ASL Interpreter Paris McTizic Shakes Things Up on Season 5 of Netflix's 'The Circle: Singles'
Updated: 2 days ago
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In the United States of America, it is estimated that approximately 5.7% of the population are either deaf or experience extreme hearing loss. That means that roughly 1 in 8 people in the U.S. have some form of hearing loss or another.
These statistics decrease further when the number of certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters in the US is only roughly around 14,000; and of that 14,000, it is estimated that only a staggering 4% of those certified interpreters are black.
Cue Paris McTizic happens to be something of a "unicorn" in the deaf community as he is at the cross-section of not one but three minorities as a Black and Hispanic, queer interpreter. Paris is a nationally certified ASL interpreter in the Metro D.C. area who is especially passionate about "the black and brown communities".
Paris exclusively tells Gaye Magazine that "we know that as black people we face a lot of inequities but that is especially true in the interpreting community" which is largely dominated by white cisgender women.
Paris has most recently been seen on Netflix's "The Circle: Singles", Season 5, as the live-in interpreter for finalist Raven Sutton. Raven stars as the first deaf contestant on the landmark show and alongside Paris, they made waves by becoming an influencer not once, but twice.
In an interview with Parade, Raven was asked why she chose to ask Paris McTizic specifically to come on as her interpreter, she had the following to say:
"So as a deaf person going into the game, I was always thinking about what that looked like. I knew I wanted to have an interpreter with me. But I didn't want the company to provide an interpreter for me, someone who I didn't know. And I was very careful about who I chose as my interpreter. I wanted to be able to play the game without having to think about the interpreter. Will they interpret for me correctly? Will they get all the cultural nuances that I have? And I didn't want that to be an added layer of stress."
She continued, "Again, I wanted someone who I was comfortable with, someone who has interpreted for me in the past. And I thought Paris would be a great fit. We went to college together; we've been out together on the social scene. He knows me personally and professionally. Also, Paris is a fan of the show as well. So, it was a perfect fit, a match made in heaven. It worked out perfectly."
As mentioned, Paris and Raven met in Gallaudet University and instantly connected as they were two of the few people of color in attendance. Paris said that although he was initially scared when asked to go on the show with Raven, they shared a very strong friendship, so it was an easy decision when she asked him to interpret for her.
When asked what excited Paris the most about being on "The Circle", he said that in being Raven's interpreter "I get to be who I am as a black gay person and add that flavor [to interpreting]."
He also tells us that he wanted to ensure that "the nuances of her language as a black, deaf woman" were portrayed accurately on screen.
Paris sets the foundation of what interpreting looks like stating that most interpreters are given a level of formal education in ASL before going to interpret in different settings.
"We learn in school to set boundaries; we learn about ethics…You're there as the interpreter, don't get involved. Don't say your opinion...You're there to facilitate communication and that's it."
He says however going onto the show with Raven he knew this couldn't be the case.
"Uh uh. We're going to do what works for us."
Paris says that he was able to let loose, to dress as he wanted to and be entirely himself without fear of his behavior coming across as unprofessional as an interpreter.
"I wanted to do a great job and elevate her... That's what excited me the most."
"Because as a black woman she has that sass, she's using those words that we use in our community in ASL. But I know what that looks like as a professional, so I was able to use the right word choices, and give the right facial expressions, you know?"
True to his word, Paris took on this new layer of professional interpreting and indeed played his role in Raven's success. The two very quickly became fan favorites with Raven finishing as second runner-up in the finale.
Paris McTizic's journey to becoming an interpreter was not a traditional one by any means. He jokes and says that what initially drew him to ASL was the fact that to him, people that signed looked cool.
"People who sign... it feels like a secret society. [he laughs] Like I wanna know what you're saying."
He started off just knowing the basics of ASL as he had friends that were children of deaf adults, (or CODA). Paris said that just like any teenager learning any language, he was interested in the "cuss words" [he laughs], as well as the alphabet. However, when he left high school, he initially decided to pursue graphic design at the tertiary level.
"And I hated it. So, one day I called my friend and basically said 'You know friend, I'm just not happy.' And literally from God's mouth to her ear, she said 'Why don't you be an interpreter?' ... It just clicked for me." Paris says he went to his first ASL class and the rest was history after that.
Paris was blessed to have received lots of love for his appearance on Netflix and was congratulated for his honest and groundbreaking work as her interpreter. He also mentions that this expectation of criticism was the largest part of his nervousness to be on the show. However, he says he received so much positive feedback from people, highlighting how he was able to humanize the interpreting experience by being his most authentic self.
“Let’s redefine what interpreting looks like. So, I think this was really groundbreaking… And by black and brown people, right? And by queer people. We don’t often get to create the narrative. We don’t often get to set the precedent for years to come right? Black and brown people weren’t at the beginning of this profession. We weren’t at the round table saying, ‘This is what we want interpreting to look like; this is what deaf spaces should look like.’ And now we’re coming together to say, ‘This is what we want this to look like.’”
Paris mentions that although he felt very welcome as a queer member of the ASL community, he has faced microaggressions and racism as a black man. He tells us that these challenges came in various forms including comments on his hair as well as the nature in which he signed. Despite these issues, Paris McTizic lets us know that he loves that he is what we may call a “unicorn”.
He uniquely sits at the cross-section of the Black and Hispanic community, the queer community, and the deaf community. This intersectionality is something that brings joy to Paris as he doesn’t have to be “boxed in”.
One of his greatest joys is being able to bridge the connection between the Deaf and hard-of-hearing world; regardless of what that looks like on either side.
In speaking specifically to the LGBTQ+ community, he says that “we often have to wear shields sometimes as we don’t know what spaces are harmful,” and in response to that he says: the deaf community welcomes you.
“If you are passionate about service, if you’re passionate about being a bridge, just know that we come with open arms. Just know that you are free to be yourself in two languages or more. This is a space that is absolutely expressive… So come on in, the water is warm [he laughs].”
Be sure to check Paris out on season 5 of Netflix’s The Circle, streaming now!