As a child, I picked up objects at random with my left hand. When I wrote, I would turn the notebook at an angular shape to enable freedom. Many times, I struggled with the pencil grip on the right hand; I had the best motor control in my left hand. My left-hand seemed wrong, and my right-hand was right.
It was awkward as a boy being clumsy and learning slowly. I grew up feeling I was born into the wrong world, my hands didn’t just fit. They said my head twisted my hands. Writing, playing, socializing felt awkward. I was different, and the world could not deal with difference. My conventional mother, stringent schoolteachers, my spiritual pastor, they all struggled to convert me to a righty; hence I felt there was a sin in my hand. Perhaps if any of them was forced to perform the basic tasks with their antipodal hands, they may understand my struggle.
In the world we live in, it is either black or white, there is no grey. It is either good or bad; hence people’s construction of the left-handed people was ‘bad’ while they associated right-handed gestures as “good”. Leftie was not a penchant; it was my nature, one that for many years made me lonely. Over the years, I met my fellow Southpaws; it was a relief to know that I was not alone. Then I happily found an affiliation that liberated me. As I got older, I met more antipodal paw users. It was there with the woman that could not use the sewing machine; it was same with the man that could not use the pressing iron without having a burn. They looked clumsy and awkward in their efforts to make the right tools work in the left hand.
I wondered why the left hand seemed such a slow hand. Then, I realised that almost all tools and machines are built for right handed people; the scissors, keyboards, pressing irons, doors, computer mice, etc. Thousands of people die yearly of mishaps emanating from their struggle to adapt to controlling conflicting tools designed against their nature.
Southpaws make up about 10% of the world’s population. Yet they are discriminated and marginalized with the prevalent idea that all tools are universal. The society in general does not show any accommodation or special consideration for southpaws like us. In schools, teachers force children to hold pencils in the right hand, they do not encourage children to hold the pencil in their most comfortable hands. It is evident that there is a huge knowledge and skill gap among teachers in assisting southpaw kids too. This Leftie discrimination comes from a Right-handed bias, and very few people have an idea of the damage this can have on a child.
Democracy has been good, it helped make we Southpaws feel better away from an autocratic world that idealised the righties and victimized the lefties. We vote left handers. President Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, James Garfield, Harry Truman and more, were southpaw presidents. Sports was also good, Rafael Nadal the tennis ace, Golf legend Phil Mickelson, Oscar de la Hoya the boxing champion, all made us worthy being fellow southpaws. These role models finally tell me every day that I could thrive with my left hand. Where confidence and self-esteem was compromised as a child, they were my boosters.
Come August 13, 2014, it will be International Left-Hander’s Day. On this day, we celebrate our right to be and to remain left handed. I speak today asking you to join in giving our difference a better worth. I stand today, to validate the little child like myself who may be traveling the path I traveled then with struggle, the men and women who are still struggling to conform to the right world. They are not alone, I am with them. Together we can make the world recognise and appreciate our difference better. According to the words of Herman Melville – “To be hated cordially, is only a left-handed compliment.”