Just Pick a Hand!
“…wherever I go, I hear people whispering, ‘there goes Kevin, the ambidextrous freak.’ So you’ve heard of me. Is that why you traveled out here to the hinterlands, so you could stare at somebody who can write his name with either his left hand or his right?” -Kevin in The Carnivorous Carnival, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Are you right-handed or left-handed? Statistically, you’re probably right-handed, since between 70 to 95 percent of the world’s population is right-handed while around 10 percent is left-handed. While no “leftie gene” has been discovered, left-handedness does run in families. My mother was a lefty as are three of my six brothers.
Throughout history, left-handed people have been viewed with suspicion or outright hostility. Whether they were accused of witchcraft or devil worship, they were considered sinister and abnormal. Schools often tied students’ left hands behind their backs and/or beat them for using that hand to write.
My mother came home crying from primary school the first day they were learning to write because the teacher had forced her to use her non-dominant right hand. Her father, who was also a lefty and had been treated similarly in school, went to the principal in a rage and my mother was allowed to use her left hand after that. We forget how short a time ago that was.
Things have gotten better — much better. Schools today could never get away with forcing students to use one hand over the other. And you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who believes that a left-handed person consorts with the devil.
And yet, the world is still built for righties. So many things are created for the convenience of use with a right hand: tools, computers, stick shift vehicles, etc.
Growing up, I usually favoured my right hand. But then, in high school, I developed tendinitis in my right wrist after an injury in gym class. I wore an elastic bandage for a few weeks, and it was very painful to use my right hand for anything, especially something as exacting as writing. From necessity, I taught myself to take notes in class and to eat with my left hand.
After my wrist recovered, I tried to keep up with using my left hand some of the time, but slowly fell back into using my dominant right hand for most things. Then, in my late twenties, I was in a car crash where I broke my collarbone on the right side. My right arm was in a sling strapped to my body and immobilized for the better part of 3 months. I taught myself to do everything with my left hand.
It was during this time that I bought my first laptop and used a touch pad in place of a mouse for the first time. To this day, I find using a touch pad with my left hand easier than with my right.
Today, I am functionally mostly ambidextrous. Writing with my left hand is slow and not as neat as the right, but I can do pretty much everything else with either hand. I brush my teeth with my left hand every morning and my right hand at night. I use my computer mouse with my left hand at home and my right hand at work.
Some scientists have argued that being left-handed is connected to other things they used to consider defective, like homosexuality. Today, science no longer sees a correlation, but there is something to learn here. Most of the arguments for the immorality of left-handedness have been or still are used to condemn queerness. Some people even claim LGBTQ people are possessed by demons as they used to claim lefties were.
I am not gay. But I’m not straight either. I am bisexual, but maybe I should use the term ‘ambisexual’ instead? It means pretty much the same thing. As I can use either hand, I could be attracted to or fall in love with any gender.
Choose a hand? Choose a side? Not me.