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NAME: Levi Ackerman
BIRTHDATE: 25 September
BIRTHPLACE: Pueblo, Colorado
CURRENT LOCATION: Rochester, New York
OCCUPATION: teacher and Signs for All coordinator at Rochester School for the Deaf
PARENTS: Paul and Kathy
STEP-PARENTS: Janice and Douglas
SIBLINGS: Nathaniel (34) and Emily (29)
STEP-SIBLINGS: Madelyn (37 - Janice’s daughter), Jack (28 - Douglas’s son)
Even before their second son, Levi, was born, it was abundantly clear that Paul and Kathy Ackerman were intent on two diametrically opposing life paths. It had been Paul who was eager to settle down, who was intent on a large family and strong tradition, while his young wife Kathy still considered herself too interested in living life to actually be a mother of two. Nevertheless, Levi came into the world happy, healthy, and loved. He was a bright-eyed and sociable infant, jockeying with his older brother Nathaniel for all the attention his parents had to give. For the first several months of his life, Levi not only met but seemed to exceed most developmental milestones. It wasn’t until he was nearly a year old that his parents expressed concerns about his apparent regression when their young son became increasingly withdrawn, agitated, and unresponsive. When Levi failed a hearing screening, they had their answer why. The news of their son’s deafness only served to amplify the division between husband and wife. Paul insisted that Levi should be brought up with strictly oralist teaching methodologies, while Kathy snubbed her husband’s interests and immediately sought out an ASL coach.
Over time Paul did relent somewhat in his position, but the man still insisted that Levi speak whenever possible, and displayed considerable embarrassment at his wife and young son signing in public. For a time Nathaniel seemed to mirror his father’s attitude towards his younger brother, but this became less and less apparent as the years wore on. Levi was enrolled in public school, where he attended through graduation. Through primary and elementary school, the young boy spent a considerable portion of his day in a special education setting, though at his mother’s insistence he joined the regular education classroom full-time in fifth grade, accompanied by an interpreter. A year later his mother and father divorced, though they settled a joint custody agreement out of court that allowed Levi, his older brother, and his younger sister to spend every other weekend and one month a summer living with their father. While Nathaniel and Emily both withdrew during this time, Levi seized the opportunity presented to him in being with his peer group full-time in the classroom, and became vastly more outgoing than he had been in years.
While his time spent in the special education classroom had impeded his academic progress somewhat, Levi graduated from high school with good marks, and an impressive showing on the ice as his hockey team’s goalie. Having been recruited by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s hockey team, he packed up and moved to New York upon graduation. As is the case with most college freshmen, Levi found the independence afforded to him by both the postsecondary atmosphere and the distance from everyone and everything he had ever known liberating. Additionally, finding an environment where he was not an outsider, but instead one of hundreds of deaf students, only furthered his self-confidence and comfort. Levi had never really dated prior to college, but faced with the interest of men and women alike, the young man began to realize something that he had been either ignoring or suppressing for most of his life: he was gay. Self-acceptance wasn’t much of a struggle for him by that point. After all, he had already had quite a bit of practice. Where Levi struggled was in committing himself to anything terribly meaningful. He burned more than a few young men in his desire to not tether himself too strongly to any single thing.
Rather than pack up and leave the first real home he had ever known, Levi chose to stay after his graduation and soon got a job teaching at Rochester School for the Deaf.