The topic for today asks bloggers to discuss their diabetes language preferences. What does each blogger prefer? “Person with diabetes”, or “diabetic”? I’m thankful to the community member who proposed this topic, because my views on it have somewhat shifted since I wrote about it last. My perspective changed because I’ve learned some disability history!
Below is a visual conception (or formulation) of each way to refer to living with diabetes. I drew it just over a year ago. It not only reflected how I felt about modifiers, but also was a source of pride for me. I had found a way to eloquently express how I experienced subtle language variations.
However, after delving into disability studies and the critical theory and history that make it up, I have begun to reconsider my formulation.
Did you know that the language we tend to use in the United States is called “person-first language?” It’s a thing! We have a thing! Our community PRACTICES a theoretical (albeit historical) formulation that one can read about in academic texts!
How stinking’ cool is that?
Person-first language is formulated to address the dehumanization that can occur when a person is addressed as a disablement (in this case as diabetes) rather than as a person. Hence, in order to respect an individual’s personhood, “person with diabetes” is suggested. Person-first language isn’t used everywhere, though. This is the part that really hooked my interest as a patient who tends heavily toward person-first language.
An alternative is called identity-first language and it formed, in part, as a rejection of person-first language.
A person who tends toward identity-first language might say:
“I’d prefer you call me diabetic because I recognize that being diabetic does not decrease my personhood. I prefer this because I reject the idea that diabetic is a derogatory word.”
In this formulation, identity-first language actually fights stigma by rejecting the negative association all together! It functions to TAKE BACK the word completely! What’s more, it is used as often in the UK as person-first is here!
WOW! Right? Is this stuff mind-bending or what? Could the words we use be dictated by what region we are diagnosed?
After being exposed to identity-first language, what I can certainly say is that my feeling of righteousness when using person-first language is shaky at best.
Take this discussion as food for thought because there is no right or wrong, there is only what works for you. What we can do is make a choice and stand by that decision as informed patients.
What sits right with you?
Today’s topic: Click for the Language and Diabetes – Wednesday 5/18 Link List.
There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.