Tag Archives: dwarfism

How it feels to experience endless harassment, just because you look different

Chris has dwarfism and experiences regular harassment. For Hate Crime Awareness Week, read his blog about the effect this had on him and why he’s keen to change attitudes.

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.

Experiencing harassment at work

I 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 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. It’s nice to be able to just get on with your job without constantly feeling paranoid.

Chris arms folded, in front of a garden

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 been 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 than physical assault, certainly for me – it’s just that concept of feeling excluded from society. It also affects my confidence when it comes to working and dating.

Changing attitudes

Through animation, I re-created some of the worst things that I’ve personally experienced. I hope it will raise awareness and change perceptions. I want to put this kind of harassment on the same grounds of nonacceptance that racism is.

I also want to challenge the dehumanising ideas about what disabled people shouldn’t and shouldn’t do. I think education is key to changing attitudes. One day I hope I can walk down the street and nobody cares about my height.

If you have a story that you’d like to share, get in touch with Scope’s stories team.

My tips for ending awkward dating moments

Guest post from Phil Lusted, a web and graphic designer from north Wales.

For End the Awkward, he talks about awkwardness when it comes to dating and sex and gives some tips for getting over it.

When I was born, I was diagnosed with a rare form of dwarfism called diastrophic dysplaysia which means my bones don’t grow like an average height person would. Being only 3ft in height, I have come across many awkward moments in my life, one of the most common is being mistaken for a child or spoken to like a child.

Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally. This includes those who have visible or invisible disabilities. We are still human, with feelings just like any other able-bodied person. Unfortunately, for disabled people, dating can involve uncertainty and more than a few awkward moments. Like the time a waitress asked my date if I needed a high chair before we got to our table. Needless to say, I did not.

My tips for dating

A first date can be nervous for any person, some thoughts that would typically run through my head would be: “What will she think of me and my height?” “Will she think I’m a weird shape?” “What if she feels embarrassed around me?”. It is perfectly normal for us to think like this, we all do it no matter what size or shape we are, it’s all part of being human and how our brain works when in a nervous or first time situation.

To help avoid awkward situations with your date, don’t be ashamed to educate them on your disability before actually going on the date. Tell them any needs you may have or any assistance you may need while on the date, this will put yourself and your date more at ease, you will both be pretty much on the same page with her or him knowing more about your disability and needs.

I knew my girlfriend three months prior to our first date which gave her plenty of time to learn about myself and my dwarfism, which resulted in our first date being comfortable for the both of us, that way we could enjoy our time together without any awkward situations taking place.

Phil and his girlfriend hugging and smiling, on a wooden bench with trees in the background

Sex and confidence

A lot of nervousness may also be from your own body confidence; I know this from my own experience. Because I was born with severe scoliosis, my back and chest are a funny shape which has in the past affected my confidence. Something as simple as taking my shirt off in a public swimming pool would never happen.

It’s important to be confident in yourself by not being ashamed of your appearance, at the end of the day, we all come in different shapes and sizes, it’s something we should embrace and be positive about. Life would be a little boring if we all looked the same. Also keep in mind that if your partner loves you unconditionally, then you have nothing to fear or feel awkward about when it comes to showing your body.

Communication is important

One of the biggest issues caused by feeling awkward or embarrassed is a lack of communication. Despite sex being considered a “private” or “taboo” subject, all relationships require communication and dialog. I think being open with your partner is very important, especially as disabled people.

Talk with your partner about sex and discover what’s best for the both of you to avoid having close-minded expectations. Remember that not everything works with every partner, so it is important to be patient with one another.

The more you talk to one another the less chances you will feel uncomfortable and awkward when it comes to being intimate together.

You can read more about Phil’s awkward moments in his blog for last year’s End the Awkward campaign.

For more tips on sex and dating, check out the films and stories on our website.

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

30 under 30 logo

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.

 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Francesca, the theatre star

Francesca Mills is a 20 year old actor who has achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism. She is currently on tour with a Ramps on the Moon production,of the Government Inspector where she plays Maria.

As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, she talks about inclusiveness in the industry and her top tips for breaking into the world of theatre.

Kids who are interested in performing arts and children who have gone to drama school are much more open-minded and much more accepting. They just love anything diverse. So this meant that breaking into the industry was never an issue for me. No-one has ever been like ‘you can’t do that because you’re disabled’, my family and friend are always 100% behind me.

Changing attitudes

I think roles in theatre for disabled people are very important in changing attitudes towards disability.

Audiences are very accepting without realising it. If you’re out on the street just living everyday life, you’ll get stares and people don’t quite understand but if you walk on stage playing a character, it’s different. Maybe in the first two minutes an audience member might be thinking ‘oh that’s a little person’, but then they’ve completely forgotten and they’re completely on board with what you’re doing.

It may also make them think ‘why do I over-think this? Disability really isn’t a big thing, it’s fine’.

It’s also really important for kids to see disabled actors represented in roles of authority. In the show I’m doing now we have a deaf judge, who’s also a woman, which is brilliant.

A group of disabled actors perform on stage. Fran, a young woman with dwarfism, smiles as a man with a cane kisses her hand.

How the industry has changed

I’m growing up in a time where people are starting to realise they should do projects that are inclusive. I’m lucky in a way that I’ve mainly seen the positive. People older than me have memories of a lot more prejudice. They’ve had a much more tough time which is good to know about because people can appreciate how it’s changed and how things are getting better.  It’s on the way up.

From my experience, a lot of casting directors are becoming more versatile and opening their gates to disabled actors for parts that aren’t specifically disabled parts. If they have a brief for a blonde haired girl with blue eyes, they might open it up to someone with an impairment and it’s not an issue.

I think we’ve still got a long way to go but it’s better than what it was.

Advice for others

If you really want to do it, just go for it, even if people question it. My motto is ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish’. If you want to get into acting think about how you’re going to do that.

Get involved in local amateur productions just to get some confidence, like I used to do. See if local theatres are auditioning. If you’ve got an appetite for it just go for it and everything else will fall into place.

Just have fun and enjoy it because it really is the best job in the world.

Top tips for breaking into the industry

Enjoy yourself

Have fun and let people know that you’re having fun, it’s really nice to see! I did Peter Pan in Wimbledon. I was playing Tinkerbell and there were kids playing the Lost Boys. Just seeing their faces when they were in the theatre and how excited they were was amazing. It’s just a really nice quality to have.

Go to the theatre

It’s important to go to actual shows and enjoy shows and see as many as you can.

Learn from everyone

Watch people and learn from them. With the amount of actors that you come across, make sure you ask questions. Watch their technique and etiquette. You can pick up a lot from people.

Never be late!

I’m ridiculous with how early I am. It makes you more relaxed when you get to the theatre and have plenty of time. Never leave anything until the last minute. Give yourself time to settle ahead of a brilliant day.

A large group of disabled actors perform on stage in a theatre. They are looking out to the audience with shocked faces.

Francesca is sharing her 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. Read more from our #30toWatch on our website.

Watch Francesca perform in one of our End The Awkward shorts from last year.

 

As a short actor, I want to break down the height barrier – #EndtheAwkward

Guest post from Francesca Mills, who stars in our ‘What Not to Do… In a Job Interview’ film, co-produced with Channel 4. She has dwarfism, and previously appeared in ITV hidden camera prank show Off Their Rockers.

It’s amazing what people will believe. In Off Their Rockers, a sketch show where we pranked members of the public, I managed to convince customers at a launderette that the boss let me take home all the clothes that shrunk in the wash.

I even told them that if I saw something I liked going into the dryer, I’d cheekily turn the temperature up so it would shrink! The two women whose reactions eventually aired were totally on board with it.

My work on Off Their Rockers led me to get a part on Scope and Channel 4’s short film, ‘What Not to Do… In a Job Interview’. In it, I and another actor get into all sorts of trouble because of his awkwardness around my height.

Filming What Not to Do…

The other woman in the interview had no idea what was going on. She was a businesswoman who was used to doing mock interviews on video, and we’d told her she would be helping out a big company with their staff training.

By halfway through, she was starting to get very flustered! She kept smiling at me, but because she was there to do a job she kept quiet – which is fair enough, because it was all quite light.

Sam, the ‘interviewer’, was brilliant. I found it so hard to keep a straight face most of the day. Between takes we’d go into the other room and just break down laughing, it was so funny.

Awkwardness in my life

I’m quite young, so I haven’t experienced many situations like the job interview yet. Certainly no one has ever picked me up and put me on a chair!

Fran and a male actor talking, both sitting behind a table
Fran and Sam in our What Not To Do film

But you do get lots of situation where, like Sam’s character, people are scared of putting a foot wrong. They get really conscious of what they’re saying.

Sam represented that really well, because you could see the fear in his eyes. He really didn’t want to offend me, and that’s why he was getting so worked up. He was just trying to handle it the best way he could.

That’s why the film is so good – because it makes people realise, ‘Oh, actually I don’t have to freak out every time I’m talking to a disabled person.’ We have exactly the same sense of humour as everyone else, and we actually won’t be too fazed if someone’s being awkward.

Breaking down the height barrier

I just moved to London about two weeks ago. In November I start rehearsals for Peter Pan at the New Wimbledon Theatre; I’ll be playing Tinkerbell, which is very exciting.

In the future, I’d love to do a serious play, or a musical – anything, really! I’m enjoying the diversity of the jobs I’m doing at the moment.

But I do think all short actors want to try and break down the idea that short actors can’t be used for ‘tall’ acting jobs.

Warwick Davis, whom I’ve worked with, is a real inspiration – for example, he appeared in Spamalot in a role that could have gone to someone of any height, because he’s proved himself.

We’re all striving for the same thing: to get casting directors thinking about employing short people for roles where no reference is made to them being short. Where it’s just accepted.

Watch all six shorts now on Scope’s YouTube channel. Do you have a similar awkward story to share? Email stories@scope.org.uk

“Does he need a high chair?” Things you hear when you’re a person with dwarfism – #EndtheAwkward

Guest post from Phil Lusted, a web and graphic designer from north Wales. He blogs at his website LittlePhillz, and is supporting our End the Awkward campaign.Full-length photo of Phil, a man who has dwarfism

I am 31 years old and stand 3ft tall in height due to the fact I have diastrophic dysplaysia, a form of dwarfism. Because of my short stature, I have experienced many odd situations in life – from awkward moments to somewhat embarrassing ones.

These are just some of the awkward things I experience as a person with dwarfism…

“Does he need a high chair?”

Once I was going out on a dinner date, and the waitress asked my date if I needed a high chair before we got to our table. Needless to say, I do not.

As you can imagine, this was an embarrassing situation for me and my date – but also for our waitress, who felt really bad and apologised. I didn’t take any offence, though; in fact I had a giggle about it afterwards.

Speaking to the person I’m with, not me

When I am out with a friend or family member, people who don’t know me sometimes ask questions to the person I’m with, rather than directly to me. For example, someone might ask, ‘Does he want a drink?’ I am quite capable of speaking for myself without any trouble.

Getting spoken to like a child

Another common awkward moment for me is being spoken to like a child. Sometimes, people – especially teenagers – will say things to the effect of ‘Awww, look at him’, as if they’re feeling sorry for me being short.

In all honesty, I don’t really want people feeling sorry for me. I lead a happy life just like anyone else – the only difference is that I am a bit shorter. It doesn’t mean I am not living a good life!

Children who stare and sometimes laugh

I do come across this a lot, children who stare and laugh. To be honest, this does not upset me at all – what does upset me is the way some parents handle the situation by yelling and punishing their children.

I think there’s a better way to handle it: by simply explaining to the child who I am and educating him or her a bit more.

Ending the Awkward

If I’m honest, we all go through embarrassing situations in life, disabled or not.
I think the best way to tackle these awkward moments is to be mature about it – explain and educate those who don’t quite know what to do, so that these awkward moments can be prevented from happening again. And remember that the awkwardness comes from both sides!Portrait shot of Phil wearing a football shirt

I think it’s important that we as disabled people need to start spreading awareness about what it is like to have a disability, and I strongly believe that educating people through campaigns such as this is a great way of doing so.

So please remember to handle those awkward moments with respect and understanding. That way, we can all help and educate each other.

Watch our comedy shorts on how to end the awkward, made in partnership with Channel 4. And we’d love to hear your awkward stories – email us on stories@scope.org.uk