Dear Orlando: What It Means To Be Different — Or (To Me) A Little Person

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As a writer, one of the things I’ve observed that still truly baffles me, is that the world can praise certain characteristics when it benefits them, but become angry,  engaged, disappointed when it does not.

For example: I get to continuously hear, “Why can’t you back down,  why can’t you let it go, why are you so stubborn?”

Of course I’m stubborn. If I wasn’t stubborn, it might bother me when I go out into the world and people at, say Walmart, stare at me.

As it stands, I’m so engulfed in my own okay-with-my-existence that I was twenty-one before a less secure friend pointed that out and asked if it didn’t bother me.

I never really noticed, I replied.

Stubborn.

 
Of course I am. If I wasn’t stubborn, it might have bothered me when kids say, “How come you didn’t grow any bigger?”

If I wasn’t stubborn, I might not have survived being the younger sibling with a brother that tried to intimidate and bully you all the time. Instead,  I just learned how to take a punch and lock myself in my room after running in the living room, shooting off at the mouth,  and then hope I didn’t have to pee before my Mom got home. Ha!

If I wasn’t stubborn, I might have believed that drunk boyfriend that told me I was nothing and then tried to split my lip.

Instead, he ended up afraid I was going to poison his meals.

You, world, don’t get to praise my stubborn; you don’t get to relish in the fact that I don’t back down from anything I believe in,  until I believe in a presidential candidate other than your own.

You don’t get to praise what a good heart I have — what a fighter I am — until I fight for something you don’t believe in.

You don’t get to tell me that I’m going to burn in hell, after continually praising the observations of the faith-based dependence that I have in life once I identify with the black man in the Oval Office in a way I haven’t identified with the soul of my fellow man in a long time.

You don’t get to praise me, and then attempt to limit me. You don’t get to admire me and then attempt to define me.

As a child, I was so afraid of my worst fears becoming reality. That on one of my many doctor appointments, he would confirm what I knew in my heart — I was unique. But instead of branding me special or gifted, I  would be stamped with the brand “flawed.”

It never happened. I’m almost positive that was my Mom’s doings. But no doctor ever looked at me and said “different.”  No one ever told me — until I was grown — what was “wrong” with me.

I was so afraid of that as I child. Not because I wasn’t okay with who I was, I always have been, but because I needed to be secure in exactly how I was going to navigate my life in a Super Size chocolate world as a Fun Size Candi-bar. I needed to know who I was — and be rooted in it — before the world tried to put labels on me.

Then, when I was twenty-two and drinking with a friend, we — like all drunk people do — started getting sentimental with each other.  Then she started telling me why, she believed, people admired me. And how much, at least in her opinion, people always looked up to me.  And why.

She said, “Here I was, struggling with my own insecurities, and it never seemed to bother you.  You never let it stop you. ”

Instantly, my mind retraced a letter from my friend Preetha years earlier and it all clicked.

I responded:  “Trina, if I never let on, or carried on, like I thought I was any different than everyone else, it’s because I didn’t know I was.” 

Except that I am.

I am not in my head. I’m still not — not to me — and never have been and never will be. I can do anything you can do, and a lot of times — hello, dribbling a basketball — I CAN do it better.

But, I’ve learned — or I’ve accepted, rather — that, to the world, I am different. And I always will be.

I’ve also come to embrace that it’s my responsibility as a human and a child of God to not only acknowledge that — but to own it, let it empower me, and make it my own. And to use it to speak out for those who are still struggling with acceptance themselves.

Whether gay, transgendered, a science geek in a family full of football fans, or simply someone like me who was born with little legs, a big mouth, and an extra toe.

It’s my job to fight for them.

It’s my job, reflecting  back on my sweet Hindi friend, to fight for the children of immigrants whose religion may be just a little different from our own.

It’s my job to fight for truth, for racial equality, for justice, for peace. To stand for the disabled who can’t;  see for those who have lost sight;  listen for the ones who can’t hear (even though I’ve only got 60% hearing to listen with); and to sing for those who still struggle to speak.

It’s my job to fight. It’s my job to be me.

And you will never limit me, world. Never.

Not by intimidation.  Not by gossip. Not by slander, libel, or bullying. Never will you silence or stop me.

I’ve needed every bit of stubborn to survive as me and I won’t reel it in now because it offends your hypocritical “Christian” sensibilities.

I’ve spent almost every day of my life with a heart that was consumed with helping someone besides me. I’m selfish, human, and scared — meaning I didn’t always succeed. But I can say with every bit of strength, truth, and absoluteness that I can summon from the pit of my — yes, unconquerable — soul, that if there isn’t a spot in this afterlife for people like me, man… some of you all are screwed.

I see you, Orlando. I hear you;  I’m with you; I love you.

And I will never stop fighting for you, never.

Your Short Sister,
Candi

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