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|Melissa Carter: Freaks, geeks and letters that jiggle|
|by Melissa Carter|
|September 02, 2011 00:00|
Ah, it’s that time of year again, Atlanta: Dragon*Con.
Many who have never attended the convention see it as just freaks and geeks who like to dress up in elaborate costumes for a weekend. This may be partially true, but Dragon*Con happened to be where I realized something about myself that I had never known before: I have a reading disorder.
Besides parades and parties, Dragon*Con offers a large variety of sessions on everything from costume design to how to conduct a successful ghost hunt. Last year, I attended a session on graphic novels that included a panel of guests.
One speaker was a librarian who expressed his frustration at the difficulty he had in convincing schools and libraries to take graphic novels seriously. He credited these books with saving his education. As a child he had suffered from a learning disorder and the only books he could read growing up were graphic novels.
His personal story sparked my realization. If you visit my library at home, you will see on the shelves graphic novels on my side and Katie’s traditional novels on the other.
I always assumed my love of art and story was the reason I chose graphic novels. The fact that graphic novels are the only things on my shelf is something I never shared with anyone but Katie, my brother, and a close friend.
I remembered that I was always the slowest reader in my class, often turning the pages and skipping paragraphs to keep up with my friends during quiet reading. By the age of 20, I had only read two novels to their completion.
When my brother and I played board games as kids, I would immediately hand him the instructions and ask him to verbally tell me how to play the game.
I have lied to adult friends and claimed to have read books that I have not. When they would make reference to certain details, I would shrug and bluster as if to say, “Where do I begin to tell you how I feel about that part of the book?”
When reading the news copy that I would write for “The Bert Show,” I would always place slash marks between words for what I told myself were reminders to take a breath.
I now realize the slash marks were my tactic to keep from losing my place in the chaos of the vibrating words. For me, letters visually jiggle on the page. When I read for any period of time, I see a bright stream of electric current that seems to flow between the words and letters.
The profession of Broadcast Media requires very little heavy reading. I always knew I wanted to be in media and someday be on air, but was it actually possible my life path was heavily influenced by my undiagnosed learning disability?
You may ask how I made it through school without teachers or my parents noticing. The honest answer is I cheated on book exams thanks to my friends and played it off like I had been too busy to read. Couple that with my being a class clown and the result was no one assumed I had any anxiety about my reading skills. I even fooled myself, since I never realized I was hiding anything.
After my realization at Dragon*Con, the natural next step was for me to be tested. But after researching the expense of the tests and the fact that I have adapted well so far, I chose not to be tested. By never knowing it was an obstacle, it never became one.
So when you see the Storm Troopers marching through downtown Atlanta, don’t snicker too loudly. These weekend warriors have helped countless geeks like me realize that I am not alone in the universe after all.
Melissa Carter is former co-host of “The Bert Show” on Q100, where she broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in the city and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Keep up with her at www.melissatimes.com.
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