Updated: Mar 25, 2020
By Madison Mauro
My hands are soft and crooked. In the mornings, it aches where my knuckles bend, the stiffness crawling from the tips of my bent fingers to my cracking wrists. My hands are endlessly weary as they dance and twist around my face, sharp eyes darting back and forth to follow their story. If I run weathered hands along a recently painted box, the air bubbles in the paint kiss my palms and my breath catches. I can’t particularly ever describe the feeling. Is it a feeling of joy when I discover someone can sign? Maybe it’s a sensation of pure delight when I enter a silent room bursting with life and conversation. It might be the feeling of aimlessly searching for a word on the tip of my tongue and only being able to find the answer cupped in my hands like a firefly. But uproarious laughter comes tinged with the occasional feelings of heaviness and anger, like a sign hanging from my neck that pulls my eyes away from my Deaf father’s hands. If you ask a Child Of a Deaf Adult (CODA) what that moniker means, kindly slapped on them like Krazy Glue, there’ll probably be a pause. It’ll be a silence that fills the space between your question and an identity, hesitating as it sits uneasily on the shoulders of a CODA. It might mean negotiating the space between the Hearing world and the Deaf world, or it might simply mean somehow always being the loudest one in the room. But with those answers, you would probably get the sense that no explanation could describe the amalgam of experiences that have created—and will continue to create—a CODA identity. The notion of being a CODA has a certain significance unique to the Deaf community and has been created as a result of Deaf culture. My mother tells me that I haven’t really been a part of the CODA community. I didn’t realize there was one, I retort. I used to think that CODAs existed solely in the realm of the Deaf community, straddling a fence between being afforded a unique place in the Deaf world and never really feeling like we completely fit into the Hearing one. I apparently haven’t been a very good CODA—I’ve operated solely in Deaf spheres and not in CODA ones. I’m not entirely sure what such a binary means, but I can almost feel the thud of a box being placed over me, confined by walls with words that are not my own written on them. My identity is my own. It’s distinct from what my Hearing CODA brother has faced, and from what my Deaf CODA sister has encountered. But the differences only fill the holes peppering the similarities—from hearing the snide remark of a snubbed cashier who thinks my father is ignoring their verbal pleasantries to the intrusive stare of a curious eye that never really breaks its gaze, there’s experiences that we all drag along and ones that shape our path forward. They form the foundation of a community where CODAs immediately identify with one another, laugh about shared stories, and can exist in a hybrid world combining Deaf and Hearing cultures. There’s a debate as to what being a CODA means. It’s a cultural question that, similar to the concept of Deafness, has been discussed. The similarities and differences found in each CODA are two parts to a whole—an intersectional identity that, while sharing common experiences with others, is unable to be reduced to words on a page. But there is something that will always be the foundation of my and others’ identities: that we’ll always be CODAs.