Standing Tall Against Discrimination
by Matthew Campisi
March 2005

Part of the problem is that nobody wants to talk about it. I get so frustrated by the fact that there are literally millions of short men and women out there, who are struggling with their ascribed status in society, yet nobody wants to do anything about it. Sure, you have your occasional short guy who posts messages on internet chat groups, or perhaps takes it one step further by submitting an essay for inclusion in the Short Persons Support Web site. But is that enough? Are we really going to open people's eyes to the fact that they are treating us as second-class citizens by putting in minimal effort? If you're angry about the fact that you are devalued in this society, or if you simply want to help people to realize that heightism is occurring, I propose the following:

  1. You only have one life. Make it count. Don't allow hopelessness to consume you. You can be anything you want to be in this world. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Do not just shrug your shoulders and give up talking about or resisting height discrimination. In your weakest moments of self doubt and discouragement, I challenge all of you to speak more and more about height discrimination, to anyone who will listen. Let the world know that there is a problem.

  2. Take advantage of the internet, press, television, radio and other forms of media. Be brave and take the message to the people who are committing the discrimination. It will be difficult, but all fights are difficult. Don't be ashamed to confront the people who are discriminating against you. Tell them what they are doing. Tell them how it makes you feel. Tell them you won't stand for it anymore. Face the discrimination head on. Draw inspiration from the courage and conviction of the difficult struggle African-Americans, Jews, Homosexuals and others have faced. Do you think these groups got their message heard with minimal effort?

  3. Draw support from short people who are brave enough to talk about heightism. We are out there. Talk with people who are in your shoes. Listen to their stories. Hear their cries of anger, sadness, and disgust at the treatment they've encountered.

Height discrimination is a cancer in society. If you sit back and do nothing, the cancer will grow and it will eventually kill you. In this case, the cancer will kill your spirit. I propose that we as short people need to be brave. Short people need to stand up and fight for better treatment. Countless short guys have told me, "What can you do?.....It's just how things are." I propose that it is not how things ought to be. Your tongue is your weapon brothers and sisters! Use it!

I would like to take this opportunity to tell my story. Not because I want anyone to feel sorry for me. Rather, I feel that by sharing a part of my own personal struggles, I might provide some support and encouragement for others who are experiencing similar circumstances in life.

My name is Matt and I am 28 years old. I am 5'5" tall. I guess I am not the shortest person in the world, but I am by no means average. In fact, society seems to think that I am quite short. For most of my life I've been known as a little man, runt, little shit, shrimp, and most recently, mini me. I am full of vitality, with so much to offer this world, yet everyday of my life, someone, somewhere, treats me as if I am a child. A weak, defenseless, helpless child. In this society, I am not a man. I am a little boy.

I don't feel like I'm less than anyone else. In fact when I wake up in the morning and I look at myself in the mirror, I don't see what other people seem to see in me. I certainly don't see myself as weak, or inferior, or incapable. I see myself as a man.

Unfortunately, this is not how I am viewed by others. I am constantly reminded that I am in fact weak, inferior, and incapable. I am not a man, but more like a man in a little boy's body. Women are not interested in me because I am not physically attractive to them. My height seems to be a major turn-off. I had a girl tell me once that I couldn't possibly protect her because I was so little.

My boss thinks I'm immature, even though I am probably more mature than half the guys and girls I work with. I just can't seem to shake the image of a helpless little boy. Promotions don't seem to come my way because my boss doesn't believe that I can handle the work. I have to work twice as hard as tall guys do, or I will be left in the dust. People don't seem to take me seriously.

I seem to get laughed at a lot. HA HA HA! I'm the little short guy. "Don't make him mad or else his little guy syndrome will kick in and then I'll have to hurt the little bastard." I seem to be perpetually young, even as I grow older. I guess having a baby face is part of the problem, but it also seems that my height is partly to blame. I actually had a person tell me, "Oh, I thought you were much older from what our son described. You look so young. Not what I pictured at all. It must be because you're short. All short guys seem to look young. Yes, that's it; it's because you're so short." I was told later that my friend had described me as a very assertive guy. The parents naturally pictured a much taller individual in their minds and were shocked to see a little guy on their doorstep.

To most people, I am just a little guy. Do any tall guys wish to take my place? Any takers? Does anyone who is over 5' 9" tall want to trade places with me? Yeah, I didn't think so. So do I remind you of anyone?

Let's not mince words here... I never asked to be the "runt of the litter" in my family. I never asked to be labeled as weak. I certainly never asked to be rejected by women. But all of this is on my plate. Some may say it is a blessing. Without being short, had I been of average height, I never would have been as committed to being somebody, to being strong, and to finding love. This wretched curse has also been my greatest motivator. For that I am truly grateful.

If you wish to comment on this essay, please e-mail me at