Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Tadhg Byrne, the main character from Beck Grey’s latest release, Embrace Me. Just like Joe Tanner, my MC from The Larkspur Mysteries, Tadhg is deaf. I am hoping that he will share how he feels about his deafness and how this language barrier may affect his relationships.
Before I put Tadhg in the spotlight I asked Beck for a little background info…
We first meet Tadhg Byrne on the day he leaves his abusive ex. He’s living and working in Los Angeles, where he went to college and studied architecture. He made a name for himself in the field and outwardly everything looked wonderful, but his ex was controlling and tried to cut him off from family and friends. Tadhg finally has the courage to leave and go back home to his family in Seattle.
The story really picks up when Tadhg starts his new job at an architectural firm in Seattle. We meet him again a few months after he’s back in Seattle, on his first day of work at his new job. He stops at a small café to get coffee and pastries for himself and his interpreter, Kaino. But Kaino is allergic to coconut oil, so Tadhg needs to ask about the ingredients in the food. However, he’s deaf, doesn’t have his phone, and no one working in the café knows ASL, American Sign Language.
As he’s struggling to communicate with the workers in the café, Quinn MacDougall interrupts to offer assistance. He knows some ASL and attempts to help facilitate communication. There is a strong attraction between Tadhg and Quinn, but neither attempts to get or give phone numbers for a future meet up. Luckily for them both, they find out that they now work for the same firm.
What is your full name?
Tadhg Donovan Byrne
Where and when were you born?
I was March 8th, 1986 in Seattle, Washington
What three words would others probably use to describe you?
Deaf with a capital D. Tenacious. Driven.
So that our readers can picture you better, what colour are your eyes?
Quinn would say they’re crystal blue, but I just say blue.
Do you have any physical traits that stand out such as scars, birthmarks or tattoos?
I’d say my most obvious physical trait that everyone notices is my deafness. I was born hearing, but when I was five I contracted meningitis and had a fever that was high enough and long enough to damage my auditory nerves. My mom, who is absolutely amazing, immediately enrolled us in a family ASL class at the local community college. She and I went twice a week for a few hours a session, and she hired a private tutor to come two other nights a week. She dove right in.
I do also have a tattoo of a Celtic dragon on my upper right arm. They symbolize wisdom and power.
It’s a reminder that I’m smart and strong enough to do what needs to be done, but it’s also what I should strive for. It’s both a reminder and a manifestation.
Do you mind telling us a little about how it is to be deaf/non speaking. Do you see it as a disability?
It’s my life. I don’t know any other way to be. I don’t remember much about when I could hear. I was born hearing, but when I was five, I contracted meningitis and had a fever that was high enough and long enough to damage my auditory nerves.
And no, it’s not a disability. Hearing is just something I can’t do. Like some people can’t roll their tongue, or other people are colorblind and can’t see certain colors.
A more sensitive question maybe, but have you been bullied because of it?
I think everyone experienced some form of bullying at some point in their lives. But I had friends in kindergarten who stayed my friends after I became deaf. I wanted to stay in my mainstream school with my friends through sixth grade, but the school was smaller and I knew all the teachers and students. It got a lot harder in middle school, and that’s when I convinced my mom to send me to a Deaf School. It was amazing and really helped me learn about what it means to be Deaf and to reach my full potential as a person.
You have already mentioned your mother a couple of times, she sounds like a real rock in your life. Tell us a little more about her.
She is called Mia (nee Dennehy) Byrne. She’s 58 years old and was born in Galway, Ireland. My mom is a force of nature. She’s the strongest person I know and we’re very close. She studied to be a nurse before I was born, and after she married and then divorced my stepfather, Bryan McCarthy, she went back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner. Now she works in a cardiac care unit for a highly prestigious medical group in Seattle and is frequently after Blake, my stepbrother, to stop pushing himself so much. We get together and have movie nights or go to dinner frequently.
And how about the rest of your immediate family?
My father was James Byrne. If he’s still alive, he’s 69 years old. He was born in Limerick, Ireland, but moved to Galway as a young man, which is where he met my mom. My parents were married in Ireland and moved to the USA before I was born. They divorced when I was five after I lost my hearing due to a severe case of meningitis. My mom learned ASL with me, but my father refused. When they divorced, he moved back to Ireland and we haven’t had contact with him since.
Then came my stepfather, Bryan McCarthy. He was born in Tacoma, Washington. He was a very jovial, generous man, but he drank a lot and had a wandering eye. He and my mom met in the hospital when he was admitted for tests for liver issues. They started dating and got married when I was six, had several good years together, and then amicably divorced. She got a huge settlement out of it, kept the house, Bryan remarried, and I got to keep my brother Blake. I got the best part of that deal. While she was married to Bryan, I was lucky enough to have a stellar education, both in and out of the Deaf community, an amazing place to live, vacations and nice clothes and so many other things.
I also have a stepbrother: Blake McCarthy 46 years old, Born July 29, 1974, in Seattle,
It sounds like your childhood was a bit up and down…
It was pretty normal until I was five and lost my hearing. Then things were pretty bad for a few years, financially and emotionally. Mom and I had a lot to deal with. But then my mom got remarried and things got a lot better. That’s when I gained a step-brother, who is still one of my very best friends.
So who has had the most influence on you and how did they become your role model?
Besides my mom, who is an incredible woman and the strongest person I know, I’d have to say my step-brother Blake. We’re incredibly close, even though there’s a twelve-year age gap between us. I met him when our parents got married. Blake was 18, and I was 6. We were 20 and 8 when they divorced. Blake stayed in touch with me and my mom, and saw us frequently. He is my biggest supporter, but also the first one to tell me when I’m out of line about something. He always has my back, no matter what. And I’ll always be there for him, too.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
First, I wanted to be a dinosaur, but then Blake told me that wasn’t a viable career path, so I decided that I’d sell ice cream. Oh, the dreams of a six-year-old. When I got older, I wanted to be an artist and quickly realized I loved drawing geometric shapes and things that followed set patterns. When I was at school, one of the dorms was being renovated and I got my first look at blueprints. I was about fourteen. One of the teachers saw my interest and helped facilitate conversations with the workers and the architect on the project. I was hooked ever since.
Now Architecture is my passion.
When did you have your first kiss, and who with?
I was sixteen, and it was with Jake Zemanski. He was in my class and I thought he was sweet and cute. We’d been dancing around each other for months because I wasn’t completely sure he was into me. Probably because he wasn’t sure either. As a gay, Deaf teen at a boarding school, there weren’t many other out guys and Jake was still trying to figure himself out. Was he bi? Was he gay? Did he just like me? I knew pretty early on that I was gay.
Anyway, we were in the rec room playing foosball and everyone else was outside, or watching a movie or something. This was my first crush that wasn’t a celebrity, and I was in knots over him. At some point, we stopped pretending we were interested in foosball. He came over to my side of the table and stuck the ball in my goal and said he won. I asked him what the prize was, and he said a kiss.
Who was I to argue? It was actually really sweet, and soft, and pretty perfect if I’m honest. Not all awkward and too wet, like some stories my friends have told me about their first kisses. I guess I got lucky.
Let’s chat about your relationships with others. Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?
No. I believe there are the right people for the place you are in life right then. And if they care, and if you are truly compatible, then you will grow together as people and in your relationship.
And that will make it last.
What do you look for in a potential lover?
Acceptance. Understanding. Empathy. Kindness. Someone with a loving heart who can express themselves but who can also communicate well.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
How important is it to you that your partner is also deaf or at least can communicate in ASL?
Very. I am a Deaf man. It’s who I am, and I am unapologetic about that. People ask me if I’m sad I lost my hearing, or if I wish I could hear. My answer is absolutely no. I don’t want to hear. I don’t need to hear to have a full life. What am I missing because I can’t hear? Music? I love music and play it all the time. The sound of laughter? I don’t need to hear the actual sound to enjoy laughing, or the joy of seeing someone else laugh.
My partner needs to understand and embrace that. They need to want to and be able to be a part of that. My language is ASL, so my partner needs to know my language. I can’t learn to hear, so they have to learn to communicate with me in my language.
In any relationship, there is always compromise. Whose turn it is to do the dishes or whether you paint the living room beige or teal are typical couple compromises and are necessary for a stable, loving relationship. But you can’t compromise who you are, and who I am is a Deaf man.
The person I’m with needs to understand and accept that, just like I’ll have to understand and accept things about them, too.
What is your greatest regret so far, why?
Getting involved with my ex, Aston, and letting him control me, and isolate me from my friends and family for so long. He made me doubt myself, my ability to make decisions for myself. It was such an abusive relationship, and I didn’t see it until way after I should have. I’m still working on trusting my decisions, but every day I grow more confident. Quinn and Blake have a lot to do with that. Their faith in me gives me faith in myself.
What is your biggest secret?
I don’t really have secrets. Not anymore. My abusive relationship with Aston was a secret for years. I was so ashamed that I let it happen that I couldn’t tell anyone or ask for help. My best friend Tyler and my step-brother Blake figured it out on their own and got me out of there.
Who is the most important person in your life, why?
I have four important people in my life, all for different reasons, but none more or less
important than any of the others. My mom, my step-brother Blake, my partner Quinn, and my best friend, Tyler. They’ve all been there for me when things were bleak, and I love them all fiercely.
Do you like yourself?
I do. I like and love myself. And I’m learning to forgive myself for mistakes I’ve made. I’m a work in progress.
It sounds like you are in a positive place, so where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Married to Quinn, the man of my dreams, working at our own successful architectural firm.
Maybe having a dog and talking about adopting kids. Happy. That’s where I see myself in five years. Very happy.
And now a few fun questions, what is your favorite color?
Gray. I know! People say that’s boring, but I love the contrast against white, and it’s a pretty bold color in its way.
What is your most treasured possession?
My family, and my culture.
Do you like to read?
I love to read. I read a lot of different things, depending on my mood. I’ll read biographies of famous architects, or Deaf pioneers. I’ll read books about architecture. I’ll read classic science fiction.
My brother Blake is a publisher for Hibernian Press, Gary Atkinson’s publishing company. Gary is one of my favorite authors. I get all of his books from Blake. They’re very similar to Tom Clancy’s books, only with more emotion and better sex scenes.
What makes you laugh?
Quinn, because he’s always doing or saying something funny.
What do you have in your pocket?
My phone and my wallet.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Clothing. I love quality clothing. Quinn thinks I’m a clotheshorse, and I suppose I am. I can’t help it. I love the way quality clothing feels on, and how it makes me feel wearing it. Like I can take on anything and succeed.
And the final question I like to ask everyone, who would you like to invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Frank Lloyd Wright, a world-famous architect, because his designs inspire me and I’d love to discuss his use of space and place and incorporating nature into his work.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, another famous architect. Along with Frank Lloyd Wright, he’s one of the pioneers of modernist architecture. I’d love to pick his brain.
Kitty O’Neil, “the fastest woman in the world”. She was a stunt woman and a race driver, setting 22 different speed records on land and water in her lifetime. Oh, and she happened to also be deaf.
Vinton Gray Cerf, who is a huge advocate for accessibility, was on the board of trustees for Gallaudet University, is an advocate for net neutrality, and is recognized as one of “the fathers of the Internet”. He’s also hard of hearing.
That sounds like a dynamic guest list!
Thank you so much Tadhg for taking the time to pop in and answer our readers’ questions. Thank you for being so honest and open with your answers, especially sharing how you have turned past challenges into a positive outlook for the future, great inspiration for us all. I wish you all the luck in the world with your new romance, Quinn is very lucky to have found you!
Tadhg: After a nasty breakup with my manipulative ex, I returned home to Seattle to lick my wounds. I’m done with relationships. From now on I’m focusing on my career.There are just a few issues with that.
1. It’s not that easy for a Deaf man to succeed in a Hearing world, even with the right degree and experience.
2. Quinn MacDougall. He’s my co-worker. He’s also incredibly talented, driven, and distractingly handsome.
3. He’s hearing. And that’s the biggest problem of all. How can someone who isn’t Deaf ever truly understand and accept me?
Embrace Me is a 95,000-word contemporary MM romance about language barriers, loving but demanding families, crappy bosses, and sexy guys in speedos. It contains no cheating, and a guaranteed Happily Ever After.
You can connect with Author Beck Grey here.