ve been working out since I was ten years old, a professional fitness trainer for 20 years. It’s something that’s in my bones. I could train people and teach about fitness in my sleep, it’s just so ingrained in my being.

I came up with a great idea for a sitcom project almost three years ago. I teamed up with a partner and we worked our asses off to come up with a script we are both really proud of. We got it out to some big shots who thought we wrote a great script. But, apparently half of Hollywood came up with the same idea because you’ll be seeing shows on the air this year very similar to what we came up with. Our show was like CHEERS set in a marijuana dispensary in Colorado. Hollywood is full of heartbreak.

Learning music is the single accomplishment of which I am most proud. Because of my hearing loss, I never thought it was possible I could have any musical ability. Nor did my family or schoolteachers think to push me toward music. I got my first digital hearing aids in 2005. The digital technology was a real game-changer for me. With these new hearing aids, I could now hear nuances of sound I never really heard before. I remember saying jokingly to friends, “In my next life, I want to learn to play guitar.” One day, a training client gave me beginner guitar. It sat in my room for a solid year before I worked up the courage to try and play it. A friend taught me to play the guitar. I’ve been very lucky in my life in that I’ve been surrounded by amazing and talented people. My goal was to just be able to play one song start to finish. Then one day he asked me if I wanted to learn to sing. I was so scared at the sound of my own voice singing! I wound up learning dozens of songs I grew up with and even went on to write and record a few of my own. Now you can’t shut me up.

You can check out my original songs on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/dale-dymkoski

12.  Is there a single message most important message you want to communicate to The Resistance right now?

I think it’s important we stay plugged into what’s going on, even when it seems so painful and depressing to keep track of the news. I was devastated and despondent for weeks after the election. I thought, there’s no way I can stay engaged in this nonsense anymore. I’ll go insane. I’ve since come around. I think we who identify with being on the left side of the spectrum need to be careful about alienating those who are less politically active and vocal. I am certainly not perfect. I’ve lost my share of Facebook friends and I know people are sick of me ranting about politics. But it’s how I am able to process and deal with what is going on. All I have is my word. My spoken and written words. We all have a voice. It’s our personal choice how we use it. Most people are not going to be as politically astute as your readership base. How can we encourage people to take their first steps into being more active and aware? I don’t know that I have the perfect answer to these questions. But somehow, I believe empathy and inclusivity are our greatest strengths. And hubris and ego will ultimately bring down the current administration.

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