The Crossroads of Identity: Personal Narratives on the Application of Intersectionality to Cultivate Resilience – Tiffani Kittilstved, Dan Hudock, Christian Chan, Matt Maxion and Derek Daniels

About the Authors:

Tiffani Kittilstved, M.S., CCC-SLP is a Ph.D. student at Idaho State University as well as a private practice Speech-Language Pathologist based out of Seattle, Washington. Clinically, Tiffani specializes in evaluating and treating children and adults who stutter. These experiences, along with her own personal experiences as a person who stutters, have motivated her current research interests, which include covert stuttering; the application of trauma-informed counseling approaches into therapy; and the intersectionality of identities among people who stutter. Tiffani is also actively involved in the stuttering community, holding leadership positions within the National Stuttering Association and the International Stuttering Awareness Day Conference and organizing One-Day Conferences through Friends, an Association of Young People who Stutter. She is excited to be a part of the ISAD conference for the 4th year, with this year’s submission regarding intersectional identities being significant to her personally as an asexual woman who stutters.

Dan Hudock, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, PWS; Associate Professor of CSD at Idaho State University; PhD in Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences Assistant Director; ASHA SIG 4, Fluency Disorders, Coordinating-Committee Member; and NWCFD Founding Director (http://www.northwestfluency.org/), which offers interprofessional intensive stuttering clinics with SLPs and Counselors collaboratively using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Research interests include examining intersectional/lived experiences of PWS across communities, interprofessional collaborations with Counselors, bio/psychophysiological responses to speech, and neuroscience of stuttering through high-density EEG. My intersections are: straight Caucasian male, PWS, SLP/Faculty member, and ally/advocate for many disenfranchised communities, including LGBTQIA+. I’ve had many disenfranchising experiences from being denied from the military / graduate program, kicked out of clinic, and hearing that I represented a failure of the profession all due to stuttering. Unique intersections should be acknowledged, understood, and valued, while our common humanity should transcend to support each others’ unique experiences.

Christian D. Chan (he, him, his), PhD, NCC is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, President of the Association for Adult Development and Aging (AADA), and a proud Queer Person of Color. As a scholar-activist, his interests revolve around intersectionality; multiculturalism in counseling practice, supervision, and counselor education; social justice and activism; career development; critical research methodologies; and couple, family, and group modalities with socialization/communication of cultural factors. Dedicated to mentorship for leaders and scholars, he has actively contributed to over 43 peer-reviewed publications in journals, books, and edited volumes and has conducted over 120 refereed presentations at the national, regional, and state levels. He currently serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Counseling & Development, Counselor Education and Supervision, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, Adultspan, Journal of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness: Research, Practice, and Education, and Asia Pacific Career Development Journal.

Matt Maxion, M.S., CCC-SLP is a school-based speech-language pathologist based in Oakland, California. He has been serving San Leandro Unified School District and works with children with speech and language needs from preschool to elementary school. He is a Bay Area native who specializes in childhood language and fluency. He is a queer stutterer who is actively involved in the stuttering community for the past decade. He is currently a chapter leader for the East Bay chapter of the National Stuttering Association and has helped lead workshops for Passing Twice, an informal network of LGBTQIA+ youth and adults who stutter.

Derek E. Daniels, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Wayne State University, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. He received a 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award from Wayne State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Derek has been a certified speech-language pathologist since 2002. He also serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Fluency Disorders. Derek is a person who stutters, provides clinical services for people who stutter, and supervises graduate student training in stuttering. He has participated in many self-help events, workshops, and clinical training programs for people who stutter, including Camp Shout Out. Derek’s research focuses on public perceptions of people who stutter, identity construction, psychosocial experiences, and intersectionality. He is the current President-Elect of the Michigan Speech, Language, and Hearing Association.

Using personal narratives demonstrates positive effects for instilling resilience to reflect on strengths, experiences with community and society, and cultural and social identities. Intersectionality has served as a critical approach for resilience to cultivate consciousness around different forms of oppression by linking personal, interpersonal, and societal experiences. Additionally, intersectionality reinforces this lens for historically marginalized communities (e.g., persons living with disabilities; persons who stutter; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; LGBTQIA+ communities; women, etc.) to intentionally reflect on the ways that they might have faced oppression or potentially face oppression.

However, intersectionality does not draw exclusively from a deficit approach because it illuminates opportunities to instill resilience. As individuals navigate through the world with a multitude of social identities (e.g., race, ethnicity, ability status, disability, sexual identity, affectional identity, spirituality), they begin to draw from these aspects with authenticity that helps individuals make meaning of their experiences. With this lens in mind, this presentation focuses on five narratives that integrate personal and professional experiences in light of intersectionality as a means of cultivating resilience.

Derek’s Thoughts on Changing the Narrative: the Power of Identity 

As a Black man, and a person who stutters (PWS), most of my life has been about learning resilience. From the time I first learned to talk, I had to be resilient. From the time I first learned that my skin color mattered socially, I had to be resilient. Whenever I found myself on the receiving end of racism, ableism, and homophobia, I had to be resilient. I didn’t know what resiliency meant when I was growing up, but over time, I learned ways to navigate oppressive situations, and develop healthy responses.

Now, as a speech-language pathologist who works clinically with people who stutter, resiliency is at the cornerstone of my work. As a scholar and college professor who does a lot of public speaking, resiliency allows me to center myself when speaking situations fall short of my expectations. An experience I often tell is where I was on an airplane en route to a National Stuttering Association conference. The flight attendant was coming down the aisle to ask about our preference for snacks and drinks. When he came to my row, he asked the person next to the window, then the person in the middle seat, and then me, on the aisle seat. Everything happened in a lock-step sequence, question then response. I blocked on the “c” in cookies, as I knew I probably would. I tried again, and the block continued. I tried inserting a carrier phrase, by saying, “I will have …” and I still blocked. So finally I said, “I’ll have the Biscoff.” Even though this wasn’t initially what I wanted to say (I wanted to say cookies), I got the cookies, and the flight attendant moved on, and so did life on the plane. But my mind did not move on. I said to myself, for all that I know about stuttering, why was that so hard? And why am I feeling defeated? I allowed myself to have that self-talk and feel those emotions, and then said to myself, it’s okay. That happens sometimes. Part of what it means to stutter, and be a person who stutters, is having moments where you block. That’s fine and I will be okay.

So a big piece of resiliency for me is allowing myself to be present, feel an emotion, and say an affirmation — tell myself something different when no one else can. I am often the minority in several situations with respect to my race, speech, and sexuality. Together, all three have been sources of deep loneliness, but also sources of power. As one who has been disadvantaged by these social identities, I have also found strength, solidarity, and creativity. The pendulum swings back and forth, and some days are different than others, but ultimately I get to decide how I choose to present myself. As a therapist who is mindful of the different identities and discriminations that clients may experience, I see my role as learning what life is like for them, helping them navigate difficulties in ways that make sense for them, and working with them to foster a self that they value.

Tiffani’s Journey to be Seen and Understood: The Benefit of Cultivating a Community

Throughout most of my life I have struggled to find my voice. I have felt silenced due to not only my stuttering but the intersectionality of being an asexual woman who stutters. One aspect of living with multiple marginalized identities is the experience of feeling marginalized even with “safe spaces”. The stuttering community – a space where most find comfort, understanding, and safety – can still be plagued by oppression. Many women and female-presenting PWS still experience the effects of sexism via silencing, sexual harassment, and general predatory behavior (e.g. having men who stutter send random requests and messages on social media, sometimes even including inappropriate content). Despite the best attempts of leaders, facilitators, and support communities, the silencing of women who stutter can still be seen within even the stuttering community, with women who stutter being talked over, interrupted, and generally not being given the space to share. This can be difficult to imagine or understand as there are many opportunities in which PWS can share openly, but the self-stigmatization and internalized sexism that woman often experience can make these experiences difficult, especially amidst many men who stutter, whose silencing has now been reduced to some degree by an opportunity and open invitation to share. In this scenario, being socialized as a woman and a PWS can lead to a compounding of this silencing effect. 

Throughout my life, I have tried to cope with these experiences and others by attempting to hide my identities, when possible, and present myself in the most socially expected manner. I’ve blamed myself for my negative experiences, deciding that what I had to contribute to the discussion was unintelligent or uninteresting; using asexuality to rationalize my discomfort with sexual harassment; and justifying the predatory messages I receive on social media because I “put myself out there too much”. This narrative changed when I found a community of other women and LGBTQIA+ PWS. Hearing from others with shared experiences allowed me to understand and validate my experiences. This has given me the strength to be more accepting of myself and become resilient, challenging sexism, heterosexism, and ableism when given the opportunity. 

Matt’s Insight on Representation

In order for SLPs to tailor our treatment according to each child’s needs, we need to first acknowledge unique sociocultural backgrounds, including family, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, class, religion, and ability that impact every student’s access to their learning. All of these cultural and social markers compose a person’s life and how they interact and move through life in this world. Applying intersectionality, including racial and cultural representation in our work, fosters empathy that is born from shared experiences. As a first-generation Filipino-American who identifies as queer and a stutterer, it would have saved me so much mental anguish to see myself represented in the books that we share in our classrooms. This is why it is pivotal to treat beyond the disorder and why we have the personal and societal obligation to examine our own implicit biases and how they may inhibit our students’ abilities. So, when we write goals on reducing stuttering for PWS or write articulation goals to correct an interdental lisp for queer folks, ask yourself: Is this the dysfunction of the client, or is this the dysfunction of society?

Christian’s Call to Action: Using Intersectionality to Dismantle Oppression:

Growing up across multiple heritages, I have found myself over and over again in the complexities of social identity and multiple dimensions of culture. I wrestled with them. I found them. I grasped them with a way of finding hope and making sense of my world. This process across my own personal and professional development led me to my own agenda of extending research and scholarship on intersectionality as an interdisciplinary project, primarily through my connection to multiculturalism and social justice. Illuminated by the women of color and queer women of color who shaped this movement, I found myself continuously struggling to make sense of the world as I awakened to my own lived experiences with oppression. Dealing with racism, heterosexism, and colonialism, these forces shaped internalized beliefs about myself. Once I became more conscious of these forces in my life and how they characterize insidious and internalized norms, I grew to understand the importance of inquiring and dismantling multiple forms of oppression in my own personal life and professional practice. Dismantling also meant that I responsibly and systematically attended to other forms of oppression (e.g., classism, ableism) that I perpetuate. As a queer person of color, I understood this simultaneous interaction among my own experiences with oppression, the surfacing of my privileges, and the opportunities to highlight both oppression and resilience among my clients and students. Through my reflections and action, I use my motivation as a catalyst to institutionalize intersectionality across disciplines to acknowledge the professional practice of acknowledging oppression, privilege, and cultural capital. As I reflect on this combination in my own life as a cisgender male, an able-bodied person, and a person with access to education and career opportunities, I can form these coalitions with colleagues to dismantle ableism and its intersecting forms of oppression and to instill empowerment in the communities we serve.

Dan’s Perspective on Using Empathy to Improve Allyship:

Introspection of my own experiences and identities, and unpacking and challenging the relative privilege given to me by structural racism and heterosexism, has allowed me to hear, sit with, and amplify the unique experiences of minoritized groups. While distinctly different, my experiences with ableism as a PWS have allowed me to empathize with others and know the benefit that comes from being heard.

Stuttering has majorly influenced my life. Although I frequently experienced ableism and societal barriers (negative social interactions/thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about myself, being hung up on by many people including 911 operators, denied from the military, etc) it wasn’t until near the end of my undergraduate program, when I received a letter of denial from the graduate program director stating “communication skills not sufficient”, that it really hit me. From then on I was made to face my disillusion directly. The negative thoughts and emotions that I had about myself exponentially increased as did my concrete beliefs about what I thought others expected of me, especially as a SLP/Faculty member. I believed that I had to be fluent and no longer struggle with my stuttering, which was reinforced by several university clinical supervisors resulting in me being kicked out of my on-campus clinical placements, twice, until I “got my stuttering under control”. As a faculty member, I’ve heard that one program administrator at a university I interviewed at even stated that I “represented a failure of the profession”, 40 in-coming SLP graduate students openly laugh at me for stuttering during an orientation introduction, and I’ve experienced judgmental evaluations for my stuttering from some SLPs during my conference presentations. Despite these difficult experiences, through allyship and support from others I have rebounded and have rediscovered resilience. 

Although I will never fully understand the unique experiences from living with multiple marginalized identities, I attempt to empathize with, and learn from, them allowing our common humanity to prevail throughout our resilient journeys. 

Summary:

Intersectionality can be used to help us navigate adverse experiences, improving our ability to bounce back. Here we have briefly outlined some of the ways in which intersectionality can be used to enhance our resilience including: embracing our identities, finding a community with shared experiences, promoting diverse representation, dismantling oppression, and improving allyship. We hope that the experiences and ideas shared here give some insight into how we can use intersectionality to create a community and world where it is safe – and beautiful – to be who we are.

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The Crossroads of Identity: Personal Narratives on the Application of Intersectionality to Cultivate Resilience – Tiffani Kittilstved, Dan Hudock, Christian Chan, Matt Maxion and Derek Daniels — 15 Comments

  1. Hello Christian, Derek, Dan, Tiffani, and Matt,

    What a thought-provoking paper! I have read and re-read it several times. It is so interesting to see stuttering and resilience viewed through the lens of Critical Theory, which I am familiar with, but through which I do not typically view the world. Tiffani, maybe it is because I am a dad to two daughters (and a husband and a son and, I hope, a reasonably decent human being) that I find myself particularly struck by your observation that even within so-called “safe spaces,” women who stutter are vulnerable to the online predatory behavior of men. How infuriating. (Personally, I find that spaces labelled “safe” by someone else often may not necessarily feel that way to me.) Regarding intersectionality, it is interesting how the concept has evolved over time and is currently being applied in the realm of stuttering. Maybe this is related to my being decidedly middle aged, but when I think of intersectionality, my mind immediately goes back to the feminist critical race theorist Kimberle Crenshaw and her original use of the term that she coined in the Eighties. If I remember correctly, Crenshaw was referring to a legal case involving General Motors and the fact that black women experienced discrimination in ways that the larger categories of black people and women did not. In other words, black women could be affected by a combination of both racism and sexism simultaneously, and this experience was more complex than either prejudice on its own. This strikes me as a truly remarkable insight and, although this is hardly my area of experience, as probably one of the greatest contributions to civil rights law. That being said, the concept of intersectionality did not remain within the bounds of Crenshaw’s original legal application – for better, or for worse, depending on whom you ask. Critics of Critical Theory observe that as the concept of intersectionality has slipped its legal bounds and expanded to include ever growing numbers of marginalized groups (including, here, people who stutter), and endless gradations within groups, it has become extraordinarily complicated and difficult to address and may seem like a form of “competitive victimhood.” While the latter term may not seem particularly charitable, I get the point. When I think about it, I could claim a number of marginalized identities – person who stutters, person with attention problems, person with tinnitus, person with hearing loss, person with chronic pain, and several others I will choose not to mention here. However, I have a powerful intuition that the less time I spend “navel gazing” and contemplating how my various identities and problems may interact, and the more time I spend getting on with my life, the more resilient I will be, and the better off I will be psychologically. I would be grateful to hear your thoughts on this perspective. At this point, I find myself dearly wishing that we could all meet up at a coffee shop to properly discuss this in person! Best to you all,

    Rob Dellinger

    • Hi Rob,

      Thank you for your words, insights, and sharing your own experiences and perspectives. We appreciate your question and interest in discussing this important topic. What I’m kind of hearing you ask throughout your questions is what is the benefit of intersectionality and thinking of these things? Is that correct? I think throughout this paper, what we were trying to accomplish is to show how intersectionality can be used to foster resilience (each section highlights one way it can be used to foster resilience) so that’s one thing. But I think further, there are many real clinical and practical applications. On a larger scale, intersectionality challenges the collective default that we’ve established through hundreds of years of colonialism, white supremacy, and how they’ve manufactured the standard that people need to live up. It shows up in the structural systems of oppression (related to age, gender, sexuality, race, ability, etc.). On a more specific, day-to-day level, there are also direct clinical applications to this. When we’re working with clients, we need to be thinking about how we can provide equitable care to our clients. One such example of this is the fact that standardized assessments are largely normed with middle-high SES white kids. Research in general is largely within white communities so there is a lack of representation even at that level. It’s important we are aware of this and work towards addressing these things so that we can provide better care to our clients. Additionally, it’s good for us to be able to think through and talk about how our client’s intersectional identities might be impacting them as this could have a direct impact on our therapy. I have one example of this in my own clinical experience. During my clinical fellowship year as an SLP, I was working with an adult who stutters who was a black male. I gave him an assignment to do outside of therapy where he would have to go up to a person and ask them where the train station was, the time, etc. It was a pretty basic activity focused on desensitization. This is an activity I have done in stuttering therapy and have asked clients to do numerous times. What I didn’t consider though is how his experience with this activity might be different from mine (as a white woman). He came back the next week and we discussed this as he had gone up to a couple of girls and asked them where the bus station was. Before they could even hear him stutter, they were noticeably alarmed that he had come up to talk to them. This was a really eye opening experience for me as I have not had this experience as a white woman so when I posed this as an assignment, I wasn’t thoughtful enough to consider how his intersectional identities might impact this experience. I think my oversight here is a perfect example of why it’s important that we are aware of the impact that intersectionality can have on our therapy.
      Overall, I don’t think intersectionality is “navel gazing”, I think it’s important for us to think through how different forms of oppression might interact to shape our experiences. In order for us to make progress and work towards dismantling oppression, we must acknowledge the full impact of it and intersectionality does just that. I hope this makes sense. I agree that having this discussion over a cup of coffee would be so preferred! I think there is so much to be discussed here that I am only scraping the surface with this answer. If any of the other presenters want to comment as well, I welcome you to do so!

      -Tiffani

  2. This is incredibly insightful and its fascinating how people who stutter are causing some additional challenges for marginalized people who stutter.

    What advice do you guys have for all of us to be more supportive of the intersectionality that people who stutter have so that they are best able to embrace both of those identities?

    Also, do you guys feel that you identify with one intersection more than your other side or is the stutter side of you always the predominant side of you that you resonate with the most?

    • Hi Kunal,

      Thanks for your question. I think one piece of advice I’d give regarding how to support multiply marginalized PWS is to hold space for the varying perspectives shared by PWS with multiple marginalized identities. In our society, it is too often that spaces are implicitly reserved for those who in the dominant group (e.g. cis, straight, white, able-bodied, male). We need to be aware of this and allow for those who have marginalized identities to share their experiences without question, critique, etc. Additionally, it’s helpful to listen to people’s experiences whole-heartedly and allow for your opinions and perspectives to change based on hearing from those who have different experiences. Overall, I think the goal is for us all to work to cultivate an environment within our spaces where diversity is not only tolerated but celebrated and, most important, represented and listened to. I hope this is helpful (I know it’s pretty vague, let me know if you have specific questions about this).

      As for your other question, I will only speak from my personal experience as I cannot speak for my co-authors or anyone else in our outside of my identity groups. I, personally, cannot see myself fully without seeing all of my intersections. Although in some moments, especially with certain groups, I may focus more on one of my identities, the others are always there and do not exist in a vacuum. All of my identities simultaneously shape my experience. I think getting back to the root of intersectionality, all of my experiences of oppression are also shaped by my other forms of oppression. For example, as I discussed in my section, as a woman who stutters, I sometimes receive predatory comments from men who stutter. Sometimes those comments come from just the intersections of those two experiences (because my asexuality isn’t always public) but my feelings and reactions to that are certainly further impacted by my asexuality. In a different scenario, I may be asked an uncomfortable or inappropriate question because of my asexuality. Does that stem just from asexuality? No, definitely not. If I was an asexual man I think I would be treated differently. My point of this example is that none of these intersections can explain my experience without also recognizing the impact that the other marginalized identities at play are having. I will say that as someone who isn’t always out as asexual (and sometimes not out as a person who stutters), I do most consistently and perhaps proudly identify as a woman and then secondarily a person who stutters then asexual. This is just my personal feelings towards my identity though and they don’t make any of the identities less valid or real, just perhaps easier, for me, individually, to cope with. It’s also important to point out that the level of support and community I have, both individually and within the greater context of society, is also hierarchized in the same order. You can see this in the statistics with women representing ~50% of the population versus people who stutter and people who are asexuality both being ~1%.

      I hope this helps!

      -Tiffani

  3. Greetings Christian, Derek, Dan, Tiffani, and Matt,

    This is a truly illuminating paper that cuts to the chase and beautifully illustrates how we all are more than the identity that we present and is seen.

    I find it interesting that among you five presenters, you statistically represent the breakdown of persons who stutter, 4 out of 5 are men, 1 out of 5 are women. That statistic is important to me as it represents women who stutter as being the ‘minority within a minority,’which actually you all represent minorities within minority communities.

    I can fully relate to all of you in different ways, but particularly, with what Tiffani says about women being traditionally being silenced. That really resonates with me. I long felt silenced as a woman who stutters and it took me ages to find my voice and then really believe that my voice was worthy of being heard, irregardless of how my voice sounds to others. Finding my voice was what really propelled me to start (and stick with) my podcast “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories,” the only podcast that is exclusively for women who stutter. When I found my voice, I knew it would be beneficial to offer a platform and safe space for other women who stutter to share their stories. If you are interested, here’s a link to my podcast – http://www.stutterrockstar.com

    I also relate to intersectionality, having three hidden disabilities. I stutter (which I do consider to be a disability), I am a diabetic and I have neuropathy, which cause extreme inflammation and fatigue. I present as a typical human, until I open my mouth and stutter, or quickly lose my breath while pushing a cart in the grocery store, or have to whip out my cane to aid me in walking up or down stairs.

    The hardest part of having hidden disabilities is that they’re hidden!! There is no visible disclaimer that warns another person that I am not able bodied. They kind of just have to take me as I am, whether I stutter, falter or labor in breathing. There is no time for a filter to turn on, as happens when you see a wheelchair user approach or a blind person using a service animal or cane. Once those are seen by the able bodied person, they immediately know NOT to laugh, or mimic, or stare or engage in any non accepting manner. Their filter turns on in milliseconds. How wonderful would that be if that was always the case?

    I can’t adequately express how I often feel guilty when I pull into a disabled parking space and take my handicapped placard from my glovebox and hang it on the rear view visor. I feel like a fraud when I get out of the car and have no problem whatsoever walking to the store. I need that for the way back to my car. I often get so out of breath that I’m panting and exhausted when I get into the car. I also endure dirty looks by able bodied bystanders when I get out of my car with no cane or walker. I’ve had people say, “hey, you can’t park there, it’s disabled only parking.” I sigh and keep going but it’s hard to filter that out and go about my business.

    Intersectionality is crucial to highlight, break down and acknowledge to all those we encounter and engage with who have no reference point to welcome something or someone different from their experience.

    A question to any or all of you: how do you present your multiple marginalized identities to the world? Do you wait for an obvious opening in conversation? Or do you loudly and proudly advertise who you are?

    Thanks again for this important perspective.

    Pam

    • Hi Pam,

      Wow, I so appreciate you sharing your experience of intersectionality with us! Your perspective is so insightful and I just thank you so much for sharing it with us. Also, thank you for the work you are doing within the stuttering community. Your podcast is really one of a kind, featuring almost exclusively women who stutter. It’s such an important perspective that is not fully heard enough and you amplifying these perspectives is directly addressing the silencing effect of compounding intersectional identities that we are discussing her so THANK YOU! I highly encourage anyone reading this to check it out! Actually, your podcast and Facebook group is one of the communities that I was thinking of when I discussed the benefit of having a community of people who understand our multiply marginalized experiences. So just know it really is making a difference!

      As for your question, I can only answer from my own personal experience here so I will do that and encourage the other presenters to answer with their own experiences as well. I present my identities with varying degrees of openness, dependent on the situation and the identity. For example, I am stereotypically female presenting and do not try to change or hide that so I present my female identity openly all the time. But with my stuttering and asexuality, these are more hidden identities (or can be anyway). I have faced a lot of negativity due to my stuttering so my natural reaction was to hide it, at least until I was in my late teens/early twenties, which is when I “came out” and told people I stutter. I have received a variety of responses upon coming out as a PWS, ranging from very negative, rude, and invalidating to very positive and affirming. So I spend most of my time open about my stuttering but still somewhat covert (with some moments/indivudals where I am 100% covert due to a lack of acceptance/understanding). So my default right now is to be open with my stuttering with some hesitation/consideration of the person/situation. With asexuality, I am not open as I have less pride/identity with that. I usually come out about my asexuality when I am in situations where I am uncomfortable (e.g. usually in relationships or other such things). But I, personally, find it very difficult to be asexual and have faced a lot of rejection, negativity, and even more predatory/sexually harrassing behavior upon coming up (definitely related to intersectionality as I think this might be very different for a man who is asexual). I guess as a summary, my decisions to be open/out about my identities are largely based on how safe and accepting the person/space is, which is part of the reason why having these discussions, both about the individual identities and about the intersectionality of these identities is so important – so we can create more safety for a wider variety of people.

      Pam, I’d love to hear how you navigate this as well, with your intersectional identities? Do you advertise your identities or is it more context/identity dependent? How do you feel about this and navigate these decisions?

      Thanks for sharing and taking part in this meaningful discussion.

      -Tiffani

      • Hey Tiffani,

        Thank you for such a thoughtful response.

        As for my intersectional identities, as you note, I advertise pretty much on the basis of context. I sometimes hesitate to advertise that I stutter to a group that I’ll likely not see again. I put a lot of pressure on myself when I choose that approach, because I immediately become consumed with anticipatory anxiety. I tend to choose to disclose where it will benefit both me and the listeners, with me being the priority.

        As for my other two hidden physical disabilities, again, I think it’s fairly dependent on who I am with and where we are. As I allude to in my above comment, I often feel really guilty using a handicap parking space if I think I don’t look sufficiently handicapped enough, which may then lead to smart looks or comments from bystanders. On more than one occasion, I’ve caught myself exaggerating a limp when exiting my car if I’m using a disabled spot. I liken it to the feeling sometimes with stuttering – I can feel that I don’t stutter enough to warrant belonging to the stuttering community and sometimes I am not fluent enough to fake it and pass in the fluent world.

        I note these inauthentic moments to be very difficult to navigate. In fact, I often feel like an imposter in my own body, which of course should not be an issue, but it becomes an issue because this is all so personal.

        This reminds me of how I and my other siblings reacted to one sister who has brown eyes and blond hair, while five of us have blue eyes and dark hair. We always used to tease her that she was adopted. She was always so sensitive to that and often got tearful when we were so mean.

        The oddity of that was she was the only one of my 5 siblings who had my back re: my stuttering and I always felt guilty for not having her back.

        I feel like I’ve really rambled here and may not have answered your question well enough, BUT I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

        Pam

        • Hi Pam,

          Thank you so much for your response. I appreciate so much about it, from your sharing about how your intersectional identities impact you, how you navigate advertising them, and your feelings of being an imposter or not “disabled enough” (to use a term that is often used in disability communities to discuss this issue). I can relate so much to this experience. As someone who has a relatively severe stutter but also is very covert, I often find myself in situations where sometimes I feel like I stutter “enough” (or perhaps too much for people to take the time to listen fully sometimes) but other times where people doubt that I stutter, question me, or invalidate my experiences because I present as “pretty much fluent”. It’s a very confusing and difficult experience to navigate. I wish that we could live in a world (and a community) where people just accept us, honor the truth of our identities and experiences, and withhold this hierarchized judgement. But conversations like these help us get a little closer to that. 🙂

          I also appreciate your sharing about your sister, it really highlights how words can be so powerful and impact people in ways that we don’t fully understand. I hear your regret and guilt in this story but it sounds like your sister was an amazing ally who loved you very much. It sounds like she doesn’t hold those childhood comments against you. But I feel for you in that feeling of guilt.

          I also love the way you ended your response here. That blatant self-compassion is so wonderful and contagious (and that’s just about the only thing I’d like to be spread right now!). Thanks for this wonderful discussion.

          -Tiffani

  4. Reading about intersectionality from so many different perspectives is intriguing! It is thought-provoking to learn about some of the personal experiences of the writers and how each of you discussed this topic from a different angle. This serves as a good example of how individuals will always bring their unique stories and perspectives into these discussions.

    Tiffani, how did you finally find these communities of women and LGBTQIA+ PWS? What would your advice be for someone trying to find this kind of community? We would love to have some ideas for how to better support someone in this regard!

    Casey & Molly

    • Hi Casey and Molly,

      Thanks for your response and comments on our paper! We appreciate your kind words as well as your question. I found community with people who have similar intersectional identities (e.g. women who stutter and LGBTQIA+ PWS) primarily through larger stuttering support organizations, Facebook groups, and personal connections. There are several Facebook groups for women who stutter and those are amazing! Additionally, within the National Stuttering Association, there is a group specifically for LGBTQIA+ PWS and their allies called “Passing Twice” and that community has made such a difference for me in accepting my asexual identity and understanding my intersectionality better (actually all of these groups and conversations have helped me to do that!). I think the more I’ve been involved in the stuttering community, the more I appreciate these smaller communities of people who have more shared experiences/feelings to me. Navigating life with a marginalized identity (e.g. stuttering) is hard but having the experience of being a minority within a minority (e.g. a woman who stutters and/or LGBTQIA+ PWS) sometimes can make you feel like you still don’t fit in or that your experience doesn’t match the majority/dominant experience (within that community). I think because of that feeling, I value those multiply marginalized communities groups so much but I also appreciate the friends I’ve made through the larger stuttering communities with whom I have shared experiences (often because of shared intersectional identities). I think perhaps the first step of the community at large is recognizing that PWS are just people with a huge variety of other identities, experiences, etc. and the best way to support each other is to allow for multiply marginalized voices to be heard and understood and not to feel like their “other” (non-stuttering) experiences are not meant to be heard in that space. You can’t separate those other marginalized identities apart from the stuttering identity – they intersect – and we have to allow for that to be heard and understood.

      That was a VERY LONG tangent that I hope sort of answers your question, or at least gives some food for thought. I’d love to hear any ideas you both have in regards to this topic. Thanks for this interesting and important discussion!

      -Tiffani

  5. Hi Derek,

    I am an graduate student in the speech pathology program at Francis Marion University. In all of my classes, the professors are emphasizing cultural awareness and acceptance. As a daughter to immigrant parents, I have always struggled with my cultural identity. As I grow older, I am more aware of what I like and dislike and what I want for myself. It is encouraging to read about your journey and I hope to be a therapist who is mindful of the different identities and discriminations that clients may experience and helping these individuals navigate through their difficulties in cultivating themselves.

    • Thank you for your input, kind words, and sharing your own experiences. We value and appreciate your comment and contribution.

      -Tiffani

    • Thank you so much, Christina!!!! I really appreciate your comment. Best of luck in your graduate program! -Derek

  6. What a groundbreaking paper! You not only face challenges because of how people see your stutter, but also because how people see your intersectional identities. I’m so happy to be surrounded by people with many different intersectional identities, as they teach me so much and make me feel safe sharing my own identity, personality, and thoughts. We still have a long way to go to make people understand we’re all different, and yet all equal. We love diamonds, as they sparkle in so many angles and colors. 😉 So happy you light the path for others to find. And thanks for the most amazing paper of this conference.

    Stay safe and keep sharing

    Anita