Valley Life for All column: Rae Henson reacts to ‘CODA’
Special to the Post Independent
Editor’s note: The Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, publishes a monthly series about fostering inclusion.
There was a poignant moment for Rae Henson in the movie “CODA” when the father asks his daughter to sing for him. He’s deaf, and she can hear. He puts his hand to her throat so he can feel the vibrations of her voice.
“I have two CODA daughters,” said Henson, who teaches deaf and hard of hearing children and is deaf herself. “One of my daughters sings, and I’d say to her, ‘Will you sing for me, too?’” Her daughters can hear, which makes them both CODA, which is an acronym for children of deaf adults. “So I could really relate to that scene in the movie.”
The movie “CODA” won in three categories in the Academy Awards this year, garnering a win for Best Supporting Actor for deaf actor Troy Kotsur and for Best Picture of the Year, which made history for the deaf community.
“When ‘CODA’ won Best Picture, I was crying,” said Henson. “It was just a joy! It’s the first time that’s happened, and it’s a big open door for deaf actors and writers as well as to educate the hearing culture that no matter what disability you have, you can achieve anything you want. We don’t consider deafness a disability, but society does.”
Henson was born deaf and speaks, signs and read lips. As she said, she was born into the deaf culture. “We have nothing cognitively wrong with us, we have only a deaf issue, not a deaf issue plus something else. We can function very well. The hearing culture is normal, and the deaf culture is normal.”
Yet living as a deaf person in a hearing world is a challenge for some. “I feel very confident and have a lot of friends in the deaf world, but when I’m in the hearing world by myself, I can feel lost, and I tend to isolate and retreat,” said Henson.
The movie “CODA” deals with this, when the parents depend on their hearing daughter to interpret for them. Henson believes this is an emotional burden. “CODAs get too emotionally involved in adult situations, and that’s not appropriate. Deaf people need, and are required by law, to have an interpreter.” She adds that the CODAs she knows feel like the movie gives them a voice to be understood.
Communication and connection, then, is the bridge that can close the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.
“I married a hearing man,” Henson says. “People in the deaf culture were telling me not to do that. But I told them, it will work as long as there is respect and communication.”
Local nonprofit Valley Life For All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Learn more at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or on Facebook.
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