On a forum about geeks and inclusiveness (two things near and dear to my heart), somebody who is a social worker posted about the importance of what they termed “person-first language.” For example, “That Word Grrl has a disability,” rather than “That Word Grrl is disabled.” In their mind, this made the person more important than whatever their disability might be.
This became a problem when they insisted that this language should be used with ALL people who have disabilities.
Which…OK, I guess. But it left me wondering. Why can’t I just be That Word Grrl? Is it truly necessary to point out one of the most visibly obvious things about me? Does it help somebody understand me as a whole person?
Beyond that, I find myself squinting a bit sideways at somebody who does not share my issues feeling a need to rush in and tell me how I want to be treated, without doing of me the courtesy of first asking how I feel about it. Asking at least has the benefit of implying that I have some input into that interaction.
Had they asked me, I’d have to say that person-first language really doesn’t mean much to me, one way or another. My being a person with a disability or a disabled person really doesn’t change or help said disability. To be honest, I’d rather have it not even mentioned on first meeting until they and I have a chance to know each other.
By my own admission, I’m not a terribly good poster child for disability or chronic pain. There are places where I find myself in hard opposition to much of not only what those communities are told, but what they tell themselves. It may well be that the vast majority of these communities prefer person-first language. But one size does not fit all.