Last year around this time, I read the story of Lamar Hawkins III. He was a middle school student who according to his mother was an easy target for bullying because of his “stunted growth.” He was bullied so relentlessly that they moved to an entirely different state, but the cruelty continued.
A couple of months before that, another very young man, Jonathon Short-Scaff, committed suicide for the same reason. Relentless bullying targeted at his short stature made him feel so helpless and powerless that he ended up taking his own life.
More recently, Bill Klein, whom you may know from the show The Little Couple, admitted that he has faced depression and thoughts of suicide because he was bullied so badly.
It feels like Little People are unprotected targets, especially when surrounded by other kids who are desperate to look “cool” and “normal.”
What is a Little Person? Little People of America posts this definition to their website:
Little People of America (LPA) defines dwarfism as a medical or genetic condition that usually results in an adult height of 4’10” or shorter, among both men and women, although in some cases a person with a dwarfing condition may be slightly taller than that.The average height of an adult with dwarfism is 4’0, but typical heights range from 2’8 to 4’8.
The most common type of dwarfism is called achondroplasia. Some famous people you may have heard of who have or had this kind of dwarfism are Billy Barty, Gary Coleman, Warwick Davis, and Peter Dinklage.
I do not have achondroplasia, but at 4’5, I am what they call a proportionate dwarf. Many people think that it’s ok to call me (and really any Little Person) “midget.” In fact, most people are unaware that this term is highly offensive. Why is it offensive? “Midgets” are often featured in freak shows. That is how various people of short stature are promoted. I’ll let you take it from there.
Why is awareness important?
It seems like every day and certainly every month we are encouraged to mark something new. We have National Pie Day, National Coffee Day…it’s getting kind of ridiculous. Unfortunately, that means some truly legitimate causes that need attention are going to get lost in the shuffle. Still, you might be wondering why there needs to be a Dwarfism Awareness Month. Take a gander at this video from Jon Novick. I’ll wait here for ya.
I’ve had a lot of experiences like this in my own life. I have heard people yelling, “Hey Midget, Hey Midget” as I walked down the street. I have heard kids asking their parents as I stand in line, “Why is she so short?” I have walked by people and have seen them stare.
Big Deal (No Pun Intended)
OK, but everybody gets picked on for something. People who are overweight get bullied. Super tall people get bullied. Why do we need this awareness crap about Little People?
There are a few reasons why I think this is important.
First, people are killing themselves because they are getting bullied over their height. This seems to be more common in boys, but I do not have specific numbers.
Second, people do not seem to know that making fun of Little People, asking rude questions, or otherwise bullying Little People is wrong. There is something inherently funny, for some reason, in picking on Little People. Maybe society in general does not find us threatening so it’s sort of cathartic. I don’t know. But the number of people who are unaware of how offensive some of their comments are is alarming to me.
Third, parents do not seem to know how to educate their children that staring or asking rude questions is wrong. Often, when a child asks, “Why is she so little?” the parent will say something like, “I don’t know honey.” Very seldom does the parent try to hush the child and indicate that saying such things loudly is rude.
Fourth, and based on the most recent factor, Direct TV recently ran an ad on television featuring Randy Moss. The commercial featured a “petite” Randy Moss who just had cable, and at the end of the commercial Randy Moss says, “Don’t be like that Randy Moss,” as they show the “petite” version trying to reach something on a high grocery shelf. The fact that people would a) think this ad is acceptable and b) run it with no qualms is highly disturbing to me. You can read more about that here.
I want people to get educated. I don’t want to hear about any more children taking their lives because parents aren’t teaching kids that making fun of short people and/or Little People is simply wrong.
October is Dwarfism Awareness Month. Please learn a bit more about Little People, and consider if you have ever behaved in a way that might have made someone feel truly small. If you have questions, please ask me. Let’s make this an opportunity to learn.