Can Stutter Allies forget their “Allyship?”
I had a very strange coming out to one of my friends at work about my stutter.
Honestly, it wasn’t strange. In truth, it was humiliating. It was one of those situations where if someone asked what happened I would’ve started crying on the spot.
But after we had talked it out, (because I couldn’t have gone very long without telling him why I was so upset about how he approached the disclosure), he said:
“It’s okay, I had a friend who stuttered growing up.”
That was when the questions started to form in my head. The first one was:
- Did he forget what someone with a stutter sounded like?
2. Why would he respond in the way that he did initially?
Let’s be honest: humans are forgetful people, especially if it does not pertain to us.
I don’t know when he had this friend growing up, how often he hung out with him and how long their relationship lasted. One thing I do know is that Josh knew that he had a stutter. Most kids I knew growing up did not know I had a stutter, and if they did, they did not know the name. So to me, he knew more than most.
A counterargument is, you do not meet other people who stutter that often. For him, I might have been the next person he’s heard stutter since his childhood friend.
In fact, it has been so far removed that one could forget how to approach a new interaction with someone.
Now allies: is it possible to forget something like this?
Because we come so few and far between, I assume people who stutter stick with you. Furthermore, if you know them, they will be one to remember.
So it begs the question: could one forget how to react, how-to approach, and how to respond to a unique situation you’ve encountered before?
This leads to the second question of the way he responded initially.
You see, it was my belief that we had discussed this before. I could’ve sworn I slipped it in between a moment of him laughing at me and moving on to whatever else I had to say weeks ago.
Yet even before I told him, would he truly not have remembered the moments with his dearest friend?
For a moment, it pained me more that he’s had an experience like this with someone else and responded in a way like everyone else, with ignorance.
He believed I was joking. He believed I was doing a bit. But nothing about what I was saying sounded overdramatic or had to be emphasized with a stutter. And so that was his honest response, and in doing so, it is how I felt.
I know we are all forgetful. I know as the world progresses we all do our best to be courteous, to be respectful, to be politically correct.
But something about his interaction made me untrustworthy. It made me feel like I cannot put trust in allies no matter how many times we go over it.
It reminded me that I will always have to provide an explanation. There will always be a teaching lesson involved or a mention of why I can’t finish what I need to say. I fear that I can never quite relax and let the words come out with anyone, no matter how much they know or try to understand.
To continue to let others know about stuttering is my burden to bear if I chose it.