Do All Codas WANT to Identify with the Group?

When I started this blog/vlog last summer I knew of the different kinds of Codas out there. Non-signing Codas, late in life deaf Codas, etc. My mission is to educate all people, hearing, Deaf and Codas see my previous vlog Why.

As for the Codas I must understand that not everyone wants to be included. Not everyone fits one label. Labels can be deceiving and I think in this case, the label is meant to be affiliated to a group. A group you identify with but doesn’t define you. Also discussed previously, Not a label

Something happened to me last fall that saddened me to tears. It is a lesson I learned and will draw on in the future.

Within the regular day to day business calls, I found an “operator” that had Deaf parents. She offered services to indicating she had Deaf parents and could help my husband if he needed. I decided to call her and tell her about Coda and invite her to the next conference. It can be a touchy subject. How do you explain it? I have had some practice while serving as President of Illinois Coda. Fielding the general questions, so I felt I had enough experience without having a pushy nature. We talked about 3 minutes, she didn’t like the idea of it but was polite about it. She said, “It’s just not for me”. Well I’ve heard that before and I always keep the casual socializing attempt last. I explained, “It can be a totally social event in which we celebrate our deaf heritage and share stories with a common bond”. Well I must have said too much. She responded by saying “Look! I’m going to tell you that I grew up in an abusive household and I am repulsed with everything that deals with deafness and the signing”. WHOA!

I felt horrible. We hung up almost immediately. I cried. I broke down. I was hurt that I may have potentially stirred up painful emotions for her. I wouldn’t do that on purpose. Then I realized I was crying for something else too, I cried that she didn’t embrace the culture I love so much! Despised – such a harsh word. I never imagined having a Deaf culture could be that painful at the level of despising it. I have wanted to escape, but I never loathed it.

Things started flooding my mind – even those that despise the culture could learn from Codas. Perhaps her situation had happened to someone else in the Coda community and she could heal. But no way was I going to call back. I felt as though I had caused too much pain in three minutes. I had never met someone with such strong feelings.

Could it have been because they weren’t the best parents? Was it directly related to being having Deaf parents or perhaps oppressed? I’ll never know. It took me a long time to recover from that comment.

Here’s what I learned. We are all different, regardless of the same views, philosophy, religion or groups we belong to. Having Deaf parents allows me to want to identify with others that have/had Deaf parents. I am thankful that such dynamic individuals chose to identify with the group so I can learn from them.

I feel blessed to have Deaf culture and language in my soul. ASL is my native language. I must understand that every Coda may not feel this way. It’s difficult, but a lesson I learn to apply when needed.

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  1. Mishkazena

    Oh, that is so sad! Unfortunately, just like some hearing parents, some Deaf parents are not perfect. But this is due to their personal shortcomings. Many CODA grew up happily with responsible, loving, and caring Deaf parents. I am so sorry she blamed it on Deafness and ASL, etc. I hope some day she will speak to another CODA and make peace with her horrible background. But she isn’t ready now.

  2. codadiva

    Well said! Your comment is exactly what I hoped would be relayed. I too hope that she can come to peace with her past.

  3. mac guy

    all I thought when I saw

    “non-signing coda”

    WTF ?!

    a child that NEVER talked to their parents ?

    is a CODA a CODA if they came from an ORAL family, CUED ?

    thats a big thunderstorm for me.

  4. codadiva

    Hey mac guy,
    When I was first meeting Codas I too was taken back. Through learning from experiences of these non-signing codas I could begin to understand why they are not signing. Some of them had very oppressed parents that were always taught “signing is bad” so they didn’t want to teach their children something that was considered “bad”. That’s just one experience I have learned. There are a multitude of reasons why parents choose not to sign with their children. Just like there are a multitude of reasons why hearing parents don’t sign with their Deaf children.

    I’m not sure what Cued means so can’t comment.

  5. ASL Risen

    I agreed with SuperCODA DIVA! That’s sad some CODAs come from very oppressive Deaf parents who banned ASL! That hurts and not close bonding family relationship!

    From my SK pager. Better go clock in work now from my parking spot at work place.

  6. codadiva

    ASL Risen thanks for checking in from the parking lot. That rocks! I love that!

    I will add that I know some of these Codas are learning sign language later in life.

  7. SlackinPenguin

    I’ve always wondered, what makes a Coda? You see, I’m deaf, my wife is hearing, but she is a Soda (sibling of deaf adults, her siblings are 15+ years older than she is) and she is an interpreter by profession. My two children are hearing but they never took to signing and I never forced them (I can speak well enough for them to understand me). So are they still Codas? I mean, yeah they have a deaf parent, but they don’t sign. Does the fact that they don’t sign make them not Codas in the strictest sense of the word?

    Just wondering.

    Cheers.

  8. codadiva

    SlackinPenguin
    Technically – Yes your children are Coda (or Koda depending if they are under 18). However it will ultimately be up to them if they can relate to those that also have/had Deaf parents.

    A friend of mine from Australia and I were talking. We met through business networking. Turns out her step-dad was deaf. He was a part of her life for 10 years during her childhood. He did not share the Deaf world with the family, kept it separate. I asked if she identified with the “coda” world. She did not. If her experience had been different, then it could have been a situation where she would relate to Coda. It’s the experiences for each person to evaluate.

    Hope that helps.

  9. perhaps bad experience in youth to deal the peer pressure with other immature kids (non-coda) when dumb kid dares other kids to yell swearing bad words behind coda’s parent back but coda can hear and feel hurt.

    perhaps bad experience to sense “negative” or “look down” attitude from hearing adult toward to coda about deaf parent. sometime it has nothing to do with deaf parent.

    one time my deaf buddy hired the hearing lady to tutor for his hearing daughter in math. the private tutor did give a hint to hurt daughter’s feeling how tutor think of deaf parent as low class. hearing daughter informed deaf dad.

    next appointment with same tutor then deaf dad smiled to invite her in the house again. but this time, he gave the tutor his business card. guess what? tutor dropped her jaws after read his business card that he has real good job in high position to work for big company. tutor told coda how she was impressed with coda’s dad. coda become proud of her deaf parent and studied better in happy end.

    sometime deaf parent is not the one to cause the problem or to be blamed. btw, wow i learned a lot from you in different perspective. i enjoyed reading yours… sometime sad and happy together can be good for me to heal my wisdom. i can see great in you with wisdom.

    buzz

  10. SlackinPenguin

    Thanks for your reply.

    They’re both under 18 so I guess they’d be Kodas then. We have a rather large deaf family from my wife’s side, my kids have quite a few aunts, uncles, and cousins (at least 12 off the top of my head) whom they see very often so they are pretty heavily exposed to the deaf world.

    Funny though, they simply won’t sign even though their hearing cousins do. I don’t think they’ll consider themselves Codas when they get older and I guess that’s alright with me. I guess it’s pretty much like what you’re basically saying here, “to each, their own”.

  11. codadiva

    Buzz,
    You are right. I am sure some of those things happen. My mission is to break the stigmas and stereotypes that people perceive of Deaf people. Maybe it will affect others to be more compassionate about the entire “human” race.

    I appreciate your story. Yes, I have some stories about being very upset as a young coda child – someday in another post.

    Thank you for your encouraging words, your comment inspires me to continue to be true to who I am.

  12. Jessica

    A cousin of mine married a CODA and he only responds in fingerspelling. He could understand me when I am signing to him but he would not use sign back. I met him only once but always wondered why. Thanks for sharing to help us see that there are different experiences among CODAs.

  13. Mishkazena

    Your story touched me so much that it reminded me of a beautiful story I heard many years ago from that CODA. I wrote it for my blog and thought you may like to hear this. I think this will warm your heart, after that discouraging call. MZ

    http://blog.deafread.com/mishkazena/2008/02/01/the-best-gift-a-coda-made-for-her-parents/

  14. michele

    Hi, yeah it happens to some koda/coda children who are not happy with their heritage and feel ashamed of it. I also am on the committee and we are actively planning for a koda/coda conference for deaf parents in washington dc in 2009 so maybe it is a topic that should be introduced in our conference, do you think?

    The biggest question that deaf parents have is how can we bring up our koda children in a way that they will come in appreciating their heritage, ASL and culture so they are proud and happy individuals.

    thanks for sharing it with me.

  15. codadiva

    Michele,
    Absolutely introducing koda/coda to Deaf parents is exactly the best starting point. I’ll contact you directly to brainstorm for more details.

  16. Mary

    I would like to ask you guys who are CODAs to feel out this idea I had.. I am DCODA, Deaf Child of Deaf Adults and I have three children (one hearing, one deaf and one HOH)..

    I wanted to start a KODA group here in Knoxville TN and I spoke to few CODAs who lives surrounding area and they expressed that they thought it would be wonderful to have KODA group here. My idea was for those CODAs to be “front runners” and I along deaf parents will be in “behind the scenes” assisting them with kids 5 yr old to 12 yr old while the CODAs can have powwow with kids between 12-17 yr old so they will know that they are not alone, that there are many many many generations before them and in front of them that faces the same situations being CODA, having deaf family etc.

    But as soon as the CODA realize that I will not be hosting the event because I felt as a deaf parent and deaf person, I wouldn’t be good person to get them together and have feedbacks, get-together. So therefore the idea I have has been dimmed to a single candle from a fireplace fire. So I am wondering what you guys as CODA feel about this idea? Would you guys be willing to start if you were asked the same thing?

  17. codadiva

    Hi Mary,
    Yes, I know what you mean. I have had similar experiences too. First, let me tell you that I believe it is up to ALL that are interested to give to the cause they believe. When I was Illinois Coda President I successfully increased membership from a lapsed membership of about 10 to over 50 in one year. How did I do it? I included everyone. If a hearing person with no association wants to help out, I say THANK YOU! I will never turn away someone that wants to help for the future of our children.

    Some Codas believe when it comes to “Kodas” Deaf parents should be in charge. Since they are YOUR children. Maryland Koda http://www.mmkoda.org/ is fortunate to have a strong group of Deaf parents heading up the events. But not every area has such strong support.

    Mary, my suggestion, take the lead and plan the event. Perhaps start with a half day program. Tasks can be delegated to Codas. You may not know what to plan, but that will come with committee meetings. I’ve got tons of ideas, so feel free to ask. Good luck!

  18. Amy Amundsen

    Hi Lisa/all!

    Great discussion….fascinating to see all perspectives.

    I would like to just add a bit of grammar/spelling clarification. I’m seeing a mix of the use of “coda” and “CODA” when referring to people who have deaf parents. Not just here, but in many places. The correct usage would be to use all-caps “CODA” when referring to the organization…as it is an acronym for the international organization, Children of Deaf Adults. (Same as NAD is the acronym for National Association of the Deaf.) When referring to a person who has deaf parents, then the use of “coda or Coda” would be correct….as the now-accepted term to refer to a person who has deaf parents. Capitalization of the “C” could depend on whether the person identifies culturally with the term or not. Same as “Deaf” and “deaf”. Make sense?

    Hope that helps! I’ve been meaning to write an article about this grammatical issue for the CODA Int’l newsletter…..but haven’t gotten to it yet. Maybe this will light the fire for me. Ha!

    Hugs to you, Lisa!!
    Your Coda Sis,
    ~Amy A in Minn

  19. codadiva

    Hi Amy,
    Yes, I’m guilty of that too. I think an article would be great! If you want, set up your own blog and post it there! Send me the link and I will post it too! Also it would be Illinois CODA or Wisconsin CODA – yes?

    Hope you are well! Hugs to you too!

  20. Poster

    Referring to the initial post of this discussion.

    I am a CODA, with 4 siblings. All of us children have different outcomes from our childhood. Two of my siblings are severely emotionally scarred from their experiences. Although I was more physically “abused” (I strongly dislike using that word), two of my siblings were emotionally controlled and alienated from the outside world. Yet when I look back at our childhood, I have many happy memories and can see the challenges that my parents struggled with. I am not “enabling” my parent’s dysfunctional behavior by excusing or minimizing it. I am only being realistic about it. I am removing the control, the strength and the power of it. For anyone who has done this, you understand the importance of this process.

    While parents as a whole are given instruction through the media and education system on how to parent, deaf parents do not have the same kind of instruction. Deaf parents are not gathered and instructed on the dangers of alienating their children from the outside world, or keeping their children emotional hostage, or making them filter comments when interpreting for them. My parents were loving parents, who themselves were alienated from the world and it’s norms and customs. They felt that they had to fight to keep their children, fearful that the government was going to take us away from them because they considered our parents disabled.

    Regarding the physical abuse. When all we have to do it turn our heads to stop conversation, and the most effective reaction for the person being ignored is to physically turn the listener, and the conversation is already heated and the emotions are heightened… Put any decent human being into the situation and how many would be able to react effectively?

    I am not a victim. I have had unique experiences that have developed my character and made me into the amazing person that I am. After the challenges that I have had, there are few obstacles that the world can send my way that I cannot overcome. I am a survivor, I am a fighter, and I thank my parents for being excellent role models for these valuable traits and abilities.

    In a world where everyone has a sad song, and many rely on excuses, there are going to be a lot of people who protect their right to wallow in their self-pity. Unfortunately, that self-pity prevents us from remembering and cherishing the wonderful memories of our childhood. Although we should never excuse or justify abuse and dysfunction, we don’t have to magnify it and empower it.

    The operator who snapped at you might have thought that you were suggesting that every CODA had a glorious childhood. I also understand, unfortunately, the repulsion that she has for the deaf culture. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the operator was my own sister.

    Mishkazena said in response to you initial post “Many CODA grew up happily with responsible, loving, and caring Deaf parents. I am so sorry she blamed it on Deafness and ASL, etc. I hope some day she will speak to another CODA and make peace with her horrible background.”

    My response is that there are also a lot of people in general, CODA or not, that grew up happily in functional families. Many did not.

    I say the following without malice. I do so to give the initial posters some insight…

    What is equally repulsive for a CODA from a dysfunctional family is to have a CODA from a functional one speak to us with pity and tell us how sad they are. It reminds us of when we were children, and the perfect people from perfect families, with perfect clothes and perfect “normal” lifestyles looked down upon us. They made us feel inferior. Unless we have grown and been empowered by the knowledge that we, who endured challenges, have richer character, we are less likely to be receptive to a CODA who has had a wonderful childhood.

    We grew up without any friends who understood. Not even the counsellors could understand. If we knew that there were actually CODAs who’d understand, we’d be a little more receptive to the fellowship. That’s if we are ready. After a childhood of feeling powerless, our first taste of control might come from the ability to banish from our lives and thoughts everything that is associated with the source of our unhappiness.

    I myself didn’t realize, until a few months ago, that CODAs existed as an organization. I was eager to interact. Now, I am a little reluctant. I wouldn’t want to attend a convention and be surrounded by CODAs who had “perfect” childhoods, who sign better/differently than me making me feel like a pitiful, inferior, misplaced and alienated child again.

    I doubt I am the only CODA who feels this way.

  21. codadiva

    Poster,
    Thank you very much for sharing your feelings. Since we all live extremely different lives, I hope to learn from my readers as well.

    I’m still taking in a bit of your message. But wanted to respond with a few things. I know that there are Codas that can’t imagine a child growing up without good signing, or any signing for that matter. (I’m still trying to educate some of my older Codas about how Deaf lives are very different from their parents). This blog was built on the hope to share all kinds of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.

    For me, I am embracing life. I have my fair share of alienation from being raised in a deaf household. But for how I feel now, I’m motivated to be a better person. So anything that brings me sadness has been locked away for now. Taking charge and doing what I want to do, finally. Which I can now understand why someone would banish that part where there was no control.

    I hope you reconsider going to a CODA conference. We need more people of diverse backgrounds. Well, at least I do, I want to learn from others. I too am amazed at some of the talented sign language interpreters. WOW, blows me away and makes me feel inferior, however, I’m not even an interpreter, so why should I feel inferior?

    I invite you personally, we can meet there! I’ll be happy to discuss it with you more privately, just send me an email (via comments).

    Thanks again for your post! I want others to see diversity in our backgrounds.

  22. sedanoterp

    Not everyone wishes to identify to a group based solely upon language similarities and SOME cultural background similarities…I, having deaf parents with mixed ethinc backgrounds as well, just feel like that deaf part as important as it was/is cannot be more important than just being recognized as a human resident on this planet earth…no matter what else i am…

    So many things today drive us as HUMANS further and further apart…labels seem to be the stuff of the past.

  23. Just Found Out

    Hi,
    Both my parents are deaf and I am their only child. I was moved to respond to this discussion for a number of reasons. I’m twenty years old and have never heard of CODA. Reading the above posts confirms that it’s not my parent’s deafness, but their perception of deafness that causes the emotional tensions in my home.
    I can relate extremely well to the response by “Poster” on Feb. 18th. I love my parents dearly and it sadness me that they do not have the relationships with other people, nor the appreciation of deafness that most of the parents mentioned here have.
    I would definetly agree that they have not had access, nor been exposed to, the resources hearing parents are and so did a number of emotionally abusive things (without even realizing it) to keep me “close” to them. They play the “deaf card” with me constanstly; this immediately makes me feel guilty, and I am still confused about how to respond. Because I am their daughter, out of all people, it hurts when they hurl it at me so that I obey them! (this is esp. difficult to deal with as a teenager…e.g. if I wanted to go hang out with a friend but my mom was lonely she would accuse me of leaving her for my friend and would claim I didn’t love her because she was deaf).
    This, among other things, was terribly confusing for me. I now realize that the true root of my sorrow is that she feels so helpless or devalued as a person because of her deafness that she states things like this.
    I want them to make friends but they also have negative views of others in the deaf community so we ending up fighting if I mention that they should make friends (my mom also interprets this in the complete opposite way that I mean it). In short, when I feel like I’m trying to help them we end up fighting, and I end up feeling confused because I didn’t do anything wrong but am suddenly being charged with a slew of accusations about not taking good enough care of them.
    However, I can’t blame them for this attitude as there are no deaf communities in my area and it seems they’ve never been in contact with healthy deaf individuals so they have built up negative stigmas, it’s them against the world (pardon the cliche)…
    It is also just earlier tonight that I read parents of CODAs comments about how it is unfair to make the child an intrepreter at certain functions. I wish adults in my community, and many other communities, had this information!
    I have interpreted for my parents from as early as I could sign and that has definetly had negative affects on my relationship with them (and, I’m sure, hurt their pride and made them less willing to trust). There were times where I felt respnsilbe to censor what other adults said because I didn’t want my parents’ feelings to be hurt, and I definetly censored their complaints to others simply because I was too embarrassed to repeat what they were saying.

    I’m so glad that this community exists, and truly do believe in the beauty of deaf culture. I just saddens me that a lack of understanding or resources about it in certain areas can led to the emotional stresses that could clearly have been avoided. I want to add that my parents are extremely hard-workers and take great pride in all they accomplish and I love them dearly.

    It also gives me so much hope about my own well-being to read that another hearing child of deaf parents has experienced similar things as me and has obviously come to a place of peace to be able to express such a profound appreciation/understanding of his or her experience.

    If anyone could post where I could find information about events catered towards deaf parents of hearing children I would greatly appreciate it.

  24. codadiva

    Hi Just Found Out,
    I’m so glad that you found out! Thank you for sharing your story. The next major event is the conference, it is located in Indianapolis this year. check out http://www.codapolis.com for now

    If you need anything else, just ask. Hope to see you there.




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