I Am a Person, But My Identity Comes First

To all abled people who insist on Person First Language (PFL)* for disabilities, despite majority community support for the opposite:

  • You are no longer a parent, you are now a person with children
  • You are no longer Australian, you are now a person with Australian citizenship
  • You are no longer a doctor, you are now a person with a doctorate
  • You are no longer tall, you are now a person of above average height
  • You are no longer a woman, you are now a person of female identity

‘Disabled’ is not a dirty word. Use it.

*Person First Language (PFL) is about putting the person before the condition, which may sound like a good idea, but there are several reasons it is not.

  • For one, as seen in the list above, it doesn’t happen for other things because unlike disability, those other traits aren’t seen as removing your humanity.
  • It’s clunkier to say ‘person with disabilities’ than it is to say ‘disabled person’.
  • My disabilities aren’t an accessory that I am with, they are me.
  • The people who need to be reminded that disabled people are in fact people and deserve to be treated as such are the same people who insist on PFL, so clearly it doesn’t help.
  • It serves to make abled people more comfortable, not disabled people.
  • It allows abled people to ignore our disabilities and refuse to accommodate us as it taps into the idea that disabled people must overcome our disabilities rather than live with them.
  • PFL ties into the infantilisation of disabled people as we are not being listened to – we don’t all prefer Identity First (IE disabled person) but the community overwhelmingly does, so use it as the default instead of using the language that makes abled people more comfortable.

That list is by no means exhaustive, but it sums up my main issues with PFL. Personally, my primary issue with PFL is that it serves to remind me that my disabilities are seen as detracting from my humanity and personhood. I am disabled at a cellular level. There is no cure, no overcoming, and no part of me that exists outside of, or separate to, my disabilities. If my personhood and humanity are lessened by my disabilities to the degree that people need a constant verbal reminder that I am still a person, then frankly, I’m not a person. The fact is that my personhood is not jeopardised by my disabilities. I am a person. I am disabled. And neither cancel out the other.

5 Comments

  1. You make great points in here. “Disabled” can be an adjective just like any other. Forcing person-first language on a disabled person who doesn’t like it isn’t really putting the person first, after all!

    Also, I love the hat you’re wearing in the picture. It has such pretty colors.

    Liked by 1 person

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