For Jarrah Killingback, living with gynecomastia or ‘male breasts’, makes a simple pleasure like going to the beach daunting.
“When I was in year seven at high school we had an annual swimming carnival… When I dried myself off there were ten or fifteen kids around all saying offensive things – ‘ladyboy’, ‘fag’, and yelling out ‘he’s got tits’,” says the 23-year-old.
“It was a rude shock. I went back home and talked to my old man about it and he laughed it off. It made me afraid of people. I was just 12 years old. After that, I always kept my school jumper on.”
The condition is typically caused by an imbalance in hormones and causes the formation of breast tissue in men. The long-term use of drugs including marijuana and anabolic steroids can also lead to the condition.
Long-term use of drugs including marijuana and anabolic steroids can also lead to the condition.
“It really affects sexual intimacy and the willingness to have your shirt off in public,” says male body image psychologist from the University of Melbourne Dr Scott Griffiths.
“Sixty per cent of Australian men are dissatisfied with at least one part of their body.”
Liam Webb had gynecomastia as a teenager and into his adulthood, but two years ago the 28-year-old decided to have cosmetic surgery to get his breasts removed.
“It was very embarrassing and awkward because the nipple would puff up, it made my school uniform look funny, it made my clothes look unusual and even after winter ended I ended up keeping wearing my jumper at school,” says Liam.
I don’t know if I would get surgery even if I could afford it.
“I decided to get surgery in 2015 because I knew that there was nothing that I could do to change this… So I chose to go public about my surgery pre and post just because I wanted to just be open about it and you know …and I thought ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve always wanted to do the merman so thing, so I thought why don’t I like, to celebrate it.”
Jarrah says that while the idea of surgery has crossed his mind he’s still not convinced he will go down that path.
“I don’t know if I would get surgery even if I could afford it because it’s part of who I am. Showing people and telling people is making my path easier. If people know about it then I have nothing to hide.”