You can call me diabetic if that’s what works for you. I won’t call the language police to shut down communications. Silence doesn’t help those of us living with this condition and it doesn’t help the outside world deal more gracefully with admittedly difficult subject matter.

I’m not saying that words don’t matter. Words do matter–not because of an inherent value in the words themselves but because of the context. Words matter because of how we interact with them. Trying to protect ourselves from terms themselves is asking the wrong question. Leaning into the effort of influencing context and controlling the narrative is proactive. It’s something for which we can take responsibility. We can change what words mean through action. That starts with taking ownership in our own life. The point of this exercise is to change our perspective. The benefit to us is a better life, independent of the willfully ignorant.

Scrutinizing semantics shifts the focus outside of the things we control. Asking how we can break underlying ignorance seems closer to the mark. Person with diabetes, climber, diabetic, diabetic climber–are all accurate. None of those words makes me who I am. They don’t define me–I define them. Doing that work is something I own–it’s not something I’m willing to outsource. The heart of being successful with this disease involves questioning everything and being independent enough to formulate your own rules based on what works for you, not playing by rules handed down from internet authority figures or arcane medical tropes.

I’m aware that I’m asking you to freely reject my position as part of my platform. I’m no authority figure. I’m just one person. I’ll choose to define the value of diabetes for myself, thank you. That includes all the words and the nomenclature that comes with it. It’s my disease and I’ll paint it any color I want.