I was slightly mortified at an exchange I heard recently between a person with diabetes and a healthcare professional. The HCP was correcting the PWD, who repeatedly referred to themselves as ‘(a) diabetic’, urging them to not use the word as some find it offensive.

Sometimes, it seems that we forget that the idea of discussing, and hopefully improving, the language used about diabetes is to better the experience of people with diabetes. My personal crusade is not about completely eliminating the word ‘diabetic’, for example.

I know many people with diabetes who use the word – as both a noun and an adjective – and are very comfortable to refer to themselves that way. This piece from Mel Seed at Twice Diabetes explains why she is more than happy to use the word. I appreciated her side of the debate. It all fits neatly into my philosophy of ‘My diabetes, my rules’.

But the point of the whole #LanguageMatters movement is not about people with diabetes defending the language choices we make. It’s about others. The Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement as never intended to be for people with diabetes. It was always for healthcare professionals, the media and the general community.

Rosie Walker, on her Successful Diabetes blog, captured it all perfectly when she said this in a recent post about diabetes language matters:

‘This is not a call for people living with diabetes themselves to ‘mind their language’. Anyone is perfectly free to refer to themselves and their condition however they wish – as in most other areas of life. This is about how other people, and especially health professionals and scientists, use language in relation to diabetes and those with it, and especially when they are not in earshot or attendance…’

When a healthcare professional tells someone with diabetes to not use a word to describe themselves, it’s just another example of trying to control the PWD. In the same way that we want choice about the devices we use or the treatment plan we employ, we demand choice in the words we use to describe ourselves and our diabetes.

I have started a separate page on Diabetogenic about all things #LanguageMatters. Click here or on the link at the top of the page for more. 


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