It has been approximately 12 years since I had to go gluten free due to Celiac disease, 6 years since I was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis, and 4 years since I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. During this time, beginning when I was 12, I became acutely aware how little the media cared about me as a person now that I had a disability and chronic condition. There were the subtle jabs, like GEICO releasing a commercial insinuating that people who eat gluten free are food thieves or Party City calling gluten free people "gross" in a commercial. There were the more obvious stabs such as the 2018 Peter Rabbit movie where the characters purposely attack another character with peanuts to cause an anaphylactic reaction. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people with chronic conditions have been offered as a "sacrifice" in order to return to normal. And this week again, people with a chronic illness were tossed to the side in the New York Times, a world renowned, reputable news source.
There are plenty of aspects of the article that are problematic, but my biggest fear as someone who got the label of disabled as a teenager, is that young people will take this message to heart. Why shouldn't they trust the New York Times? I'm sure they've been assigned to read other articles from the publication for school at some point. Couple that with the countless examples from other media sources poking fun at them for being weird, gross, terrible people, and this article will leave a permanent mark on these young folks that will take years to unlearn.
I consider myself lucky. My immediate family never let me feel like a burden at the young, impressionable age I became disabled. I was able to translate that to the dating world too, and I have always had supportive significant others. Not everyone will have that same support system, and so we MUST be inclusive in the media coverage around people with disabilities.
It is absolutely disgusting that this article was allowed to be published, and I am advocating for it to be taken down. While things published on the internet never really go away, let's take it down now so that we can limit how many are damaged by its hurtful words.
To any young people reading this not sure what to do, how to cope, or questioning their worth, you are worthy, you are wonderful, you are unique, and you deserve love just as much as anyone else. Feel free to reach out to me if you ever need someone to talk to about dating with a chronic illness. If you are having suicidal thoughts as a result of the New York Times article, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Picture Credit: Illustration by Tomi Um