There is a petition going around the Diabetes Online Community urging that Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes be renamed to reduce confusion. Lee Ann Thill wrote an excellent response to the petition, outlining the history of diabetes nomenclature and why she doesn't support the petition. (Lee Ann's post also contains a link to the petition, if you'd like to see it.)
I want to share something about this issue I've been sitting on since the last time there was a lot of discussion about this issue, maybe a couple of years ago. I want to stress that I don't intend this as a contribution to the discussion. It's not about a reason to pick a side, it's about the impact the discussion has had on me personally.
Many people are interested in the renaming effort because they weary of explaining how their Type 1 diabetes is different from Type 2 diabetes -- or, rather, the warped view of Type 2 the public is presented with. While "lifestyle choices" often (but not always) play a major role in the development of Type 2, there is a genetic factor, and other factors that are not yet understood. And, by no means all people with Type 2 are able to 'reverse' their diabetes even if they ARE able to make dramatic changes in their "lifestyle". But authors of mass market paperbacks, magazine editors, snake oil salesmen, and even many public health advocates aren't interested in this more nuanced truth. "Lose weight to overcome diabetes!" or "Lose weight to avoid diabetes!", they seem to feel, is as complicated a message as the public can absorb.
This leaves people with Type 1 diabetes, who certainly never asked to have their own immune systems turn on them, in the awkward and painful position of having friends and family assume that they are at fault for their condition and could cure it with diet and exercise. As much as I can without actually experiencing it, I can understand how frustrating that would be. There are so many Type 1s I love, and I empathize.
For myself, I would find this discussion easier if I wasn't myself the prototype of what people think Type 2 looks like. I've often wished to see an effective advocate who contracted Type 2 without obesity or a sedentary lifestyle. Alas, I am far from that myself. When I was diagnosed, I was in my late 40's, worked a desk job, ate terribly, and was (and am) very significantly overweight. Check, check, check, and check - the very model of the stereotype. So, the night a community member tweeted "F--- fat diabetics!", I felt pretty sure I'd fit whatever that person had in mind.
Thus it was one day that I was reading a piece advocating the name change, with the author citing this frustration as a motivating factor.
That's when it hit me:
"This person wants the name of the condition changed", I realized, "because they don't want to be associated with people like me."
That hurt like Hades.
And it still does.