Why Chris is re-creating some of the worst things he’s experienced

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris Amor is a 27-year-old university student, studying animation. Chris has dwarfism and experiences regular harassment, making him feel excluded and dehumanised.

As part of 30 Under 30 he talks to us about challenging attitudes and putting height discrimination on the same level as other forms of discrimination. Currently, he’s working on a short animated film which aims to do exactly that.

Attitudes can be a barrier

A lot of people still think it’s socially acceptable to mock and effectively dehumanise people with dwarfism. For me, the physical side doesn’t get me down, it’s the attitudes that other people have towards it. There’s still a big stigma around dwarfism and the way we’re portrayed as freaks.

People can also be scared to talk to me because they think I’ll be easily offended. I’d just prefer people to talk to me like anyone else, not focus on my dwarfism, just treat me like a person. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me either. I just want people to not care about how tall someone is. It doesn’t define who you are, at all.

Dating is another big thing that gets to me. There’s still a big stigma about men being shorter than women or couples with extreme height difference. People tell me I should date another person with dwarfism. Again, it’s dehumanising. It’s putting body before personality. Of course I’d be happy to date a person with dwarfism, but I want to date someone for who they are not just how they look. Why should it matter if the woman is taller?

Chris sitting in front of a brick wall, with his arms folded
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

Experiencing harassment at work

I’ve worked at a local pub for a few years. At first, I mostly did night shifts and of course people are drinking, and I was specifically targeted. I’ve had people run up behind me and try to pick me up, people patting me on the head, talking to me randomly about really personal and inappropriate things. People even take photos or secretly film me, purely just to portray me as being different.

It got to a point where I had a breakdown and told my family and my managers at work about it. They were very understanding and agreed that I should do more day shifts instead. It’s a lot better. And it’s nice to be able to just get on with your job without constantly feeling paranoid.

The effect of endless harassment

Endless harassment can create paranoia. You just constantly feel paranoid if there’s someone behind you or if someone’s got their phone out, are they going to take a photo of me? And it’s the principle behind it – that they’re going to share it on social media as a joke.

Because I’ve being experiencing it for a long time it can be difficult when I’m in certain environments not to be too self-conscious. For some people, it can lead to depression and even suicide. Comments and insults can be more damaging that physical assault, certainly for me – it’s just that concept of feeling excluded from society. And it also affects my confidence when it comes to working and dating.

I’m making a film to raise awareness

A lot of films about disabled people and their lives are focused on the physical or mental restrictions that they have but my film is purely focused on the attitudes of others. Through animation, I’m re-creating some of the worst things that I’ve personally experienced and things that other people have told me, exactly from that person’s perspective. Some people might see these things as just a little joke and say you lack a sense of humour, but it’s not about that. I’m happy to have the piss taken out of me for how I am as a person, not because of how I was born.

I hope the film will raise awareness and change perceptions. I want to put heightism on the same grounds of unacceptance that racism is. And I want to challenge the dehumanising ideas about what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t do – like disabled people shouldn’t be in a relationship with a non-disabled person or you can’t do this job.

Chris arms folded, in front of a garden
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

How we can change attitudes

I think a lot of it’s to do with media representation. Peter Dinklage, from Game of Thrones, is one of the few actors with dwarfism who plays a role that’s not related to his height. Some of the earlier roles for people with dwarfism like Willow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they were picked for those roles because of how they look. It gives them a label and a separation in that sense. I’m not saying that actors with dwarfism can’t play those kinds of roles, but height shouldn’t limit what they can and can’t do.

I also think education is key to changing attitudes. When my film is finished, I want to send it to some film festivals and make sure it’s spread nationwide. It’s not about feeling sorry for someone. It’s about encouraging people to think “How would I feel if I was in that body and was being treated differently because of something I can’t help?”. One day I hope I can walk down the street and nobody cares about my height.

Chris is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

 

The best thing about being a disabled dad or dad to a disabled child?

We put a shout out on our online community and social media, to find out what the best things about being a disabled dad or dad to a disabled child are. You didn’t disappoint.

Happy Father’s Day to all you legends! 

Dad sitting ont he soaf with his young son, who has Down's syndrome. They are reading a book together.

Hughie on Facebook: “I have an inspirational 11 year old boy who faces daily challenges but always has a smile on his face. He never lets his disability stop him from having fun and reaching his goals. He’s also supported by his little brother who is just amazing with him. Proud to be their dad. You are both amazing and love you all the world.”

Zec on our community: “My daughters are now 21 and 23 but I’m gramps to Oscar who’s 20 months old. Since he could sit up he’s loved sitting on my lap in the wheelchair. People seem fascinated when we go round the supermarket with him sat on my lap. Now he tries to push me in the wheelchair and he moves it.

The best thing is that he doesn’t bat an eyelid at me in a wheelchair, to him it’s just what gramps does and why wouldn’t he.”

Dad smiling and looking at his daughter who is sitting on his lap, who is making a funny face. She has Down's syndrome.Charlimaisdad on our community: “The best thing about being a dad to Charli-Mai is seeing her achieve milestones, and to see how much she gets out of life.”

FoodFatigue on our community: “For me it’s raising and seeing that my daughter doesn’t bat an eyelid when seeing other people with disabilities. She’s developed a great empathy and it’s great to see.”

Guy on Facebook: “I have had the wonderful privilege of easing and shaping the difficult life of an amazingly inspirational young woman, and it’s such a pleasure to see her flourish now!”

Speedincaesar on our community: “I love being a dad! Watching my daughter grow unfazed by differences. I love the conversations we have. Being a dad in a wheelchair has also given me the opportunity to meet other families with kids that may not have ever met a disabled person before.”

Martin on our community: “Being a dad is the one thing I’m most proud to be in my life.  Having a child with disabilities just amplifies that honour and pride. The two younger children get our eldest involved in everything they do, they see when doors need to be opened and recognise places his wheelchair won’t fit.

Two brother sitting togather at a football match, the youngest sitting on the lap of his older disabled brotherAn amazing moment for me was at a football match recently.  I campaign for better access to stadiums, and one of the things I asked for is accessible family seating so that families can enjoy a game sitting together. In our life it’s often our eldest getting looked after by his younger brothers, but at a football match I took this picture, where clearly big brother, is looking after the youngest.  Had a lump in my throat when taking this, and still do when I see it. It’s pictures like this that make being a dad the best thing in the world. Of course it may be Father’s Day on Sunday,  but I couldn’t be half the dad I am without the support of my wife, and their mum. Like football, being a dad or a mum to me is a team thing.  And when we’re on form, we make one hell of a team.”

We’d love to hear your reasons too. Tell us in the comments below.