Saturday, July 4, 2009

Little People Big Apple *

I arrived in Brooklyn last night for the 2009 Little People of America Conference, expected to be the most well attended conference in the 52 year history of the organization. As well it should be, considering that the New York metropolitan area has never hosted a national and that hundreds of people have been waiting eagerly, hoping that some day the conference would come to New York. I think the wait was worth it. Unlike so many other conferences based out of hotels near airports and the outskirts of urban centers, this one is in a central urban area. In years past, often times we've been at the mercy of tour buses if we wanted to see anything outside the lobby, conference rooms and ball rooms of the hosting hotel. This year, there are hundreds of things to do, see (and smell) within a few easy walking blocks of the hotel. Tonight, a group of us wandered three blocks from the hotel, found some Italian Food, walked another block for ice cream, then mingled with hundreds of Brooklyners on their way to the promenade for the fire works.

But, as a member of the LPA Board, before I have fun, I go to meetings. Today's meeting was of particular interest to me because we were scheduled to talk about the word midget -- considered pretty negative and objectifying by most people of short stature when it is used to refer to a person of short stature. In my estimate, the vast majority of the LPA membership, and at least a majority of the dwarfism population in this country, feels the same way, that the word is hurtful and an insult. In my role as Vice President of Public Relations, I am sometimes contacted by media about stories relating to the dwarfism community. Without exception, the issue of language always comes up, and I always tell the reporters the same thing, "The word midget has evolved into a derogotary, degrading term." I am not the only one. Any other member of the organization who is interviewed says the same thing. But interestingly, LPA as an organization does not have a policy on the question of language. Obviously, no policy has not stopped me or others from speaking against the word midget, but if LPA, as the largest membership organization for people of short stature, were to have a policy, it could help the effort to eliminate use of the word in the general public. A policy would give more weight to individuals who request that papers, televion programs and radio personalities not use the word. With that said, today was the day that the board of directors was going to hear a motion that LPA would officially identify the word midget as negative.

Unfortunately, the meeting ran long so the agenda item was tabled until tomorrow. So tonight, rather than celebrate a successful motion, or wonder what went wrong with the motion, I will enjoy what Brooklyn has to offer in terms of pizza, ice cream and fireworks.

*I stole this title from a tshirt I saw here in Brooklyn, probably designed by one of the conference organizers building on the momentum created by all those TLC shows about little people.

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