More Life Stories

My Life, My Wish, My Advice

I’m 59, give or take.

I have hypospadias. Mild hypospadias, sub-coronal, if you like. If you know about it, you will understand. Otherwise, Dr. Google.

Boys from the age of 9/10 have always been aware of themselves and others and always will be.

In fact, the age is probably decreasing to this day. I was born and brought up in a rural, farming, conservative (small ‘c’), Bible fearing community, if not society, in the late 50’s and 60’s, in the UK.

Boys would pee on walls, trees, weeds and not be afraid or shy, to have their friends see them. About 50 years ago, therefore, I worked out that I was different. My stuff didn’t look like that, of the crowd I hung around with; my penis didn’t have a foreskin, but a hoodie, in present day terminology.

I don’t remember merciless ribbing and abuse at that time. That came later. At my primary school in the 60’s, the toilets were basic. Urinal was a concrete channel to a hole in the ground. Outside in a tin shack. Yes, really!

All the boys stood together and made notes, compared and contrasted.

I have no recollection of having my difference explained to me.

I do, however, have vivid memories of asking my parents, first my mother, then my father why I wasn’t the same as Alastair.

This was around that time. The answers were immediately dismissive, “that you were just different”, “not all boys are the same”, etc. etc. My dad wanted me to discuss it with my mum, “that was her responsibility”.

Before you ask, my hypospadias was, and still is, immediately obvious and my nappy had been changed hundreds of times in prior years.

They did know and it was never discussed with me and no support was ever offered, that I recall. That shaped, directed and formatted my very life, self and being.  And has done for tens of thousands. It is an area that has always been off limits, forbidden, whatever you want to call it.

The more I read, the more I understand that it is still, almost universally, a taboo topic. That must change. Boys are looking for help in understanding and coming to terms with the condition. There always seems to be an argument that size matters. What is more important is that appearance matters.

In primary school, I had an unlikely ally. I hit puberty early, so my penis grew, I developed pubic hair and the appearance of my penis became less of a negative issue. Phew. The ribbing stopped for a while.

I entered my next school and wanted to play rugby. I was immediately scared, really scared, about the abuse and bullying I would get in the changing rooms, most days of the school week and at Saturday games.

I spent most my years showering in a pair of undies after a game or training. I couldn’t face the idea of dealing with the taunting. I tried to speak with my mother. Her response, and I think, the first time I heard it, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you.”

I, I alone, developed a method of dealing with it. Not ideal. Far from it.

In the days BG (Before Google) it was difficult to find information on many things. School libraries, not really for this topic. Local authority libraries, little information. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I found out enough information to satisfy me and my craving for detail.

If you’ve read this, you will recognise that my condition was minor compared to many and I decided in my twenties not to have anything done to attempt correction of the condition.

The risks associated with surgery, by that age, outweighed the benefits of the procedure. I really, really feel as if I had no one to talk to about my condition and I still desperately wish I had had someone to talk to. That was the case in the 60’s and 70’s. Not even my parents.  I have little doubt it is slightly better now. But perhaps only slightly?

My point is, that my condition is mild, I lived with it, I had an active sex life as a teenager, and have 3 children of my own, but your boys need more help and support than you will ever know, unless you have suffered the same condition yourself. They need help in so many ways. Please, discuss this with, and support, your sons.

I have no knowledge if the condition is or was already in my family, this was never discussed.

However, back to the compare and contrast comment. None of my cousins has been impacted. Both my parents have now passed away but neither would discuss the subject despite me trying several further times.

When my son was born almost 30 years ago, I cried …….My wife always said it was because my second child was a boy.

No. I cried because he was “normal”. It was immediately apparent. The instant he was born.

I later went home from the hospital and cried again.

I also cried after my only grandson (to date) was born and I changed his nappy. Same reason.

It matters.

There are still no clear, undisputed reasons for this condition. However, it would appear to be clear that chemicals, widely used in the environment, can have an effect. From the investigation I did some years ago it appears that chemicals used in hairdressing back in the 50’s probably had a significant impact. My mum worked in a hairdresser’s, when she was carrying me. It’s also possible it runs in families………. It may be hereditary………. We lived on a farm with many chemicals……. Who knows?

It matters.

But the condition is clearly still more pronounced than it was (or people are more prepared to discuss it).

More needs to be done, by parents or carers, to help the boys still trying to cope with this themselves.  Alone, in many cases.

Around the time I was 20 years old and looking for answers, the lyrics from the George Benson track, The Greatest Love of All, resonated with me, “so I learned to depend on me”.

Boys need help through this. More than you will ever fully appreciate or realise. Let’s not have more generations cope alone, on their own.

John