The Did I Stutter team are writers, artists, students, and activists. We stutter and we are proud of it. We reject the idea that stuttering is a pathology and we are committed to fighting speech discrimination. This is what we want you to hear:
Stereotypes hurt us
First, it is important to understand that while stuttering is commonly interpreted as nervousness, anxiety, or a lack of confidence, it in fact gives no indication of a speaker’s confidence, intellect, or knowledge of the topic on which they are speaking. Dysfluency may be more apparent when a speaker is under stress only because they’re anticipating others reacting negatively to their speech and are more acutely aware of their stutter.
When stuttering is represented in movies or television, it is almost exclusively used to indicate that a character is shy or unsure in their speech. A stuttering character who becomes fluent by improving their self-esteem further perpetuates the belief that stuttering is a temporary condition and that stutterers are psychologically fragile. These stereotypes harm us in our daily lives, where we want to be recognized as strong in our convictions, confident in our speech, and knowledgeable in our fields of work and study.
Stuttering is not naturally shameful
Following in the disability rights movement, we understand stuttered speech as simply a form of human variation and “fluency” as an arbitrary calculation deciding how fast and smooth a person must speak to be heard and taken seriously. There is no reason why everyone has to talk the same way. In fact, most of our conventions about how quickly and smoothly people “should” talk are completely arbitrary. Yet these conventions, taboos, and expectations force stutterers to be ashamed of their voices. Stutterers face pressure from peers, family, speech therapists, teachers, bosses and friends to normalize our speech. Pressure to fix, cure, or reduce our stutters too often just cause psychological harm, teaching us to loathe our voices and avoid speaking altogether.
Stuttering in and of itself isn’t bad, broken, or unfortunate. It’s only the social judgements and discriminations against non-normative speech that force stutterers to be excluded or ashamed.
Speech therapy is a choice, not a duty
There are lots of reasons stutters may choose to go to speech therapy. But making able-bodied people comfortable shouldn’t be one of them. Speech therapy may be helpful in relieving physical tension or accessing educational or professional opportunities that would otherwise be denied us. However, stutterers should not have to spend years of costly speech therapy or an hour of fluency exercises a day changing our bodies so you don’t have to wait an extra 10 seconds for our Starbucks order.
The only cure for stuttering is silence, and we refuse to be cured. Stuttering more within communities that affirm dysfluent speech will offer young stutterers the option of celebrating their difference instead of trying to fix it. Building a community based in opposition to speech assimilation will help allies and non-stutterers understand how to communicate better with us.
We hope to create and share an alternative way of hearing our stutters so that instead of shame, dysfluency can be acknowledged for the many things it communicates. We hear our stutters as sexy, as comedic, as happy, and as graceful. We want to encourage stutterers to stutter proudly in hopes that more people might begin to hear the beauty in repeated syllables.