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December 26, 2022 25 mins

I wanted to interview Kate because I didn’t know much about stuttering before meeting her. One percent of the population stutters and unconscious bias can impact this group’s self esteem, work opportunities, and social life. A white 30 year old woman living in New York, Kate has had a stutter since she was a kid but always believed she would grow out of it. She confronts speech therapy techniques that she’s come to see as destructive to her mental health, shares the pivotal story of how she discovered SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young, and opens up about her journey towards authenticity.

“I had to look into this black hole of truth, that this was my identity. This is how it is gonna be. And for the first time I started to consider, ‘How are you going to look at this with love and with care and with tenderness and acceptance?’” –Kate


Creator & Host: Maria Fernanda Diez 

Executive Producers: Gisselle Bances, Anna Stumpf, Nikki Ettore 

Producer: Pablo Cabrera, Arlene Santana 

Associate Producer: Claudia Marticorena

Original Theme Music: Tony Bruno

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
I I think that that is one of the reasons
that I love being different. It's because it's sort of
disallows you from being able to pretend like everything is okay.
I wanted to interview Kate because there's so many ways
in which we can be invisible. Going into this conversation,

I didn't know much about stuttering. What I did know
is that my dad's stutters, and I didn't really even
clock it as like a thing thing like that. There's
a whole sector of the population that stutters, and there's
like organizations that are catered to being a community because

of how they're perceived. At the larger scale, you meet
Kate through her voice, including her stutter, and I think
what's absolutely beautiful about voices and about all of our
identities and everything we bring to the table is that
it's not just our vocal thing go print, but sometimes
even like the little pieces of our soul being shared

out loud. So I'm really honored to share the story
and to share Kate with you. All. Welcome to when
You're Invisible. My name is Maria Fernande, but I know
not everyone can rule there are so it's also fine
to call me Maria in today's world. We love to

tell stories about people who have reached the top, like
people who have achieved positions of cloud wealth power. On
this show, I won't be doing that. When You're Invisible
is my love letter to the working class and others
who are seemingly invisible in our society. Helped to build
a community here that will inspire you to have generous
conversations with others that are different from you, conversations that

might help you see life in an entirely different way.
Kid is an incredible soul. You meet her and she
is just this beautiful, like almost otherworldly warmth. And when
I sat down to talk to her, I immediately like

felt like I didn't have many walls, and I immediately
wanted to be present because she was okay sitting listening
and taking up a gentle space. Kate was like a
beautiful way of reminding me that there's a lot of
ways to approach the world, and there's a lot of

ways to approach each other, and there's also a lot
of ways we can approach ourselves. I think it's helpful
to break down that there are a lot of ways
to hide the fact that you stutter. There are you
know what what a lot of speech therapist teach you
is falls under the umbrella fluency techniques. So there are

are certain things that you can you can sort of
do with your voice to sort of trick your vocal
cords and your m neurology into being fluent quote unquote,
which is hard and takes a lot of work. So
it's things like talking like this, or it's things like
making a small sound before the statement. It's called an

easy onset. K articulates this ability to hide in this
shifting that I really relate to because depending on the
situation and what was happening around me, I would change
colors a little bit. Something that's kind of interesting about
people who satter is that a lot of us can

tell the words that we're going to start around before
we get there. So like a few words before, you'll
sort of feel it and you'll you'll you'll know that
that is going to be a word that's going to
take a lot longer to say. You can change it.
You can change that word and just completely avoid the stutter.
So there's that, and then the third way that's super

effective to not stutter is to not talk. So you know,
all all three of those things are methods that I
was really gung hole for as a young young person
to sort of tie yourself into not to try to
execute those three methods to not stutter and sound the

same way as everybody else. I'm not gung hope for
those things now. For me, the problem is that when
I do those things, I feel like each time there
is a little sliver of space between myself and my
actual point, between myself and my like authentic energetic intent

for common communication, and so each time it gets a
little bit more and more and more and more, and
so it just drives a wedge between what I mean
and what I'm trying to serve up and what I'm
actually saying, and that feels really bad for me. Authenticity

is something that I'm always curious about. It's partially linked
to the development of this podcast. I want to figure
out how to live beautifully and truthfully and generously to
recognize other people in our place in the world that
we are all beautiful, special, complicated, fucked up, and we're

all dealing with a million things at the same time.
I think I got this from somebody else, but used
to call myself a walking the saurus because that's what
it is. Like you you have to be so smart
and like no so many words and and then if
you say a word that like sort of gets to

your meaning but not fully, then you have to like
you know, build that out on the back end and
like try to like still go back to your point.
It's a it's a like you said, it's a lot
of gymnastics. I'm curious as to, like your experience growing up,
what is the process as a family, because when you're
a kid who stutters to how do the adults in

your life react. I am more and more just so
in awe of my family, and I had and have
just such deep privilege in terms of how how how
they see me and what they think about me. My
mom especially, she is she's like a badass lady. And

I never remember her being like, you know, well, you
might not be able to do that because you stutter.
Or more specifically, when I had moments of feeling just
like destroyed or or ragged after a hard day or
a hard experience, like her reaction was always just like

I got you, and you're gonna You're gonna get through
this because you are extraordinary. More when we come back
from a break, Welcome back to our conversation. On this

episode of When You're Invisible. There is this device called
this speech Easy, and it's an inner ear device that
fits into your ears sort of like a hearing aid.
It's like an echo. It's like less than a second

of delay per words. This device called speech Easy, which
was created in two thousand and one. It's a fluency
device for stutters. It basically creates a chral effect and
so you're hearing your voice bounce back at you through
your ear at a higher pitch in order to create
like the confidence that you get from speaking in a group,

and also by trying to like take you out of
that that space I guess of being in your head.
There are different sounds of the voices that you can choose,
but mine was like a chipmunk voice that was in
my ear. The world doesn't really know anything at all,
really about how the brain works and why we stutter,

and what the brain is and what we are and
what is happening inside of our heads. We know about
space sort of, but we don't know very much about
our own brains, which I think is a good like
micro causum for just what we're doing right now is people.
My mom paid the money and I got it, and

it did work for a period, but then generally the
effects where off as the brain sort of adjust. The
brain is not going to transform itself based on the
input of this brand new thing that you're trying. It's
going to find a way to default back to its
natural state, which is like very broken brain science. But

it's fine. I think it was probably about two or
three weeks and then it stopped working, And that felt
like a really important moment for me because I sort
of had to I had to had to look into
this black hole of truth that this was my identity,

this is who I am, this is how it is
going to be. And for the first time I started
to consider, like, Okay, Kate, how are you going to
work this into who you are as a person? Like
how are you going to look at this with love
and with care and tenderness and acceptance. It's funny that

you bring up the idea of feeling broken and how
we're all broken, because I think it's something like that
we deemed taboo that by being broken it's bad, when
in fact, where we ever perfect holes, but rather just
like pieces that are meant to be beautifully put together,

and that like, they're meant to look different. Why are
we trying to be a full sheet of glass when
we're meant to be stained glass? Gone bye? Yeah, I
don't know. It's like the most beautiful things to me
are never perfect. We are duped to believe the system

is there to help us, even if the system is
as small as like a medical device that we've created
to like somehow help cure this disability or disorder, versus
being like all our brains are wired differently. As long
as it's not hurting her, why should it be fixed?
Only one percent of the population stutters, So to be

someone who has to be like, oh, there's everything I
deal with that you deal with, and then on top
of that, here's this other thing thinking about that. Does
it affect the way you date or do talk about
it or anything like that? Dating dating, dating dating. I
think that there's some some super buzzy intersectional identity stuff

with being a person who stutters and being a woman
or being a girl. Yeah. I have recently learned as
I have approached thirty and been examineing what the fact
happened in the last twenty nine years. I've sort of

come come to understand the intersection of stuttering in like
romance and intimacy in a in a way that feels
really deep and really like It's just very embedded in
my psyche, and I think that in general, the way

that it has impacted is I have looked to the
partners that I've had for so much more than just love.
I've looked to them essentially to sort of be up
a buffer between myself and the outside world. As I

have sought that I have molded myself up around what
they thought was really good and what they thought was
really beautiful and sexy, as opposed to what felt authentic
and beautiful and sexy to to myself as a woman.

I definitely feel some of that pressure. What was like
a big turning point for you? The biggest one was
when I learned about SAY and got involved in SAY.
Saying That the Stuttering Association for the Young, which is
where I work. SAY was founded in two thousand one

and has a two week summer sleepaway camp, speech therapy
with a license speech therapist, and after school and weekend
arts classes. I was not finding great success when I
first moved to the city with finding work. I was
going out on all these interviews at these sort of

like random ish places, and I was just not getting
these jobs. I was. I was working at a bakery
and so that was like my my day, my day job.
Then I had to decide me over. But I was
contacted on LinkedIn by the biggest heads fund in the country,
I think, or it might be the world. I'm not sure.

I don't work this, so I don't know what all
the details. Sorry. I went for this interview, and because
it was a group interview, you had to prepare and
open ended discussion, question question. I was to the group too,
then like potentially leaded a discussion and I learned about say.

I Like, I was really really stressed out and absolutely
freaking out that I was going to have to go
do this group interview and stutter or not stutter and
word switched and just is gonna just be so much?
And so I reached out to say and I was like,
can you help me? I need something? I need help.

And the speech therapist at the time, his name is
Ryan Milliger, and he's now a very dear, dear friend
of mine, so it's fun to think about that. He
wrote right back to me, like within a few hours
and was like, yes, absolutely, come on in and we
can we can talk about it and like see what

you want to do. So I was then going into
this interview with like the knowledge that there was an
outlet somewhere, that there was like a glimmer of of
kindness and of self love and of just love in general.
And so I didn't get the job, which is great,

and I'm so glad that I didn't, But I did
go into Say and I met I met Ryan, and
I started with a speech internship with him because I
was thinking for a while about being a speech therapist.
And then I went and I worked at our camp,
Camp Say, and then on the last day of Camp Say,

they offered me a full time job at Sunset by
the Lake. So it was perfect. Community with like minded
or like experienced people is really important because you get
to see yourself mirrored back at you, whether it's through
other peers or adults. If you're a kid, the world

can look a million different ways and it can include me,
and being able to take a look at that and
develop the confidence and the vocabulary around your experience and
what you're seeing in the world. I think he's super,
super important. I love the strength that we can get

from connecting to people who we consider our own. And
then I'm really curious about, like, how do we expand
that to include people who might not be the same
as us. Stay tuned for more from one year Invisible
after this break and we're back. What do you think

young Kate would think now of Kate approaching thirty? Yea,
it brings me so much joy to say that I
think young Kate would would would be like, what Kate,
you did this? This is awesome. So that's really fun
to think about. But where I thought I would be was,

you know, I thought that I wouldn't stutter. I thought
that I was going to grow out of it. I
thought that until like fairly late in my in my
life as a child. And I think that that is
a lot of what young people who said. I think
the reality is that a lot of people who stud

are past I believe it's like age eight or maybe
nine or ten will stutter for so the rest of
our lives. And with that knowledge, speech therapists still preach
these fluency techniques to us and hold up this heavenly
body of fluency that we can just get to if

we work hard enough, and that feels feels really really
destructive to me. We have the research. You are the
expert in this field. You know that there's there's a
good chance that I'm going to stutter for the rest
of my life and and this is going to be
part of my experience, and you are reinforcing to me

that that is bad and that that that is wrong.
And if I work hard enough and am good enough,
I can reach the level. And that is setting us
up to fail. And it is I think the biggest
micro aggression that sort of exists in the lives of

people who who crews better is this idea that if
you just you know, worked hard enough, you could be fun.
It just feels like it's a it's a false God.
I really truly believe that we all benefit from the

widening of these standards of what is normal. Like that
is truly good for us all because as we do that,
like even for the person who is I don't know,
let's say, the most normal like white, skinny, pretty fit,

like smart, talks in a certain way, Like even for
that person, they have parts about themselves that feel different
and that they see is different. And so by by
by widening the parameters of what is normal, everybody wins.

I think we shift ourselves and our version of normal
based on what is predominant around us, not just regionally,
but also ethnically, racially, culturally, and also normal is based
off of who you interact with and who you're around.
And I think for me, having experienced so many different

kinds of normal, I think that's where I would take
on a little bit of what is the monolith around
me and either learned something from it, take a step
towards it, or not. Dealing with different kinds of normal
made me more specific in myself, and it also made
me highly aware of how people perceived me. And thinking

about the normal that k brings up in a somewhat
joking manner is kind of sad to think about how
predominant that still is, that it's still a Eurocentric, skinny, blonde,
blue eyed kind of thing that still is prevalent in
a nation that's so diverse, And I would love to
get to the point where the standard is actually something

that has a wider range of possibility. As Kate was saying,
my favorite places to be are with diverse people from
all different kinds of backgrounds. As we say in Mexico
that is all the colors and all the tastes and flavors.

What do you wish people knew if you could have
everybody knows something or be something, what would it be?
The thing that I would love, love love love would
be if people just sort of in general knew how
to listen. And like, that's not just for stuttering, I'm
in general. This thing that we're doing as a culture

about starting to talk before the person is finished, which
is like everywhere, every day, every second, that is the standard.
It's just so tiresome. Why why are we doing this
thing where like I am still actively speaking, I haven't

gotten to the end of what I'm saying yet, and
you are starting to talk before I'm finished responding to
the thing that you think that I'm saying, but I
might not be saying that thing because I'm not finished.
That's a squarely baffling way to commmunicate. And I think

that it's based in time is money, It's based in
everybody being being fast faced. It's based in like this
this need to get things finished quickly. But like it's
not effective, and it makes the spaces between us wider,
and it makes us miss understand each other, and I

think we we we all lose in that way by
by not allowing a person to be the full extent
of themselves in that in that moment. I would really
love for that to change, and I think that that
would would really change the way that we relate to
each other. I feel really fortunate to have had this

conversation with Kate, who also gave me a window into
understanding someone else. I love. It was just like a gentle,
sweet revelation of like, oh huh, there might be more
going on with my dad than I thought in terms
of his experience. It felt like a genuine interaction and
a genuine conversation. And I think to have learned so

much about someone else and to witness their vulnerability and
their willingness to share, is a gift that I will
always be in awe of. I leave this conversation with
a sense of hope and a sense of calm, content nous.

Having talked to Kate, we are going to next chat
with another woman who I find extraordinary and fascinating and
ever evolving, the incredible Lonnie. She's worked as a photographer,
as a sex worker, and had many other jobs and
she's now a soon to be mom. I'm really excited
to share her strength, her curiosity, and her journey with

you all on our next episode. Thank you so much
for listening to When You're Invisible and for joining me
on this journey. Don't forget to like, comment, and subscribe.
You can find this episode and future ones on the

I Heart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get
your podcasts. I'm your host and creator Maria fernand with
executive producers Anna Stump, Nikki Tore and ban producers Arlene
Santana and Bablo Cabrera, with associate producer Claudia Martha Corena

and post production producer Daisy James. Original theme music by
Tony Bruno. When You're Invisible is an I Heart Podcast
Network production in partnership with Michael Toura Podcast Network
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