I understand that this stance might seem contradictory, so I’d like to address our reasons for it. They could perhaps be best summed up in a phrase by blogger realsocialskills which we recently posted on our tumblr:
“Marginalized people are not revolution objects.”
The phrase is used to resist something that can happen within activist communities: Groups of marginalized people decide that they should not have to change their bodies or practices in order to accommodate ableist (or sexist, racist, etc.) social pressures. However, for many reasons, some marginalized people choose to continue to change themselves, and when they do so they can be judged by others in the community for “giving in” to ableist (sexist, racist) pressures rather than embracing their bodies as a form of activist resistance.
In our context, this might look like attacking someone who seeks out speech therapy for not embracing their stutter.
Activist communities are capable of being just as exclusionary as the social pressures they are resisting, and this is not the sort of community we want to develop. Marginalized people are not revolution objects.
So I want to recognize upfront that there are many reasons people seek out speech-language pathology. I also want to recognize that my choice to reject speech-language pathology personally comes from a place of privilege. For one thing, while my stutter has led to a good amount of social shames and exclusions over the years, the tension in my jaw and tongue caused by my stutter has never caused me physical pain. For another, I am white and male, which can allow my stuttered voice to be taken seriously in ways that other stuttering voices may not be. I am otherwise able-bodied and do not have a parent or caregiver that opposes my stutter, or will speak for me if I can’t speak fast enough. The list could go on and on, because stutters are diverse and part of recognizing the ableism of our society is recognizing that not everyone will be affected in the same ways or to the same extents.
Others who do not have the privileges I do may still choose to reject speech therapy. And others who share my privileges might have their own reasons for engaging in speech therapy. That is okay, because dysfluent speakers are not revolution objects who needs to proudly stutter in every time and place—to be sacrificed for “the cause.”
This is what we mean when we say that people who choose to engage in speech therapy are welcome here. We are not here to police your body or tell you how you should speak. That is, after all, the entire point.
Yet even though some of us may choose to go to speech therapists to increase our fluency, or to learn to accept our stutters, we shouldn’t have to. As a community, we need to be able to decide for ourselves what role speech therapy gets to have in our lives, and that just will not happen when the entire discussion is dominated by the language and terminology of speech-language pathology and when able-bodied professionals continue to define our voices for us. We want to open up space to imagine a world that is different, a world where stuttering and non-normative voices can be heard and appreciated on their own terms.
So I will continue to be firm in questioning speech-language pathology, because this is not their space. There are very important conversations to be had with speech-language pathologists in the future (as the thread on the forum has indicated) and we do want to keep these communication channels open, while retaining the right to discuss our speech on our own terms.
At the same time, we desire Did I Stutter to be a space where we are generous with each other and our specific needs, circumstances, and bodies. If we are moving forward together it is in stuttered and halting steps.