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Person-First Language

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#1 Corundum_Catapult



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Posted 11 May 2012 - 02:20 PM

I'm curious about this one. I don't know whether I have narcolepsy or not, but I am autistic, and prefer to refer to myself as an autistic person rather than a person with autism, when the subject comes up. If someone identifies themselves as a "person with X", I will go by the way they identify, and respect their wishes if I use the wrong form by correcting myself. Mainly this is because it is cumbersome to use "person with X" every time you talk, if you're going to be using this construction more than once or twice in a short time.

I do support person-first language being standard for style guides for journalists and the like. But I wonder if someone with narcolepsy would get upset if someone else with narcolepsy preferred to refer to themselves as narcoleptic, while using person-first language referring to others. Obviously not everyone with narcolepsy (or any other given condition) would have a monolithic view on this, but I'm wondering if it is more harmful to let people use the condition-first construction for themselves without facing social opprobrium or to make it socially unacceptable to use the condition-first construction to the extent that it restricts people from self-identifying the way they choose.

I guess this stems from the fact that the whole reason for having etiquette rules in referring to others is to respect them, and respect entails individual consideration. Yet, we do not want things that most people in a group consider disrespectful to become a popular, socially acceptable means of referring to people (just because some LGBT people identify themselves as queer, doesn't mean everyone under that umbrella would find "queer" a respectful identifying label).