5/18 – Language and Diabetes
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.
So I fall into that category of people that doesn’t pay very much attention to language when it comes to diabetes. I personally could not care less if someone calls me a “person with diabetes” or a “diabetic”, whether it’s “checking” vs. “testing” (honestly, I never even considered why anyone would have anything against the word “testing” but some people are more sensitive to these things and I respect that.) I do tend to specify “I have type 1 diabetes”, I don’t normally say “I am a diabetic” or “I am a type 1 diabetic”, but it honestly doesn’t bother me in the least if someone says that about me, because: 1. It’s true; 2. I don’t think they are trying to offend me; 3. I am just not one of those people that gets all caught up in semantics.
I have seen many people addressing the fact that when it comes to diabetes, it seems that there are a lot of jokes (often uninformed ones) that revolve around it. To be honest, it used to bother me, but not so much anymore. No, it’s probably not very educated to say something like “Eating all that cake will give you diabetes”, and I certainly do address comments like that, but I just don’t get all worked up about it. I guess I am just one of those people that doesn’t take myself or life too seriously, because if I did I think I might go crazy J The thing is if someone is intentionally trying to be hurtful, of course it bothers me, but when it comes to diabetes jokes, I honestly don’t believe most people even realize that their comments could be considered offensive. Because type 2 diabetes, so much more prevalent than type 1, is closely associated with diet, metabolism, and weight, and that is what is portrayed in the media, I don’t think I can hold any kind of grudge against people who are misinformed about diabetes as a result... I mean, I don’t claim to know much about asthma or epilepsy, so why would I get all worked up if someone doesn’t know about diabetes? (By the way, I mention asthma and epilepsy because these are two conditions that I know of where patients are sometimes referred to as “asthmatic” or “epileptic”, and there are probably some others that I am not thinking of right now…)
Anyway, I don’t think that not caring too much about language that revolves around diabetes is that big of a deal. If someone is saying misinformed stuff, I will usually correct them. If someone appears to be intentionally hurtful, I will give them a piece of my mind. However, in most cases, I have not found anything anyone has said about diabetes or having diabetes as offensive, just maybe misinformed.