I have decided to include the full prompt for today’s blog here in order to provide some background for people who may be unfamiliar with this diabetes debate:
“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.”
Before I became an active member of the DOC (Diabetes Online Community), I paid no attention to the words I use when describing my diabetes. For example, I always referred to myself as a “diabetic” rather than “person with diabetes”. There was no reasoning for it other than it was easy to say “diabetic” when explaining it to others. I used “checking” and “testing” my blood sugar interchangeably because they were synonymous to me. Even phrases like “my blood sugar is low/high” versus “my blood sugar is hypo/hyper” don’t faze me—I swap them out depending on the context of the conversation.
I think that when I was diagnosed (nearly 20 years ago), diabetes descriptors were much less open to interpretation. In other words, they weren’t really perceived as labeling someone by the condition, they were merely parts of speech that identified something that affects me and my daily activities. That being said, I grew up saying these words without giving it a second thought.
However, as I’ve become more immersed in the DOC, I’ve come to understand that these words can bother some people. As a result, I’ve done my best to be sensitive to this issue and try to use “person with diabetes” or “PWD” as much as possible.
There is one word, though, that I choose to exclude from my personal diabetes dictionary, and that word is “can’t”. In my opinion, it’s not appropriate to tell me that I “can’t” eat a particular food or “can’t” participate in a certain activity. It perpetuates a stigma that I loathe about diabetes, which is that diabetes prevents me from taking part in mundane aspects of life.
Overall, I’m a person who loves and respects the power of language. I’m accepting of the fact that certain words and phrases bother some people more than others and more than willing to accommodate that in my speech and writing.