I am just shy of six feet tall. There are times when that is uncomfortable, like when I go to a performance at the highschool and the theater seats don’t leave leg room. There are cars I would rather not ride in, and backseats I just can’t use as-intended. Generally, though, it is a blessing to be on the high end of normal height. In most crowds, with a little effort, I can see over and around everyone. I’m unlikely have my view blocked by someone sitting in front of me at the movies. I can reach things on the top shelf, even if they are pushed back some, at the grocery store.
And I try to use my height to help people who can’t reach those shelves. I try to be aware, when possible, of who sits behind me at events. I try to use my height in ways that share the benefits while minimizing the issues it might cause others. Having to wait for help clearly frustrates people. I do what I can, but it is no substitute for being able to reach things on your own, I am sure.
This weekend at church, I was standing in the hallway with a number of people who were between 5 foot 10 and 6 foot 6. Mind you, there were plenty of people who were also under 5 and a half feet tall. I was actually about average. It felt so strange. I couldn’t just shift to the side a little and see over the crowd. I wasn’t at the advantage that I was used to, and it was a little uncomfortable at first. It wasn’t even that I was hindered in any way that mattered; I was just used to a certain perspective that I was temporarily denied.
My Perspective Was Temporarily Changed for Me.
I am a 5 foot 11, straight, white, cis-gendered man. My whole life is honestly full of situations where I have a slight, or not so slight, advantage just because of the body I was born in. A lot of times, I am oblivious to those advantages, even the big ones, because they are just how the world reacts to me. I didn’t do anything special to be able to reach those shelves, and I didn’t do anything special to have my voice heard or respected more so than might a woman or Person of Color. I like to think that I try to use my advantages, my privilege, to make other people’s lives easier. It’s no substitute for simple accessibility.
I want to live in a world where every single person is encouraged to become the best version of themselves. We need the best each person has to offer, irrespective of their gender, the color of their skin, or the amount of money their parents made. There are always going to be things that we just can’t even out about the world; height or mobility or sensory impairments. I still believe we can, with a little effort, make the world more fair and accessible. Given the state of things, we can’t afford to risk missing out on another George Washington Carver, Madame Curie, or Steven Hawking. We cannot allow skin tone, gender identity, or physical ailment to be barriers to success.
Even if that means the discomfort of having to change our perspective, to feel average when we are so used to feeling tall, to make that possible. I’m willing. Are you?