Visibility is an important thing. It highlights similarities and differences. It introduces us to diverse cultural experiences within our society and it reflects our own cultural experiences back out to the larger society. It's through visibility that we see the small stories of people's lives and the big stories that come from the patterns revealed through the small ones. Visibility can also shine the light on struggle, suffering and injustice. It can reveal what has been invisible before. Yes, visibility if very important indeed.
I remember when I was studying the history of civil rights in this country and the discussion around of the absence of people of color in media. The argument went that if people of color weren't shown and they didn't see themselves in mass media, television, film, as actors or broadcasters or commentators, they and their experiences were in a very real sense, invisible to society. I agree with this idea. Being a part of media, the collective experience of information and entertainment, heck, just seeing a person who looks like you or is dealing with what you're dealing with, out there, in the world that everyone else can see and be exposed to, is so important to feeling and being a part of a larger society and culture. It means that you are not invisible. It means that you are included in the big "we". It means that you aren't marginalized or diminished or forgotten. It means that you belong.
Before I started writing this blog, I felt all of those things. Invisible, outside, less than. I literally had no one who I knew or saw, who was experiencing anything like I was with diabetes. And then I was introduced to the world of blogging and suddenly, I wasn't so alone and I wasn't so invisible. There was this amazing period of revelation, of seeing myself and my experience with diabetes, in others. Out there. Beyond myself, mirroring my reality and in the process, validating it in ways I'd never experienced before. I slowly became more present and whole because of the people I saw outside myself and more importantly, because of the support and recognition they showed me. It was transformational. It was profound.
Recently I've had another experience around the idea of visibility and confirmation. The other day, I stumbled across DLife on CNBC as I was setting up my new DVR system. Diabetes on mainstream TV. Validation on a national level. Visibility to the larger culture. Hm. I'd heard about the show before but I'd never really pursued finding out about it until then. I decided to record one episode to check it out, because I'm a total snob when it comes to stuff I'll watch and if it isn't well designed and produced, I'm just not going to watch it, even it is about diabetes. Well, suffice it to say that I am hooked. The show is so well put together, informative and interesting. It's all that and then some. A great example of how they're approaching diabetes media differently, was a recent shows fresh approach the subject of nutrition. To my surprise, here was a discussion about nutrition through the filter of organic food and eating locally as a way to get more healthful attributes in your diet. By bringing a fresh and informative take on a normally tired and lecture filled subject, the important points were reiterated with new helpful ideas being added to the discussion at the same time. It was just fabulous!
What I really like about this show, is that I'm respected enough as a viewer to have well designed, intelligent, insightful content created for me as a whole person who happens to have diabetes. I'm seen as an smart audience member, a client to be served, an adult to be considered. Not a patient. Not a child. And most importantly not an invisible entity. What this show has done for me, is reflected my reality back to me on a new and larger scale. It's shown me that others see that I exist and it's broadcast my existence as a person with diabetes to the larger culture. It's given my diabetes experience the respect and honor of creating content for me that is helpful, insightful and authentic. What an amazing validation. What a difference that has made. So huge thanks to DLife and all their staff, for putting together such a great show for us all to experience and for removing yet another important layer that obscures visibility of this disease.
And speaking of a bit more visibility, I have to also thank typepad for featuring aiming for grace as their year end blog link. Their kind words and willingness to highlight one journey with diabetes, helps provide a little bit more visibility around diabetes in general. I am very grateful to them for that.
And another thank you to the dynamist for their kind link to design matters category on aiming for grace this last Monday. Sometimes I think that my rantings about medical design are like screaming into the wind. It's so wonderful to know that there are people who notice and care about the ideas we keep talking about. It's more wonderful still, when they help highlight it for the rest of the world to see. A heartfelt thank you for that!
So here's to a little bit more visibility around diabetes in 2008. Because, yes, visibility is a very important thing.