Yup, there was a time when I didn’t think stuttering was cool. I was covert. I switched words. I avoided speaking situations. I blamed myself for stuttering. And it wasn’t until I reached my early to mid-thirties when my perspective started changing.
While I’ve received agreement from my audience for the title of my podcast over the years since launching it in 2007, I’ve also received nasty emails and negative comments about it across Facebook groups.
“How can you say stuttering is cool?! It ruined my life!”
“I’ll have you know that my brother stuttered and he definitely doesn’t find it cool!”
Granted, there are many different philosophies in the stuttering community — it’s bad, it’s good, you must hide it, it’s better to accept and embrace it, it’s something to get rid of, it’s nothing to worry about — but it was the I-wish-I-didn’t-stutter outlook that got me to naming my podcast, “Stuttering is Cool”.
Back in 2005 or 2006, Facebook was still young and you could count the number of stuttering groups with one hand, there was one active group called “I hate stuttering!”. While I was still covert (and haven’t even learned about the stuttering community that I would eventually discover) and trying to make sense of why I hadn’t grown out of it by now, I didn’t like the name.
I joined it anyway because I liked the idea of meeting others who stuttered just like I did. Remember, this is back in the day when it was rare to meet others who stuttered even online. I was seeking speech therapy again in 2006 but something stopped me from going ahead. There was something else I needed but I didn’t know what. It was this. Meeting others who experienced the same crap that I did.
In retrospect, I didn’t realize at the time that I had already begun my journey into fully being ok with my stuttering. That happened as I started meeting new people at podcasting conferences starting in 2007.
A month or so after joining the “I hate stuttering’ group, someone had started another one named “Stuttering is cool”. THAT’S more like it, I thought to myself. I wanted to learn how to deal with stuttering if I was to be stuck with it. I wanted something more out of my life and not fully expressing myself was preventing that. Venting is one thing, but one should also put in the effort at doing something about it. Be it speech therapy, finding (or forming) a support group, meeting others.
When the idea came to me to start a podcast about stuttering and to decide on a name, all I could think of was the name of that group. I asked for permission by the owner and I received the blessing.
It’s up to you to make stuttering cool
When my Stuttering is Cool podcast was a few months old, I was already learning (and sharing) how to get up the nerve to strike up conversation with new people, allow myself to stutter, and even talk about it to others. To my surprise, it was received by the people I was speaking to very well. More well that I had hoped.
I was seen in a confident light. Women called me brave, awesome, and courageous. No one had an issue with my stuttering. No one laughed at me, no one made fun of me. I made lots of new friends. The exact opposite of elementary and high school.
Another reason I had started my podcast was so I could meet more people who stuttered from all over the world. I invited listeners to record and send me their audio which I played on my episodes. The mere fact of hearing someone else stuttering, sharing the exact same unique experiences, and fully understand what it’s like to live with stuttering — you feel less alone, even less worried or serious about your speech.
Once I started attending stuttering conferences and making friends with stutterers oozing with confidence, that’s when it truly felt that stuttering is totally cool. Yes, stuttering still causes embarrassing moments, yes it still kicks my butt now and then, yes I still find myself looking away, yes I still experience moments when I dread making a phone call, but having a community of like-minded people to cheer you on, encourage you, share tips, share defeats and victories, even make jokes about it, it makes having a stutter feel awesome.
After all, stuttering is a challenge only because the world still needs a lot more awareness. There is nothing wrong with stuttering. But there is something wrong with the people who laugh at us or make stupid comments about our speech. That isn’t our fault. That isn’t a reflection of us.
If you’ve ever come across any of my comics, info graphics, or videos and felt anger — or “slapped in the face” as one commenter described on a Facebook group once — from seeing the words “stuttering is cool”, please know that my intent was only to spread the word about the unexpected benefits of stuttering openly and hanging out with the worldwide stuttering community that we all are fortunate to have access to in our digital age.
That’s what makes stuttering “cool”. Don’t take my word for it, just ask any of the kids who attended a National Stuttering Association conference.
The Stuttering is cool button is part of the five Stuttering Awareness buttons on sale in the Stuttering is Cool Shop. It’s the same place where you can buy my book Stuttering is Cool: A Guide to Stuttering in a Fast-Talking World full of tips and steps to take to stutter openly, confidently, and fearlessly.