“I tried covering it up with cardboard or tape,” Arturo said, “but I couldn’t breathe. I tried to wrap myself, but it didn’t work.” Like many of the boys who gained weight on Risperdal, the gynecomastia was overlooked at first. “The more weight I lose, the more disfigured I become.”
As a boy with breasts, high school was hell for Arturo. “The kids are cruel in school, and that’s a big part of why I didn’t graduate.” As his mother, Margareta, listened in, Arturo described two incidents he had never spoken about before. In one case he described how a girl in a classroom “started feeling me up and saying ‘these are softer than mine.’” Another time, he said, “A guy grabs me and feels me up, so I punched him and got out of there.” Arturo didn’t go back to school the next day, afraid of retaliation. In fact, he never went back.
“I try to act like they’re not there, but everytime I look in the mirror, they are. In the car, you hit and bump and you feel it. Children grab you to figure out what you are. I know I’m a guy, and I don’t want people to think I’m transgender. I have this beard to look more manly.”
Arturo would like to have surgery to remove the breasts. He has pamphlets from doctors, but he cannot afford the procedure. “If I had the operation, I would walk around without shame.” For now, however, he stays in as much as possible. He has no friends -- just his brother. He’s never dated. “If I have this for the rest of my life, I’m probably not going to have a significant other.”
Arturo said he’s surprised there’s not more cases of people who try to kill themselves because of the social alienation caused by gynecomastia. “I’m only here because of what I believe in.”
When asked what he’d like from his lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, Arturo said, “I’m not asking for the past back; I just want a better future.”
For the first time, Arturo’s mother hears specific details about her son’s struggle with the social alienation he faced as a result of his gynecomastia caused by Risperdal.