Lefties Unite!

June 22, 2021

August 13 marks a special day for lefties all around the world as approximately 10.6% of the population[1] come together to celebrate International Lefthanders Day (ILD). This year, Taveena Kaur Gill and Chen Shye Ning, students from INTI International University (INTI), share their unique experiences as left-handed people, along with their wish for 2021’s ILD.

A lefty’s bane

Apart from the usual struggles with scissors, mugs, and knocking elbows, both Taveena and Shye Ning shared that there are subtle differences in their day to day which may not be widely known to their right-handed friends, family and loved ones.

“I’ve observed that when most people greet each other with handshakes and hugs, they tend to extend their right hand first and move towards their right when reaching out for a hug,” shared Taveena.

International Lefthanders Day is celebrated every year on August 13.

“It was confusing to me at first, but it makes sense because I think people tend to go with their more dominant side. For me, I tend to extend my left hand first and move towards the left when I greet someone, because it feels more natural,” explained the 22-year-old.

Shye Ning, also 22, expressed that ringed notebooks have always been a literal pain for her since most of them are typically designed for right-handed people.

“When I use a ringed notebook, my hand would press against the ringed area more frequently than my right-handed friends, so it causes more discomfort to me as compared to most of my peers when I write,” she said.

When asked about a shared struggle that lefties often experience, the Bachelor in Physiotherapy students instantly talked about their annoying experiences with ink pens and pencils.

For Taveena, using her left hand came more naturally to her as a child.

“Similar to right-handed people (or righties), we tend to write from left to right. But, when we do that with these stationeries, the ink or lead would smear against the side of our palms as we write leaving not only our hands smudged, but our notebooks smudged as well,” conveyed Shye Ning.

“They can be the bane of our existence,” she joked, as Taveena laughed in agreement over a Microsoft Teams discussion.

Shye Ning further added that righties may be unaware that most doors and refrigerators are also designed to open for right-handed people. As a result of this design, she has learnt to use her non-dominant hand more.

“I did not realise I was doing this until the people around me pointed it out. I think I do it subconsciously, because using my dominant hand would mean crossing it against my body when opening doors and fridges, which feels awkward,” she said.

It is not all bad

As much as their experiences as lefties are frustrating, both Taveena and Shye Ning shared that they have encountered certain advantages and positive experiences to being a leftie too.

“When I used to attend dance classes, my teachers observed that I would place my left foot forward as compared to everyone else who were placing their right foot forward when dancing. After noticing this and understanding that using my right leg does not come naturally to me, my teachers and the entire class changed the choreography to having us use our left legs as we are dancing more to accommodate to my left-inclined body,” recalled a touched Taveena.

Taveena Kaur Gill is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Physiotherapy at INTI International University.

Shye Ning realised that in terms of slight advantages, lefties can easily catch righties off guard at least in the first few rounds of sports and games, because most people often assume everyone plays with their right hand.

“It gives us (left-handed people) a unique advantage in sports like badminton for instance, when we are developing game plans and strategy as we play since we have different strengths compared to what most people are accustomed to,” she said.

She also pointed out that she has grown to be fonder of sports like archery, because its tools such as the bow are both right-hand and left-hand friendly making her feel just the same like everyone else.

On the flak and bullies left-inclined people tend to receive, both Taveena and Shye Ning shared that things may be different now with the current generation, so it may not be so much of an issue now.

Chen Shye Ning is a left-handed student at INTI International University.

“My grandmother, who is also left-handed, had issues with being a lefty in the past when hygiene used to be the main concern for left-handed people. When I was growing up, I did not hear this sentiment as strongly comparing to my grandmother when she was a growing up,” shared Shye Ning.

Taveena nodded acknowledgingly while adding that today, whenever someone discovers she is left-handed, she is immediately dubbed as cool by her peers and receives a lot of inquisitive questions about being a left-hander too.

Increasing empathy for left-inclined individuals on ILD

When asked about how they intend to celebrate International Lefthanders Day this year, particularly in the midst of the pandemic, Taveena shared that she is not going to stray too far off her annual traditions.

The common struggle for lefties is having ink smudged against their hands as they write.

“Every year on August 13th, I try to make it a point to share a post on my social media to raise awareness and create conversations about my experiences as a left-handed person.

“I would get comments and feedback from my friends telling me that they never knew about me being left-handed, so it feels good to be able to have a day to celebrate me, while also being able to talk about it without feeling like the odd one out,” expressed Taveena.

Shye Ning sharing a photograph of scissors that are more left-friendly compared to others.

She also shared that prior to COVID-19 when there were no physical restrictions, she would encourage her friends to spend the day with using only their left hand in everything that they do, so that they understood what it is like to live as a left-handed person in a right-handed designed world.

“They would tell me that it is definitely not easy and they understand my realities better as a result,” she said.

Shye Ning shared that while she has also celebrated her left-inclinations on ILD through posts with her friends in the past, she loved the idea Taveena shared about challenging the people around her to use their left hands only.

“I am going to try and do the same this year and see what the responses are like,” she said.