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?
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.
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.