• Peter Fenton

On Left-Handedness: A Metaphor

I rarely talk specifically these days about being left-handed** (because really—why does it matter?), but I think today I’ll talk about being left-handed**.

Nobody chooses their dominant hand. I certainly didn’t. Back when I was a kid, whenever I would grab, hold, or throw anything, it was always with my southpaw. Both of my siblings and both of my parents are right-handed, but beginning at some point in early childhood, there was just something different in the way I engaged with the world, and for that very reason, life was going to be a little more difficult for me. In general, I think it’s assumed that people are right-handed until they say otherwise. The only thing I can do with my right hand is play guitar (which involves both hands either way, so I don’t even know if it really counts as right-handed), but that’s only because there was no lefty guitar available when I took intro to guitar in ninth grade.

Any way you slice it, pretty much everything in the western world is set up for right-handed people: Spiral notebooks. Table settings. Scissors. Can openers. When the communal pen at the bank is chained to the one side and you can’t actually sign the back of your check unless you place it at a really awkward angle or just bring your own pen. I get ink smudges on the side of my hand every time I take notes because the very way we write in English from left to right makes every mundane interaction I have with a pen and paper feel personally insulting.

Which—I can’t say I don’t understand where it came from that the world is set up for righties. I’ve heard it said only 1 out of every 10 people are left-handed, so the system works… for 90% of the population. But I’m a person and I’m a person living a very real life in that remaining 10%. Anything that requires finesse, I have to do it with my left hand. I can’t tell you why, there’s no rational explanation. My two hands are nearly identical and theoretically should be able to do the same things, but they can’t. They just can’t. I’m left-handed**. When someone puts a pen in my right hand, I don’t even know how to hold it.

I don’t stop being left-handed, even if I’m not talking about it. While yes—life probably would be easier if I were just right-handed (and believe me, over the years I did try to change to be like everyone else)—I’ve grown to love being left-handed. It’s part of my whole person and it’s abusive and silly to reduce someone to the hand** they write with and dismiss their ideas and personhood over it—especially when it’s done to the left-handed** community. Life is already hard enough for someone who has to exist in a world that wasn’t set up with their perspective in mind.


(**This has been a metaphor, but also I really am left-handed 👋🏻)

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