I am not a label!

On Tuesday, I stopped by Robin’s blog,  Chirping On The Nest.  She has written a post called “Cripples” and “Gimps”.  It was in response to Ruby Cantu’s  “Name it, claim it & then reclaim it if you have to~~”.

Ruby wrote her post in response to a conversation she has with someone. It seems the person was upset she used the word “cripple” to describe herself.  It is a situation that’s quite familiar to me.  I could identify with what’s Ruby is saying.

In my case, I had a chat with a fellow on a bus heading to Glendale College.  The only thing I recall is, the guy was not comfortable when I said “I am visually impaired”.  It turns out that he prefers the term, “visually challenged” to describe himself.   “Isn’t that a little misleading?” I asked. “It’s just empowering,” he replied.  I left it at that.

I know something of the confusion that certain labels can cause. There was a time, I would use the label “legally blind”.  It was a label that someone placed on me, due to not meeting a certain standard of vision.  When I used it, the result was confusion.  “Barry, you can see. Why are you saying you’re blind?” some friends would ask. They were right. That wrong label actually makes things harder.  How so?  It kept people from seeing me clearly.  It fueled wrong assumptions about my visual capabilities.

As I continued reading Robin’s “Cripples” and “Gimps” article, there is one point that I’m in agreement with.

The agency I worked for practiced “Person-First Language” – always identifying or acknowledging the person before the disability -the boy with a disability, as opposed to the disabled boy.

The agency has the right idea with this.  Like Robin and Ruby, I am not my disability.  This is simple common sense, as no one wants to be known by a label.  My old boss, Lorna Linne had once commented that I was too hung up on job titles and labels. She was right. These days I am gradually getting to the point where I’d rather be described as one who sought to follow Christ Jesus. 🙂

I need to tell a brief story that my friend Rick told me. It’s so related to what these ladies were saying.  Rick had met two young women at his college.  Both women were very short. I am guessing dwarfs is the right term.  Here is the interesting thing.  The first woman wore her disability on her sleeve.  She just would not let you ignore the fact she’s short.

The second woman, you would never notice her size.  All you would see is, her wonderful pleasant personality.  Being a dwarf is just not her identity.  According to Rick, people actually wanted to be around the second woman.

I think you get the point. It is not enough to have society properly identify an individual with disability.  One way to help people not see our disabilities is this.  Let’s not wear it.  We don’t have to be in people’s face, about it.  Do we?

2 thoughts on “I am not a label!

  1. I agree with you about labels. And it’s not just physical labels. It’s true of identifying someone as a member of a group, including I think religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and others. And also ethnicity, race, and so many ways that we label people. I feel that to put the person first, acknowledges our common humanity, which is the same no matter our physical differences or our differences in belief. Thank you for this post.

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