Growing up, I didn’t have anyone in my life who stuttered, or know anyone that sounded like me. The only representation I saw in the media was Porky Pig, the comedic relief in the Looney Tunes universe. These facts caused my younger self to believe he was the only person out of seven billion people who talked that way, no one else “got it,” and his speech instantly qualified him to be the comic relief in every room he walked into. I wish I had positive representations of people who sounded like me, truly understood what I was going through, and showed me that my voice does not instantly make me the room’s court jester. I wish Joe Biden was running for President of the United States of America in 2000 or 2004 and not in 2020.
Honestly, I’m jealous of today’s children who stutter. Not only is stuttering better understood today as opposed to 20 years ago, but they have someone just like them running for the highest office in the land. They have this incredible role model showing them that a stutter cannot hold you back from accomplishing anything. Children who stutter see a Senator, Vice President of the United States of America, and the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America.
I wish I’d had this for my 10-year-old self. Not only would 10-year-old James know he’s not the only person in the world who stutters, but that he can (and will) accomplish incredible things in his life. Having this kind of representation at a young age would’ve answered some of the questions I struggled with during my childhood and adolescent years. But as much as I want to celebrate Biden being the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic Party, it’s hard to celebrate that victory in this political climate.
I’m also envious of the children who stutter who are unaware of the backlash Biden is facing because of his stutter. All they see is someone who sounds like them and not the mocking he is receiving from those in positions of power. Because I admittedly spend way too much time on social media, I see a lot of the mocking Biden’s receiving. I’m not going to lie, it hurts me a lot. It hurts knowing that adults are the ones mocking him. It hurts knowing people currently or formerly associated with the present administration are using their platforms to mock him. It hurts because it reminds me of the times I was mocked and bullied because I stutter. It hurts because I’m reminded of the pain I felt when an adult picked on me because of my stutter. It hurts because I fear Biden will be bullied and mocked even more by the present administration as the election gets closer.
Yet, as much as I’m hurt by the response from the adults in power, I’m also inspired by it. Their reactions light a fire under me to continue writing and speaking about my journey with stuttering. By speaking out, hopefully one more person has a better understanding of stuttering and that creates a domino effect of a better understanding of what stuttering is and what it means to be a person who stutters. My hope is that by advocating for stuttering and people who stutter, the next generation won’t have to deal with the mocking and bullying I’ve experienced. Hopefully, my voice gives people a better understanding of why those currently and formerly associated with the present administration’s response to Biden’s stuttering is harmful and hurtful.
I beg everyone, including those currently and formerly associated with the present administration to be better, for the sake of the stuttering community. Another mocking comment would set us further back and continue to perpetuate the false stereotypes of people who stutter. Biden said it best when he spoke to The Atlantic’s John Hendrickson last year about his journey with stuttering. When asked by Hendrickson what he would do if Trump calls him “St-St-St-Stuttering Joe” Biden responded, “It’ll just expose him for who he really is.” For the sake of 10-year-old James and all people who stutter, make the right decision and don’t go there.