May 7, 2010

"It has a name"

So, I'm up late watching Oprah. She had a 29 yr. old lady named Anna, who was born with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease that causes tumors to grow on nerve tissue, producing skin and bone abnormalities (Nemours Foundation). Anna's form of the disease was commonly called "Elephant Man's disease" but she hates that term and considers it to be derogatory. When Oprah asked why she hated the term, Anna's response was "I find it derogatory because it has a name".

I feel the same way when people refer to certain eye conditions as "lazy eye" or "cross-eye", because they have a specific medical term: strabismus. Strabismus is a disorder in which the eyes do not line up in the same direction when focusing. This example his close to home because I myself have exotropia, one of the subtypes of strabismus, where the muscle of the eye turns outward. It usually occurs in childhood and can be corrected with patching, the use of special glasses or surgery. As a child, you don't notice flaws in your physical appearance like that, but as I got older, (probably about 7th grade), I finally noticed the full effect of my exotropia. I finally realized why people were not clear who I was talking to as I looked at them and tried to start a conversation. Once I noticed my exotropia, my self-esteem completely diminished. The derogatory and ignorant comments became so unbearable during my first semester of college (2006), that I begged my mom to allow me to have a correction surgery which I was able to have a few days before the Spring semester began.

I guess the moral of this post is that making ignorant remarks about someone's physical appearance can be hurtful to that person. Isn't it enough that they have to live with that disorder?

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