Type 1 diabetes (T1D) makes us all different; different in a good way, an interesting way, and sometimes in a not-so-good way. I actively fought against being different as I grew up with type 1. I hid my T1D until I was in high school, running to the nurse’s office for injections, blood glucose readings, and anything remotely related to my type 1. I refused to carry around a purse or bag with my supplies, dramatically hiding it in a pencil case so none of my classmates would know my pancreas no longer functioned in the way it was supposed to. I had considered myself a “normal” kid until my nine-year-old self was given insulin, syringes, and juice boxes, but told not to worry about this new diagnosis because “Nick Jonas also has it”.
"I actively fought against being different as I grew up with type 1."
Doctors, nurses, teachers, and even my parents tried to convince me that my type 1 was not so strange, that many people lived and functioned with it. From the classic Nick Jonas response to my heightened fascination with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, I tried to find people who were like me…until there weren’t that many left. I had accepted, even embraced my type 1. It might have made me different, but everyone knew I couldn’t do anything about it, or prevent it, and when I finally accepted it, I knew I wouldn’t be ostracized. How could I, then, handle being different in another way? One that wasn’t accepted by my church, my family, and by ¼ of America?
"How could I, then, handle being different in another way?"
I fully realized I was queer in high school, but in all honesty, I knew before my senior year confessions. I barely understood what being LGBTQ+ meant except that it was different. Just like my type 1, I would no longer be branded the “diabetic”, but the “gay diabetic”. When you’re young, nobody wants to be different, sometimes you are forced to accept it, but if we are all honest, we yearn to be like everyone else and worry about the menial things everyone else frets over. Now that I am finishing college I can look back with the refreshing perspective that it is okay to be different, just as my parents, teachers, and doctors told me, but it is hard to see this okayness and acceptive nature of others when you’re 15 and worried about homecoming dates, wondering why you won’t accept the idea of going with a nice, respectable guy that you should like.
"Just like my type 1, I would no longer be branded the “diabetic”, but the “gay diabetic”."
I had become accustomed to seeing a representation of people with type 1 diabetes, and then separately, seeing people who were out and proud in the LGBTQ+ community, but very few that overlapped. I remember the moment I learned Victor Garber married his husband and realized that there are LGBTQ+ diabetics, even if I don’t read about them or know them in the way I idolized Jordan Morris, Nick Jonas, or Sonia Sotomayor. This representation of public figures, whether actors, athletes, or community leaders who both live with T1D and identify with the LGBTQ+ community is important, but seeing the “every day” people who embrace these identities is just as important. As I lead my university’s CDN chapter, I have found friends within our club that are queer and live with type 1 diabetes, and this intersection of identities is exhilarating, as it reminds you that you are not alone in your experience. This visibility is important, and I am glad that organizations like CDN foster this space to share our experiences in both communities because it paves the way for all type 1 diabetics to be unapologetically authentic in their identities.
"As I lead my university’s CDN chapter, I have found friends within our club that are queer and live with type 1 diabetes"
While writing this post, I contemplated whether I wanted to divulge my identity. Not because I was ashamed, but because I didn’t know if it would be well-received, and this fear is ultimately why I decided to share my experience. The more people that share their stories of being queer, or being “different” in another way while living with type 1, will influence the next generation of type 1 diabetics to be open, loving, and accepting of our differences within and outside of our shared commonality of disease. LGBTQ+ visibility in the T1D community is important for me, my club, and my LGBTQ+ friends, but it is even more important for the type 1 diabetics that come after us. We have the opportunity to cultivate a more accepting T1D community, one that embraces the intersection of all our identities, further strengthening our community as a whole.