Thursday, August 23, 2012

CODA Not Acceptable?! Says Who?!

Hello everyone,

I would like for you all to take a moment and look over this picture I downloaded from Facebook. Just read through if you can.

As I read this, I began to feel somewhat offended. A Deaf person is telling me that the term CODA is wrong because it is sound based? Whoa, hold on Deaf person, let me see if I can explain my perspective on this.

I grew up in a very rural area with two Deaf parents. Throughout my childhood, I always signed it "mother father Deaf". I was about 17 or 18 the first time I saw the term CODA. It was presented as an acronym, Child Of Deaf Adult/s. When I saw this, I immediately identified with it. It made me feel validated. Always signing "mother father Deaf" was really telling everybody that "yea, my parents are Deaf".  CODA, on the other hand, says that "I AM that child of Deaf parents". Let me see if I can put it another way for you.

CODAs often refer to themselves as living in between two worlds; the Deaf world and the hearing world. Many of us feel as though we are never really quite fitting in fully with either one. 

For myself in the hearing world, I do things differently than most other people I know because I do them in a more Deaf way. I am very blunt with hearing people, and a lot of them are put off by that. All my life I have been criticized by hearing people that I look angry all the time, when in fact I am not. It's just my tendency to wear a "Deaf face". I have given up on explaining this to hearing people, because most of them don't understand it. Most of them can't even wrap their heads around it. The end result is that it leaves me misunderstood and left out of a lot of things in the hearing world. It's been a very frustrating experience.

For myself in the Deaf world, I do things a little bit differently than the Deaf do, especially when I was a kid. I liked my music to be loud and I sang in front of my parents when I listened to my music. I had hearing friends, etc etc. One thing my parents never did for myself or my sisters was give us name signs. I noticed that some of my parents Deaf friends would speak with their own CODA children instead of sign with them. It was very weird in a lot of ways that I cannot readily explain, but often times I felt like I just wasn't one of them. Much like I wasn't a hearing person, either. That's what it means to be between two worlds. Where the hell was my identity?

Ever since I learned the term CODA, I have dropped "mother father Deaf". Every Deaf person I have ever met either refers to me as a "CODA" or asks me if I am Deaf myself. I take great pride in the latter because it makes me feel like signing is so native to me, that Deaf person had no idea I was hearing. I believe my deceased father is looking at that from somewhere and smiling his ass off. In all seriousness, I have never met a Deaf person who was offended by the term CODA. I have met some who didn't know what it meant, but I would then explain "mother father Deaf" and they would say "ok, now I get it". I have never seen a sign for CODA. I have always just fingerspelled it, and it comes out like a fingerspelled loan sign, like "bus" or "bank". The fingerspelling is its own sign. The sign that this Deaf person has seen that is the ASL sign for "self-esteem boost" is one I have never seen before. But I must say, I kind of like it. To me, that's a very ASL way of saying "I am a CODA. Very proud of both worlds to which I belong." I'm not sure how it can be viewed as inappropriate or offensive, but this Deaf person's criticism is a shining example of what CODAs mean when we say that sometimes we don't feel accepted into either world. For me personally, I know many Deaf people who accept me for who I am fully, hearing experiences included. I feel it's a very small minority of Deaf people who don't fully accept that. 

So when I see that term CODA, I feel that yes, it is somewhat English based, but you know what? That's ok because I AM hearing. I love the fact that it is also a term used in music, because I love music, and that's another "CODA" thing. In general, we love music! The fact that I fingerspell CODA like it is an actual sign shows it's somewhat Deaf based, too. And apparently this newly used sign for CODA is very ASL based. You can't criticize it for not being fully ASL. ASL is beautiful, and true CODAs NEVER forget that. But you can't be mad at us for creating our own identity. Just because we identify with hearing in many ways does't mean we disrespect or reject our Deaf identity, and just because we identify with Deaf in many ways doesn't mean we reject or disrespect our hearing identity. Stop making me feel crazy! I will not pick one over the other. I am who I am and that's both! Accept it Deaf! Accept it hearing! If you can't, to hell with you for being so narrow minded!

Just another sliver of what it means to be a CODA.

Until next time,

R. M.


  1. TERRIFIC POST!! I didn't realize the original post was from someone that was Deaf, I didn't really study it either. I'm so glad you had the time to think about this and post your experience! I have similar feelings. Thanks for your insight and sharing your story.

    By the way, I still can't visualize "self-esteem boost" - I keep thinking "self - support".

    Good post.

  2. Liysa,

    Thanks for your comment. Try signing a flat "O" at the center of your chest (where you would start the sign for 'pride')with a palm down "B" hand as your base. Blow the flat "O" up to a "C". I'll probably not use the sign myself, but I do like it. Fingerspelling CODA as its own sign is my current habit, and if I know myself like I think I do, it'll stick forever.

  3. I am a deaf individual, both parents are hearing. Had an education in both deaf institute and the hearing mainstream. To be frank, sometimes Deaf people can be morons due to their lack of intelligence and understanding of such terms and it's definitions. So don't feel bad about it. They need to quit being stubborn alecks and open their eyes and listen and try to understand with respect.

    1. Thanks for your comments, anonymous. I understand what you're saying, but for me, I'd scale that back just a bit. All of us can be morons at times, but in my experience, not all Deaf people have treated me this way. In fact, there's a pretty good percentage of Deaf people who haven't. As for those who have, I'm not sure that it's due to a lack of intelligence and understanding of terms and definitions, I think that some Deaf people misdirect their anger towards hearing oppressors (that doesn't mean every hearing person, either) and it comes out at CODAs at times. I think a lot of it has to do with things of that nature. Perhaps they never took time to consider what the term CODA means to us as CODAs, and that leads to a lack of understanding, but that in no way reflects on their intelligence. That's just my take on it. Your opinion is always welcome, and I want to thank you.

  4. sometimes Deaf people can be morons due to their lack of intelligence and understanding of such terms and it's definitions.

    This is not acceptable! You insult deaf people's intelligence that you calling "lack of intelligence" myself education in the college right now... so please not to used this again in the future...

    1. Anonymous (2)... You have it right! Stand up for yourself and be seen! I agree with you that Anonymous (1) was stereotypical in his comments. Audism.... it's not just for hearing people to commit, either.

    2. Anonymous 2- I'm glad to read you're getting a college education but you need to work on that 8th grade grammar. I do try positive criticism on my own kind as means of encouragement, even if it's insulting. I don't care how you take it, but suck it up! I know deaf people have the intelligence level to perform better than they actually do perfom. Quit playing around and study long and hard!

      For the CODAs.. Why don't you do a survey in 5th grader deaf children whether it's the big D or little d and find out if they know what CODA means. I bet half percentage would not know what it means.

      Anonymous 1

    3. Anonymous 1. I have a feeling your recent comments are going to be my next post focus after the next book review. But in order to go more in depth on that post, I would like to ask you a question in hopes of getting your honest answer (you certainly haven't held back thus far). I already know the answer to your suggestion of surveying 5th grade deaf children, and therefore do not need to conduct any survey. To me, the answer is a no brainer. So my question for you is this - What is your point regarding this suggestion? As I previously mentioned I hope you answer this question honestly, if you even answer it at all. But if you do, please feel free to go into detail about it, and again, hold nothing back.

  5. Deaf people euphemistically refer to their children as POINT - HEARING - MINE - MOTHER - FATHER - DEAF. Deaf parents cannot give birth to hearing children. Deaf parents can give birth to Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Coda children. Currently, there is little research on Coda children. The little information I do know about codas is that research has proven that codas have both a deaf and hearing brains. On a personal note, I identify as a multilingual and multicultural Deaf World Coda. I feel it is important to talk about what is C/coda and C.O.D.A. with our communities. There is a term and some people identify as a Coda and some do not. Anonymous, I agree that labels and identity issues are not always talked about in our community because of oppression. What does it mean to be Deaf? This dialogue has started with the people over at Facundo Element. Everyone should check them out: ~Anonymous 3