Tuesday, May 27, 2014

To Hide or Not To Hide (again)

This issue has come up again in my life because I visited a blog that I actually link to in my sidebar. I respect this blogger a lot, actually, so this entry is not in opposition to anything she has written or said. The issue in question is...whether we should be covert...or "come out" as stutterers. I read and hear different things from different people, and no matter how many times I hear or read about it, my stance never changes: I choose to be covert for my own personal reasons, and I stand by them despite opinions to the contrary. I just hope that those people accept my reasons as I accept theirs. I find it dismaying when people say to "be brave" and "come out" as a stutterer...as if my choice is cowardice or if I am not as brave in my decisions and actions as a covert stutterer.

I use fluency tricks to hide my stuttering because I want to sound like people who are fluent. Does this mean that I am ashamed of stuttering? Perhaps. That would be a matter between me and my therapist, if I had one. :) Does this mean that I don't accept my stutter? Not at all. I accept is as much as a person must accept that he has only one leg or one eye. I AM A STUTTERER. See? There, I wrote it. I am not delusional. :P I am okay with reality. However, this does not mean that I have to be okay with stuttering. There is a difference, in my opinion.

If you only have one leg and you are okay with that, but are not okay with hopping around on one leg or dragging yourself across the floor, or using crutches, and instead choose to use a prosthetic to look and walk like people with two legs, I would find absolutely nothing wrong with this. That is your choice. I use fluency tricks for the same reasons: to look and talk like people who do not stutter. If you were perfectly okay with walking with only one leg and did not want a prosthetic, that would be a choice that is just as valid. Either choice is valid, either choice takes the same amount of courage, in my opinion. It would be unfair of me to judge you if you choose to openly stutter. By the same token, I ask that you not judge me negatively because I choose to be covert. I believe that my reasons for doing so are logical and reasonable, and I have put many years of thought and introspection into them.

I will talk briefly about one of those reasons. I am an elementary school teacher. It took a lot of courage for me to branch out and take on this endeavor (second career), because I knew that it would place me in front of a classroom and in front of school boards and parents and in meetings where I would have to speak. But, it was my DREAM...and I bravely stepped out to accomplish it. But...people expect elementary teachers be be fluent. That is just the reality. Would I mind a college professor who stuttered? Probably not. He is not a role model for my growth and development. College professors do not teach and mentor children. School boards and parents expect elementary teachers to be able to communicate fluently. Notice that I did not say effectively. I believe that stutterers can communicate effectively. But, they cannot communicate fluently, and I would be competing in interviews with teachers who can speak fluently, and I don't think I would stand a chance with a school board if I openly stuttered. I believe that I would be passed over, all things being equal (I was just as qualified), and the more fluent teacher would get the job. For reasons of stigma and because probably most people believe that a stuttering teacher would not be as good a role model for children who are developing their communication skills as one who is fluent. Again, notice my wording. I am being careful to say things in a specific way.

Is this fair? Of course, not. But...it is reality, and I do not choose to take on the fight to force a school to hire a stuttering teacher for the sake of equality. I am not ready to take on that battle. I would rather use my fluency tools to hide my stutter, just as a person with a glass eye uses it to hide the fact that he only has one eye. I want to be regarded as a fluent speaker, and that is my valid choice. I hope this makes sense to...somebody. Thanks for reading. :)


Andrew Weger said...

I think this just shows that every person who stutters is unique in their own way. There's not one solution for everyone who stutters. Personally, I've spent most of my life trying to be fluent but never obtaining it, and now I'm working on acceptance. Accepting myself as a stutterer and learning to deal with the emotions behind. Most importantly, I've learned that acceptance is not the same for everyone. I actually stepped away from teaching because I couldn't handle the stuttering and talking all day. It was just too much for me but it was a reality I needed to accept.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this! Very insightful!

Hli Xiong said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I am a graduate student in speech-language pathology and recently attended my first meeting with the National Stuttering Association chapter at my school. We had a very similar discussion during our meeting about stuttering and its impacts (if any) at the workplace. You posed great and valid points for why you prefer to be covert about stuttering. Very good food for thought! :)

maadhav said...

hey, i think you have your valid reasons. Im starting to accept my stutter but it is certainly a difficult journey. Just think about this does hiding your stuttering provide you any emotional releif the way you think it does? You will realise that much more of the anxiety and frustration comes from our efforts in hiding it. Good luck

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YouSpeakStuttering said...

HI Tony, I really agree with your discussion on "effective communication" vs. "fluent communication." I feel like so many people assume you have to be fluent to be a good communicator...there are a lot of poor communicators who don't stutter out there!

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