Recently, I caught part of Dennis Miller’s radio show. He was posing a rhetorical question about whether Peter Dinklage would prefer to be called a midget or little person. Apparently, he was aware of the fact that midget has fallen out of favor but was struggling to understand how the alternative is preferable. I am sure he is not alone. I’ve never met Mr. Dinklage, but I am a “little person,” so I thought I’d try to share some perspective. This rarely goes over well for us, especially when dealing with comedians. More often than not, our efforts to educate just get used as fodder for more derision, but I’d like to think Dennis could be bigger than that. I can’t speak for Peter, but I can share a pertinent quote from the man.
“Dwarves are still the butt of jokes. It’s one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice.” —Peter Dinklage
As for midget, among short-statured individuals, it is generally considered a pejorative. For most of us, it is as offensive as the N word is to a black person. To me, personally, it just feels dehumanizing. The term is believed to have been coined to sensationalize diminutive people found in “freak shows.” For some, at the time, that was the only value they had in society. You can imagine why we want to distance ourselves from that image. Peter has broken through to the upper echelons of the most socially influential of industries. He has helped to change perceptions of us in a profoundly positive way. With his Golden Globe, Emmy, and People Magazine‘s Sexiest Man Alive nominations, one of us has finally arrived. It’s almost as big a deal to us as the first black president is to the African-American community.
No one likes to be labeled, whether for their height, weight, color, religion, ethnicity, or other difference. Yet there are terms that are less offensive than others, and where would we be without descriptives? Our community seems to have come to a consensus on the term “Little People.” It’s not my first choice, but I prefer it to the alternative. I tend to use the term “short statured,” and most of us are comfortable with the medical terminology describing us as dwarfs or having dwarfism. All that being said, if you wanna call me a midget, knock yourself out. Just know that if you do, I and the rest of the Lilliputians will refer to you as an insensitive, bigoted jerk!