“People tell me my stutter is annoying”

Second in our series. Joe*, a 21-year-old Manchester student, tells us about living with a stammer


To clear something up: stuttering and stammering are the same thing. The words are synonyms.

 I study law. I kind of decided to jump in at the deep end with that one. You never worry how good your arguments are in a mock trial when your main fear is whether you can actually get them out in the first place.

A good uni still has ignorant students

A good uni still has ignorant students

Being at a university full of intelligent people is no guard against ignorance. Stutterers can be openly mocked anywhere for having a condition that is potentially genetic. A special mention to the chemistry student in Font who kept pretending not to hear me so that he could make me repeat myself as some kind of sport. You truly have a special place in my heart.

Stutterers look just over the horizon. My stutter became bad at secondary school and I told myself I’d overcome it by sixth form. When I was in sixth form I envisaged re-inventing myself as a non-stuttering university student. As a student I envisage it posing no problem in my career. Perpetual optimism helps you get through being the 1%.

People have gone out of their way to tell me my stutter is annoying. I mean for fuck’s sake! I’ve only been dealing with this every day since childhood but my heart bleeds for you having to listen to it for 5 minutes.

 Science has no single answer for what causes stuttering but our brains are factually wired differently to everyone else’s. I’m not nervous, you aren’t intimidating me – it’s a physical difference. I’ll favour neuroscience over your request to ‘spit it out’.

Bet you anything this has a filthy name

Try convincing a bouncer that you’re sober when you’re struggling to speak

Stuttering can be a disability. I’ve had people get physically angry at me when I argue this but seriously think about it. Disability means a ‘physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities’ – that’s the law, by the way. I know stutterers who can’t say their own name. Imagine going for a job interview or getting grilled by a bouncer.

You never get over how shit it feels to watch someone’s face sink. When you start stuttering 90% of people pull some kind of funny face. Sometimes it’s wonder, sometimes it’s impatience. The worst is the ‘you’re a bit simple, aren’t you darling?!’ face.

Stuttering has silver linings. Girlfriends past and present have told me it’s endearing and I’m yet to meet a stutterer without heroic patience and listening skills to match.


Not all bad: girls have found my stutter endearing

The King’s Speech is a great film. Colin Firth deserved that Oscar because he showed what an emotional bitch stuttering really is. The pig from the Loony Toons can fuck off.

The greatest treatment for stuttering is pride. Speech therapists are heroes who earn peanuts to treat people in dingy, underfunded NHS portakabins but ultimately they can only help so far. Believe it or not, admitting to people that you have a stutter instead of hiding it is the most important step of all. At school I dated a girl for over a year and never once admitted to her that I stuttered. Now, my girlfriend calls me an ‘undateable’ because she’s learnt from minute one that I can laugh about it.

We have changed Joe’s name to protect his identity