National Organization of Short Statured Adults

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National Organization of Short Statured Adults
Founded 2005
Type Unincorporated association
Focus activism and education
Area served

The National Organization of Short Statured Adults (NOSSA) was an American non-profit advocacy group for adults of short stature. The organization clearly defined "short stature" to be men 170 cm (5'7") or below and women 157.5 cm (5'2") or below in height.[1] The group advocated on behalf of short people and hoped to foster greater acceptance of short people within society. NOSSA was opposed to the prejudice known as heightism. The group defined heightism as, "a prejudiced attitude about human height that often results in discrimination. It is based on the belief that short stature is an inferior trait and therefore undesirable."[2] The organization ran a series of public education programs, sponsored height-related research, acted as a media "watch-dog" group, provided legal assistance for those affected by heightism, hosted online discussion groups, and invited members to gather once a year for an annual convention. NOSSA ended in early 2013 due to lack of support.


NOSSA was formed in New York City in 2005. The organization is run by a four-person board of directors (trustees) who are elected to serve four-year terms in office. In May 2006 the group's secretary made comments in support of a Nebraska judge's decision not to send a short man to jail over child sexual abuse charges, due to a risk of his stature affecting his safety in prison.[3] The organization apologised for the comments and removed the trustee who had made them, as well as making a donation to the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.[4] Short Support Editor, Steven Goldsmith became the new Secretary. In July 2006, NOSSA began producing a podcast called, Standing Tall Against Discrimination. In May 2008, NOSSA was featured in the Canadian Documentary S&M Short and Male.[5]

HGH controversy[edit]

In 2003, The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of human growth hormone (hGH) for children well below the average height with no medically determined cause, also known as idiopathic short stature. GH therapy had been prescribed previously for only medically determined causes of reduced height. Most patients to which this therapy was now made available produce normal levels of growth hormone on their own. Some other biological cause(s) still place these children more than 2 standard deviations below average height.

NOSSA announced its opposition to the use of human growth hormone for short, but otherwise healthy, children. The organization believes being short isn’t a problem; the real difficulties lies in the social bias against short people. In part to define the organization's position on the matter, NOSSA representative and author Ellen Frankel LCSW stated, "What we need is education for those who discriminate against short people, not the genetic engineering of the victims of that prejudice."[6] Frankel states, "The growth hormone deficient child suffers from an underlying medical problem that affects the body's health in different ways. The non-growth-hormone-deficient child has no underlying medical problem. They simply present as a variation on the norm with regard to height. The decision to medically intervene on the healthy child's stature is socially based due to height discrimination and prejudice."[7]

Cosmetic leg lengthening[edit]

Leg lengthening is a complex process that has traditionally been performed primarily on children to correct disproportional leg lengths. It has also been an option for people with dwarfism to gain height. More recently, the procedure has been used to give people with constitutional short stature two or three extra inches of height. (Constitutional short stature refers to people who are in the bottom fifth percentile of height in their region and do not display any deformities common with dwarfism.)

NOSSA claims to receive hundreds of e-mails each year from people requesting more information on cosmetic leg lengthening. The group actively discourages short statured people from undergoing leg lengthening solely for cosmetic reasons. The group encourages anyone who is seriously considering the surgery to research the procedure and surgeon thoroughly before undergoing the procedure. NOSSA encourages people to accept and love themselves as they are.[8]

Princeton economist study[edit]

In August 2006, a study by Princeton University economists Anne Case and Christina Paxson, "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes"[9] concluded that tall people are smarter than their height-challenged peers. The researchers report, "On average, taller people earn more because they are smarter. As early as age 3 — before schooling has had a chance to play a role — and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests. The correlation between height in childhood and adulthood is approximately 0.7 for both men and women, so that tall children are much more likely to become tall adults. As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require more advanced verbal and numerical skills and greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns."[9] Case and Paxson emphasized that the correlation between height and intelligence was due to non-genetic factors, such as health and nutrition in utero and in childhood. As they explained, "Our results say nothing about the relationship between cognitive ability and that part of height that is determined by genetic background. Our results speak to that part of height that is driven by health and nutrition. There are very many very smart short people (Einstein comes to mind) and, frankly, many not-so-smart tall people."

NOSSA Secretary Steven Goldsmith responded to the study by stating, "If a similar study made similar conclusions about any other minority group, there would be fierce outrage from those groups and sympathy from many who are not in those groups."[10] NOSSA Advisor Ellen Frankel LCSW continued, "We understand racism. It's time we take a serious look at heightism."[10]

In reporting on the study, the media simplified the connection that the economists had drawn between height and intelligence. Paxson and Case theorize a person genetically programmed to be 6'4" who reaches only 6'2" because of poor nutrition is not necessarily smarter than someone who with optimal nutrition has reached his full height potential of 5'4".[11]

eHarmony boycott[edit]

On April 2, 2007, NOSSA called for a boycott of the online dating website eHarmony. Their press release cited:

"Suspicions have been confirmed after numerous tests indicated that the exact same responses to the website’s membership questionnaire, with the exception of physical height, resulted in either approval of membership (when an acceptable tall height was submitted) or denial of membership (when a short height was submitted). These tests were conducted numerous times to ensure accuracy. The National Organization Of Short Statured Adults has requested a full explanation from the company. On June 1, 2007, NOSSA received a response from eHarmony in which the company denied that it had ever discriminated against short statured people."[12]

Legal programs[edit]

NOSSA provides legal assistance for members who present valid claims of height discrimination in employment, housing and other real estate, public accommodations, public service, and educational facilities.[13] There is one U.S. state, Michigan, that prohibits height discrimination.[14] There is pending legislation introduced by Massachusetts Representative Byron Rushing that would add Massachusetts to the list.[15]

Two U.S. municipalities prohibit height discrimination: Santa Cruz, California[16] and San Francisco, California.[17] The District of Columbia prohibits discrimination based on personal appearance.[18]

Ontario, Canada prohibits height discrimination under the human rights code.[19] Victoria, Australia prohibits discrimination based on physical features under the Equal Opportunity Act of 1995.[20]

Although NOSSA is not directly involved in any lobbying activities, the group supports height discrimination legislation. NOSSA also provides legal assistance to members who present valid claims of fraud perpetuated by various growth-product manufacturers.[21]

Children and young adult programs[edit]

Bullying involves the tormenting of others through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation. Smaller children and young adults are often perceived as being physically weaker and vulnerable. Because of this, short kids are frequently targeted by bullies. NOSSA provides support services for short statured kids and their families who are experiencing a bullying problem.[22] NOSSA also offers a college scholarship award each year to a young short statured person.[23]


On January 15, 2013, NOSSA announced on its website that the group would be ceasing operations due to a lack of support.[24]


  1. ^ NOSSA FAQ
  2. ^ NOSSA web page on heightism (2006)
  3. ^ Too short for prison ruling protested - Washington Times, May 27, 2006.
  4. ^ NOSSA response to Mangano comments - NOSSA Blogspot page, May 27, 2006.
  5. ^ Short & Male Documentary - Short & Male Documentary Website, September 22, 2008.
  6. ^ About Heightism page - Beyond Measure website.
  7. ^ [1] NOSSA HGH Issue Website, 2006.
  8. ^ NOSSA position on cosmetic leg lengthening NOSSA website, December 2006.
  9. ^ a b Case, A. and Paxson, C. "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes." NBER Working Paper No. 12466, August 2006.
  10. ^ a b NOSSA Response to Princeton Economic Study. - NOSSA website, August 2006.
  11. ^ Shortchanged article - New Yorker website, September 2006.
  12. ^, eHarmony Discriminates Against Short Men.
  13. ^ Text of the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976
  14. ^ Text of MA House bill 3752, 2006
  15. ^ Chapter 9.83 of the City of Santa Cruz code - "Prohibition against Discrimination", 1992.
  16. ^ Text of Compliance Guidelines To Prohibit Weight and Height Discrimination; San Francisco Administrative Code Chapters 12A, 12B and 12C and San Francisco Municipal/Police Code Article 33, July 26, 2001.
  17. ^ Text District of Columbia Human Rights Act
  18. ^ Text Ontario, Canada Human Rights Code
  19. ^ Text Victoria, Australia Equal Opportunity Act of 1995
  20. ^ NOSSA Legal Assistance Program - NOSSA website, December 2006.
  21. ^ NOSSA Kids Section - NOSSA website, December 2006.
  22. ^ NOSSA College Scholarship Award - NOSSA website, December 2006.
  23. ^ "NOSSA Set To Close It's [sic] Doors". January 15, 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2015. 

External links[edit]