Dwarves have a few things in common with the LGBT community. Historically, both have had a pretty hard time of it, marginalised and ridiculed despite the fact there's not really a huge amount you can do about your size or sexuality. So you'd expect there to be some mutual understanding there, right?
According to the gay dwarf drag performer Damian Fatale: no. He says homophobia is as rife among little people as prejudice towards dwarves is in the LGBT community, meaning if you're a gay dwarf you're subject to bigotry from both sides. This, of course, is just one man's experience – it's safe to assume that not all dwarves are raging homophobes – but Damian is adamant that more should be done to promote acceptance of different body shapes and sizes among gay people.
I recently spoke to him about some of the problems facing LGBT little people.
VICE: Hi Damian. What do you think are the unique obstacles that gay little people face?
Damian Fatale: When you're a little person, you feel like you're alone in a world that wasn't made for you. When you add homosexuality on top of that, that feeling of being different from everybody else becomes even stronger. It can be a difficult thing to overcome. Being homosexual and being a little person are two completely different things; dwarfism is a physical condition and homosexuality is all about who you're attracted to. I feel like homosexuality simply isn't relevant to the rest of the little people community, and that they don't comprehend the idea of a gay little person or understand what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community.
And, in your experience, that works both ways, right?
When I was in high school, I would get bullied by the Gay-Straight Alliance members. They would constantly be on me, trying to make sure that I fit impossible standards because they thought I embarrassed all the gay kids at that school. I think it was because I was obviously different and they wanted to be seen as regular people.
So you think the desire to be viewed as "normal" within the LGBT community can sometimes act as an obstacle to the acceptance of minorities within the community?
Deep down, everyone wants to be accepted by their peers. Unfortunately, the desire to be viewed as a "normal person" leads to bullying within the gay community. People think that if they associate with someone different, like me, everyone around them will think that they're different too. It's an obstacle that a lot of gay people have to face.
Has that made dating harder?
I've got one of the rarest types of dwarfism; it's called Schmid metaphyseal chondrodysplasia. The most common type of dwarfism is achondroplasia. I would imagine dating would be much harder for people with achondroplasia because they're smaller. I have little to no difficulties with dating because people who have my form of dwarfism are taller than those with other types of dwarfism.
What do you think could be done to remove the stigma that LGBT little people are sometimes faced with?
More media attention could be given to us. Little people have a lot of stereotypes. I think if we got our voices out to the people, more of them would understand. The reason we are mistreated is because people don't understand. We live in a world where people think that "midget" is the proper medical term. It's time to change that.
Yeah, plenty of mainstream newspapers and TV channels still use that word.
The problem is that our voices aren't being heard. People use derogatory terms without even realising how hurtful they can be. Most people who ask me about my dwarfism use the term "midget" without realising it's politically incorrect.
How do you respond to that?
If someone were to come up to me and say, "Are you a midget?", instead of getting mad and defensive I'd say, "No, I'm a chibi," and they would laugh. If you can make people laugh, they will listen.
Yeah, it's a Japanese slang word meaning "short person" or "small child". The word has gained popularity among fans of manga and anime. I dress up as an anime character and call myself the drag chibi in my performances.
I was born with a gift, not a problem. I wouldn't change my dwarfism in any way if I had the choice. It gives me an edge that other queens wish they had. I'm four foot nine and my shoes are a size seven, so I have no problem buying clothes in my size. I feel bad for the drag queens who are much taller, because they have to order special shoes and clothes to fit them. My clothing is also less expensive than theirs.
Anyway, getting back to the topic, a lot of people still think it's OK to make fun of little people. When people think of dwarves, they still think of us with a freak show mentality. We need to get the general public to understand that dwarfism is merely a medical condition, and that we're normal people like everybody else.
There are other problems in other parts of the world. For example, little people have been confined to a camp in North Korea. The government originally planned to kill them all for being "undesirables". The general public there thinks these people have dwarfism because of sins that people in their family have committed. It's disgusting. In places like that, there's still a lot of work to be done.
There's not exactly a great amount of media representation of LGBT little people. Do you think that contributes to the problem?
Yes, the LGBT media tends to portray only a few body types. Look at our advertisements; you either have the body of a Ken doll, or the physical characteristics of a Spartan warrior. We should explore the idea that all bodies are beautiful. Gay people aren't just performers and models; they have normal jobs, too, and are normal people. To suggest otherwise is very unrealistic.
Finally, what changes do you feel could benefit LGBT little people?
I think that LGBT little people need to be open, come out of the closet and let the world know that they're here. Life is hard, but it can also be wonderful. If there isn't a space available for you, create it. I want everyone to know that they are beautiful – that there is nothing wrong with the way you were born.
WATCH – Kingdom of the Little People