A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak to a class about my experiences as a Little Person. I’m always surprised when people find my life interesting. To me, it’s just, well, life. I’ve known no other body and after 29 years on this earth, living as a Little Person has always been just, living. After addressing that “Little Person” is the politically correct term, someone chimed in and asked if I had heard Bill Burr’s bit about midgets. I hadn’t. He assured me that I would change my view after hearing his perspective.
It’s annoying when people try to change my mind about this topic after I’ve made it clear it’s not a matter of discussion. “Stop being so sensitive.” “It’s just a word, don’t give power to it.” Don’t tell me how to feel. Unlike most people who were bullied as kids, I don’t have the luxury of shedding my childhood taunts as an adult. People still laugh at me and yell out, “look at that midget!” and laugh with their idiot friends at my expense. When labels like “midget”, “fat ass”, etc. are used; its sole purpose is to alienate a person, not just as a description. Derelicts thrive on putting others down because it satisfies their own voids in life.
The sad truth is that people don’t care about issues that do not directly affect them. We support equality for group A, but screw group B because we don’t give a shit about them! As a person who has experienced cruel behavior throughout my life, I try my best to be compassionate towards everyone. I still have a hard time with blatant assholes, but I try really hard to be understanding of them, too. I still think shitty things, but I have the decency to keep those thoughts to myself. I’ve never called out an asshole for the sake of entertaining my friends. Well, not soberly anyway.
While I understand the value of desensitizing labels, I feel that it only works when everyone is on board. At 29, I can intellectually process that people who call me a midget (after being told it’s not cool) in 2013 are just ignorant jerks. Not everyone has the same stance on derogatory terminology. Some people are deeply opposed while others have built immunity to labels and welcome anything. If you are one of those people who have successfully mastered the “sticks and stones” policy, congratulations! In respect for the rest of us working toward being seen as equal members of society, please keep your revelries to yourself.
It doesn’t matter what the word is, if someone doesn’t like it, it’s just a matter of respect to honor his or her request. If someone were to tell me that he didn’t like to be called a “person”, I’d stop calling him a “person”. I don’t need to understand why, it just is and I’d respect his decision. I’d make sure to try extra hard to remember his name so I never have to refer to him as a “person” ever again.
I understand that it’s hard to learn new words and break old habits. Change can be difficult to accept, especially when our precious go-to jabs are being compromised. I’m embarrassed that I am personally guilty of using the R-word quite a bit in my youth and even throughout adulthood. I was ignorant and didn’t realize it was offensive until recently. I’ve stopped using the R-word and replace it with more appropriate descriptors. It took some effort, but it wasn’t difficult. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t try my best to correct my own wrongdoings.
We’re not children anymore. It’s shitty to attempt to make someone feel bad for being different. Don’t offer excuses when people express their discomfort of certain words. It’s a shitty thing to do. Be an adult. Take responsibility and value that opportunity to respect a fellow human being. Life is hard; you are either another problem or a beautiful solution.