Gay influencer opens up about dating with a facial birth defect

Social media influencer Atholl Mills has spoken about living as a gay man with a facial birth defect.

Mills, who has more than 164,000 followers on TikTok, uses his platform to educate people on his condition, cystic hygroma, and other visible differences, while making them laugh. 

The Scottish social media influencersays he has a fear of going on a date because of how he looks and someone being “repulsed”. 

He has posted several TikTok videos on the topic, one with the caption: “Honestly, being disfigured and gay has thrown a lot of unnecessary conversations my way at times.” 

Cystic hygroma, also known as lymphatic malformation, is a collection of fluid-filled sacs known as cysts that result from a malformation in the lymphatic system. The growths usually occur in the head and neck area of an infant.

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels within the body which form part of the immune system. Lymph nodes are located in the neck, armpits and groin areas. A cystic hygroma forms when the lymph vessels fail to form correctly during the first few weeks of pregnancy.

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It cannot be prevented as it occurs early in pregnancy, sometimes even before the mother knows she’s expecting.

Speaking about his difference to PinkNews, Atholl says “I don’t fit the cookie-cutter mould that a lot of other gay men look for.

I’m not super tall, I’m not super, super, attractive. I am attractive, just not super attractive,” he jokes. 

Using his online platform to educate others has exposed him to trolls, whom he does his best to ignore, deleting their hateful comments from his videos.

When he was a child, Atholl’s family was told the chances of him surviving were not good, he says they were “told to say goodbye” and that he “probably wouldn’t make it through surgery”. 

The surgery left him with facial palsy: a weakness of muscles that resulted in permanent facial paralysis on his left side. But it was only at school that he realised his birth defect made him different, when another child pointed it out. 

Negative reaction to how he looks previously led him to be afraid to leave his home, but in 2011 he decided to look at himself differently after overcoming all the barriers he was told he would come up against. 

Despite feeling more confident, Atholl still finds it difficult to date and is yet to have a relationship. But he is hopeful about the future.

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“I am so far removed from the person who hated himself,” he said. 

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