Punished for using left hand

I had an email today from Happy, who is a lady of 38 living in Swaziland, Southern Africa and, with her permission,  I wanted to share it.  Here is her story in her own words…


Hi Keith and Lauren your article (Left hand equals bad hand?) is very true to what has been done to us left handers to make us ‘right’. Below is a sharing of my experience.
 
Myself a left hander I started basic education in our capital town where they didn’t try to change me and I learnt how to write using my left. On my 2nd grade of formal schooling I had to move to a rural area to stay with my grandma and be enrolled in a school some kilometers away. Here from the first day all attempts were made to change my hand. From being bitten to getting a burning firewood from the school’s kitchen to burn my ‘wrong’ hand.
 
I was eventually saved by my mother who had to leave her work and travel to the rural school and asked the principal to instruct all teachers who I was likely to go through not to change me. My mom is illiterate but working in town made her more open, so her reason was that to change me would make me slow in task management as I’d have to at all times switch from left to right mentally before doing anything.
 
That’s how I got off and amongst my siblings I was the only left handed but good performer at school and general fast thinker, this has earned me respect, they were calling me left handed with less scorn as we grew up as they knew they would soon be calling for a favor.
 
At home I was only cautioned never to take from someone else anything using my left, it’s seen as disrespectful.  This was very much ingrained in my mind such that even now I’m always apologetic if I pick something from someone using my left. I  Then beat myself up later thinking this is the real me and I know my intention is not to disrespect but to quickly take what had to be taken!
 
Thanks again, Happy
and in a follow up email after I had asked if we could share her story, she said:
Thanks for your feedback, I love sharing my story because it contributed to making me feel different and stronger.  I’m a lady of 38 born and living in Swaziland – Southern Africa.

Feel free to post it as I believe thousands of kids are still reprimanded for being left.

Happy

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  1. Joe Cullen says:

    When I was in 3rd grade, myself and the other left handed person in my class were made to stand in front of our classmates and hold up our hands. I turned beet red with shame as there was no hiding my schmeared left hand which had a combination of good old lead pencil and ink cartridge all over dragging part of the hand. I was so embarrassed and I couldn’t understand why I was so inadequate. Thanks to the good old Nun’s at the Catholic school.

  2. CHryssi says:

    I too got the “ruler” adjustment. I was allowed to use my left hand but I had to keep it below my writing not up over the top. I was not able to conform to their way of thinking, a quality I still possess. I did get my way without disobeying and effectively set my attitude to bitch beginning at 5. I taught myself to write with my hand in the required (not RIGHT) position and turned my paper upside down instead~ The art of defiance within boundaries became standard with me.

    Funny tho how people react when seeing a lefty write. I know with me its been a thorn in my side my whole life because I have a thing about dumbass questions. i will explain. Imagine your WHOLE life being asked

    “OMG DID YOU KNOW YOU ARE WRITING UPSIDE DOWN AND SIDEWAYS???”-

    Seriously? Am I suppose to respond to that? Uhhhh dumbass

  3. karl-peter zorn says:

    the things don´t have changed in the last 3 months. the left hand, the left side, the compled left side is the bad for all the people in this country. there are rules taboo and borderlines and i find it great that there are people who can produce such websides as you it do. i can only hope that in the future, when ever it is, there will be better facts. but once again: there`s allways pervert racism.and more, every day a little bit more.i wish i can change the country or my home, but speek, those things,every things out of subcity they don`t have teached me.i didn`t had the chance to learn this.

  4. Scott says:

    I didn’t have some of the issues that others described here. Growing up in the US in the 70′s things had already changed and they didn’t force it. I had a great Aunt that had been forced to change hands as a child and she was known as the ‘nut’ of the family, but pretty much everyone in my family thought she was nutty as a result of being forced to change so I guess people knew even back then.
    I just finished a two year stay in Saudi Arabia and I had always heard that it was bad manners to eat with your left hand and to hand things to people with your left hand, but I still did it most of the time without thinking as I an left-handed. I have to say that nobody ever said anything to me or refused to take anything from me, but maybe they just didn’t notice. I also found that I could imitate Arabic writing quite comfortably since it is written left-to-right. People there were always amazed that I could do it so well, but it felt very natural to me.

  5. Shannon says:

    When I was in 3rd grade in my small town public school (New York State, USA) I had a teacher who would smack the back of my left hand with a ruler every time she caught me writing left handed. I didn’t tell my mom right away about the abuse. Then one day the teacher used a ruler with a metal edge to hit me and it cut the back of my hand several times. She refused to let me go to the nurse even though my hand was bleeding so when we went to lunch I snuck out of line and went to the office and asked to call my mom. When Mom got there she ripped into the principle and the teacher. Unfortunately there was only one 3rd grade class in the tiny school so they couldn’t put me anywhere else but that teacher never ever tried to change my handedness again nor did any other teacher in the school. My 10yo daughter is a lefty and nobody thries to change her but they also do not offer any support for lefties in her school. i’m looking forward to whatever Anything Lefthanded puts together as a resource so that I can share it with the teaching staff.

  6. Polly says:

    When we were being taught to write at infants school in the 50′s I was not allowed to use my left hand. I then developed a stutter. When my mother found out about the restrictions placed on me she went to the school to insist I was able to use my left hand whereon my stutter eventually disappeared. When you live in a right handed world you learn to adapt, however and although I am definitely left handed to write, I sometimes don’t know whether I will use my right or left hand until the moment arrives, i.e. if a ball is thrown to me.

  7. LT says:

    When I was in Jr. High School this computer teacher would get mad at me when I used my left hand to control the mouse (when mice had one button). She would actually raise her voice at me and say “No! You WILL use your right hand and follow along with the class.” She made me feel embarrassed and almost ashamed. It was worst when my peers at the time would tattle on me when I would change hands if she wasn’t looking. Because of this change she forced upon me, I don’t feel as if I’m dominantly left handed anymore.

  8. karl-peter zorn says:

    today i was also punished,in this case that i had to draw my picture in a not complete form. those things happen very often in my facility. i have to do many things so that i´m feeling down. they smoke and smoke and smoke, it´s just pervert racism.

  9. Pam says:

    Dear Happy,

    It always makes me sad when I hear of people being forced to change to their right hand.I was lucky to have both parents who are left handed. My first grade teacher threatened to “cut my fingers off if she saw me writing with my left hand”. My parents went to the school and I was moved out of her class and never had a problem again with a teacher.There seems to be less of a stigma today,but you still run across narrow minded persons every once in awhile.

    Don’t ever feel that you have to apologize for being who you are.If someone has a problem with your being left handed it’s their problem,not yours.

  10. Sharon Rowe says:

    My first grade teacher used to smack my left hand with a ruler when she saw me writing with it. Luckily my mother complained to the school and they gave me some sort of a test. This was back in the 50′s and I don’t remember much about it except building some blocks and putting circles on pegs etc. They told my teacher to leave me alone after that as I evidently passed their truly left handed test. My father was left handed but back in the 1930′s they forced him to use his right hand so he ended up using both. I have two right handed children but my one and only grandchild is left handed so that gene is still around.

  11. Patricia says:

    I am now 46 years old and right handed. My natural instinct as a child reaching out, exploring and learning to write was to use my left hand. I was raised by my grandmother, who would slap my left hand when I naturally used it, saying ‘left handed people were stupid’. This started from my early childhood, so it was ingrained in my mind that using my left hand was wrong and that I had to use my right hand. I was not allowed to get into the habit of using my left hand and I was made to understand it was wrong; so wanting to do the right thing and avoid being punished I made every effort to use my right hand.

    I have no ill-feelings towards my grandmother as she had the best intentions, she thought she was doing good for me.

    I always believed that changing my handedness had affected my thought process, as I spend a lot of time thinking about things and gathering an understanding before I take action. I also have to read an article several times to understand it. I have found this to be a particular hindrance to me recently when taking timed limited written tests to access University.

    As the effect of left handed to right handed has not been researched and promoted as such, it is not recognised as causing any disadvantages where allowances can be made as with, for example Dyslexia. Nevertheless, I am now aware of this issue when it comes to time limited written tests and will find a personal coping strategy to overcome this area.

    Locating this website and realising that I am not alone, there are actually many similar experiences to mine, has given me a feeling of relief. I am also able to tell my friends and family about these stories and your website as they never took me seriously, when I use to tell them my thoughts about my handedness.

  12. jane Taylor says:

    My heart goes out to Happy, thank you to her for sharing her story. I too suffered at the hands of my teacher for being left handed. It wasn’t untill I left her class that I was able to catch up with my education. As left handed people we have to be quicker to keep up in a right handed world, learn to adapt right handed equipment etc, but it has never stopped me from achieving.