T1D Community on Discrimination


The Mike’s Pig Pen Restaurant incident of Watertown, NY has given the type 1 diabetes (T1D) community something to talk about indeed. After the owner, Mike Cornell, posted a sign, which requested that diabetics take their insulin shots in the bathroom so as not to disturb other patrons who complained, the entire community united in disbelief and outrage. The sign has since been taken down with an apology issued; however, the statement highlights the ignorance around chronic illness and specifically diabetes. Signs like these perpetuate the shame for treatment of diabetes and reinforce blatant discrimination against those with both type 1 and 2. Here’s what the community had to say about it:

“It saddens me deeply to see this kind of attitude towards any person living with a chronic disease. Living with type 1 diabetes myself, I’ve often had to check my blood sugar or give insulin in public places. It’s uncomfortable enough at times without external shaming. To make anyone, especially a child, feel shame at self care is unacceptable. The disease burden is a huge problem as it is. People can become embarrassed about checking their blood glucose levels or taking their insulin, and opt not to do so to make others more comfortable. How sad is that? What this restaurant owner is unknowingly doing is making people who use insulin feel “less than.” No one is forced to watch a person with diabetes treat themselves. I would prefer a sign that says “this establishment welcomes all consumers. If a patron is taking care of his or her health and it makes you uncomfortable, please feel free to look away. Bonus points if you can shift your discomfort to empathy and feel compassion for your community members.”—Natalie Strand, M.D.

I was once screamed at by a middle-aged couple while injecting (under a jumper and turned away from everyone) at a restaurant. I was 11 and it scared me so badly that I would be too scared to even test my blood glucose levels (BGLs) in public. Now that I’m older, if anyone even looks at me mildly disgusted, I stare directly at them while I inject. Don’t like? Don’t look.—Tarlee Eastham

It’s fine, I would just ask everyone else there to please go to the restroom when their pancreas delivers insulin. Only fair, I think.—Lisa Judkins

“We’ve been asked a few times to go outside to dose, or if we could do that in the car before we come in … I use this as a time to inform people of how dosing works, and that ‘no we can’t dose before we arrive’ because we don’t even know what my type 1 (T1) kiddo wants to eat, and yes if he saves room for dessert he will need a second shot. Maybe they could be grateful they don’t have to think twice about food options and needles at every meal … people need more information.” —Jordan Majesta

“My son went low at a hardware store and asked the cafe for a sugar drink; he was asked ‘why didn’t you do something about it earlier?’ and then told, ‘You diabetics are unbelievable.’ I was very upset and rang to complain; they handled it well but the damage has been done.”—Kurt Foessel

“This is very upsetting. Sadly we have faced discrimination from many institutions including camps and pre-schools. I have taught my son to not be ashamed or hide his type 1 diabetes (T1D). I would never abide by such a sign and would certainly never again frequent this establishment.”—Rachel Mudge Dorfman

“I use to [hide my injections] as I was so ashamed of people looking and if there wasn’t a bathroom around I would go without insulin. Thank god I got over that! Not only that but generally you take your insulin and eat straight away. When they bring your food to the table are you just going to up and leave to come back to a cold meal? Ridiculous.”—Kelly-Anne Lawrance

“We have no choice but to inject. Those without diabetes have the choice to look away if they feel uncomfortable. Restrooms are not the place to handle medical needs. Apart from being unhygienic, hiding such things away in restrooms will never promote acceptance, understanding and familiarity with what we have to do to survive.”—Beverley Williams

“Oh dear. As my son says, ‘just doing the job of my pancreas—be lucky yours works’ Nah, we inject at the table—it’s part of who he is x.”—Melinda Butler

“That’s really disappointing to hear, but I always hide my glucometer under the table or in my bag when checking. I always used to go to the bathroom when using my insulin pen or be very discreet about it under the table. Even now I often go to the bathroom to dose my pump or do it discreetly. My endo has said if your okay checking in the bathroom your prob better off at least you can wash your hands before and after. To each their own, but I’ve been trained to do that for 30 yrs I suppose just to avoid nosy people or stupid comments/questions. People have no filter these days!”—Dianne House

“My daughter was diagnosed with this hateful disease that has completely changed our lives one year ago. It’s important to know and understand that with type 1 diabetes, she has to determine what she is going to eat by thinking about it and calculating it by looking at it, then figure out the the carbs she is going to have, then do the math to know exactly how much insulin she needs to put into her body. That alone is frustrating, time consuming and in the beginning of the diagnosis, embarrassing. Especially for a 13-year-old girl! I would never fathom having her go into the restroom to give herself an injection. And the very thought that any individual could be offended by this makes me sick to my stomach. As grown adults, as anyone at all, we should defend any person with a disability or disease.” —Roben Davis MacDonald

“Since I have been on a pump for over 13 years, I rarely have to give a shot, but I won’t go to a bathroom to give one. I once had the experience of dropping a vial on the bathroom floor, and it shattered. However, if I did give insulin at a table in a restaurant, I don’t know how anyone would be able to tell. It can be done very discreetly. It’s also far less bothersome than people and their cell phones are anymore.”—Kimberly Ford Davis

“I assure you, there’s more to type 1 then you realize. It is just like walking a tight rope … a fine line balancing act … only my son’s life is the item on the line.
I have a 2-year-old little girl. I think sometimes, What if she gets this disease too? Well, I will do my best to teach her the same things I taught Ayden. Can you imagine if I whisked my 2-year-old to the bathroom each time she needed an insulin injection? What would that teach her? What would that teach my son if I tell him to be proud of this character building trial but I hide him in the bathroom for his treatments? I think my child suffers enough without me making him feel like it’s something to hide. Because if he grows up thinking that then, what will happen when he’s a teenager? Will he be too ashamed to medicate or tell his friends he may need their help? Will he get behind the wheel too low or too high and risk his life and others? No thank you. I will continue teaching my children the skills and character I want them to have. I will continue teaching my son to not be afraid, to not be ashamed, but to accept this as part of his life and embrace it. To teach others and show compassion for any coping with any kind of illness.“—Bethany Cheal

Read the full story:  Sign in Restaurant Tells Diabetics to Go to Bathroom to Give Insulin.