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. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Response to "War with CODAs", at Least the Beginning, Anyway...

Having technical difficulties with video uploads. You can view the ASL version of this post at

Hello everyone,

Recently my attention has been on an ongoing issue. I want to respond to it, but I need to take time and think about how I should respond. A little while ago, on Facebook, someone in my circle of friends posted a link to a blog post. The woman who wrote it is hearing and is married to a deaf-blind man. The post is titled “War with CODAs”. When I saw that, I thought to myself, “War with CODAs? Who am I at war with?” 

I admit it’s true that I have an agenda because one of my goals is to help hearing people with no Deaf experience understand what Deaf people are like, how they live, and what struggles they go through. What I hope is that they will develop a measure of respect that will change their perspective, and maybe that will help reduce Audism. So maybe I do have some adversaries worthy of going to war with, but I really don’t feel that way.

“War with CODAs” was written last year. However, it’s only been recently that people have really taken notice of it. I saw many responses posted by CODAs who were irate at being insulted in this way. I don’t feel any different about it myself. I am a CODA, and I was insulted, too. I don’t want to yell at this person, and I want to be fair, so I thought about what I should do. After reading the post again I wondered if she had other posts related to Deaf and/or CODAs. So I checked through the blog and I found quite a few. I read them all. And I noticed something common popping up in every post. 

I feel like her attitude, after reading her commentary, shows that she doesn’t really understand Deaf culture. She’s really ignorant of this. Some of the other comments made me feel as though she is a deep-rooted Audist. You know, sometimes it’s not so easy to separate Audism from ignorance, but I will give it a try.

So my plan is to start at the beginning of this with the “War with CODAs” post and evaluate it. I will discuss those comments that exemplify her ignorance and Audist attitude. From there I will move on to the next post, and the next one, in chronological order, and do the same type of evaluating.  I’m going to call this series “I am CODA, and I Know”. I don’t say this to mean “Hey! Look at me, a CODA who knows everything!” My point is to use my experience growing up in two worlds, hearing and Deaf. The cultures are different, but I am involved in both of them. I am going to use this unique experience as my viewpoint, but do so in an objective manner. 

One thing I do want to say to the woman who wrote the post is this; “Just so you know, I read your blog posts, and noted how many times you said things like ‘I’m just ranting’, or ‘I’m just expressing my opinions’, or even ‘My blog only has like 40 followers, so really not very many people read this, it’s no big deal.’ That’s ok, I guess. You DO have a right to free speech, but at the same time, you DO have a responsibility. Yes, you do. When you make generalized comments that stereotype different groups of people on a blog, you’ve also made it open to the public. Imagine if you will a time long ago when there wan’t any real technology. There was no internet, but there big printing press machines. So you decide to print up an article declaring that all Deaf people act the same and insult you, and therefore should just go away, and that all CODAs are a bunch of little whiners and ‘Damn! What’s wrong with all of you?’ So then you take that printed article and bring down to town square, where you proceed to find a post (maybe a light post, perhaps, or something suitable) and tack it up by its corners. Well everyone who sees it is going to come walking by and see it. Some will be curious and read it, only to be seething with anger by the end of the article, and will end up coming to your house, knocking on your door just top say ‘Hey! What’s up!? What’s your problem?, etc etc. Now you’re going to act surprised and be angry with them? That’s straight up not fair. You know that hearing people have a saying... ‘People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’.” I think that sums it up well.

The next post will be up soon and will address “War with CODAs”. 

Until next time,

R. M.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

RM Interviews Keith Wann - SuperCoda

Hello Everyone,

I want to say first that I apologize for not having a video of my interview with Keith Wann. I stated previously that all English blog posts in the future would have a corresponding ASL vlog to go with it. The interview began last year and slowly completed a few weeks ago, all via email, so unfortunately no video was taken. With that in mind, I want to say a few things about Keith before the interview. 

Early on after my first few blog posts I quickly realized that one of my goals was to give insight to hearing people about the Deaf community. As a CODA, I am very familiar with Deaf culture and my local Deaf community. I am still and always will be a part of it. One of the things I know is that most hearing people don’t get it. Please don’t take offense to that if you are one of those hearing people because it’s not your fault. You just never had any experience with it. But if you read these posts and get something meaningful from them, then I have accomplished that goal. This is where Keith Wann comes in. He is a CODA like me and very involved in his Deaf community. 

Anyone who has seen one of Keith’s performances, or watched any of the plethora of videos he has online can tell that ASL and Deaf culture are huge parts of his life. Through his work he is doing the same thing I am, and reaching a much bigger audience, I might add. He does it in his way, through humor, performing, and storytelling. I have been watching him now for several years and wondered if I could convince him to take time to let me interview him. So, I found him on Facebook and sent him a message, asking him for an interview. His exact response was this - sure thing! I would be honored - let me know what I need to do!”

Well over the last year we have finally completed this thing. Keith is a very busy person who wears many hats, and almost all of those hats involve Keith giving his time to others. Whether through performing/touring, his ASL radio program (which I just learned is no longer airing), his work with LegalShield, or with his family, he is giving everything he has of himself to other people, and that’s an invaluable contribution to humanity. I have a very deep respect for him, especially after meeting him recently. Anyways, I’ll end my ramble here and get on with the interview. Here goes....

RM: Are both of your parents Deaf?

Keith: Yes.  My mother became deaf at the age of three - german measles and pneumonia.  My biological father is hearing, (we) never met.  The man who I call dad who raised me was born deaf.

RM: As a CODA, and knowing other CODAs, we have all had some similar experiences growing up. Could you speak of these and how they affected your childhood?

Keith: I believe having similar experiences allowed me to have more empathy as a person later in life. I could hear someone and even if I didnt have that same experience I could understand that was their world and what they experienced.  For me this came as a lesson to me at the CODA Conference Hawaii 2004 - when I was asked to get on stage and do a bit of my show.  I said sure!  and then I was asked to voice and not sign...which blew me away...I always sign my show.  Then I was told there were codas in the audience that didnt know sign language so I had to be accomodating to them.  I was floored... I thought all codas had the same experience as me, deaf and ASL.  Lesson learned. For those that did have the same experience I always feel that kindred spirit.  The stories I do in my show are not all mine - they are OUR stories.

RM: What is your funniest Deaf related experience or story growing up?

Keith: Can't really name one - made a career out of sharing millions of the childhood stories - I do remember my parents buying me a radio and telling me to listen and learn to talk - they didnt know about the dial tone and didnt teach me either, so I listened for days to a station that played country that wasnt exactly on the dial - so the static was louder then the music.  Week later (an) older coda came over, and saw the radio and gave me the "lesson".

RM: What got you into, and when did you start doing ASL storytelling/comedy?

Keith: I was just flapping my hands as an interpreter and one night after bombing the gay and lesbian comedy festival since at that time I had no background in teabagging and tossing salads I decided to try out for a local asl improv group.  From there we traveled up and down the state of california until one night we were asked to each do a 10 minute solo from our childhood - my first story was the unplugging the vacuum story and the rest is history.

RM: I think it's safe to say that Peter Cook is considered one of the best ASL storytellers today. What is it like to work with him?

Keith: I still cannot believe that Peter is my personal mentor. He is such an inspiration and support that I now try to be with others that I work with. He has set the bar for ASL performing.  To have him treat me like an equal and ask my opinion on how he should change his story is an awesome feeling. To be able to travel with him and see how he thinks, how he treats people, and to see how genuine he is about life, I am one of the luckiest people. He became a close friend, was the pastor at our wedding. His work ethics is outstanding and something all of us need to strive for!

RM: What is the one piece of work you are most proud of?

Keith: Anything that one person takes away and it changes them. I can be proud of one particular piece but it might be for another reason, a simple statement, sign, or story that another person takes and it changes them. Gary Sanderson gave me a gem early in my career and he wasnt aware of it, and I was so happy I was able to talk to him years later and thank him for it. I had someone approach me a year later after one of my shows and say "thank you for pulling my sister up on stage (a silly improv asl song I do) - I am deaf and she is hearing and after you involved her she jumped into ASL and now we have regular sister -sister conversations without mom having to interpret." I get those kind of thank yous all the time and that is what I am most proud of.

RM: Tell us what Audism is in your own words.

Keith: Seems to be if a deaf person can talk they feel they are higher in the pecking order since they are 'closer' to hearing.

RM: Describe your ASL radio show.

Keith: A way for the hearing world to hear more about our ASL world.

RM: What is your biggest fear?

Keith: That I go blind.

RM: What can we expect from Keith Wann in the future? 

Keith: More behind the scenes stuff and ASL children's book literature - my 10 years of being America's funniest ASL comedian has been a great ride and I have no problems helping the next generation of ASL performers like Wink and Austin Andrews have their 10 years...there is plenty of room for 100 more ASL coda performers - My show was never about me, but us.

RM: Is there anything that you would like to let the readers know?

Keith: I look forward to learning, growing, and sharing more with our ASL Community.

I was saddened to learn recently that the Keith and Wink ASL Radio Show is no longer happening. Its concept was great and its delivery medium was original, to say the least. Hopefully the good people of Florida got a lot out of it. Awareness of the Deaf community among hearing people is, in my opinion, the best way we can fight Audism. Power to the Deaf and ASL!

The above picture is (hopefully obvious) myself and ELF with Keith at his show in Cambridge, MA. The other performers, "Wink" Windell Smith, Jr., and Gregg Spera, both put on exceptional performances. They had us laughing all night long. I was able to make a connection with Wink, and we set aside some time before their next show in Manchester, NH (April 26) to do a video interview. That post should be coming within the next month. It could be a while. I need to go back through and translate all the signing for the hearing people who don't know ASL. Once that is more finalized I will let you all know of a date for that post, so keep checking back!

I want to personally thank Keith for the time he gave to this interview and the inspiration he has been to many of us. Don't stop performing. People need to know, and laugh about it, too! Find him at, and watch any of his many videos on youtube. It's great stuff!

Until next time,

R. M.