Among my many talents is I’m fluent in American Sign Language.
(That’s what happens when you’re born to deaf parents.)
That I can speak ASL isn’t all that impressive -- you can take a class to learn it, of course. What’s impressive is that I grew up a hearing kid in a (mostly) deaf world. That is, I was simulataneously immersed in two distinct cultures. On one hand, I have hearing; that means I’m able to enjoy my favorite song and my favorite podcasts. On the other hand, though, having deaf parents meant dealing with oxymornoic.things like visual doorbells, text telephones, and silent conversations. Living in two worlds, so to speak, is something that was “normal” to me because, well, normalcy is relative. I adapted and understood my role in both environments. This was my life, after all.
It’s something that most hearing people don’t understand. If they did, they wouldn’t:
- Ask me if I’ve ever forgotten any of my sign language; or
- Ask me what it was like to live with deaf parents.
Even if I’m not as active in the deaf community as I once was, I’ll always be a CODA. No matter what I do or where I go, I’ll always be rooted in the deaf community and deaf culture because of my CODA-ness. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that CODAs like me -- especially young ones -- are always going to have to straddle the line between the deaf and hearing worlds. People like us are always going to be able to “turn off” our voices while at the same time turning on our ears. (I’ve even talked to a deaf person while wearing my iPhone’s earphones – how’s that for culture clash?) Our iPods, stereos, and the ability to vocalize English are just as important to us as our TDDs, video phones, and the ability to sign. In other words, the last thing a deaf parent should worry about is their hearing kid having an identity crisis. They’ll never lose that deaf-ness.
- they’re going to have to communicate with their parents
- they’re going to have to communicate with the hearing world
- they’re going to have to survive
In the end, it’s all about adaptation. The fact is the world is a predominantly hearing one, and we CODAs inevitably identify as being hearing people. In my case, I was fortunate to have hearing family (as well as friends and school folk) around me growing up. And my parents liked it that way -- they saw me as sort of a “bridge” connecting the two worlds. I experienced the best of both. Granted, I’m fully aware of how proud and protective those in the deaf community are of their ways -- as they should, it’s a unique culture -- but I honestly believe they need to embrace the hearing-ness of their child(ren). If anything, their children will be better people because of it.
Trust me, I know.