I’ll put it out there up front: I really just don’t care. I am not offended or feel labeled by being called a “diabetic.” PWD is a short-hand way but most people not as involved in the DOC don’t know what that means. And so have to say “person with diabetes” just makes having diabetes seem even more cumbersome. Just how I feel.
But I am keenly aware of the issue and that some folks are very sensitive to these words. When I was writing my book (The Savvy Diabetic: A Survival Guide), I had several prominent members of the diabetes community read and review it ~ only one commented about my use of the word, “diabetic” as opposed to “person with diabetes.”
In the book’s preface, I set out the following disclaimer:
I use the word, “diabetic,” throughout this book to describe “persons with diabetes.”
When I was first diagnosed, in 1965, my disease was called “diabetes mellitus” and I was referred to as a “diabetic.” Then, in the early 1970s, my disease was renamed “juvenile diabetes,” but I was still referred to as a “diabetic” or “juvenile diabetic.”
About that time, discussions were surfacing on the issue of sensitivity to being labeled “diabetic.” Patients felt it important to say they were “persons with diabetes” as diabetes doesn’t define them. “I have “diabetes” but I am not a “diabetic.
And now, in the twenty first century, we are referred to as “Type 1 diabetics” or “T1D’s”, or “persons with Type 1 diabetes”, which are not to be confused with Type 2 or Type 1.5 diabetics, even though we all have diabetes.
I am aware that the American Diabetes Association has made it a point to not use the word “diabetic”, as a noun, so as not to give a “label” to those with the disease, diabetes.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a “diabetic” is defined as “a person affected with diabetes.
I choose to use the term “diabetic” to refer to any “person with diabetes”. This is not meant as a slight or insult but simply a shortcut. I do not mean to offend or upset those persons living with diabetes and I do understand the issue.
“I yam what I yam,and that’s all what I yam.” ~ Popeye, the Sailor Man, cartoon fictional character
Enough about me now. I put out a quick survey to the support group I run with about 80 pro-active and vibrant T1s … and started to get answers back within 10 minutes! I must comment that this question really seems to spark a nerve! I’ve heard from folks who rarely say peep.
Here’s a sampling of what they say:
- I personally hate “person with diabetes”. I definitely prefer diabetic. For some reason, I associate the first term with type 2 and I also feel it has a negative connotation and that we brought this on ourselves. Diabetic just seems more like something unfortunate that we have to deal with but wasn’t our fault. It just doesn’t seem as tainted as the other one is by the negative connotation towards type 2’s mostly. I know that people could argue the same feelings for either term but…that’s just my opinion. Diabetic woman right here! 🙂 (CF)
- Everyone else uses PwD so why not. Never offensive, just an abbreviation. (GK)
- I personally am not offended either way but very little actually offends me. J (SR)
- I have always referred to myself as being diabetic. I’m not much for political correctness as I think it’s a bunch of #%!#. I may have diabetes but I’m also a diabetic. I have never felt labeled. It is what I am. People need to get over themselves. So there’s my 2 cents. (KW)
- I have always hated the term “diabetic”. I am not diabetes. Someone who has cancer is not a cancer. PWD is much better. (JL)
- I prefer diabetic. It’s easier to say, it’s how I describe myself to others, the “pwd” feels too proper, forced, etc. and awkward coming from a non-diabetic. When I first heard the “pwd” phrase, it struck me as unusual (KF, 17 years old)
- I am a diabetic. I am also a son, a husband, a neighbor, etc. I am not a person with parents, a person with a wife, etc. gimme a break. I AM A DIABETIC. Big f-ing deal. (DG)
- I prefer “diabetic” but it really doesn’t matter to me. But always have to clarify, Type 1, because all diabetics are not made the same. I just hate to be grouped with Type 2’s who have a very different experience. (JA)
- I am a Type 1 Diabetic. Which is a completely different disease than Type 2 Diabetes. If words could correct that issue, I’d be grateful so that I would no longer have to accept cures and recommendations from well-meaning people for a disease that I don’t have! J (BG)
- I prefer a person with type 1 diabetes. I am tired of being lumped in with people with type 2 diabetes who have actual easy choices to make over not having diabetes at all. (MP)
- I would prefer “I have T1D”. This way it begs a person to ask about the difference between T1 and type 2. It would be a “nice” change but not critical. What I wish could change is that type 2 would be called something very different and not have the word “diabetes” attached. (KH)
- 2000000000% agree with (BG)! No need to argue semantics other than the blatantly obvious (or maybe just obvious to us) differentiation of being a type 1 diabetic vs. type 2 diabetic. (CA “tired of being asked if she has “the good or bad kind” of diabetes”)
- Type 1 Diabetic. No need to sugar coat it! 😂 (SB)
- (DG) and (BG)’s responses are spot-on!!! I was diagnosed with Type 1, 40 years ago … let’s not fall into the politically correct genre and become PWDT1, it’s just not necessary. It is what it is!!!! (YJ)
And the responses keep coming in:
- my vote – type 1 diabetic (LR)
- Type 1 diabetes is one of my many great attributes. Being diagnosed 46 years ago
has made me a warrior, a survivor, an empathetic friend, a person that doesn’t
judge others (because I get how difficult life can be), and last, but not least,
it’s made me crazy. Everyone has an identity. I believe we create our own by how we see ourselves.
I really don’t care what you call me. It doesn’t change who I am. (SR)
- I agree with (SR)– but I prefer no acronyms! PWD sounds like a “thing”, not a person. It’s taken
me years to get acclimated to T1D but I’m pretty comfortable with it now. “Diabetic” is a little
general, because you usually have to clarify which “type” you are. As far as labeling goes, we
all have to deal with labels – I prefer “queen of everything” but it’s not very descriptive of my
medical condition! Ha! Like (SR) said, one label doesn’t make you who you are. Your medical
condition may be labeled one way, your marital status is labeled another, your professional
label/title is something else….you get it! (PM)
- Thanks, (SR) – your description is exactly who we are and more!
I, too, have never cared what they call me – it makes no difference to me – because I know who I
am and in many ways, I consider diabetes to be a gift because my lifestyle is way more healthy
than it would have been without it. (VS)
- Thanks, I’m in this camp too, with (VS). (PF)
- (SR), I was also diagnosed 46 yrs ago. We should throw an anniversary party!
I completely agree with what you said. I have a son who is dyslexic and that’s how he refers to
himself, instead of a person with dyslexia. Is it because I call myself a diabetic? Who knows? It
really doesn’t matter. It’s all the same! (CO)
- You brought up an excellent point to ponder. We all have Type 1 Diabetes but is that the way we
want to be identified? We are instead, all unique individuals, with the same disease, Type 1
Diabetes. Isn’t this the way we want to be seen by others? I do. Kudos to (CO) and (SR)! You both
are awesome! Thank you! (PM)
- I really embraced the phrase, ‘I am a Diabetic’ after I took a hard look at my patterns of
behavior and confronted the reality of the disease. Once I turned toward embracing Diabetes,
rather than fighting against it, I felt comfortable calling myself a Diabetic. (CR)
THE BOTTOM LINE:
- Most T1s simply don’t care
- A majority, if asked to choose, said they’d prefer “Type 1 Diabetic” to “Diabetic” or “PWD.” Interesting because that is even more of a label. But it is more descriptive, more direct and requires less explanation.
- Perhaps we might get different answers if we polled T1 teenagers or parents of T1 children? What do you think?