by Cheryl Courtney-Evans
posted Feb. 15, 2013
I was watching a program on dyslexia a couple of nights ago and was amazed at just how prevalent this disability is, when most of us (I believe) don't really think much about it. It's one that crosses all lines...race, ethnicity and (as I've thought about it for the last couple of days) sexual orientation & gender identity.
What is dyslexia? Wikipedia defines it as " a very broad term defining a learning disability that impairs a person's fluency or comprehension accuracy in being able to read, and which can manifest itself as a difficulty with phonological awareness, phonological decoding, processing speed, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory, language skills/verbal comprehension, and/or rapid naming."
I remember, being the fan of "The Cosby Show" that I was, an episode of this program depicting Theo's difficulty with learning; Cliff and Claire Huxteble couldn't understand why he was having so much trouble with his studies compared to his siblings. Tutors, extra hard efforts on his part and threats could not correct the problems he was having in school. Of course, Theo couldn't understand why he was seeing things so 'differently' than his classmates either. They finally take Theo to a learning specialist, who determines that he has dyslexia (after a series of tests; dyslexia, coming in many different forms [some forms even involve dyslexics seeing letters backwards and/or different sequences than they are printed], they had to see which was his) and they put him in a special program for correction of the results from the disability...and all ends happily....
But what happens in real life, to the individual who's not affluent enough for learning specialists? Or even aware of the disability? There are many "everyday" people who most likely don't even think of their children possibly suffering this obstacle to their offspring's learning; they only know that the child continues to bring in grades that they can't live with. Additionally, with school overcrowding, there are teachers who may not take the time to pay attention enough to catch the clues that could possibly lead to the discovery of the disability.
Now you add to this brew, the transgender child who is more than likely suffering through bullying (because she [or he] can't seem to blend in with the rest of the kids) and misunderstanding at home, and you've got a recipe for complete failure to succeed and take their place in society like those who are not so challenged.
Dyslexia is not a lack of "thinking ability". As I understand it, dyslexia is (for lack of a better way for me to say it) sort of a 'misfiring in the brain' that causes people with it to see certain reading [learning] materials differently from others. It is not a lack of logical intelligence.
I once knew a young woman (one of my trans sistahs) who was very intelligent; she could carry on a conversation about everyday things, could do makeovers for her friends and talk trash [during "reading" sessions, her mind was quick with the quips] with the best of them...but when it came to written material, she needed help; she had not, at the age of 20 years old, even learned to sign her name! She had left school without graduating, been put out of her mother's house shortly after because she was trans and had begun to earn her way through sex work.
Watching this program a couple of nights ago and thinking of my friend from so long ago, I wondered if this girl may possibly have been one of those people with dyslexia. Coming from the 'hood as she did, it seems as if she just didn't have a chance to "get a better break" in her circumstances. Often times dyslexics haven't a clue what the problem is, they just know that they're having a real problem "getting it" in school. And just as often, they are too self-conscious or embarrassed to express what they're experiencing to others (or can't find the words to explain it; they just feel 'dumb'), not to mention the fact that they're being made to feel daily their "difference" from every one else due to their transgender status. This added obstacle can play a tangible role in "derailing" societal achievement, increasing as it does the number of things already stacked against the transgender individual.
I think that if we are to make strides in addressing the ills that affect the progress of our transgender community, we should do it in a holistic manner. I think dyslexia is one of the things we may need to take a closer look at. Our organizations that expect to provide support and advocacy to the transgender community, should perhaps find ways to figure out how to assist these individuals through connecting them with those programs that correct this condition. I'm convinced that there is a portion of our young transgender community that is affected by this condition to the degree that they are not being all that they can be.
I just want to put this thought out there. If you know of a transperson out there who you think may be affected by this condition and you're close enough to them for them to listen to you (if not, try to talk to someone you know is close to them), try to talk them into seeking assistance [do your research; there are places out there]. If you yourself feel from what I've said, that it's you with dyslexia, know that you are not alone in this. There are many more dyslexics than you may think...I urge you to connect with a program in your area. It can only be a plus in helping your/our advancement.
You may start your research here:
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