When asked what is life with dyslexia, 15-year-old Chloe Gan who was diagnosed with it at the age of 11 answered, “I was judged for it. I got called different names including ‘Slow-E’ because I was slow in my work and writings. And once, this girl, she said I am stupid because my parents are stupid, that is why I am stupid.”
According to Mayo Clinic, dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding). Also called reading disability, dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language.
Nonetheless, Chloe maintained her stand as she goes through life albeit the hardships. “Life is hard. A lot of people are judgemental, like you always feel like you have to live up to this certain type of expectation. If you do not, you would feel like someone else is better than you”.
Hence, her tools for an escape are those days when she is clad in her taekwondo uniform, her cosplaying outfit, or in front of the television watching Japanese animated series (anime).
Chloe the taekwondo fighter
According to Chloe, growing up being bullied in school has nothing to do with her interest in the Korean martial art. She started taekwondo in 2016 and is currently at the red tip belt level.
“Fighting is fun. The pain hurts, but it raises my pain endurance. Especially when you can win against a bigger person, it gives you the adrenaline rush”, she shared.
Chloe disclosed also that, after reaching a high level in taekwondo, she would want to pursue Jiujitsu next as she thought it would be a fun martial art to learn.
What inspired her to pursue martial arts was from her younger days with her cousins watching World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). “We used to watch it a lot, and from there, I found that fighting is fun!” she exclaimed.
Recently, Chloe represented her school in the Asia Pacific Inter-school Championship held at Shah Alam, Selangor from March 29 to 31. The inaugural tournament, jointly organised by Persatuan Taekwon-Do ITF Selangor, International Taekwon-Do Federation Malaysia (ITFM) and Asia TaeKwonDo Federation (ATF), saw more than 1,700 participants aged seven to 18 from countries such as Malaysia, China, India, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.
There, Chloe won the gold medal for the individual pattern Under-16 category.
Chloe the anime-lover and cosplayer
Chloe’s first exposure to the world of anime was during her kindergarten days where she and her cousins would gather in front of the television to watch, “But I did not understand, since it was in Japanese, and I could not read the subtitles, so I was not into it. It was only when I was 10 years old that my then 11-year-old sister started watching it that I showed interest.”
She also mentioned that her mother loved Studio Ghibli films and would buy them to watch together.
From there, the interest for her to cosplay sparked, and in 2017, she cosplayed for the first time. “When you cosplay, you do not want to draw attention in public, but when you are this other person under a costume, you are always happy”.
Another reason why she loved to cosplay was that she loved going to anime conventions, and meet other friends of the same interest. “We get to discuss our favourite anime, and have debates on which one is the better character”.
She added also, “Whenever I cosplay a fictional character that I wish were real, I feel that dressing up as the character brought them to life. It is an escape from reality, as you are not yourself, but you’re this amazing and awesome character instead”.
Her first time cosplaying was dressing up as ‘Mumei’, a character from ‘Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress’. Chloe said that she loved Mumei because she embodies a fun characteristic.
In the future, she hopes to be able to dress up as Naruto from the Naruto animated series. “I like watching Naruto because it teaches me about life. I like the character Naruto himself because he was also an outcast when he was younger. Despite all that he went through growing up, he tried to look at things positively and ended up having many loyal friends”.
The future Chloe
Having a supportive mother, Chloe wants to pursue baking in the future in her pursuit to open a ‘theme cafe’. The cafe would see waitresses cosplaying to different characters as they serve desserts baked by Chloe herself.
“Together with my fighting skills, I would get to fight bad guys entering the cafe”, she quipped with a laugh.
And that is Chloe, the dyslexic 15-year-old, who — despite her disabilities — fought through and became who she is today.