CODA Camp Experience: How I discovered my CODA identity and my tribe.
Throughout my life I have often been told that I am a CODA, I always knew that it meant I had deaf parents but never considered it was so much more until CODA Camp. I really didn’t know what to expect from the camp, before I went I was a bit nervous but thought that I would definitely meet at least a couple of people that I would get along with. But I did not expect what I actually experienced.
It was during my first experience of CODA talk that I realised everyone was like me: we were all loud, blunt, interrupted each other, tell elaborate stories, use signs because the words are not expressive enough, get distracted, have a similar sense of humour and most importantly we all “get it”. I didn’t have to explain anything about deaf parents, culture, community or language, why these things are so important to me. We all had similar experiences growing up: using sign language, flashing light door bells, telly text, minicoms, attending deaf clubs, feeling proud of Deaf culture and the community, struggling with not feeling understood, isolated, not like other hearing people. This was the first time in my life I felt like I had found “my tribe”, I belonged. I have always felt that I was in-between the Deaf and hearing worlds, I had never considered that there was a CODA world. I realised for the first time that I am not a culturally Deaf, hearing person, rather I am a CODA.
The next day when all the children arrived I stood in the hall surrounded by around a hundred other CODA’s it felt surreal. All of the children reminded me of myself, I was shocked at how much I identified with them. To be able to bond with people of all ages, so quickly and so intensely was an incredible experience. Even though I had just met them all I felt like we had known each other forever, like they knew me better than my own friends.
One of the things that hit me the most was a comment from a child:
Child: “Do you have deaf parents?”
Child: “Me too. Do you know that you are a CODA?”
Me: “Yes we are all CODA’s here.”
Child: “I know, I never knew I was a CODA, but now I do, I like being a CODA it makes me feel special and now I have lots of new friends who are all CODA’s as well.”
Throughout the camp what struck me was how supportive everyone was, from giving hugs when they felt home sick, to chanting their names if someone was scared. When it was time to leave I had tears in my eyes, everyone kept asking: will you come back next year? The truth is I wouldn’t miss it for anything, I really need this, these people, this community, this CODA love.