A big shout out to CODA.That for elevating this conversation. Understanding the implications of being deaf-parented has been an integral part of my personal and professional journey. My hope is that others see themselves in parts of this narrative.
My fascination with people goes back as far as I can remember, although I didn’t realize until now these interests had two things in common: identity and psychology. My grandmother tells this story of walking into the waiting room to find me after my sister was born. As a young six-year-old CODA (child of deaf adult), I arranged the chairs in rows like a classroom and taught the parents-to-be and anxiously awaiting family members American Sign Language.
My grandmother never forgets to mention her amazement in learning I could somehow tell whether someone who walked into a room was hearing or D/deaf and whether I should sign to them or use my voice (or both, apparently able to identify others who also lived on the edge of both the Deaf and hearing worlds).
This is one part of my story. Each deaf-parented child has their own story of how they are connected to (and disconnected from) the Deaf world.
In the Deaf world, my introductions may look like this: My name is Monique, sign name MJ. Mother father deaf, mine. Me, oldest of three girls, all three hearing. Born, raised Dallas, Texas. You?
In the hearing world, my introductions may look more like this: My name is Monique Champagne. I am a working interpreter, interpreter educator, mentor, and therapist (I choose which, if any, to disclose depending on the audience).
The typical response: Oh, cool! You know sign language? Can you show me a sign?
Sigh. I don’t look deaf, but I am Deaf in my heart (as I type this, I wonder if I am allowed that privilege).
As a CODA, I learned to be hypervigilant, to protect Deaf people from cruel and ignorant comments from the hearing community and to also protect hearing people from the belief and comments that all hearing people are bad (always wondering, am I one of them?).
As an interpreter, I learned to be neutral. All the time. I was both allied with the Deaf community and also a member of the oppressive group.
As a graduate student, studying Counseling Psychology, I learned about the phrase “research is me-search,” so I made every paper or research project about my community, my DeafWorld and my place in it.
My personal and professional interests began to align through my academic research, “CODAs Living Between the Deaf and Hearing Worlds” and “Job Satisfaction and Sign Language Interpreters.” Through learning about my own struggles with identity, I was sharing my research findings and connecting with other CODAs. There is little academic research exploring the deaf-parented experience. What I did read (i.e., “Mother Father Deaf” by Paul Preston) gave me peace, knowing I am not alone in this experience of living in the DeafMeetsHearing* world.
As a mental health counselor, my heart aches to hear stories of audism and oppression at the hands of the hearing individuals day after day. But I believe in the power of connection, healing, and of being heard in your own language.
This brings me to our current project: DeafParented. My initial desire to learn more about my own Deaf heritage and family of origin blossomed into an appreciation for others whose experiences are both similar and different from my own. DeafParented is a project I hope brings connection among CODAs (whether or not you identify with that phrase). My aim is that you feel seen and heard (both in English and in sign language). I hope that it helps you navigate your own valuable experiences in the *DeafMeetsHearing world. I look forward to connecting with each of you along your deaf-parented journey.