What You're Dying to Know, But Too Afraid to Ask - Part 1
October is Dwarfism Awareness Month, so I decided to do a few posts in order to educate others and open up about life as a little person.
As humans, we are naturally curious. It’s how our brains are wired. So when someone new meets me for the first time, their curiosity sometimes gets the best of them. I feel like there are always burning questions that everyone is dying to know. Some are brave to come out and ask them, while others are so scared to offend that they completely ignore me altogether. I don’t mind answering questions, I actually really love it. I love educating people and taking away the fear of the unknown. Some of my greatest friendships have started by a brave soul saying, “Hey! Can I ask you a question?!” Followed by many more as they are often fascinated by my genuine openness. For the most part, as long as you are respectful and treat me with dignity, it’s pretty hard to offend me. Therefore this post is dedicated to all of the people that are curious and full of questions… The ones that are too afraid to ask and are scared that their curiosity will offend me. Below you will find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions I receive on a regular basis.
What is the preferred terminology?
For some reason, society wants to put a label on everything, although sometimes labels can be extremely hurtful. Ever since I was a little kid, anytime I would hear the term “Midget,” my soul would cringe. It was like someone poured lemon juice into a deep gaping wound that I didn’t know existed. No one ever told me it was offensive. I just knew based on how I felt when the word was used, mostly because it was never used in a positive manner. It was always used to make fun, joke, or bully. It’s a term that dates all the way back to 1865, the “freak show era.” A time when little people were seen as the bottom of society, as freaks to be made fun of, and put on display for others’ public amusement. Some opinions may differ, but for most little people this term is considered extremely offensive, similar to how the N-word or R-word are equally as offensive in other communities.
From a medical point of view, I have dwarfism, so could be considered a dwarf. However, that still sounds slightly mythological to me. If I must be labeled, I would refer to myself as a little person or LP. However, my name - Megan - works just as well.
When referring to individuals that don’t have dwarfism, the preferred terminology is “average” vs. “normal.” Normal implies that something is wrong with us or we are abnormal. For example, in conversations I would say, “Everyone in my family is of average height.”
What type of dwarfism do we have?
There are over 200 types of dwarfism in the world. Some are more common, while others may have only one known case. Jeremy and I have the most common form of dwarfism, which is known as Achondroplasia. It occurs between 1 out of 26,000 to 40,000 births, and is a genetic condition that results in shorter arms and legs, while maintaining an average-sized torso. The average height for someone with Achondroplasia is around 4’ tall. I am 4’ tall, while Jeremy is 4’7”.
Are our parents little people?
Both Jeremy and I were born to average-sized parents and have average-sized siblings, as is the case with at least 80% of children with dwarfism. This happens with a genetic mutation somewhere in conception. The cause of this is unknown.
Will our children be little people?
This is probably one of the most common questions I am asked. It varies among couples, depending on the type of dwarfism that’s present and whether both parents are little or average height. If Jeremy were an average sized person, our chances of having a child with dwarfism would be 50-50. However, because we are both little, our genetic makeup consists of 1 Average-Sized (AS) Gene, and 1 Dwarfism (D) Gene. The D gene is dominant, which leaves us with a 50% chance that our child will receive the D gene from either one of us, making our child a little person. There is a 25% chance that we will both give our AS gene to the child, in which case they will be of average height. There is also a 25% chance that we will both give our D gene to the child. This creates a double-dominant scenario, which has a very slim survival rate outside of the womb, usually living only a few hours, if that. No matter what our children are diagnosed with, and no matter how long we have with them with us on earth, we will love each one of them dearly.
For now, these are some of the basics. Stay tuned for more questions answered in my next post, such as is it offensive to ask if I need help reaching something? How do we drive? How do we go shopping? Where do we buy our clothes? Followed by ways to hurt me vs. ways to love me.
For me this is my everyday life and I am letting you in. I don’t always know what people wonder or are curious about, so I am giving you permission to ask. If there are any questions that I haven’t answered yet or I didn’t mention for my upcoming post, you can feel free to ask me anything you’d like in my contact section. I will do my best to publicly answer any question that is asked in a respectful manner. :)
In the meantime, thank you for learning and taking the time to educate yourself. Thank you for taking one step in the journey to create awareness among the world and cure naivety.