Socially Unacceptable Post 56: Person-First

“Just because something affects your physical health and your mental health and your bank account and where you’re allowed to go and who will even bother to talk to you and what legal rights you have doesn’t make it your identity.”

–Elora Dodd (@online1roomschoolhouse)

When I was in college, all of my education professors insisted that I use person-first language. They would insist you never call someone an “autistic,” but must instead be careful to call them a “person with autism.”

This was to emphasize that you valued the person for who they are, despite their disability. That you acknowledged that their diagnosis or disability did not encompass their identity, but was like a kind of footnote in their story. The sentiment is good.

I adopted the use of person-first language in all of my assignments, fully accepting that this should be the new norm.

It was not until I was researching schizophrenia that I realized that almost no neurodivergents use person-first language. The reason? Many of them are not embarrassed by their diagnosis. They know that being autistic or schizophrenic is not their entire identity. But taking a mental illness or disability someone has and tacking it on as an afterthought when it affects nearly every aspect of their lives, including their thought process, daily routine, how they interact with the world, who is willing to associate with them, whether or not they get a job, etc.—it’s not liberating, it’s stigmatizing. Is there something wrong with being autistic or schizophrenic? Is it embarrassing? Does it make neurotypicals uncomfortable?

Yes, there is a part of the neurodivergent community that chooses to use person-first language because they do not want society to define them by their disability. That’s their choice. But society tends to do one of two things anyway. They will either define you by your disability regardless of your diction, or they will get squeamish and desperately try to pretend your disability does not exist. Both of these options are obnoxious ableist bullshit. You think you can’t be ableist if you are politically correct? That’s like the dumbass who thinks they can’t be racist because they have a black friend.

If you stereotype me because I am schizophrenic, then you are an asshole. If you pretend that I am an individual whose identity can be divorced from my mental illness, then you are a well-intentioned but small-minded, ignorant, ableist pansy. Congratulations, you have attained the level of idiocy only beaten by an Autism Speaks advertisement. Which, for those of you who are unaware, is a low fucking bar.

I am the queer schizophrenic, not the person with schizophrenia who has queerness. And if you have a problem with that, I suggest you unfollow me and go back to the echo chamber of neurotypicals debating how to best handle those with mental illness, because clearly the best way to understand neurodivergent individuals is to ignore their input, force your woke opinions on them for their own good, and insist that they are “normal;” as if being average is something commendable and necessary for having a successful life.

I named my blog The Queer Schizophrenic because my lived experience with queerness and schizophrenia fundamentally shape how I view the world, and how the world views me. Don’t tell me I am normal. Don’t tell me I am a person with fucking schizophrenia. I am a schizophrenic, and I have earned that descriptor by living through psychosis and absolute chaos for twelve years. I am not embarrassed by my disability, and if that makes you squirm, then you are not my crowd.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

Post 56 in Socially Unacceptable: The Daily Life of a Queer Schizophrenic Wreck (2022)

This is an autobiographical series about my life, something I have wanted to do for a long time. I intend to add new content daily.

For the whole series, follow this link.

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