Being a man can be a hard job. The rise of the 21st century metrosexual male, adorned with plastic surgery, fake tans and self-grooming, has meant that more men are in pursuit of perfection, and looking young is becoming more desirable. Being a man with a disfigurement, juxtaposed against a backdrop of narcissism and nip/tuck, can be even harder.
Having a disfigurement means you’re stripped of your social anonymity and your gender identity can be corrupted—by the latter I mean you lose part of your masculinity and you can feel like a second-rate citizen, or as the film industry likes to depict us: subhuman monstrosities. When you’re disfigured, your face blurs the ideals of what it means to be beautiful and successful, and your social boundaries are as contorted as your disfigurement is.
I no longer measure my success on how much money I earn or the friends I have, but the amount of awkwardness and hostility I experience in my everyday life—the less the better. As others around me are getting engaged, getting married, buying houses, and having children, I’m resigned to the fact that many of these life events, which often define a man and which men aspire to attain, are not realistic aims for someone like myself. This doesn’t mean I won’t achieve them, it just means that it wouldn’t be unexpected if I didn’t.
Disfigurement is often subconsciously regarded as an antithesis to beauty and success. Past studies have shown that members of the public find it difficult to associate positive words with photos of disfigured faces, and they may often assume that we must be unhappy, unintelligent and unsuccessful. There’s a reason why disfigurement is rarely seen on TV, rarely seen in magazines and rarely seen on the street. People don’t want to associate themselves with things deemed ugly.
In a society which prides itself on an archetype where men should be assured, handsome and intelligent, people with disfigurements are mere castaways. No matter how thick my skin is or how much confidence I exude, it doesn’t escape the fact that my disfigurement is an autonomous barrier. Some members of the public accept me for who I am (a 24yo man), whilst others refuse to acknowledge my presence, and then there are those who make their feelings clear, i.e. verbal harassment.
Part of the culture of living with a disfigurement is to expect the stigma that comes attached with it. Growing up looking different was tough, but as I’ve started to find my way in life I realise that even men are prone to playing the role of the bully. Adolescence may bring adulthood, but adulthood doesn’t necessarily bring maturity.
—Photo credit: altemark/Flickr