Why It's Important to Hear Other People Who Sound Like Me


For the longest time, I hated the sound of stuttering. I hated to hear myself stutter. I thought I sounded choppy and unnatural, and always imagined the bad things a listener was thinking about me. I hated to have to leave a voicemail, as I didn’t want someone to have a recording of me stuttering. And I hated to have to record my own outgoing voicemail message. I remember re-recording my voicemail message about 20 times until it was perfect, without one syllable of stuttered speech.

I did not want to hear other people who stuttered because it reminded me of me and how I sounded.

I hated to hear characters who stuttered in movies. I remember getting red-faced and cringing when I heard the stuttering lawyer in the movie “My Cousin Vinny.” The character seemed to be created to get a laugh and it was a demeaning and demoralizing role. I did not identify with this character, nor the characters in “Primal Fear” and “A Fish Called Wanda.”

But when the movie “The King’s Speech” came along in 2010, I felt a little differently. By then, I had come out of the covert closet and stuttering openly. I was OK with it. I was actually kind of proud to hear a main character in a movie who stuttered realistically and wasn’t solely there for comic relief. I could relate to the stuttering in this movie, even though it was a male (as have been most of the characters who stutter in movies).

Something was changing within me. I was reaching the point where I enjoyed the sounds of stuttering. In 2010, I started a podcast called “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories.” I created this to give women who stutter a place to share their story and hear other women who sound like them stuttering naturally and openly. I made it a goal to interview women from all over the world, and have so far
spoken with women who stutter from 32 different countries.

I like hearing the stuttering with different accents. I like hearing the cadence of a woman’s voice that stutters. I like how I sound on the podcast – something I never believed would be possible. How could I like something I had so vehemently hated for such a long time?

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

The Stuttering Foundation provides free online resources, services and support to those who stutter and their families, as well as support for research into the causes of stuttering.

I have heard from friends that have heard me on the podcasts that I have a “radio voice.” Me, who stutters, actually has a nice voice. They’ve said it’s easy to listen to, even with the stuttering.

I have heard from listeners to the podcast that many feel grateful to listen to other women who stutter because it helps them feel less isolated. Stuttering can be lonely, especially when you don’t know someone else in person who stutters. That was me until about 10 years ago. I had never met another person who sounded like me. I grew up thinking I was the only one who stuttered and spoke with broken speech.

I just recently returned from the annual conference of the National Stuttering Association, which was held in Atlanta in early July. There were over 800 people who stuttered at the conference, from all walks of life and different parts of the world. The event was a joint venture with the International Stuttering Association. During the day at workshops and at night in the hotel lobby, I heard so many stuttered voices blending together into a wonderful symphony of sounds. It was music to my ears.

Finally, I have realized I like the sound of stuttering. It reminds me of me, that I am not alone and together our voices are strong.

Image via Thinkstock.

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Stuttering

Gift box on wood table.

How My Stuttering Has Been an Unexpected Gift

Have you ever received a gift box that looked unappealing on the outside, yet the gift inside was beautiful? In its own beautiful, messy way, stuttering is a gift. As author and stutterer Katherine Preston once said, “Stuttering has given me far more than it ever took away.” In one aspect, my stutter has taught me [...]
little girl with pigtails looking away

To My Younger, Stuttering Self

You’ve been diagnosed with a speech impediment by not one, but two speech pathologists. Brace yourself. You’re going to have several challenges throughout your life as a stutterer. Some things you will have to fight harder for than other people. Don’t be intimidated. People will look at you as if something is wrong when you [...]
Dariel Martin

Why I'm No Longer Ashamed of My Stutter

I’ve stuttered ever since I was a kid. I grew up having really bad social anxiety, low self-esteem and depression because I didn’t see myself as valuable since society makes stuttering seem uncool. I hid myself from people and didn’t have a lot of friends because I wouldn’t open my mouth to talk to them. For years, [...]
woman looking out window

Why I Stopped Trying to Hide My Stutter After 35 Years

I have stuttered for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories of stuttering come not from the stuttering itself but to how people reacted to me. My father yelled at me to “Stop talking like that,” which I remember like a kick in the stomach. I couldn’t help it and didn’t understand why [...]