Confession time: I’m jealous.
I’m wickedly jealous of an adorable, powerful, perfect little symbol: the pink and red equal sign all over the place this week.
Watching the way the pink and red equal sign took over Facebook, twitter and more this week was astounding and inspiring. I posted it early, and almost immediately friends messaged me asking what it was. When I explained it was support for equal rights in marriage, those friends then posted it. This was happening everywhere, and by last night, almost everyone on FB had that as a profile pic (which caused some FB messaging confusion. Did I just say something? Or did you? Oh, we have the same profile pic!)
The attention and awareness building was well deserved and much-needed. And while it may have felt like it came out of nowhere yesterday, folks who care about equal rights for marriage have been fighting this battle, well … forever.
So yeah, I’m kind of jealous of them. Not for their fight. The terrible way human beings have been not only discriminated against but also persecuted is, to me, unfathomable. That they’ve had to fight forever to simply be treated as humans is amazing. True, in the diabetes world we have to fight ignorance and stereotyping and ridiculous suggestions (“Oh, so you fed her wrong as a baby?” “My aunt just avoids jelly doughnuts and she’s fine. I’m sure once she is regulated all will be well.” “At least she’ll grow out of it.” “have you tried having her chew tree bark? I read about it on google!”) but in most cases, we in the D world are not told we’ll be cast into hell for the way our bodies or our loved ones bodies function.
But I have to think that, as people waited for the Supreme Court decision, seeing the world light up with that symbol had to be remarkable. And empowering. And like a giant, awesome hug with the words “We’ve got you,” whispered in your ear. That’s brilliant. And the way the appearance of it made folks stop and say “What’s this all about?” Talk about brand messaging and using a simple symbol to inspire action. That’s rock solid.
Here is where the jealousy comes in: I want that for diabetes. I really, really want that for diabetes.
Now I know: there is never, ever going to be a time that the understanding of, support for a cure for and interest in doing more for daily treatment of Type 1 diabetes is going to come anywhere near matching the need for a basic human right like freedom to legally love the person you love. First of all, there are “only” about three million people with T1D. And to be honest, I never want that to change. Each time I heard of a new diagnosis (like this morning), I hurt a little more. So yeah, our population is relatively small. Second: it’s just plain really hard to get the world to care about your particular medical need. I’ll be honest: before my daughter was diagnosed 16 years ago, I knew little if anything about T1D. And I was fine with that. We all have our own things to care about; we all cannot be passionate about everything.
And yet. T1D costs our nation – and the world – literally billions of dollars each year. And it costs lives. True, more and more people are living a long and excellent life despite diabetes, but folks still die too soon every day from this. (I am quietly remembering a dear friend who lost her battle at 26 years old a year ago today). So we are worthy of awareness. We are worthy of support.
And yet, we’ve floundered at the symbol thing. Even within the diabetes community, there is confusion. Are we a blue ribbon or a gray one? (and really, since the amazing AIDS ribbon, has not the flood of ribbons kind of made them lose their impact?) A blue circle or a cute shoe? Are we a combination of all those or something entirely different we’ve yet to see? Are we Type 1 and Type 2 together or on their own? To figure all this out might be helpful, but I think we need to take it even further in cooperation.
I am thinking to get to the point of the equal sign phenomenon, we might need to team up with more than just the total of the diabetes world. It need to reach out more.
So I am wondering this: What if the world cared as much about medical research as a whole as they did about something like equal rights for marriage?
Surely everyone we know on this earth knows someone desperate for medical breakthroughs. Cancer. ALS. Diabetes. MS. Cystic Fibrosis. Muscular Dystrophy. Mental Health. We all know so little about one another, yet we all share so much. It’s no secret that when medical breakthroughs come, they may very well come in waves. And it’s so true that we all, ALL, need to continue pushing for the existence and growth of things like the National Institute of Health (NIH). We have so much in common. Perhaps we should team up.
What if there was a smart, simple, action-invoking symbol for people who care about progress toward cures and better treatments for all diseases and conditions? And what if, one day soon, on a day that matters in a particular way (say – when the NIH budget might be cut), we all posted our symbol. And what if, as the day went on, more and more people we are connected to asked us what it meant, listened and then cared enough to repost?
What do you think? What would it look like? Would you share it? And then, through it, could be open up the opportunity for more discussion, more awareness, more compassion and yes, more support for what we dream of?
I dream of a day when anyone can marry the person they love in this nation, and I fully support the cause.
But I dream, too, of a day when I don’t have to beat my head against the wall for people to understand that the demon my daughter faces is real. I yearn for the day I don’t have to spend countless hours explaining to elected officials WHY funding medical research helps with basic human rights. I ache for the day when folks don’t just get it, but embrace it.
Is there a symbol for that? Because if there is, I’m raising my hand to help make it happen.