And with those words, I sat back at my computer. My breathing slowed, stuck in my throat. My heart sank, slamming so hard as it fell, my stomach churned.
I had written in a Facebook group, asking if anyone knew of local companies that supported sporting events.
What kind of sporting event?
I briefly told the group about the Dwarf Athletic Association of America, about the Little People of America National Conference being hosted in Boston this year. A few people gave me companies that I could consider… and then I got a private message. Just one.
You mean companies that support midgets playing sports? Those people play sports?
I quickly deleted my post, jotting down a few of the companies to call before the hot tears came. It was only 9:30am… how could such ignorance have already tinged the internet? It felt like the words had punched me in the stomach, if that was something words could even do. I want to say it was an intangible feeling, pure emotion, but I felt it. Then it dawned on me: this man thought it was funny because he wasn’t educated.
Sure he was educated. I knew he was educated. I could tell from his profile picture, his extensive list of previous and current positions, his education. I briefly scanned his photos and they looked like money. That look where everything about him was rich and wealthy- from a classic Boston brownstone to a photo, on a beach, toasting flutes of champagne… except for his knowledge about dwarfism. In that, he was poor.
I sent a brief note just explaining how that was not an appropriate word. Not that it wasn’t nice. Not that it was mean. Perhaps he didn’t know it, but that midget wasn’t appropriate because it is prejudice. It is wrong.
He didn’t respond back but I don’t mind because I educated him… and these are the reasons we need to keep educating. This is why it is our responsibility as a community to do so.
Things people do will shock you, from jumping from an airplane with nothing but a parachute in a backpack, to forcibly living under cardboard boxes. Some things we can help, while others are forced. People are an amazingly diverse group. Oddly we all fall under the same category of human, although I think the definition of that greatly varies from one to another.
Awkwardly, timidly, as my breath again fell into its usual cadence, my heart settled back into my chest, I began to think about how to educate people around me to understand that my child will grow up to be an adult. Seriously, this is something I have to think about. A concept that when I started this journey of parenting, I never thought I would actually have to explain to people.
My child will grow up and be an adult.
You see at this point, most days we are safe from too many prying eyes. Passersby adore and accept Adelaide for being so cute and so smart, and let’s face it, so sassy- even on the days where people make rude remarks, they are nothing like what I expect will come one day… but these same adoring folks? They’ve completely forgotten the adult counterpart to her. The role that so many play, to mock, belittle, harass, bully and ultimately, hate people with dwarfism- as well as the disability community, in general.
The ability these people have to dehumanize [humans] is all too often used. Whether it is out of fear of difference or the unknown doesn’t matter much to me. The fact remains: the disability community, though prevalent in our world, still remains a remarkably prejudiced minority. This knowledge used to break me. Little pieces of my soul floating around inside my body, nestling in already too-full spaces, forcing me not to sleep, instead to worry, to fear. Trapped in fits of anxiety and anger at the hatred, misunderstanding, mistreatment, ignorance. And then I realized my job as an advocate is not that of worrier or woman of fear, my job is to educate everyone around me so that things will change. We cannot sit idly by and say we want this change while we do nothing about it. It’s been suggested that I let Addie go a bit- help her grow a thick skin, to suck it up, to get used to it… but my goal as a mother, an active member of the disabled community, as a human, is not to teach my child to get used to harassment, but to help guide you, my surrounding community, to not harass. In return, you will pass these same lessons on to your community.
And together we will make change. The change I want to see is the path I lay ahead.
…in closing: People with dwarfism play sports, yes, and if you would like to support the athleticism of our great community, please reach out and ask me how.