Monday, February 16, 2015

Attention all CODAs! You're opinions are wanted!

We as CODAs are well versed in how similar we are. We share a lot of common experiences growing up with Deaf parents and all that comes with it. Yet, no matter how similar the experiences are, no matter how great it feels to hang around each other and share our stories, we are all still very different from one another. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, it just simply is what it is. It’s life, and we deal with it. There’s a lot of beauty in the diversity.
However, I feel that sometimes the differences aren’t always good things, and these are all just matters of opinions. For some CODAs, there are likely certain traits in other CODAs that make them cringe, and for other CODAs it’s something else. For me, it’s watching CODAs who act as if without them, their parents or other Deaf people would just crumble without their ability to take care of them. If you are reading this, a CODA, and are offended, well, I’m not necessarily sorry. I don’t mean ill will, it’s just something I don’t understand, and often times drives me crazy.
The reason it makes me nutty is this. How does a CODA go through life with Deaf parents, know their struggles in a hearing society, know their friends as well they know some of their own closest relatives, and still come out with this attitude of being the caretaker? Its obvious that many of us as CODAs have often had to interpret as children for our parents, or handle phone calls for our parents that children had no place handling, and all of the rest of the things we may have had to do at one time or another. I get that not all Deaf parents raise their hearing children the same as others, or that having siblings can help shape the different roles that particular set of siblings fall into. It’s logical to make the leap that from time to time we may feel like the caretaker, but let’s dig a little deeper. 
I think the part about it that really dumbfounds me is how it comes to be that CODAs who act this way seems to forget that their parents were around before them. Did they need you then? For my experience, at times I had to interpret, take calls, be the face that every hearing person spoke to when they realized I was the only one they could talk to (which often came with that attitude that I wasn’t just the only one they could talk to, I was the only intelligent one in the bunch). That last one always infuriated me to no end because I knew my parents were every bit as competent as any of the jerks I had to make nice to in front of my mom and dad. The only reason the situations occurred was the fact that audism existed, and obviously still does. But I also went to Deaf Club with my parents regularly. I often spent the night at their friends’ homes when we would visit. Thanks to my parents, I know who Deaf people are, and I know that if I wasn’t around to be that bridge for the Hearing, my parents would still have gotten done what they needed to get done, even if it would have been tougher and may have looked completely different.
I also know that some of our parents may play that role that they cannot do things themselves and they need us CODAs to fix it. My parents were from an older generation I saw it occasionally amongst them and their friends. Its just that when I try to see how some CODAs develop this attitude or arrive at the conclusion that they are the glue holding their parents lives together I become seriously agitated. I mean, did some of us, regardless of how intensely proud we are of our parents, how well we sign and everything else, just simply buy into the things that hearing people have said to us our whole lives? I don’t mean we actually deep down believe them, even if a good majority of it came from our extended family. I just wonder if all the years of those ridiculous comments, opinions, and observations somehow etched itself into some of us and became a part of our personalities? I just don’t understand it. 
It’s not easy to define CODAs, and it doesn’t help that it can be so difficult for us to define ourselves. I know I have that problem in a lot of areas of my life, and I want nothing more than to understand it better. Yet even with all that, I have never let myself believe that my parents would have perished or be significantly worse off without me there, and I know most of us as CODAs don’t feel that way. But it’s evident that some of us do, and when I see it, I want to put a pen through my eye or something much less gruesome and equally painful to distract me from it so I won’t say or do something stupid.
Does audism play a role in this? Could it be some type of CODA privilege that is being subconsciously enjoyed? I’m not sure of the answer myself, and would love to know everyone else's thoughts on the matter. Especially from any CODAs reading this.
One more thing. My opinion here doesn’t mean I hate CODAs who do act that way. I am disgusted with that attitude, and I may not like a fellow CODA because of it, but being CODA is belonging to something unique. I cherish that, and love every CODA brother and sister because of it. I just needed to vent, and even more so, want to have an open discussion about this so we can all understand each other better. CODA hugs and CODA love to you all!

Until next time,

R. M. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

CODA Advice?

Hello Everyone,

This post is not being done in ASL tonight. I may sign it in a video at a later date, but not now.

First things first. I am happy to be back. I meandered off of my path for a while. Call it cynicism, call it disinvestment of a sort, I'm not 100% sure myself, but I do know it was a mix of a number of things. I believe the catch-all, one word description is 'rut'. I have been in a long rut. I owe the timing of this return to two recent things. First, the website,, is finally moving forward. Click the link to see what I mean. Second, in response to my enthusiasm about the first event, someone told me today that they miss my writing and want to read more. Do I really need further motivation? Not likely. So thanks are in order to Robert Augustus, for the drive to make si5s an integral part of Deaf culture, and to Dianne, you may only be one of a handful who regularly read these posts, but what you said earlier was taken to heart.

So this post is a response to Erik Witteborg, who suggested a 'writing prompt'. He's good like that. This one made me think, and even now I don't fully know what I'm about to say. His prompt was this - If you can go back in time to meet your 10 year old CODA self, what advice would you give? This response should just be what it is. No conscious effort to be funny or serious. Thinking back to when I was 10, my parents reluctantly had to move to a town almost a two hour drive away from home. My father had landed a new job in the "Big City" of Bangor, Maine, so they sold the house and we moved. We eventually moved into an apartment complex, but first spent 6 long and grueling months with my mother's parents. The tension in the house was never lost on me. Worse than that, the town was considerably larger, and I had no friends there. This is the me that I would advise, so here goes.

Hey kid,

It's ok. Things look like shit right now, but it's ok. The first thing I want you to know is that it's ok to not want to be your parents interpreter. They don't like putting you in that position either, even if it seems like they just expect you to do it. Nevermind their friends who always tell you that you should grow up to be an interpreter. That's crap. Do what makes you happy. Mom and Dad will always be proud of that, and that's ok.

Second, don't stress out too much about the other kids at school. You know most of them won't even try to understand what having Deaf parents is like, and you DO know they will all ask you ridiculous questions about it. You can't hide it, and you may as well be straight with them. Don't forget to show your pride in them and in yourself. You don't know it now, but later you will begin to meet so many people with parents like yours, far many more than the ones you know now. You will call yourselves CODAs. I'm pretty sure many of them are calling themselves that now. Wear it like a badge, for it is you. It's ok to show them.

Third, don't back down when something needs to be said. You're gonna be great at this anyway, but don't hold back either way. Please do your best to remember to think about all sides of the situation. Family IS wrong for how they put Dad down, but someday they'll kind of get it, and that will be because you DIDN'T back down. It's ok, no matter how angry you get. Respect will come in the end. It's still ok.

Last, stop feeling guilty. You will take advantage of situations because you haven't found yourself yet. When you do, remember that was part of the process. Know that Mom and Dad understand this and won't hold a grudge. It's what kids do. Don't let that guilt remain there, even after Dad leaves this world. You don't need to tell him you're sorry. He gets it. He's proud of you no matter what because he believes in you. It's his legacy to you and when you're a man you keep that close to your heart instead of the guilt. Honor the legacy. Teach the world who Deaf people are, through you. The best thing you can do is leave this world better than you find it, and let's be honest, we've seen more than our fair share of shit. Way more. Honor the legacy and help clean it up. Teach the world, and they will begin to clean it up, too. Make it better for future generations. Believe you will see him again, and you will. You will see how proud he really is. Trust me, it's ok. It will always be ok.


Well, there it is... and it's ok.

Until next time,

R. M.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pride - an ASL Version

Hello everyone,

This is an ASL version of the English poem "Pride" from my eBook "Shadow Boxer & Other Poems". It's a look at a real relationship between a CODA and his deceased father. Please do not look at this ASL version as poetry. It really didn't come out that way at all. It's more like the ASL/Deaf version of spoken word or prose, and quite honestly, I'm not 100% sure how to define it myself. With that said, let's just say "it is what it is". If after viewing this you would like to read the English version, please refer to the 'My eBooks' tab at the top of the page. You can find the link to the book from there, and it is a free download. I hope you enjoy the video, and forgive my near 2 month absence from this blog (assuming any of you still check in, haha).

Until next time,

R. M.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thank You Keith and Wink, New AFF Member

Hello Everyone and welcome,

Today I want to announce something. You know my roster? Really there’s only one name on the AFF roster. Today I get to announce there’s a new name to add to it. Her name is Norma Boots. She provided the subject for my previous post. She had been reading a book when she came upon a comment the author wrote that was negative toward deafness. She looked up the author’s contact information and sent her a direct email. The author responded, becoming a discussion. Norma stayed strong and positive and did a lot to help the author understand Deaf culture. That’s the point of the AFF - to help eradicate Audism - that.
So the two of then discussed what name she wanted. My name is the CODA Kidd, with 2 d’s, because it looks more like a wrestler’s name. So we both thought on it and came up with ideas, but when we shared them we didn’t like them. So we did it again and man, what a waste. Finally, she had come up with one. She is the “Paladin of Justice”, but I prefer to sign “Justice” like this (the sign for equality as opposed to the one that relates to “court”). That’s cool! Her name is The Paladin of Justice! Yeah! So now it can be added to the roster, meaning there are now two people. I’m waiting for more, so who’s out there? Come on, I’m ready!

Recently my wife and I went to Brewer, Maine, for the Keith Wann and Wink show. I bought tickets for myself, my wife, niece, sister, (my mother), and my aunt. She is very special to me. Both of my parents are Deaf. No one on my mother’s side of the family ever really signed, and it was the same for my father’s side of the family, with one exception - his sister (my aunt). My father was the oldest of his siblings while my aunt was the youngest. There’s about 15 years separating them. So when she was a kid, somewhere between 4 and 6 years old, my father taught her ASL. He would show her the alphabet and some signs. She started to pick it up, and then just took off with it. That’s what makes her unique in their family - she is the only one who signed. Very nice. So we brought everyone to the show.
The first performance was the comedy show, which was Wink followed by Keith. It’s such a good experience, but I had seen the same show twice before in Boston and New Hampshire. Despite that, the show was still awesome. Anyways, during the break we looked around at the school the show was held in. It’s an elementary/middle school. The same aunt I just mentioned works there, and has her classroom upstairs on the second floor. She’s the special ed teacher, so it was cool to have her show us her room and the upstairs. 
When we came back down, I noticed my mother hanging around and chatting with the other Deaf people there. It was a very good time. It was so nice to see everybody, so many old faces I remember, but I couldn’t recall most of their names. It’s the CODA curse, maybe (what do you think?) because when you’re a little kid at the Deaf Club meetings with your family and you see all of the adults, and play with all the other CODA children, you get to know their faces, all of them - strong remember. But names? My god, I was just a little kid. I didn’t remember any names because no one ever spoke them. You can’t pick it up if it’s not mentioned - but their faces? Oh yes they’re etched in my brain. It was really nice to see so many people. 
Keith’s comedy performance was the same routine until the very end, where he added a sort of “thank you” to everyone who came. He wanted to show everyone, it’s hard to explain, really. It was beautiful of course, and it bent my heart. To be honest, it did draw a tear from my eye, but it’s ok, I am still a man here, alright? He performed a song and I don’t know its name, but it sounded a lot like country. The words on their own were very powerful, about each person having a candle representing their spirit, and how we should be responsible for finding those whose candles are out, go to them and help them by showing our own light, in hopes theirs will ignite. It was really how he signed it and told the story, though. It was so powerful to see this on stage and realize it was just like watching a music video, like the ones you see on MTV or other stations. When you watch a video, it has its story in English words, but the video itself tells a story, too, just like a movie does. Keith’s performance was just like that - a music video.
I just sat there, jaw on the floor in awe of what I was seeing. So Keith, I just want to say “thank you”. That performance really touched my heart, and that was a wonderful experience, so thank you.
Afterwards was the second performance by Wink, entitled “My Father’s Gift”. It wasn’t really a comedy, but a more serious look at his parents, who are Deaf. It was really interesting to see at the beginning of his performance how he explained his parents’ backgrounds growing up (the family dynamic, what kinds of schools they went to, etc). I noticed it was very similar to my family. His father and mine both went to schools for the Deaf when they were 5 years old, so they got to be around other deaf children the entire time, signed, and interacted. The contrast was interesting to see that his mother and my own, when they were of age for school, were both sent to public schools by their own parents, with nothing more than some hearing aids and a push out the door with the hopes they would learn to speak. I’m pretty sure Wink’s mom was in the public school system through graduation. My mother was in public school until about 12 or 13 years old. Her parents noted that her improvement was insignificant, so they felt it was perhaps best to send her to a school or the deaf, and she finally got to go. To see how their stories were similar was really cool, and helped me to relate even more. 
He told the story of how his parents had met, how his father had fallen in love with her, and that was a beautiful story. Later on they had a baby girl (Wink’s older sister). Wink was the second child. In his performance he became both of his parents. The story truly broke my heart, but knowing how he survived, well, I have to say that his story, compared to Keith’s ASL song, it’s like this. Keith’s brought a tear to my eye. However, Wink’s story had me removing my glasses to wipe the many tears from my face and looking around to make sure no one saw me. That. 
The story was so powerful, seeing those Deaf have so much inner strength, love and everything else you could mention. It was during that time (part of the story) that his father’s strength was the solitary reason for Wink being born. Now as an adult this is how Wink thanks him. It really is his father’s gift.
I want to sum up here. Keith’s performance really touched my heart. Wink’s was so powerful, not only did it touch my heart, but at the same time, it ripped it open, and then healed it to be even stronger because of what happened in that story. His father’s strength, the love for his family, for his wife, that whole thing - wow - that - really made me feel inspired. It’s really a wonderful story about “Deaf Can”, “Deaf Strong”, and “Do Deaf Need Hearing People? No!” That was impressive. We CODAs carry around a “Deaf heart” inside of us, and that story touched mine, making such an impact that it will be in my mind and heart forever. That’s what I want to say, to Wink, “Thank you. I want to let you know that seeing your performance, your comedy show, and other experiences I’ve had with you whether it was the interview or just hanging out, you’ve left a mark on my life, and that’s a true inspiration for me. Thank you. To Keith, thank you as well. Both of you guys are awesome!
So all this rambling about the show and how it affected me by breaking my heart, mending it, yada yada, does have a purpose. I want all of you - those of you who haven’t yet seen Wink and Keith perform - to go online, right now. Well that’s just dumb of me, you guys are already watching this vlog (or reading this blog). So let’s do this. When this video (or blog) is finished, I want you to go to or It doesn’t matter which one you go to, just search their page for a tour schedule. If you find that they are coming to your area, by all means, please, don’t be patient, and certainly don’t wait. Grab those tickets. Bring your friends and your family, everybody. Bring them all and watch the show. I know your hearts will be impacted the same way mine has been. 
Until next time,

R. M. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

From Ignorance to Audism -- and a New AFF Member!

Hello everyone,

Today’s post started with a Facebook message from a fellow CODA by the name of Norma, who has agreed to let me share this experience with you. Here is her initial message:

Hi Fraser!!! How are you??? Sorry to bother you, I know you’re a busy guy, but I think I need your input on something. I was reading a book and twice the term “deaf and dumb” was used. Not as a reference to a Deaf person, but referring to an emotional state (rendered deaf and dumb). Even though I knew what the author meant, it still bothered me. (The book was published last year, and the setting is modern day-cell phones, tablet computers, etc). Then I find out the author has a child that wears hearing aids, so now I’m even more stunned she would use that term---even in an emotional context…Am I over reacting???

My response was a follows: 

nope, not at all. I'm offended by that. Its likely that the author meant it in the same vein as someone using the word "retarded" to describe an idiot. However, the fact this author has a hard of hearing child may suggest they are straight up oralist. Its a likely dynamic with a HoH child, even more so than with a deaf child. I think it stuns most of us who have a clue about Deaf, because we have a clue about Deaf. I think our problem is that sometimes we don't remember that most people out there don't have any experience with Deaf, and when we see that they might have had some and still say things like that, it seems to us to be unfathomable. Either way, it's Audism, and how offended you are should be influenced by whether it was inherently hateful or just said out of a lack of awareness and sensitivity. Do you mind if I use this in a blog post?

Norma later filled me in a bit more about the details of this incident that I would like to share with you, so here you go:

Here’s part of the sentence I read in the book   “was on the verge of being rendered deaf and dumb by the paralyzing…”  It definitely triggered something in me, even in that context. I contacted the author thru her website. I wanted to take the opportunity to share Deaf awareness and educate her on audism. We exchanged several emails (that’s how I found out about one of her kids has 30% hearing, and I too picked up on the vibe that she’s probably raising the child orally). She was extremely sweet and kind, she apologized profusely from the bottom of her heart, she agreed with all of my viewpoints, she does NOT believe deaf=dumb.... she talks about being in the head of this particular character.  In one of her emails she said “I agree, I think there are certain words or sayings that trigger certain responses in everyone. And you are right, the term “deaf and dumb” does not bother me – in the context in which I meant it. I can absolutely see it coming across as something else, which I promise you, I didn’t mean. Yes, I would completely take offense if the words were used together to describe a deaf person as being dumb. I took a step back when you emailed and completely understood how that would sound if you weren’t right there in my head witnessing how I felt Tag was feeling. He was completely overwhelmed which affected his cognitive abilities because of his reaction. Like I said, I completely understand…

smh, WHAT!!!! I was blown away by this, but at the same time this was the email from her that finally put the puzzle pieces together for me. You said “Its likely that the author meant it in the same vein as someone using the word "retarded" to describe an idiot”  …that makes sense to me. The conclusion I came up with was she’s comparing the traits of an overwhelmed hearing person to the traits of a deaf and dumb person. In my last email to her I stated this to her and attached the following two pics…she has not replied back to me. HA!! If you are ok with this and think it’s appropriate, I would love to send her your blog when you finish it. I told her (twice), that I was anxious to discuss this topic with other Codas.
Looking foward to your thoughts on this!!!  YOU ARE AWESOME!!!

Again, my response:

oh wow, it's mainly out of ignorance, but also carries little regard to how offensive it can truly be. It's a typical reaction to first finding out you offended someone, or a group of people, I think.... Thank you for this Norma, this is awesome stuff, and kudos to you on confronting her in a non offensive way. That takes a lot of guts, and it hopefully plants a seed in her mind the next time she intends to use that phrase...

Norma’s next email to me was this: 

“kudos to you on confronting her in a non offensive way. That takes a lot of guts”…hahaha, actually it’s the exact opposite for me, I fear confrontations!!! and I was totally shocked when she replied to me, I honestly thought my email would just sit somewhere or get deleted. My goal was to try to get her in a calm and respectful discussion and fortunately she responded the same way. She has absolutely no control over how I react to words in her book, that’s on me. Does that make sense???? I was trying to figure out why this was a trigger for me, and she helped me figure it out, even though I don’t think she liked my results. *smile*  I want to share some more of her words with you.

“… I want to clarify something. These words in my term do not go together as in deaf = dumb, but rather their senses were completely overwhelmed…I completely understand your response to the terminology and I want to apologize if in any way it was expressed that the two words related to one another. I definitely agree with your entire email and I apologize from the bottom of my heart if you believe I was referring to the hearing impaired in a negative way. I assure you that I was not. Thank you so much for taking the time to send me the email…

Thank you Fraser for validating my feelings. It makes me feel better. Not sure if offended is the right word for me personally, but I’m sad that she doesn’t “get it”, or maybe she does now, and that’s why she hasn’t replied back to me. I hope the pics I sent her didn’t offend her; I chose them very carefully for a reason. I wanted to show her the Deaf part in me. The word “peace” for her- regardless of our difference of opinion, and the robot for her child. Surely, even oralists can’t be offended by the ILY handshape, right??!!

My response to this:

true, but she may only be an unwitting oralist (she is and she doesn't know it). Either way, it does boil the whole thing down to ignorance a lack of awareness, and thats enough for me to blog about. I put her in the category of people who would likely benefit from Deaf awareness education, and not just a hateful person who will never get it....

To sum this up, ignorance leads to not so good things. In this case, it led to Audism, and Norma spoke out against it. I am proud of her for doing so. I know many CODAs who spend their entire lives frustrated with all the hearing people that ask the same questions and make the same comments over and over about being Deaf, sign language, etc. It’s tedious for most of us, I think. I know it certainly has been for me, and  thankfully ELF tends to take up the rebuttal (if you will) when I am asked those things now. That’s her contribution to helping end Audism. It’s too frustrating for me to go that route at times, but I find it much easier to talk about in these blog posts.

I believe we all (Deaf, CODAs, Interpreters) have a responsibility to educate and spread awareness about Audism, and what it means to be Deaf. There are plenty of ways to do so that all vary in the amount of involvement. Norma, for example, chose to confront the author of the book she’d read. I write blogs. Many interpreters do answer questions from hearing people regarding Deaf culture. Many Deaf people are politically active, or perform for hearing audiences about their lives and their observances. Some of us just perform what we think is entertaining, and through that the world gets to see how normal and equal Deaf people truly are. 

My point is this -- I don’t mean that all of us as CODAs need to do these great big things in order to achieve this, but I want all of you reading this to understand that if you do feel a responsibility to do something, please find an avenue to do so which works for you, no matter how little or how great the amount of your life you give to it. It’s how we can give back to our parents, and help squash out most of the ignorance that leads to Audism.

Norma, here’s to you and your effort! Cheers!

Until next time,

R. M.

P. S., I need to add one more thing. Norma, you saw an incidence of Audism and you went right and challenged that person. Wow that was brave! You know what you did means? Yea, you’ve become an Audism fighter! So now you can join the roster. Just so you know, you can come up with your own name, you know, like a good nickname, kind of like a wrestling name. You think about it and let me know, and I’ll add it to the blog roster. Congratulations, and thank you!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

R. M. Interviews Wink (Windell Smith, Jr.)

For the ASL version of this post, click here

Hello all and welcome! 

This post is my interview with Wink (Windell Smith, Jr.). I just want to say to you all that being able to interview Wink was quite an honor for me. He’s a very kind man with a ton of great ideas. He’s done so much work with ASL, interpreting (for the Deaf), and sharing his stories about growing up CODA. It’s amazing and he’s such a powerful performer. 

Well that’s all I had to say, so enjoy the interview. Here we go!

RM: Hello. My name is R. M. Fraser, and this is Wink. Maybe you know him from his website Hello, Wink.

Wink: Hello everyone.

RM: So my first question. So I’m a CODA and I’ve always been fascinated by other CODAs family dynamics related to language. For example, in my family, my father was very strong and pure ASL, while my mother follows more old-fashioned signed English. It was an odd linguistic mix for me growing up. I’m curious about your experience. What are your parents like?

Wink: It’s really interesting that you took in both ASL and English. Growing up in my family, ASL was my father’s thing. It was taught at the school for the deaf where he grew up. My mother grew up with an oral background in a mainstream program. Sometime after they (my parents) were married, she was involved in an accident. She lost everything upstairs and had to relearn. She mixed ASL and English. I was very close to my father. I left school in 2nd grade and was home schooled from there. When I grew up, I was with my father at his handyman business. I would be there, and just pay attention to his language. He would always explain how to fix things. He used a lot of classifiers and I took all that in. I never really got the hang of fixing things and that stuff, but I saw and was constantly exposed to that language. From my exposure, I incorporated his way of using classifiers and handshapes, etc, and that’s what comes out of me. 

RM: You do “Winkshops”, you perform, and other things. How long have you been doing this?

Wink: Aaaahh. I’ve been teaching workshops for about four or five years, and I’ve been performing for about three or four years, too. The workshops did happen first before the performing. 

RM: Since you’ve been performing, with all the humor in your stories, and I’m sure these are real life experiences, or at least in part.

Wink: Well, yes, but in my comedy show I tend to take what happened and tweak the whole thing. For example, the stories I perform in my comedy show about my father, the story about ‘red’, my father DID say that to me about the SEE sign ‘red’. He DID bang pots and pans and made a lot of noise to to annoy me. But him knocking the door off its hinges and pushing me out of the way DIDN’T which I think the average person can assume which parts are my imagination and fiction. I like to look at these situations and be more creative with the ASL. As for the dramatic performances I do, they are 100% true, but the time frame spans a few decades, I mean, from 1980 something -- well, really it begins when my parents were born right up until more present day. I have to condense all that into a two hour show. So I’ll take things from different times and combine them into one. So everything is real, but the delivery isn’t exactly chronological it’s condense to present the feeling, but it’s still honest. 

RM: So some experiences may be mixed up. When you think back on growing up, what was the funniest thing that happened that you haven’t shared with the audience? 

Wink: Umm (long pause), I think of one of the interesting things with my father. He was always very honest with me. My parents were open socially, and always discussed things in front of me, even at age 8! I mean, why? As far as remembering specific stories, well, not really, but I always remember their honesty. They were so open, and if I had a question, they would always answer. They were never vague about anything, Sometimes they were too blunt, and at 8 years old that would kind of confuse me, but it’s interesting, anyway.

RM: So you’ve made DVDs that relate to your “Winkshops”, right? And it’s really for developing ASL and a bunch of other things. I’m curious because I work in deaf education, and I have been through bilingual education training and I’ve learned that some really good theories involved with education for deaf children involve a media room, with a camera that can record their expressive (language) and make it ‘static’, so they can watch it repetitively. So I’m curious, how do you feel about its importance to deaf education?

Wink: Do you mean its importance for... what do you mean?

RM: Media use and its importance for deaf education.

Wink: Oh yes. Media, wow. Well, deaf education aside, in general education, media has failed because of old practices from the 1900s that continue today. It really hasn’t grabbed a hold of media yet. And this ASL group hasn’t either. Honestly, they’re still teaching ASL through books, which is stupid. There needs to be an increase of media when teaching deaf children so it can be seen in 3D instead of on paper. When they (student) don’t understand, it can be modeled. No doubt in how media could really improve this. My company, Winkshop, we focus on that, how to deliver it to Deaf, and hearing people learning ASL. Those two things are very important.

RM: So “Winkshops”, do you have a sign for that?

Wink: No, I just tend to spell Wink -- (RM: That’s ok, its fine) But really the company is named Wink, and its funny because my name is WInk, I guess it’s one entity to me, or that is how I see it.

RM: So do “Winkshops” really only focus on interpreting, or do you get into more than that?

Wink: Well, as I just mentioned, the Winkshop company and I are one in the same. I have many goals and that’s why I set this company up. The reason is that I can’t be the one to address all those goals alone. It’s impossible. There’s not enough time, and someday I will die. So I brought people into the company so it can continue in the event of my passing. I’ve communicated this to them, what to do, etc. So it’s not only geared for hearing people, but in general, too, for Deaf, deaf education, deaf children, Deaf adults in all sorts of genres as well, entertainment, educational, etc. I really go in-depth on all of these goals. In a few months, there will be a broader approach of a new industry that hasn’t really been tapped yet that focuses on Deaf in general. I can’t discuss it yet, but that’s why I set up this company, so that we can do all these things, and if we can, I want to do it all in one place. 

RM: That would be nice to see, for sure.

I saw you perform before in Boston. I really enjoyed it, and felt like I laughed through it nonstop. My belly couldn’t catch a break, but the amount of humor you put into your experiences for the audience, how important is that? (Wink: involve what?) To involve humor in your performances.

Wink: Umm... I feel humor is quite powerful. You can say something that’s powerful, but if you add humor to it, it goes to the back of your head while you’re laughing and lingers there for a while and becomes something more that you analyze and try to derive other meanings from it, which is interesting. So, if I can convey something to others that is important and they can grasp, and add that humor in it that makes them laugh, it’ll stick and they’ll really get the message later on. So they’re willing to accept it at first, and later on really get its full meaning. 

RM: I’m curious. How did you meet Keith (Wann)? How did that happen?

Wink: I forget the name of the strip club, no... We didn’t meet as “performers” He was well established as a performer before we met. I was just starting out as a dramatic/comedy performer with my one man show, I have also been a workshop presenter prior to that. Keith saw me from some of the stuff I put up on YouTube and of course we all know his stuff on YouTube. But how we first “met” was back when I was a director of outreach for a sign language interpreting agency. We reached out to Keith’s company at the time “CallVRS” in regards to a few business propositions between companies and a non-profit, we didn’t discuss performing at the time. Keith and I were involved with lots of organizations and projects and always found excuses to incorporate one another in the projects which he was gracious enough to always agree to. Eventually Keith asked “Hey you have been doing this drama stuff for awhile, you ever think about doing comedy?” I didn’t really know how to answer, but then in his very nonchalant way, “Come out next month with some material for a show.” By that time I have learned to just accept and take the offer regardless, just take it! So I went and did a short set of 10 minutes and was off the stage before I knew it. However, one unkind thing Keith did to me was he assembled a powerhouse performance group of Himself, Crom Saunders, and The Peter Cook, he put me after Peter which made me wet my pants because he is just amazing! Wasn’t fun going after somebody who brought the house down, so I half expected everyone to go to the bathroom during my anemic set. However, one thing I must say is that Keith Wann is incredibly supportive! He’s always on the look out for new young performers (I mean as in up and coming) and those that are willing to be apart of the group he will be their first and biggest fan and will show you where you need to go and even work on your bits with you. There are a scat few performers out there with the generosity to do that. 

RM: For yourself, when you look into the future, do you see yourself continuing this work or do you want a change? You said that you want to add more to Winkshop to focus on other goals, but do you think you’ll continue to perform?

Wink: I feel I’ll always go on with performing because I enjoy it so much, I know when I get up on stage there will be someone in the audience who will be impacted, and that’s important to me. I also enjoy creating jokes and seeing how, why, and why not it may work and plow through that and break it down mentally, I love that process. So I think that’ll continue, and the business will expand, so it’ll be those two things.

RM: So where can people find you on the web? Where can they find your website> This is your time for shameless self promotion, so go ahead.

Wink: My website is You can find me on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, email. It’s all there on And if you search WinkASL on YouTube, Facebook, etc, you will find me. So I think that’s the easiest way to find more information. My website has a newsletter and you can be notified if I come to your area to perform, or do a workshop or whatever. So thanks for watching. Oh, and thank you R. M. Fraser!. It was an honor to be interviewed and have this exchange. I really enjoyed it. 

RM: Thank you. I feel honored, too.

Wink: Great Work :)

Until next time,

R. M.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"I am CODA, and I Know" Part One

Hello Everyone,

This is the first post in the “I am CODA, and I Know” series. Recently I learned that some people informed Alan Abarbanell, or, Abababa (did I sign that right), that I used his poetry work in my blog. To be honest, I love his poem. He calls it a CODA anthem, and I agree. While my work is titled “I am CODA, and I Know”, and his poem is titled “We are Coda, and We Know”, I did borrow it because it’s perfect. I just wanted to share that with you all. I didn’t mean for there to be any commotion about it. To me, it’s a sign of respect. So we (Alan and I) discussed it, and he let me know that he is ok with me using his title. I am going to go ahead with this, so Alan “Abababa” Abarbanell, thank you!

Now this blog is focused directly on Noelle’s (Campbell) blog post “War With CODAs”. I looked it over, thought at length about it, and analyzed it. So now I’m going ahead, and setting this up in point-counterpoint style. Here goes...

(Noelle) “War With CODAs” 
I am not deaf. I am not a child of deaf adults (CODA), but most of my experience with CODA’s is as a friend of a parent who is deaf. I am generalizing a lot in this article, and it might be more of a rant than actual commentary, so be warned. 

Noelle, in this article you say that you make a lot of generalizations, and well, you really do, but it’s not necessary. Your warning disclaimer is done in poor taste. When you make an announcement in public like that and then add a disclaimer to it so you can be excused is inexcusable. 

From the perspective of a parent, CODAs overwhelmingly come out of childhood as teenagers who want continual sympathy from both the hearing and deaf community.
BS! I myself have never tried to get any pity from either the Deaf or Hearing communities. Now some teenage CODAs will seek that out from the Deaf and hearing, but remember, it’s because they are TEENAGERS. It doesn’t matter if they are Deaf or hearing, both look to avoid any consequences from their parents or something like that. That generally is not a CODA specific thing. 

I have seen teenaged CODAs refuse to sign to their parents in public, which makes communication a pure bitch for someone who can’t turn their hearing on and off. I know how hard it is to raise a teenager, I have two that are grown and two well on the way to teenagehood, but CODA’s add the additional complication of language barriers.  

Huh? What language barriers? Are you referring to refusal to sign in public? Come on! Most teenagers regardless of being Deaf or hearing (or CODA) won’t talk to their parents when they are mad at them. That is a tendency of many teenagers. That really isn’t a “CODA” thing.

Teenage CODA’s to their deaf parents, are EMO without the clothes and make up. Imagine ALL your children walking around in skinny black jeans, black dyed hair, listening to mopey music and putting safety pins in their ears, or eyebrows, etc. That is what a CODA looks like from the perspective of a deaf parent, even if they look and act completely normal to you and me - the hearing people. 

In all my experiences being around Deaf parents, none of them have ever complained that their kids were EMO. NEVER. Some of them may even dress up a bit goth in all black, but they don’t continually gripe about it. They don’t complain about it any more than hearing parents of hearing children who act EMO/goth. 

As adults CODA’s can be even more annoying. They either make a complete break from Deaf Culture, or become a zealot intent that everyone be as ‘immersed’ in ASL when learning as they were. 

Statement untrue! Did some of us break from Deaf Culture? Sure. Did all of us? No way. And you say that CODAs wish to force everyone to learn ASL through immersion and constant exposure? We as a whole do not say that. I have been teaching ASL to hearing people for 9 years, and yes, I really believe that the best approach to learning ASL, for most people, is through consistent immersion in ASL. But think about that. They are in class once a week for 2 hours at a whack. There needs to be constant signing during those times because hearing people don’t necessarily have friends or partners to practice with, so they have little to no opportunity, and therefore it’s important that in class this is the focus. But at times some (my students) have needed to use voice because despite all my best efforts to explain things in ASL, some of it still goes over their heads. So I usually hold the last ten minutes or so of class as a “voice on” time to discuss what was confusing them so that they can understand what it means. It helps them moving forward to gain a better understanding and be able to improve their voice off sign. All of us just don’t think that way, some (hearing) people need it spoken, too. 

When I was learning ASL, it wasn’t the CODAs (who could hear and understand me) that taught me, it was the deaf and some very tolerant hearing interpreters. The children of deaf adults often do go into interpreting, though many shun it because they were forced into the position as interpreter for their parents. I understand the later perspective as a hearing wife of a deaf husband. When we go out, I am interpreter.

You need to understand something. Many of us CODAs did feel forced to interpret for our parents, but not just for them. We had to interpret for all the hearing people out there, too. The every day constant of fielding ignorant questions from the hearing can become very frustrating after a while. And with the influence of our Deaf parents’ frustrations with hearing people upon us, wow, it is true that some of us CODAs make generalizations and complain about it. I mean, what do you expect? You’re upset with CODAs because they refused to teach you sign? You really need to think about your own ignorance and limitations in your lack of understanding CODAs and their backgrounds. Instead of making generalizations of CODAs, why not respect our differences? You don’t understand us, so just respect that and leave it be. 

In my experience both in and out of the deaf community, CODAs that become interpreters are remarkably intolerant of people who are trying to learn ASL. Because they are so immersed in Deaf Culture they are automatically deferred to on all issues deaf that interpreters don’t want to address with the deaf. Here’s an example: Kieth Wann is famous in the deaf community as a Comedian. He is a CODA. Recently he engaged in a crusade to stop hearing people (mostly teenagers learning ASL on their own or at school) from posting ASL music videos. Music videos translated into ASL are ADORED by the deaf. Even the bad attempts they will tolerate as a ‘good try’ because there are so many good ones. He didn’t bother to ask his parents if they liked ASL videos - and he doesn’t respond to people who disagree with them, he just puts up a straw man argument about how he is trying to preserve the language.

That’s funny, because most of the Deaf people I know view amateur posts in ASL (Hey look! I know how to sign!) as a disappointment. Their awkward signing has many mistakes, and other hearing people tune in thinking ‘Oh cool! They’re signing! I can do that too!’, and that it’s somehow fluent sign they are seeing. Then they go ahead and copy that, making all the mistakes they just saw and didn’t realize. It’s not fluent sign. It’s spreading incorrect language to more hearing people, and that’s not right. Leaving that aside, did you approach Keith Wann yourself and ask him if he ever discussed ASL music videos with his parents? How do you know there wasn’t ever a conversation about it? Do you honestly, HONESTLY think the three of them never talked about it? Keith also said that he is trying to keep the language safe, and preserved, and he’s right in that. If amateurs keep posting these videos online, more hearing people who are thinking about learning ASL will be looking there, too, thinking these videos are (examples of) fluent sign. They’re really watching awkward signing rife with mistakes and grammatical errors, and that’s what will spread out amongst the hearing. If that happens, Deaf people will still be alright within their community, but all these hearing people will think they are doing correct ASL when it’s really not. I have a suggestion. All the amateur ASL students and beginning signers should have a disclaimer in the video’s description and title stating that “I am not a fluent ASL signer. I am a beginner.” Let us all know that. That’s fair because anything posted on the internet is ‘public’, meaning all of us should sense an inner responsibility to inform the viewers. Posting these without any disclaimer is irresponsible. So there you go.

      All languages evolve - ASL faster than most because it is so young and so heavily influenced by modern culture. You have just as much luck trying to stop it from changing as you do stopping kids from using textspeak in Facebook posts. Instead of encouraging people - as they had in the past when they weren’t whiny little man-childs - they belittle their efforts to learn the language.

Again, huh? You think ASL is evolving faster than other languages? How do you know? Do you have any research proving this? That is a biased opinion, and really ignorant to make such a statement in public. And you think that all of us CODAs refuse to encourage hearing people to learn ASL and sign? You really know nothing about us. Most CODAs want hearing to learn ASL because it’s more beneficial, far more respectful to our parents, and better communication all around. Plus, we (CODAs) won’t feel so (as you put it earlier) ‘forced’ (to be interpreters).

It isn’t as if ‘poor language’ use is unique to ASL. My Abuelo would get very terse with me for my poor Spanish skills, but he never made fun of my accent or my efforts when I actually used Spanish with him because he wanted me to speak to him in the language he was most comfortable with. This is the problem with CODA’s. They aren’t ‘most’ comfortable with ASL, they grew up FORCED to speak it. And I understand, almost universally, at one point or another in their young life, they resented having to use it when it made them stand out. But really, how is this different from being a Muslim who wears a hijab, or a Sikh who wears a turban? How is it different from being black in a white community or white in a black community? Everyone has their burdens, but while a black person might be able to get sympathy from one or the other race he is ‘forced’ to live in/with, he can rarely get sympathy from both cultures. That isn’t true for a CODA.

Honestly, I am ‘most’ comfortable with ASL over English because it is my first language. I didn’t feel forced to learn sign any more than any hearing child feels forced to use the language their hearing parents use. Its a pretty equal scenario. I wasn’t FORCED. You can think about it in two different ways. One being ‘forced’, and one being ‘it is what it is’. There is a big difference there. Any time I had to use sign in a situation that put all eyes on me was never an experience I hated, because in every one of those situations my parents were always proud of me. I never resented their pride in me. 

I go to a deaf branch of the LDS church because it is easier for my husband to socialize with the deaf and use ASL.  I am his interpreter there, but I am also a Sunday School teacher supervising the CODA’s in Primary (ages 3-11).  When we discussed doing songs in ASL for a program so the deaf parents could understand, the interpreter brought up a concern that the CODA’s don’t like being put in a position where they HAVE TO sign.  I countered with “so what?”  The hearing kids don’t like to be put in a position where they have to sing for parents.  I made the case that the program wasn’t being put on for the kids, it was for the parents to see how much the kids had learned, and the deaf parents wouldn’t know how much they had learned if they refused to sign it.

Whoa, first off, if the interpreter that said that to you is a CODA, then fine. If that interpreter isn’t a CODA then they have no experience or background with it, making them just as clueless as you are. Are you really taking their word for it? That’s a bit messed up. It’s true that most people, regardless of being hearing, Deaf, or CODA, don’t like being ‘forced’ to do anything. It’s natural. It goes back to my previous point, so let me elaborate some more. When I was in 4th grade, my school was putting together a show for all the parents to come and see. I was to stand on stage and sign two of the songs. Whew! At that time, my family had just moved to town, so the school was only few months old to me, and I hadn’t made many friends yet, just one or two. There was a part of me that was uncomfortable having to do this and hated the idea. (That part of me) didn’t want to do it. But did I have any resentment or regret for doing it? No. I saw my parents watching me sign away on stage and I could see the pride in their faces. That was a really positive experience because it really built my character. 

The interpreter wasn’t a CODA, but being a terp, she knew all the sad sob stories of CODA’s.  Every kid has a sob story.  I bet even Donald Trumps pampered princess could tell us some sob stories that would evoke the utmost sympathy from us.

Come on! These repeated generalizations are so ridiculous and unnecessary!

If our goal in life is to get sympathy, no one has it down better than CODA’s.  But if the point of life is to learn, grow and move on from your experiences, then many CODA’s have some serious growing up to do.  In the end, my experiences have shown that CODA’s (even my own who act decidedly CODA when I’m not around or when they think I’m not around) are just as troublesome, beautiful, heart-wrenching and redeemable as any child.  It’s just trying to get through those struggles with them (or watching them happen to friends) that’s the hard part.
Again, I’ll go back to my previous point. I didn’t hate doing these things, and I never sought sympathy from anyone while growing up. I’m very proud to be a CODA. If there’s one thing I’ve learned form my experience growing up it was this: the thoughts and opinions of all you bigots out there don’t really matter. It’s nothing I really need to see again and again. 
You said that if the goal of life is to learn, grow and move on from our experiences, well then, that is just good advice. It really is. Perhaps you should follow it yourself. Your making these generalized comments (about CODAs) in a public forum. Think about what’s happening. You have a responsibility, too. Your statements ARE your responsibility. Do you remember a man from decades ago called Jimmy the Greek? Well, instead of me taking time to explain who he was, you can Google it yourself, then you’ll understand what I mean.

Until next time,

R. M.