Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Presidential Biography and the MWord

A few weeks ago, reviews and coverage of President George HW Bush's biography, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, began to appear in the news.  The initial coverage focused on Bush's trash talking, speaking ill about people from the time of his presidency and his son's presidency.  I paid the most attention to what he said of his 1988 Presidential Campaign foe Michael Dukakis, calling him a "little midget nerd." The 1988 Election was the first time I voted for a president. I was 18 years old. I voted for Dukakis.  In 1992, I voted for President Clinton. I've didn't vote for HW Bush, but after he left office I enjoyed the news coverage of his private life, especially when he jumped out of an airplane for his 80th birthday and 90th birthday.  In the context of his son's presidency, HW Bush seems kind of moderate and a little likable. But after learning about his "little midget nerd," comment, I find it hard to think of him as likable.  Learning about the biography, I thought of two things. First, there is no way anyone can deny midget is a derogatory, hurtful word that too many people are eager to use as an insult.  In some cases (midget divisions of hockey and football, midget race cars) the word may be disguised as benign, but even then there is no escaping the underlying derision of the word.  Second, no one is safe from using the term in an attempt to cast others in a negative way.  As I said, I was never a fan of HW Bush, but I would not have expected him to use the word to disparage someone.

Yet, the word midget is still commonly used as an insult. With this in mind, it's hard to be a fan of any public figure. The fear is that someday that public figure will disappoint me by publicly using the term in a negative way.  Joe Moe did a good job of explaining this type of disappointment in a radio segment on "Weekend America" back in 2008.  Moe, who has a daughter with dwarfism, said he used to be a fan of Mike Myers.  But he couldn't see the movie The Love Guru because, "In a trailer for the film, Myer's character literally objectifies Troyer's (Verne Troyer - a little person), pretending he's an Oscar statuette."

The HW Bush biography reminded me that former Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush once used the word as an insult.  At least I thought he had. But I couldn't find anything through a search of the internet and a search of my old emails. In that search, what I did find were references to Ann Coulter using the word to blast republican candidates for being critical of Donald Trump, "Instead of any of these 'midgets' figuring out that Donald Trump has struck a chord, all they want to do is leap on one flip remark he makes (Fox News Insider),"  and a number of message boards referring to Jeb Bush's wife, Columba, as a midget.  Evidently, there is a significant size difference between Jeb and Columba.  If the message boards are any indication, I am guessing that Jeb Bush and his wife have had to face public harassment because of the difference in height.  To me, this makes the comments of George HW Bush even more concerning. Columba probably doesn't identify as a woman of short stature, but no individual should be forced to deal with the mword, then learn that your father-in-law, a former President, used the word to demean a political opponent. That would be similar to me learning that my father in-law used the word as an insult.  Try as one might, the mword will never be eliminated.  Every once in while, it feels as if progress has been made in terms of awareness about the word.  But it's disappointing when the lead story about a former president's biography includes the disparaging use of the word.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Baseball Dreams: Dwarf or average stature, everyone strikes out

October is Dwarfism Awareness Month. In addition to the specifics that distinguish people with dwarfism from others, awareness can be raised by drawing attention to the common bonds that make people with dwarfism just like everybody else.  One of those bonds is baseball. Many young boys and girls who have dwarfism dream of playing baseball deep into their lives, just like millions of others around the world. 

When I was between seven and 16 years old, I played baseball as much as I could, both organized ball and pick-up.  One day long ago, probably somewhere between 4th Grade and 6th Grade, playing street baseball in front of my house, I stood over a manhole, which served as home plate.  While waiting for the pitch, I glanced to my right, at the catcher behind me.  The catcher crouched down. His head was at the same height as mine. I don’t remember which one of my friends from the neighborhood caught that day, but he gave me hope.  He gave me hope because I loved baseball, because I wanted to play baseball forever, and because he made me think of Davey Lopes.  Davey Lopes was short and Davey Lopes played second base, the same position I played. Perhaps most important, from where I sat on my living room couch watching baseball games on television, it looked as if Davey Lopes, in his batting stance, stood no taller than the catcher squatting behind him at home plate.  I don’t remember how tall I was on the day I stood over the manhole. But as a dwarf, I knew I wouldn’t grow much taller than four feet.  Because no dwarf had ever played professional baseball, I believed height, not my slow bat speed or my inability to judge fly balls, would hold me back from the Major Leagues.  But the sight of the catcher, at eye level with me, made me believe I had a chance.  Davey Lopes must have been a little bit taller than me, but I thought I could make up the difference in our heights through practice and determination.

At some point, later that day, or later that year, I went up to my bedroom to confirm my hopes. I retrieved Davey Lopes from my baseball card collection.  I stared at the numbers printed on the back of the baseball card. Davey Lopes’ height was listed as 5’9”.  I must have looked at the baseball card before then, but until that day, when I looked closely at the card, I thought Lopes was shorter.  I would never grow taller than 4’5”.  Grit might have made up for a few inches, but no amount of hustle could bridge over a foot. The next thing I remember, my parents were in my bedroom, hugging me, talking to me, as I cried.

The 5’9” listing on the back of a baseball card dashed my dreams of major league baseball, but I continued to play for as long as I could. For a while, my older brother made it easy. He loved baseball more than I did.  As long as he was around, it was not hard to find a game.  But when he started high school, he didn’t have time to organize pick-up games.  The kids up and down the street, without my brother initiating the games, lost interest.

As baseball in front of my house tapered out, I found new games with friends from middle school.  When more than a handful of us were around, we played wiffle ball in a park adjacent to a small pond about a half mile from my house. If only a few of us were around, as long as we had two gloves, a tennis ball, and a bat, we played a game called automatic.  We took turns batting, pitching and catching. Where and how far we hit the ball determined base hits and outs.  Once the batter hit into three outs, we rotated positions.     

Whether wiffle ball or automatic, my friend Murray always played.  We both, like many of our friends, also played organized baseball.  For six years, between the ages of 10 and 15, we played in Kennedy Little League, a league based on the east side of town in Madison, Wisconsin.  We shared our triumphs together.  Murray called me the day, as an eleven year old, he hit an inside the park home run.  In the 13-year old league, Murray once caught behind the plate an entire game, allowing just one passed ball, probably a record for the league.  The summer of 1985, the year we both played in the Senior Leagues, our teams faced each other on opening day. He was positioned behind the plate when I came up to bat for the first time.  The count quickly ran to two and oh, what I believed to be the best hitter’s count. 

“This is it Gary.  This is your pitch,” Murray said, crouching at the knees behind me as the pitcher wound up.  I ended up striking out.  

For me, organized baseball ended the summer I turned 16.  With it, most of the pick-up games died out also.  I drifted away from Murray and the other friends from that baseball group. 

I didn’t play organized baseball again until my late 20’s.  A group of us put together a softball team.  We joined a league in which every other team was much better skilled than us and much better equipped than us, with uniforms, fancy sunglasses, and batting gloves.  My team’s biggest problem was scrapping together enough players to field a team.  We either forfeit for lack of players every Saturday morning or got crushed by the opposing team. The league organizer took pity on us. He’d call me at the end of the season.  “Gary,” he’d say. “I’ve got great news. Every team is eligible for the playoffs.” He gave us one more chance to stare down humiliation.  Though my memories of softball are miserable, we joined the league three summers in a row.

Nowadays I play a game of softball about every other year at the Little People of America Conference, a national event for people with dwarfism around the world.  At the Annual East/West Softball Game, instead of nine position players, anyone who shows up plays every inning. On defense, I typically stake out a place several yards behind second base, on the grass just off the edge of the infield.  Surrounded by many others, I have as much chance of fielding a ball as a fan at a major league stadium does of catching a foul ball.  Yet, I feel the same exhilaration I did as kid, simultaneously hoping the ball will be hit my way and terrified the ball will be hit my way.  

In my middle 40’s, I’ve reconnected through Facebook with some people I knew when I was a kid, including Murray, with whom I played wiffle ball, automatic and Little League.  Back in May of 2015, Murray posted on his Facebook Wall that he was going to be a father. He wrote, “Ever since I had the realization that I was not going to be the starting catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, all I have ever really wanted to be is a father. That dream is coming true in early September!” The post reminded me that my friends and I didn’t play baseball for years because we were bored, or because there was nothing else to do.  Whether organized or pick-up, we went out of our way to play baseball because it was our favorite thing to do.

The post also reminded me of the moment I stared at the back of the Davey Lopes Baseball Card, reality telling me that I would never be the second baseman for the Chicago Cubs. For more than three decades, I believed the significance of that moment was in the lesson I learned about difference. I thought it taught me that no matter what I did, sometimes I wouldn’t be able to bridge the physical differences between myself and others. But just as much as the moment was about dwarfism, the moment was also about baseball.  Murray’s post allowed me to see that I was not alone when I pulled out that baseball card.  The moment I felt the world crumbling down on me is one shared by millions of kids around the world when they understand their baseball dreams are out of reach.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Freakishly Human

Ben and gary  in theater lobby after the Sideshow Performance 
Yesterday, I watched my friend Ben perform in the musical Sideshow, staged by Porchlight Music Theater. It sounds sketchy and possibly exploitative for a little person to play the role of a dwarf character working for a Freak show, but Sideshow, like other more recent productions that highlight circuses and performers put on stage because of their out of the ordinary appearances, tells the story from point of view of disabled characters, highlighting their humanity and in no way exploiting physical differences.  Ironically, Ben was the only actor with a disability in the production, even though the majority of the characters were disabled. Ben often performs in a production of "Six Stories Up," written and directed by another friend of mine, Tekki Lomnicki.  The cast of "Six Stories Up" is typically a majority of people with disabilities.

The Porchlight production follows the careers of the Hilton Sisters, twin sisters who are conjoined, from a Sideshow in San Antonio, Texas, to Vaudeville, to their eventual casting in the movie Freaks and departure to Hollywood.  From the opening number, the show reveals that the twins, along with the other characters who make up the sideshow, share the same emotional needs and desires as those a part of mainstream society, but because of their physical differences they will never be accepted or a part of mainstream society.  My favorite part comes at the end of act one.  The twins have recently been whisked away by a talent scout from the sideshow and their abusive employer.  Daisy, the more assertive, ambitious of the twins, has fallen in love with the talent scout and believes that her feelings are reciprocated.  Then, after one of their debut Vaudeville performances, the twins over hear the talent scout speaking to the press corps. Responding to a question about his relationship with Daisy, the talent scout says something to the effect of, "It's just for show. I could never love something like that." In a simple expression on her face, Daisy betrays heartbreak and devastation, then the twins close out the first act with a number about what it's like to feel human but never to be treated as human.  I could relate.  I am sure many other dwarfs could relate also.

Banner hanging from the rafters on the set of Sideshow 
The show concludes as the twins transition from Vaudeville to Hollywood.  At first, when the twins are approached by the Hollywood Producer, they are thrilled by the opportunity that the Hollywood stage offers, and they also believe that they have been recruited to the world of movies based upon their talents.  But when they ask the name of the movie for which they have been cast, the producer proudly exclaims, "Freaks," and the twins understand that things will never truly change.

A second favorite part of the show came after the final curtain.  Part of the set was a large scale reproduction of a publicity poster for the movie Freaks. The top line of the poster reads, "Can a full grown woman truly love a midget?"  Offensive language aside, six years in my marriage, I am going to say, the answer is.....yes.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Petite Randy Moss stirs up memories of heightism in popular culture

I watch plenty of sports on television. Anyone who watches sports for any length of time is probably familiar with the DirectTV commercials that pitch subscription packages. I've seen plenty of them. My favorite of the commercials is Creepy Rob Lowe hanging out at the local rec center, sitting on the pool deck, watching swimmers with a pair of binoculars. 

The premise of the DirectTV Commercials is that DirectTV equates to success, and cable equals inferiority.  The star of the commercial is typically a well known actor or athlete, such as Rob Lowe, who subscribes to DirectTV.  An alternative reality character, such as Creepy Rob Lowe, serves as a foil to the star.  The foil, who subscribes to cable instead of DirectTV, is linked to any number of negative attributes.

Recently, former NFL Wide Receiver Randy Moss joined the DirectTV Commercial line-up. His alternative reality character is "Petite Randy Moss."   

In college, I did an independent study that examined the way writers used height descriptors in books and the way height was portrayed in books, movies, and advertisements. The name of the paper was, "The Role of Height in Literature and Popular Culture."  If I were to do that paper today, the new Randy Moss Direct TV Ad would be a great example of popular culture sending the message that short is inferior to tall. The commercial clearly tells the viewer that if a person is unable to reach a taller shelf at the grocery store, it's not because the item is out of reach, it's not because it's probably impossible to design a grocery store that is accessible to everyone, it's because there is something wrong with you for being short.  

As I thought about the commercial, I remembered a Simpson's Episode called Eeny Teeny Maya Moe. Better than anyone else that I am aware of, the Simpson's did a great job of making dwarfism funny. They did so, not by making fun of the dwarf character, but by showing the absurd situations that sometimes confront dwarfs. That's what DirectTV could have done. Instead of Petite Randy Moss complaining about cereal on the high shelf and jumping up to reach it, Petite Randy Moss should have just stared at the tall shelf in disgust.  But that would have conflicted with the point of the commercial, which is to show that small equals bad and small equals comical.  

The new DirectTV commercial doesn't really bother me very much. More so than anything else, it intrigued me to learn that DirectTV would base a commercial around the idea that short is funny and short is inferior. After all, Peter Dinklage just won his second Emmy.  Short is the new cool.  Short is the new sexy.

I wasn't the only one intrigued, or bothered for that matter. According to this article from AdWeek, though professional reviewers liked the ad, some viewers did not. One viewer wrote, "...short people are put on this planet to get shit on. Hello DirectTV! Some of us are getting tired of this bigoted crap known as heightism."  

The author of the article (5' 3") wrote, ". . . I'd dismiss a fair share of its (the Petite Randy Moss Commercial) detractors as internet trolls, I'm surprised that a major corporation would even bother to go to the trouble of producing it in 2015."  I'd give the detractors more credit. I think some of them might genuinely be offended, and are not necessarily trolls stirring up trouble. But I agree that it's surprising to see such an advertisement within the culture we live in now.  But on the bright side, at least Petite Randy Moss wasn't M**** Randy Moss. Progress? 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Factor This

I've never voted for a Republican. Politically, I identify as progressive.  Yet, I've been watching more Fox News lately.  It started around the 2012 Presidential Election.  As media coverage on Election Night pointed toward reelection for President Obama, my wife and I turned the television channel to Fox News.  We were curious how a network that clearly railed against an Obama Presidency would cover news of his reelection. My wife and I switched the channel in time to catch Karl Rove challenging the Fox Analysts after they had called Ohio for President Obama.  Rove insisted repeatedly that the analysts might have it wrong, and that the Network got it wrong for making the call so soon.  If I hadn't felt confident about a victory for President Obama, I would have been terrified at that moment.  I thought Karl Rove was smart.  Reading essays of his that predicted a Mitt Romney win were very persuassive.  Knowing the election was over, it was thrilling to see in real time what today is identified by some as the Karl Rove Meltdown or Freakout on Fox News.  

Over the past year, especially in the context of the police violence toward African Americans and The Black Lives Matter Movement, my wife and I again have occasionally switched to Fox, though the results this time around have not been entertaining and sometimes it's regrettable.  Last week, Bill O'Reilly said he was going to put Black Lives Matter "out of business." 

More recently, I've been watching Fox News on my own, in particular Bill O'Reilly. In the past two months, Little People of America (LPA) received two inquiries from Fox News. One came after the original news coverage of LPA's efforts to change the mascot name in Freeburg, Illinois. A reporter wanted to interview about the issue either over the phone or SKYPE.  I replied to the reporter's second request, but never heard back.   The second request came from someone from the network who reached out on behalf of Fox & Friends.  She requested a written statement from Little People of America in response to the news that the United States Department of Agriculture has plans to drop the word "midget" as a description for small raisins, (Here is a story from Washington Post).  Fox needed a reply within too short of a time. LPA was not able to send them a statement before they spoke about the issue on Fox & Friends. 

Basically, LPA has not responded to two Fox News inquiries within enough time to be a part of their stories. This is not a bad thing.  With public relations in the general, and with LPA specifically, the goal is to control the message and to look for opportunities to raise awareness.  In terms of language issues, Fox News might not be the best outlet to accomplish those goals.  If LPA wants to build sympathy within the public on language issues and wants people to stop using the word midget, we are probably not losing any ground by not appearing on Fox News.  Nevertheless, I've been picturing myself on Fox News and hope that we someday soon receive another request.  Specifically, I picture myself talking to Bill O'Reilly.  

If I were to appear with him, I wouldn't stand a chance. My issue wouldn't stand a chance.  He is a professional broadcaster. He is smarter than me. He is more savvy than me. Yet, O'Reilly uses the word "midget" disparagingly.  At least once, a member of the dwarfism community reached out to me, asking that I contact O'Reilly because of his use of the word. The community member had written him a letter. He never replied. Just last week, he referred to the 1964 New York Mets as the "midget Mets." Why? I don't know.  Because O'Reilly appears to use the word "midget" indifferently, with no concern for how the word impacts others; and because Fox News didn't appear to take very seriously LPA's issue regarding the mascot or the USDA, I hope to get another chance on the network. If I do, I may not stand a chance, but it's worth a shot. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Live and learn

For quite some time, I often reminded myself and I told others that my level of maturity had little impact on the way people treated me. Whether I was 20 years old, 30 years old or 40 years old, many small children will gape at me because of my appearance, and many adults will take my picture without asking. It doesn't matter how old I get, the behavior of others toward me won't change. When I am 50 years old and when I am 60 years old, some children will still be curious and some adults will still be rude.

I think I regularly told myself this because I was frustrated that my maturity as an adult had little bearing on whether I was treated as an adult.  Though I spoke of it just last week during a presentation to a group of junior high school teachers, I don't dwell on this concept as much anymore.  But just last Friday, I was reminded that no matter how much time passes, and no matter how much we learn, difference and the awareness of difference -- whether that be good or bad -- never lies too far below the surface.

I was working as the bartender at the Chicago ADAPT Fundraiser.  Chicago ADAPT is a local disability advocacy group.  Each year around August or September, they host a fundraiser. Often times, the fundraiser is a roast.  This was my third time working as the bartender at an ADAPT fundraiser.  It's a good way for me to participate because I can be part of the event and, for the most part, all the talking I need to do is structured around serving drinks.

I like talking to people. In most situations, I just find it difficult.  I also find roasts difficult. In order to roast someone, people try to be mean and they pepper in a lot of profanity. Sometimes the roasting can be funny but I find it strange to watch someone I know go up on stage, say the word "fuck" a lot, and say mean things about someone with whom they are friends.  A couple of years ago, at an ADAPT event, I donated some money in order to have a few minutes to roast someone. I tried to do so without saying the word fuck and by being clever instead of mean. I failed.

On Friday night, just as the doors to the event opened and I was prepping behind the bar, one of the roasters came up to me.  He told me that as a warm up, he was going to say something about me.  He said the joke he had prepared was related to my stature. He wanted to warm me and check if I was okay with that.

"Sure," I said. Within the ADAPT circles, it's an honor to be roasted. This was a small step toward a full on roasting. Also, the roaster who approached me is pretty smart.  I thought he had probably come up with something perceptive and enlightening.   But roasting must be a pretty difficult thing to do.  When his turn came, and when he got around to saying something about me, he said something to affect of, "...everyone says Gary is this great PR guy. But when I see him, I just see a munchkin. No, I just see an Ewok."

I was a little disappointed.  I was hoping for something about my height serving as a metaphor for thick skin, or something about my height as an accurate reflection of genitalia.  Again, jokes are not easy. Roasting is not easy. But munchkins and ewoks?

I also asked myself, do people really become different from who they are when they roast, because they try to be mean? Or, deep down, do we all just harbor mean, superficial, insensitive thoughts?  Who knows, but if I go back to a roast, I will study up ahead of time on Dean Martin and Don Rickles.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

From midget to little person and beyond

Who knows how old I was when I first heard the story about Eddie Gaedel, a little person hired by Bill Veeck, the owner of the St. Louis Browns Baseball Team. In 1951, according to what I have read, the Browns were one of the worst teams in the history of baseball.  As a publicity stunt, Veeck signed Gaedel to a contract with the St. Louis Browns. First, Veeck had Gaedel jump out of a birthday cake that celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the American League. Then, Gaedel led off the second game of a double header. He immediately drew four balls from the pitcher, walked to first base, and was replaced with a pinch runner. That was the end of Gaedel's baseball career.

I've heard the story many, many times. At first, and probably for many years during my time, the story focused on Veeck and Gaedel was always referred to as a "midget."  Several years ago, someone from ESPN sent me an email, asking me about appropriate language to identify people with dwarfism. It's possible, the ESPN inquiry was part of a broader shift in language and a broader awareness about dwarfism. Today, an internet search of Eddie Gaedel yields plenty of references to the mword but the term little person is also used a good deal of the time.

Then last week, I can across an article on the ESPN Website about Gaedel's Grand Nephew, who plays professional baseball, Kyle Gaedele, proud relative of Eddie Gaedel, has full sized baseball goals.  I am not an Eddie Gaedel scholar, and have never done a search for stories that show the humanity behind the Bill Veeck gimmick. They probably were out there before this ESPN piece was published.  But for me, and probably thousands of others, Eddie was the vehicle for what is remembered as the biggest gag in baseball history.  I was happy to find the story about Kyle Gaedele, which portrayed Eddie as a beloved family member, much more than he had been before in my mind and probably the mind of millions of others.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Charles Schultz, Peanuts and dwarfism

Several years ago, in a conversation I was part of, someone mentioned that the appearance of the human characters in the famous Peanuts comic strip was based upon the appearance of people with dwarfism.  Even though Peanuts is a very famous and beloved comic, I wasn't thrilled to hear this.  It's similar to how I feel when adults refer to their children as munchkins.  Both are examples of the infantilization of people with dwarfism.  

I never pursued the claim that Peanuts characters may have been based upon the appearance of dwarfism.  I enjoyed most the of the animated television specials.  As a young child, I went through a lot of tissues, unable to stop my tears in front of the baby sitter and my brother while watching "Snoopy Come Home," for the first time.  I love the scene from the Thanksgiving special when Peppermint Patty is yelling at Charlie Brown for failing to produce a traditional turkey dinner, while in the background another character is joyfully tossing into his mouth the popcorn that Charlie Brown has served. Until I broke it a few years ago, my favorite coffee mug of all time was one with the image of Charlie Brown exclaiming either 'Good Grief' or 'Oh, Brother.' I was so attached to the mug, once, while my sister-in-law visited, I had to resist the urge to snatch the mug from her hands when she used it for a cup of tea.  Yet, I never paid much attention to the comic strip.  That is probably why I never gave much thought to the possibility of the connection between Peanuts and dwarfism. 

But today, I came across an article on social media that claims Peanuts lost its significance in the late 1960's and early 1970's.  According to the article, How Snoopy Killed Peanuts, as the cartoon began to focus more on Snoopy, and on the dog's desire to be and act human, attention was taken away from the human characters.  The author asserts that as this transition progressed, the comic moved moved closer on the spectrum to the feelings evoked in a Hallmark Greeting Card and moved away from a vehicle for social commentary and insight into what it's like to be young in a world that can be demanding and cruel.  If there is any truth to the author's hypothesis, the comic strip lost its value before I was even old enough to read. Reading the article, I imagined that, like most things I read, there was more to the Peanuts Comic Strip than what I saw on the page.  

The article made me wonder again about the connection between Peanuts and dwarfism.  I am no Internet sleuth, but a quick online search uncovered an article entitled, "The enduring wisdom of a Charlie Brown Christmas."  The article supports the idea that there is a connection. In one description of the Christmas special, the author writes, "Charlie rests his large Peanuts head on his diminutive Peanuts hand, endearing proportions paired with an out sized human spirit believed to have been inspired by a female artist with dwarfism Schulz had befriended at an early illustration job."  

I didn't find any other articles, but I also didn't dig any deeper.  If there is a connection between dwarfism and Peanuts, I hope that Charles Schultz didn't intend any sort of symbolic significance.  I hope he did it just because it is what it is.  Oftentimes, when a non little person assigns symbolic significance to dwarfism, the results are not good.  But in any case, the articles I found today did give me more of an appreciation for Peanuts.  I want to go back to find early comic strips. 

Also, I want to listen to the beginning of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" without watching the images.  I am motivated by a paragraph from "The enduring wisdom of a Charlie Brown Christmas." 

If, on the other hand, you listen to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with your eyes on the road and the DVD screen pointed to the back of the minivan, there is something about its remarkable opening passage and a handful of segments that follow that jump out at you. They have little to do with the commercialization of Christmas or the true meaning of Christmas, but everything to do with the things we are tasked with overcoming if we are ever going to express the love we really feel for one another.

It may be a Hallmark moment, but it's hard not to be moved by the words, "the things we are tasked with overcoming if we are ever going to express the love we really feel for one another."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nice Car

With less than a week before the National Little People of America Conference, this year in St. Louis, Missouri, and behind at the nine to five job, I went in to the office yesterday, which was a Saturday. I was there for about four hours, from noon to four o'clock. Yesterday was a beautiful day in Chicago, sunny and not too warm.  The Access Living office, where I work, is in River North, a popular area on weekends, especially weekends with nice weather.  Just as I was leaving the office to go home, a young man and woman walked by the front door of the building. As soon as I stepped out on to the sidewalk, the couple stopped, turned and looked in my direction.  Noticing them, I also stopped. I stared toward them.  They were looking directly at me. The man was wearing sunglasses. I couldn't see his eyes. He spoke. "That is a Lamborghini," he said.  I turned around. Directly in front of me, a fancy looking black car slowly rolled down Chicago Avenue. 

Not every moment is a dwarf moment.  Some times, it's just an overly sensitive moment. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

When is a fare not really fair? A late night cab ride

David Tuffs (photo from DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser) 
In April of this year, the Chicago media outlet DNAInfo reported that David Tuffs had won the "2014 Taxicab Driver Excellence Award" and a free taxi medallion. The award was presented by Chicago's Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Agency. The award is presented annually to a driver of a wheel chair accessible taxi.  Less than three percent of Chicago's Taxi Fleet is wheelchair accessible. On paper, that's a dismal percentage. If you are a wheelchair user trying to flag down a cab, the reality is even more dismal. It's most likely next to impossible to find an  accessible cab unless one is reserved prior to the trip.

I've ridden in a taxi with Tuffs just once before.  I don't use a wheelchair. It's typically fairly simple for me to flag down a cab.  But I wish I had scheduled a ride with Tuffs last month. On Sunday, April 26, I flew from Phoenix, Arizona, into Chicago's Midway Airport.  I was on my way back from a Little People of America event in Mesa.  My flight was a little late, arriving just past one in the morning.  Usually, I take public transportation home from the airport.  The Orange Line is only about a 25 minute trip.  Because the train stops running at 1 a.m., I needed to catch a cab.

Outside the terminal, there was a line of cabs waiting and there were no other customers.  I went to the first cab, the driver loaded my bag in the trunk, and I got in the back seat and told the driver where I wanted to go.  I don't know exactly, but I'm guessing it's seven to nine miles between the airport and where I live.  Before pulling away from the curb, the driver turned to me and asked if I would tell his dispatcher that my fare was only a short trip.  This happened to me before. Once, from O'Hare, I needed to go to a hotel within a mile of the airport.  Because the trip was short, after dropping me off, the driver was given permission to return to the front of the taxi line back at the airport.  "Tell the dispatcher you are not going very far," the driver asked me.

"Okay," I said. "I'll tell him that I'm going downtown."  From Midway, I live on the near side of downtown.

"No," the driver said. "Tell him that I am taking you to Archer and Pulaski, (an intersection not far from the airport).

Perhaps I should have done it. There may have been no harm.  I know taxi drivers have to work very hard to make a living.  If I had lied, and been found out, I'm sure no harm would come to me.  But I didn't feel comfortable.  It was late.  I just wanted to go home. I told the driver I wouldn't do it.

He wasn't happy.  I didn't want to make the driver mad.  "If you don't want to go downtown, that's fine," I said. "I'll get a ride from another driver."  That way, he could stay at the front of the line and wait for a better ride.

I don't remember exactly what he said, but he told me to stay in the cab.  In a few moments, the car lurched away from the curb and we sped out of the airport.  Because the streets were empty, and because the driver drove very fast, it was a quick trip. That was a good thing.  I didn't feel good in the backseat of the cab. I typically don't talk much to taxi drivers, but on the ride home from Midway Airport, the silence was very awkward and uncomfortable.

By the time we got to my neighborhood, I didn't want the driver to see where I lived. I hadn't given an address, just an intersection. I asked him to pull up to the corner opposite the building in which I live.  He stopped, rang up the fare, and popped the trunk with an automatic button.  I paid with a card, said thank you, and stepped out of the cab. Even though the trunk was open, I was a little worried he might drive away with my bag.  But he didn't. I grabbed my luggage, then looked at the open door of the trunk. It was out of my reach.  I approached the driver's window.  He looked at me but didn't roll down the window.

"I can't reach the trunk," I said.  He stared back a me.  The look on his face was either confusion, or "I don't care," or "get the fuck away my cab you cheap asshole."  I couldn't tell.  Whatever it was, I'm guessing he didn't want clarification because he still didn't role down the window.  Again, I tried to tell him that I couldn't close the door of his trunk.  What I said either still didn't register or was ignored. I stepped away from the cab and started across the street with my bag.  The driver turned away from me and pulled away from the curb, driving through the intersection. On my side of the street, I turned toward the cab, watching the open door of the trunk bounce up and down as the car sped deeper downtown.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Small Medium, at large

Yesterday, Sunday, April 26, I was in the Phoenix airport, checking the Southwest Airlines Departures Board. A woman walked up to me. She was middle-aged, probably five to ten years older than me. She started to talk to me. I don't remember exactly what she said. It was something like, "There is a midget....little person in Phoenix.  He is a psychic." Though she seemed to correct herself mid-sentence, as if she knew the word midget might be offensive, I interrupted her. 

"I don't like the word midget," I said. 

The woman stopped talking, registered what I said, and started to talk again. "There is a little person in Phoenix. He is a psychic.  He committed a crime."  At that point, I knew the woman hadn't approached to ask if I knew a little person from Phoenix.  

There are two little people jokes that get repeated more than any other I know. The first one always uses the m-word. The punchline is, "That's like getting the award for the world's tallest midget."  People use the joke as a tool to discredit the recipient of praise.  Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks Basketball Team, repeated the joke over Twitter, referring to Starbucks' Via Coffee being named the best instant coffee.  Matt Damon, during the interview on the Today Show, used the joke to disparage himself when the hosts announced that he had won an award, something like the "World's Sexiest Family Man." The actual meaning of the joke is troubling enough because it reveals an inherent bias against short stature. Throw in the m-word, the joke provokes tired exasperation. 

The second joke is the one the woman in the airport started to tell.  It involves a little person who is a psychic or an astrologer.  He or she is arrested, but manages to escape. The punchline is, ".....a small medium, at large." For some, a cute play on words. But if the joke includes the m-word, it only inspires more eye rolling. 

In the airport, I thought the woman was going to ask me about a real little person who lived in Phoenix.  I guessed she was going to ask if I knew the person. But it didn't take long for me to figure out that she had approached a stranger, who happened to be a dwarf, in the middle of an airport, in order to tell him a little person joke. Realizing she was leading up to the standard punchline, I stopped the woman a second time.

"I know this joke," I said. I used a monotone.  She paused, focused her eyes a bit more than they were already, gave a slight nod, then started in on the punchline. "A small...." she stopped, waiting for me to finish the joke.  I don't know if she stopped because she wanted me to prove I really knew the joke or to allow me to share in the joy of the punchline.  

In another monotone voice, I said "medium, at-large." She chimed in for the last bit. We said "at-large" in unison. 

With a somewhat satisfied look on her face, the woman squeezed my shoulder, said, "you are a good boy," then walked off. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rough Night in River North

Years ago, while working the Sunday Shift by myself at Arrow Messenger Service, I sat reading an article from Cosmopolitan Magazine.  The article's message said that if you are single, you need to spend every moment you can cultivating opportunities for relationships. That meant, no Friday or Saturday nights alone in front of the television.  I often thought of the article, and often laughed about it, because, as a single man, I spent many weekends by myself.  Mostly, I spent time by myself because I had nothing else to do.  But sometimes, often times, I wanted to, and I'd choose to, spend Saturday nights alone watching a movie or television.

I've been married for five years.  Yet, I still think about the article from Cosmopolitan.  I feel like going out to be social is the right thing to do.  I think about it on Friday evenings as the work week is winding down and a group of colleagues make plans to go out for a drink.  Though I like my friends at work, and I go out once in a while, it's always easier for me to go home and unwind with three hours worth of Modern Family episodes on TBS.

But this past Friday, April 10, I wanted go out with a group from work.  Someone from the Civil Rights Department was celebrating a birthday.  The plan was to meet at this Corner Tap a few blocks from the office.  Evidently, though someone from our party called the corner tap ahead of time, they couldn't accommodate our group, (isn't accessibility lovely 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act?).  Plan B turned out to be Chili's.  It was not far away, it had space, and it was accessible.

By the time the group was settled in at the restaurant, it was 6:30 p.m. By 7 p.m., after one Margarita, I was ready to go.  Introversion and thoughts of Modern Family had sunk in.   For some reason, it took thirty minutes to flag down the server, ask for a bill, and pay.  Leaving, because I wanted to leave much earlier, and because it took so long to pay for one drink, I was antsy.

The Grand Avenue Station along the Redline is just two blocks south from Chili's.  The Chicago Avenue Station is four blocks north.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have gone north.  But there was no reason to think anything would happen. It's hard to imagine that anything would happen within a distance of just two blocks, even if they are Chicago blocks - which are larger than the average city block, and even if it was through the heart of River North -- where many people on a Friday night drink, then drink some more.  

Crossing Ohio Street, I was just one block from the Grand Avenue Station.  Just as I stepped onto the corner at the Southeast side of the Ohio and State Street intersection, I heard a scream. Though scores of people were all around me, I recognized the scream. It is the scream of dwarfaphobia from an individual who is traveling with a small group of friends.  The individual screams, claims he or she is frightened because of a dwarf, then his or her friends laugh.  In this case, it was a group of five teenage girls.  The screamer ducked into a doorway. She stuffed her head into the corner of the doorway, waiting for me to pass.  I stopped. I didn't want to pass.  I wanted to force the teenager to look at me.

Not much time passed.  As the crowds of people continued north and south on the sidewalk, I stayed at the corner, waiting.  Four of the teenagers stood outside the doorway, about ten yards from where I stood, waiting.  The screamer continued to press herself into the doorway.  Less than a minute later, one of the teenagers said, "I've got to pee."  She, along with two others, left her friend in the doorway. They passed by me without saying anything or acknowledging me.

Eventually, the screamer pulled herself from the doorway.  She, along with the fifth and final teenager, backtracked.  They walked down State to Grand, crossed the road, walked up the opposite side of the street, then crossed back to the near side of the street once they were beyond where I stood. I watched until they disappeared into the crowd.

Half a block down the street, a woman sitting in a nice looking restaurant at a table of four pounded on the window, trying to get my attention. I stopped. All of the people at the table were women.  They were probably mid twenties to early thirties. The one who knocked on the glass, shouted at me through the window.  "Hey," she yelled out. I couldn't read the look on her face.  I couldn't tell if it was a look of recognition, as if she and I might had met at some point, or if it was a look that said, "Hey, Look at the guy."  The look on the faces of the other three women ranged, from uncomfortable smiles, to objectifying smiles.   I waited a moment.  The woman who knocked on the glass didn't say anything, or give any kind of clue to indicate that she knew who I was.  I turned my head, and walked toward the train station.

Two thirds of the way down the steps to the platform of the southbound Redline train, I stopped.  No one else was on the steps.  At the bottom of the steps was a teenage girl, maybe a little younger than those in the group I saw earlier.  She was with a boy.  The boy, who didn't see me, walked from the base of the steps down along the platform.  The girl, when she saw me, stopped and stared.  When I saw her staring, I was about ten steps up from where she stood. I stopped.  I stared back.  "What?" she mumbled, as if wondering why I stared.  The boy she was with returned.  He looked at me. He gave me a perturbed look.  I waited, standing, watching them, until they both moved on. I walked to the opposite end of the platform.

The platform was crowded. The train was still eight minutes away, a long wait for a Friday evening. A few minutes into the wait, I looked up to the girl.  Standing about 15 yards away, amidst several strangers, she took my picture with her phone.

Over and over again, people say, "you have to pick your battles." As I get older, I pick fewer and fewer of them. I think, and hope, it's more productive to engage in broader outreach activities rather than confronting individuals who may know no better. Also, harassment, whether it be misinterpreted or genuine, doesn't bother me as much anymore. It's easier to write off someone as biased or prejudiced than to be weighted down by the behavior of others.

But two days ago, I was bothered by what happened. Stares are one things. Pictures are another.  But the dwarfophobic moments are hard to take.  Nevertheless, confrontation on a Friday night in River North is never a good idea.  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Message Evolution

Tiffanie DiDonato is in the news again.  Back in 2008, she made headlines for her decision to undergo limb lengthening surgery.  News coverage of her experience frustrated me.  Headlines such as "Little Person No More," sent an inaccurate message. Whoever elects to have the surgery, and whoever undergoes the procedure, is still a dwarf at the end of the procedure.  For the most part, whoever undergoes the procedure, still has to face similar physical obstacles and social obstacles that may stand before individuals with dwarfism.

In an ABC Story from 2008, DiDonato said that as a result of her surgery, "I'm going to be free. I'm going to be independent."  I don't think limb lengthening is necessary, Yet, I realize that some obstacles may in fact disappear as a result of the surgery.  One example is driving.  I've seen social media posts about dwarfs who are able to drive without peddle extenders after limb lengthening surgery.  Driving is a source of independence.  But this doesn't mean that limb lengthening is a link to independence. Whether a dwarf uses pedal extenders or not, he or she is able to drive and exercise independence.

A few years ago, news coverage promoted an autobiography written by DiDonato.  The book was called Dwarf, How one woman fought for a body -- and a life -- she was never supposed to have.  I haven't read the book, but coverage of the book was also frustrating.  The coverage made it seem as if the book was all about the limb lengthening surgery and how that surgery made her life "normal." "Tiffanie DiDonato dreamed of living a normal life—of being able to reach the sink unassisted or even someday driving a car so she could have the independence so many of us take for granted." Also, the subtitle makes it seem as if one's body, and dwarfism, define a person's life. 

I do give DiDonato credit for writing the book.  In order to attract an audience, a writer has to be honest. No one would ever want to read my journals because I am rarely honest, even with myself.  Sometimes I am not honest because I am terrified that someday someone may read me journal.  But DiDonato was honest.  In a news story from 2012, DiDonato said "I was honest with myself, if I wanted to die, if I felt like that's what I wanted to do, then I wrote it down."

This past week, a new story about DiDonato was published, a story about her experiences as a mother, raising a toddler.  At first, I was concerned. I thought the story would send the message that if she hadn't had limb lengthening, she could never be a good mother.  Early on in the story, the piece did reinforce a misguide message from coverage of DiDonato years earlier.  The reporter wrote, "Born with diastrophic dysplasia, a rare form of dwarfism, she underwent limb lengthening surgery...allowing her to life an independent life."  Again, whether someone is four foot tall or three foot tall, independence is not about height.  Independence is about the environment, supports and accommodations.  Despite that message, much of the article focused on her strategies as a mother responsible for a three-year-old.  Rather than celebrate limb lengthening as a tool that allowed  her to care for her son, the article looked at DiDonato's challenges as a parent, challenges to which all parents, dwarf, disabled,  and non-disabled, could probably relate.  

I am not a parent. I don't know if the article was accurate in the realms of parenting and disability.  But I do know that the article did not dwell as much on the limb lengthening as the answer to obstacles that face people with dwarfism.  I hope that becomes a trend if DiDonato continues to be in the news in the future, because the secrets behind what defines a person is not found in dwarfism, and certainly not in limb lengthening.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Imaginary Lines

Some people will tell you that they always have music playing in the background.  Whether they are commuting to work with an ipod and headphones or doing things around the house with a CD playing, they will always be listening to music.  Some people tell you that as they get ready to leave their home in the morning, and when they return later in the day, they will always have the radio tuned to public radio.  I am neither.  Though I like music, and I like public radio, I hardly ever listen to either.  With the later, when I donated my car in 2009, I almost completely eliminated radio from my life.  The only time I'd ever listen was when I drove around town.

Nowadays, if I listen to either the radio or to music, it's only if I've rented a car.  Last weekend, my wife and I rented a car for a trip to Wisconsin.  On the trip to and from Chicago, we listened to public radio.  It was probably the first time I listened to public radio since the last time we rented a car, over Thanksgiving Break in 2014.  On Sunday, on the way back from Wisconsin, we listened to This American Life, the hour long program that is broadcast on hundreds of stations across the country.  Last week's episode, episode number 551 of the program, was called "Good Guys."  One segment within the episode resonated strongly with me.  A comedian named Mike Birbiglia shared a story about riding the bus in New York.  Besides Birbiglia, there was just one other passenger on the bus. At some point, an attractive woman boards the bus  Birbiglia looks at the woman, then quickly forces his gaze down to his feet to avoid staring at her.  However, the other passenger openly gawks at the woman.  The other man makes no attempt to shield his stare.  In the segment, which is a comedy bit, Birbiglia asserts that the difference between himself and the other passenger is a line that separates acceptable behavior from creepy behavior.

As a dwarf, I get stared at a lot.  That's why the "This American Life" story resonated with me.  Though I'd like to think that I share some kind of bond with attractive people who suffer through the stares of others, there are significant differences between the stares generated by dwarfs, even attractive dwarfs, and those generated by attractive people in general.  The differences aren't just about the motivation behind a stare.  There is also a difference within the consequences of those who stare. In his routine, Birbiglia looked away from the woman because he knew it was wrong to stare.  He talked about the dividing line between acceptable behavior and creepy behavior.  In my opinion, that line exists because attractive people are held in more esteem than others.  They hold power over others.  With dwarfs, that line doesn't exist, at least not to the same extent as it does with attractive people.  If it does exist, it exists in a space that is farther away from acceptable behavior, which allows the average person to stare much longer before crossing over the line of creepiness or rudeness.  Dwarfs do not hold the same esteem as the average person.  No matter economic or social class, must any average stature person assumes he or she has power over a dwarf, which gives the average stature person justification to stare without crossing the imaginary line about which Birbiglia joked.

That's the best thing about radio, public radio in particular.  It's full of programming that makes one think.  Whether or not what I have to say makes any sense, I recommend the "Good Guys" episode on "This American Life." There are plenty of good segments on it. Some are funny. Some are sad.  Each is thoughtful.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

No luck and no holiday spirit

Today is Saturday, March 14.  Officially, St. Patrick's Day is not until Tuesday, but Chicago is celebrating today.  This morning thousands lined the river along Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue for the moment when the City ceremonially dyes the Chicago River Green. At noon, the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade stepped off from Balbo and Columbus Drive.  Following the parade, the crowds fanned out across downtown Chicago, filling the bars to the point they bubble over with people.  Outside of the bars, large groups of people dressed in green and white, wearing green and purple beads draped over their necks, with four leaf clover decals painted on their faces, tramp up and down the sidewalks, occasionally bursting into chants or songs.

I am an introvert.  Even if the Chicago Cubs won the World Series I would never venture out in the midst of a celebration that included thousands, if not millions, of strangers who had been drinking alcohol since not long after sunrise.  With St. Patrick's Day though, I find other excuses, besides introversion, to lay low during the holiday.  While some little people use the holiday as an opportunity to make money, wearing a Leprechaun outfit to earn a paycheck, other little people feel uncomfortable with the holiday revelers.  Some believe, within large crowds full of intoxicated people, a loose link is established between the traditional Leprechaun and any random little person, inspiring some within the crowd of intoxicated people to approach, handle or taunt an unsuspecting little person who may find themselves out and about on St. Patrick's Day.  For those who want nothing to do with drunk strangers, this creates a hostile environment worthy of staying inside all day long.

Several years ago, when I worked as the Vice President of Public Relations for Little People of America, the Huffington Post would reach out to me around the time of St. Patrick's Day.  The reporters, running with the idea that St. Patrick's Day was an uncomfortable day for many little people, would ask me for my comment on what they were framing as a "Day of Mourning" for little people.  After one or two of those media inquiries, the stories got old.  Day of Mourning is a little dramatic.  Perhaps some little people do get harassed within large crowds on St. Patrick's Day.  The harassment is unacceptable but (since I brought the Cubs up once already) it's probably no different than Wrigleyville after a Chicago Cubs night game.  Also, I realized a while back that my aversion to St. Patrick's Day has more to do with my personality than any connection between St. Patrick's Day and the harassment of little people.  There are plenty of little people, even those who don't make money in a Leprechaun costume, that enjoy St. Patrick's Day.

This afternoon, around 2:30 p.m., I decided to go outside.  I was in search of a pair of shoes I'd found at Burlington Coat Factory store on State Street several months earlier.  In a way, I also was curious.  I was curious how drunk people wearing green would react to me.  I wanted to see if I am ultra sensitive to crowds on St. Patrick's Day, or more so than on any other day.

The streets were busier than I thought they'd be.  I mistakenly thought the parade started early in the morning, not at noon. I thought that by mid afternoon the crowds would have thinned out.  But the crowds were thick, especially at intersections.  As groups waited at a street corner for a light to turn green, people piled up behind them, to the point that it looked as if people would burst out into oncoming traffic.

On my way to the shoe store, I maneuvered through many large groups of people.  Some people probably stared, some may have made comments to their friends, a few may have taken a picture.  But again, that could happen on any day in the life of a little person.  Only one person tried to make physical contact with  me.  As he and I crossed paths, walking in opposite directions, he held out his hand, hoping I would slap his as I walked passed.

All in all, despite large, annoying crowds, it wasn't bad.  I wasn't able to find the pair of shoes for which I was searching, but I am glad I went outside, if only to prove to myself that St. Patrick's Day isn't really so bad, and this "Day of Mourning," if I ever bought into it, may just be in my head.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reaction to Tom Shakespeare's article "It's time dwarfs stop demeaning themselves in public."

Tom Shakespeare is a sociologist and disability rights advocate who is the co-author of The Sexual Politics of Disability and the author of Disability Rights and Wrongs.   Early in February, The Telegraph published an article by Shakespeare titled "It's time dwarfs stop demeaning themselves in public."  

In the article, Shakespeare argues that historically, roles in entertainment for little people have been created to "make the audience laugh or snigger or gawp." He cites The Wizard of Oz and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as examples.  The problem with these roles, and with contemporary roles in which dwarfs are used as a site gag or the butt of a joke, is that they impact how the general public interacts with little people.  Shakespeare writes, "jokes about the Dwarfs affect the way that the public thinks of people like me." 

Shakespeare's article reflects a debate that has been ongoing in the dwarfism community.  For years, people have argued about the responsibility of dwarf actors.  Many people hold the actors that take demeaning roles responsible for the stigma that exists around dwarfism.  Since dwarfism is so rare, if a member of a general public sees a dwarf on television dressed up as a prop to make people laugh, that member of the general public may believe that all dwarfs fulfill a similar function.  Many people with dwarfism would agree with Shakespeare, who wrote, "But the problem is, other restricted-growth people's choices impact on me directly, when they make it more likely that total strangers will regard me as a figure of fun and abuse me in the street."

Throughout the debate over what responsibility a dwarf actor has for the roles he or she takes, many people have urged the organization Little People of America to speak out in much the same way Shakespeare did in his article.  At least some members of Little People of America blame the actors who take roles as Elves, Fairies, and Leprechauns for the roadblocks to equal opportunity that other little people face when pursuing a professional career outside of entertainment.  These members would love for Little People of America to put some of the responsibility for those roadblocks in the laps of dwarf actors.  The hope being that dwarf actors would then think twice before agreeing to a demeaning or stereotypical role.  

The problem with this hope, and in my opinion the reason why Little People of America will never cast blame on actors, is that the line in entertainment between demeaning and respectable is very subjective.  The show "Life's Too Short" is just one example.  When the show began in England, many little people were horrified with the way it portrayed little people.  Others believed that it was a satirical commentary on the situation in which little people in the entertainment industry find themselves.  Debate with the community of little people waged such that some members of the community split with the Restricted Growth Association to form a new organization for little people.  If Little People of America were to begin to cast judgement on the roles of little people, debates such as the one over "Life's Too Short" in England would be ongoing and unproductive.

In addition, I believe that even if articles such as that written by Tom Shakespeare and even if a position statement by an organization against demeaning roles convinced a few actors to say no to certain roles, there will probably always be other individuals ready to take the role.  There would be a constant cycle of blame within the dwarfism community.  The answer is not to attack the people who take what may be considered a demeaning role.  The answer is to prevent the demeaning role from being written in the first place.  That can be done, not by finger pointing at individuals, but by systemic campaigns of awareness.  Dwarfism Awareness campaigns may or may not accomplish this goal, but in the last few years, countries around the world have launched awareness movements.  If they ever do, it will be a long time before these campaigns have a significant impact on the entertainment industry.  But, there a moving in the correct direction, and they are doing so in an inclusive manner.  For the dwarfism community, inclusion is vital.