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American Annals of the Deaf

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Hearing, Mother Father Deaf: Hearing People in Deaf Families

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  • I am reliant on my own experiences and judgment, I am independent and not reliant on my culture and environment to form my opinions and views;
  • I am democratic, fair, and nondiscriminating—embrace and enjoy all cultures, races, and individual styles;
  • I accept others as they are and do not try to change people; and
  • I am comfortable with myself.

This chapter has discussed the notion of linguistic and cultural identity in relation to being a hearing person with deaf parents. Using my personal experience to foreground the discussion of what it means to be a hearing person with deaf parents, I have explored the topics of bilingualism, interpreting, community membership, and identity, drawing on literature from the fields of linguistics, interpreting, sociology, and anthropology and psychology to analyze my experience as compared to more widely held beliefs. I have established that I am multilingual with several identities. I have explained why I do not relate to the Coda identity, why I do not partake in Coda activities, and why I prefer the term HMFD. I have emphasized the importance for any person to have a strong impression of their own identity and sense of self (ipseity), and to feel that they belong. In saying that, I have acknowledged that identifying as a Coda and attending CODA conferences is a valuable experience for many people, and they should be entitled to that experience, but that it is not necessarily for everybody. I have revealed different aspects of my own linguistic and cultural identity and have asserted that I would prefer to be considered in terms of my multi-seitic individuality, rather than just in relation to the fact that I have deaf parents.

My goal in writing this chapter was to capture many discussions that I have had throughout my life and to share an alternative way of thinking about being a person who is an HMFD. It seems to me that I have had so many conversations with people who feel the same way as me, but the general perception of a Coda as having a particular kind of identity, with certain needs, still dominates. In asserting my own perspective, I do not want to invalidate or undermine the experiences of other HMFDs. Instead, I ask that people respect that HMFDs are heterogeneous: We are not all the same and do not all need the same things. We all have one thing in common: that we grew up with deaf parents. But our life experiences may be very different. We may not all be bilingual or identify more strongly with deaf culture than hearing culture. And not all of us feel torn between two identities; in fact, some of us embrace all of our identities.

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