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School of Applied Social Sciences

SASS Staff

Paul Michaels, PGDip (Durham), PGDip (UCLan)

Personal web page

Contact Paul Michaels (email at


Paul started to learn sign language in 2001 after his niece was diagnosed as profoundly Deaf. 4 years later, he decided to focus on training to become a sign language interpreter by first working as a Communicator in education and the workplace. During that time, he completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced BSL and Related Studies and Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting with the Deaf Community at Durham University, where he gained a distinction. He then completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Interpreting and Translation with the University of Central Lancashire and is now a qualified interpreter.

It was whilst undertaking the Postgraduate Certificate at Durham University that Paul became interested in the linguistics of Gay Sign Variation (GSV) and undertook a research project drawing on resources from the UK and USA. Following on from that, he developed international research on interpreting for the Deaf gay community from the interpreter and client perspective, which has been presented at conferences in Great Britain, South Africa, Italy, Holland, Canada and Poland.

Paul completed a Masters Degree by Research under the supervision of the late Judith Tate-Collins and Dr Federico Ferderici at Durham University. The research topic examined at the identity, culture and language of the Deaf gay male community in Britain. This has led to his current doctoral research.


Field of Study

'The characteristics and disposition that gives rise to a greater number of females and gay men entering the sign language interpreting profession’.


Sign language interpreting (SLI) in many countries is female dominated. In 1980 and 1988, surveys of attendees at US interpreting conferences recorded female attendees at 76 and 78.6 percent respectively. The Association of Sign Language Interpreters in England and Wales Fees and Salaries Report showed 82 and 84 percent of respondents in 2008 and 2011 respectively, were female. An international survey of interpreters I conducted in 2009 found 72 percent of respondents were female and of the 304 interpreters surveyed, 38 percent identified as gay or bisexual.


Evidence to suggest why is rare but it is proposed that female interpreters are biologically predisposed to the complex task of interpreting and that it is a helping profession which are traditionally carried out by women. (Humphrey and Alcorn, 1994)



There are studies into men in female dominated professions (Lemkau 1984, Williams 1992, Bagilhole & Cross 2006) but none for the SLI profession, so this research is to fill the knowledge gap and assist in the profiling of potential newcomers into the profession.



• Establish why females and gay men dominate the profession.

• Offer the reason for the motivation of gay men to undertake qualifications to become an interpreter and take on prominent roles within the profession.

• Draw parallels with other female dominated professions from a socioeconomic and cognitive perspective.


Scope & Methodology

The study will focus on the SLI's within the UK, US and Australia because they are all English speaking, their SLI associations were established at similar times, there are similarities between British and Australian Sign Language (Johnston & Schembri, 2007) and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf in the US has a 'Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Intersexed, Transgendered Interpreters/Transliterators members section.


Data collected will be quantitative and qualitative through planned online surveys to target interpreters in a timely and cost effective way. Structured one-to-one and semi-structured group interviews will be conducted to expand on views from participants. Secondary data will be collected from research previously published, conference and seminar papers, statistical resources, magazines, newspapers and journals.

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  • Michaels, P. (2010). A study of GSV. Newsli 74: 12-14.

Chapter in book

  • Michaels, P. (Forthcoming). A Study of Interpreting Provision in the Deaf Gay Community. In Synergy - Moving forward together. Stone, C. & Adam, R.


  • Michaels, P. (2011), Interpreting for the Deaf day community: perceptions of interpreting in the LGBT community from the perspective of interpreters and their consumers, WASLI Conference. Durban, South Africa, Durban.
  • Michaels, P. (2010), Interpreting for the Deaf gay community: perceptions of interpreting in the LGBT community from the perspective of interpreters and their consumers, efsli Conference. Glasgow, Scotland, Glasgow.
  • Michaels, P. (2010), The Provision of Sign Language Interpreting for the Deaf Gay Community, Critical Link 6. Birmingham, England, Birmingham.

Show all publications

Research Interests

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Gay sign and gay spoken language varieties
  • Neuro Linguistic Programming
  • Sign language interpreting for the Deaf community and specifically the Deaf gay community
  • Sign languages
  • The Deaf and the gay communities and their culture

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