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'It's mainly middle aged people who stare at me, not children. People are blatantly rude to me' leon is taking a stand after a lifetime of bullying.

Byline: IAN JOHNSON ian.johnson01@reachplc.com @IANJOHNSONCHRON

FROM being pelted with sticks and bricks to grown yobs taunting him as he shopped in Primark, Leon Layton has suffered constant bullying for the way he looks.

As a youngster he was called a barrage of names by other children - and even left in fear for his life after an attack near his then home in Grove Hill, Middlesbrough.

And now 26, the taunts have continued, including during one recent trip to the MetroCentre where he could hear the tracksuit-clad adults mocking him as they walked behind him in the Primark store.

But Leon is determined not to let the bullies beat him - and he is even taking a stand with his new podcast that aims to raise awareness of people living with noticeable birthmarks.

Leon said: "It is mainly middle aged people who stare at me, not children, and I've had to deal with people who are blatantly rude to me (about the mark)," he says.

Like thousands of Brits, Leon was born with noticeable birthmarks. It covers part of his face, neck and body.

And he says growing up on the Grove Hill estate made him a target for bullying.

He said: "I was called every name under the sun. Purple face, strawberry face, beetroot face - basically anything to do with red or purple.

"They were mean names, and growing up in Grove Hill there was a lad who was from Egypt and had brown skin - I felt we were the odd guys.

"There was one day where kids came out with sticks and bricks and started trying to pelt us because of the way we looked. It was brutal - I was in fear of my life.

"But I suffered a lot of abuse and I've put up with it for all my life."

But he's turned those experiences into a positive.

Leon started a YouTube channel focusing on his experiences of living with a birthmark before branching out into podcasts.

He believes his show - The Birthmark Lifestyle Podcast - is the only one that delves into the issue.

It was established to help raise awareness of an issue Leon feels doesn't get talked about enough.

"I was shocked to find out I was the only one doing this," he says, although he feels many with birthmarks try to "hide away" from them.

"There are a lot of people (with birthmarks) who cover it up.

"Men and women both use make-up to conceal it. Some people want to just hide away."

Others are now using super strength lasers, which are around 10 times more powerful than those used to remove tattoos, to help zap away their marks.

"I could grow a beard and hide it," says Leon.

"But I want to be out there and talk about it and support others."

With the podcast, he's had many others speak up about a condition that many people - including Leon - are unsure why it affects them.

"It's not fully understood why birthmarks occur, but they're not usually inherited," states nhs.uk Vascular birthmarks - like the three Leon has - are caused by abnormal blood vessels in or under the skin.

Most are harmless and don't need treatment, although some are removed - while some want rid of them for cosmetic reasons.

While Leon, who now lives in Ryton, in Gateshead, could have his removed, he's planning on keeping his and to keep helping others.

To listen to the podcast visit https:// thebirthmarklifestylepodcast.podbean.com/

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Leon Layton was bullied while growing up in Middlesbrough
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 29, 2019
Words:591
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