29-year-old Eric Pixley was born with an unusual birthmark that has led to strangers asking him if he is contagious and police being called on him.
The father-of-one has a large red birthmark that covers almost half of his face.
When he was younger, he would hide his face at school because his classmates stared at him. There was a time when a stranger called 911 after thinking he was covered in blood.
But Pixley says he has now embraced his unique feature and wants to encourage other people to ask questions about his face instead of staring at him.
Most marks or port wine stains appear on the face, but they can also show on legs, torso, and arms. It usually starts out as a light pink hue but turns to purple or red.
Port wine stains occur when capillaries, small blood vessels, become very dilated, turning the skin a reddish or purplish color.
According to a 1976 study, the birthmark is found in about 3 in 1,000 births.
Pixley said when he was a child, he could not understand why he had a mark and the uncomfortable glances made him lower his head all the time.
“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,” he shared.
“There was a time when my school headteacher suggested I cover it up because she was more afraid of the bullying than I was.”
The stares continue and many strangers still ask him about his face. “People comment on my birthmark often…but I think the worst comment would be when people have asked me: “Is that contagious?”” Pixley said.
“It’s as if they think I should have a biohazard sign on my forehead. The weird thing is that people get tattoos on their bodies all the time. I was just born with one.”
“When I met my wife, she embraced it,” he expressed. “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.”
He added: “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.
“I want to show people that no matter what size, shape or color we are, we are all the same and we are brave.”
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