By Alyce Collins
THIS FATHER was reported to the POLICE when a passer-by was concerned after seeing a man with a face covered with BLOOD before finding out he has a port wine stain across his face, while others have asked him if he’s CONTAGIOUS.
Technician, Eric Pixley (29) from Connecticut, USA, was born with a port wine stain on his face which he learned to embrace as part of his identity, but it’s the reaction from other people that has caused him to feel different.
When Eric was growing up, he couldn’t understand why his birthmark was there on his face and the stares he would get at school made him keep his head down, feeling ashamed of his own face.
Eric himself doesn’t see the peculiarity of his birthmark as he points out that other people choose to have tattoos inked onto their bodies, this is just his own natural equivalent. However, the comments make accepting his birthmark more difficult as Eric admits that one of the most hurtful comments he received was whether he was contagious.
In 2017, Eric was walking down the road when a police car pulled up alongside him and asked to speak with Eric because someone became concerned and reported a man walking with blood on his face who may need medical attention. When Eric showed the police officer his birthmark, he apologised and left Eric to continue walking.
The repeated comments and continued stares have made Eric see how uneducated today’s society can be when it comes to birthmarks. This led Eric to start his Instagram page, @portwineproud to encourage people to stop staring at people’s birthmarks and ask them about them instead.
“The day I was born, I gained more than a name as I was also born with a birthmark,” said Eric.
“When I was little, I knew it was there but didn’t understand why. I think it really grabbed my attention when I was about five years old.
“When I was in school, I always kept my head down as if I was ashamed. Although I never once tried to cover up my birthmark because it’s a part of me. There was a time when my school headteacher suggested I cover it up because she was more afraid of the bullying than I was.
“I have never resented my birthmark though because it’s a larger part of me than my own beating heart is, and I wouldn’t be me without it.
“People stare at my birthmark all the time – more often than you would think. If I charged for every stare I get, I’d be rich.
“People comment on my birthmark often as well, but I think the worst comment would be when people have asked me ‘is that contagious?’. It’s as if they think I should have a biohazard sign on my forehead.
“It makes me feel like today’s society is uneducated and doesn’t necessarily accept difference. The weird thing is that people get tattoos on their bodies all the time. I was just born with one.
“There was one time a couple of years ago when I was simply walking down the road with a friend and out of nowhere, a police officer pulled us over and asked whether we needed any medical attention.
“He looked concerned, and it made me feel like I’d done something wrong, but clearly that wasn’t the case.
“What had happened was someone nearby had reported seeing a man with blood on his face, after mistaking my port wine stain for heavy bleeding.”
Eric, who has a 10-month-old-son Roman with wife Amanda, admits that his birthmark became a good talking point while he was dating, and his wife no longer sees it as a difference.
After coming to appreciate his port wine stain, Eric feared having to explain his birthmark to his young son when he begins to notice it. However, Eric is happy to speak openly about his birthmark and to provide people with answers regarding it.
“My birthmark actually made dating easier for me, believe it or not. It became the wingman I always wanted,” said Eric.
“When I met my wife, she embraced it. She is a very understanding person and she supports the birthmark community happily. Now, after being together for five years, she says that she doesn’t even see it when she looks at me.
“Accepting and loving my birthmark has helped me reach out to a community who have swiftly become like family to me, who, when I was growing up, I didn’t think existed.
“It has also helped to me help others who walk in the same shoes as me and who struggle with their appearance.
“I want to show people that no matter what size, shape or colour we are, we are all the same and we are brave.”
You can follow Eric’s Instagram page @portwineproud.