You Never Know Who You Are Talking To: Making Stigmatizing Assumptions About Health

You never know who you are talking to.

This idea has begun to catch fire in American popular culture, even though related pieces of hoary wisdom have been in circulation for years, i.e. “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Say what you want about how Millennials have ushered in an era of social regress, but, as a twenty-something looking around at her peers, I wonder, has it ever been less in vogue or more socially unacceptable to make damaging assumptions about someone else’s personal identity?

Just look at how Americans have started to talk to one another or about one another. A little over a week ago, the American Dialect Society released singular “they,” the gender-neutral pronoun, as the 2015 Word of the Year. Last year the Society selected “#blacklivesmatter. Both of these words signify popular resistance against those who cannot compassionately imagine the stakes of personal identity. Singular they and #blacklivesmatter both challenge us to reconsider complex experiences related to identity. These words fight back against everyday forms of violence committed whenever someone makes assumptions or value judgments about another person based on how they present socially.

It is a relief that people are talking about gender and race differently and critically in the US today. However, I want to contribute to the momentum of this movement – this anti-assumption movement – by sharing a personal story that hopefully expands the conversation.

This past year I was diagnosed with a common, but currently incurable, medical condition. This condition is not life or limb threatening, and an inexpensive therapy makes its undemanding management affordable with health insurance. Ninety-nine point nine percent of days, I do not even notice it. I am lucky.

However, common misunderstandings of this condition leave people who have it burdened by the management —> Read More