How do you prefer to be identified? What words do you use to describe how you see yourself? What words do you use to describe other people?
Everyday we use words to label people. We use language to identify strangers we pass on the street and people we have known our whole lives. Sometimes this language we use, no matter how casually, can be very harmful. It can take an emotional toll and can cause people to internalize negative feelings. Words are powerful, they can lift people up or to make folks feel less than, as if they are not part of society and not wanted.
Let’s work on what we say. I’ve devised a language challenge for everyone to participate in. Participate in this challenge and help us, the You Matter community, grow and move forward together.
- Don’t say “ Crazy”. When referring to people suffering from bi-polar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, etc., do not use the word “Crazy.” This can be extremely damaging and hurtful. Use soft words like “Distressed,” “Person with emotional and mental challenges,” or just “Human”.
- Don’t let skin color be how you identify others. People who are of a different ethnicity do not need to be constantly reminded that they are different than the majority that surrounds them. “Black”, “Mixed, “Yellow,” “Red,” and even “Cracker” are inappropriate ways to identify someone. We all have better ways to describe or identify someone. Use words like “Tall,” “Young”, “In the book club” or just “Human”.
- Don’t say “Lezbo”, “Fag” or “Tranny”. These can be very harmful words. People who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Questioning, Intersexual, or Asexual (LGBTQIA) can already be experiencing difficulty accepting themselves, let’s not make it harder on them. Use “Questioning” instead. This is a great blanket term for people who are confused or struggling with accepting themselves. For many years, “Queer” has been used as a derogatory term, but now the LGBTQIA community is taking the word back and using it as a blanket term. You can always identify someone as just “Human”.
- Don’t label people based on what you perceive as their disabilities. People who are differently abled either physically or mentally can have an array of negative terms used on them. “Cripple”, “Freak,” “Retarded,” “Stupid,” etc. are horrible words to use to define someone with a physical or mental disability. Use People First Language to breakdown stereotypes and say “ That person walks using leg braces” rather than “ That person is crippled”. Remember, you can always call someone just “Human”.
What is a word all of these share? HUMAN!! We all have something in common and that is that we are all carbon-based individuals. Aside from our life challenges, skin color, sexual orientation, age, gender, etc. we are all human. We all posses something special that makes us matter. By participating in this language challenge we are taking a step to help each other find all those things that make us who we are, that make us special!