Name: Andrew Tolman
Location: Portland, Oregon
Occupation: Interpreter and Founder of Fingers Crossed Interpreting
Sign language interpreter and advocate Andrew Tolman founded Fingers Crossed Interpreting to create accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in a wide swath of community programs. Fingers Crossed Interpreting provides ASL interpreting at social justice events, activism, campaigns, drag shows, film screenings, concerts, and beyond, with the mission to connect messages beyond the spoken word.
As a professional interpreter, Andrew graduated from Pima Community College in Arizona with a degree in Interpreting.
“I grew up knowing sign language, so ASL 101 ended up being a catalyst for me to want to explore learning outside just the room. I began volunteer interpreting with the local Deaf center at that time around the city. Around 5 years ago, I moved to Portland and I have been interpreting here professionally ever since,” they explain.
Working as a freelance interpreter, the impetus for Andrew founding Fingers Crossed came about from two major events in 2018.
Philip J. Wolfe ran for City Council in Portland, and Andrew was brought on with a few other interpreters to translate the campaign.
“This helped me develop skills and vocabulary that I had never had access to before, and greatly helped with building a network across the city,” Andrew says. Philip Wolfe’s message of inclusivity, as a Deaf, Queer person serving the larger community truly inspired them.
Next, Andrew was on the ground with OCCUPY I.C.E. PDX, which was a 35 day occupation of the alleyway next to the still-functioning I.C.E. Facility in Portland. Many Deaf and Hard of Hearing activists were involved, and Andrew was a part of a team of interpreters who worked alongside the protest.
“We were there almost daily and nightly to make protests and speeches and vigils more accessible,” they explain. “From the connections made in these two spaces, I started Fingers Crossed Interpreting to bridge gaps of access and inclusion where money was the primary barrier. Today we serve community groups and non-profits of all kinds with a sliding scale rate in hopes of making it easier for Hearing and Deaf changemakers to connect with each other in new, radical, and accessible ways.”
When they’re not swimming, making music, or snuggling their cat, Sasha, Andrew is interpreting a nearly endless roster of drag shows at Local Lounge.
Andrew loves SITM knee highs because they allow them to have a little personality with their outfits, no matter where their job takes them.
“As an ASL Interpreter, I am not able to wear bright colors or patterns when I work. However, under my work slacks are always some fun socks! It’s my way of bringing a little flavor of my personality to a job or meeting without breaking professionalism. Also, slacks always ride up the leg when I sit down, so it’s fun to have a high sock with an interesting pattern to show instead of my boring legs!”
So who or what does Andrew think should be given some attention and accolades as a future Human of the Month?
“My Drag daughter, Sin Nombre, is Portland’s exclusive Deaf Drag artist. They are an incredible advocate already making huge waves in the Drag community both here and around the country. I also recommend Philip J. Wolfe for all of their truly unending advocacy and community uplifting they do,” they say.
“I’m inspired by consistency, accountability, and honesty,” Andrew continues. “I am always inspired by anyone or anything that learns loudly, passes on knowledge for collective empowerment and liberation, and leads with their ethics. I love Portland because there is an unending list of people doing incredible work and succeeding just by centering people and putting planet over profit.I always say “Find Your Front Line”; there are a thousand ways to get involved in making your community a better place and still be able to do the thing you love to do.”
For their work as an interpreter and activist, we are thrilled to feature Andrew Tolman of Fingers Crossed Interpreting as our Human of the Month for June 2021!
Find FCI on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/fingerscrossedinterpreting/posts/
Watch Andrew in a TedxBend video: https://tedxbend.com/presenters/andrew-tolman/