Nate has a secret birth defect that seriously impacts his life. He’s lived in fear of being found out since he was a preteen, and it preoccupies his mind when he’s with his girlfriend.

He was with that girlfriend of his for two and a half years before finally working up the nerve to tell her about his issue because he was afraid he would lose her when she found out his dark secret.

One night Nate swallowed the lump in his throat, and practically through tears, he said he had a confession. That before they have sex, she should know that he has a birth defect.

“I have type 2 triorchidism,” he said.
“It means I have 3 testicles.”

A Heavy Burden

It’s easy to think Nate is making a mountain out of a mole hill, and tell him to just get over it. “Birth defect” is a little dramatic, don’t you think?

Not so fast though. We all have a third testicle. We all have some defect or dark secret that we think makes us unlovable or not good enough. And the thing about having an extra ball is that it feels like a big deal to the person who has it. Even though everyone else can see that it’s nothing at all, that testicle hangs heavy on the person who bears it.

The Power of Perception

The problem is that we project our beliefs onto the world. Everyone knows that Nate’s triorchidism is no big deal, but Nate doesn’t see that, and his reaction to it colors not only his perception, but also the perception of the people around him.

You might expect Nate’s girlfriend to shrug the “confession” off, but imagine that your boyfriend comes to you and tells you he has something to confess. Your mind is racing, because it obviously something horrible—his palms are sweating, he can’t look you in the eye. His speech is halting, and the tension is palpable as he works up the nerve to reveal his secret. He cheated, or he’s a murder, or sex offender, or an energy worker or something. It’s going to be bad. Your heart is pounding, you brace yourself.

“I have type 2 triorchidism,” he said.

Confusion. Cancer? A wasting disease?

“It means I have 3 testicles.”

Nate’s girlfriend stood up without saying anything, and left his apartment. She wouldn’t answer her phone that day.

Bizarro Defect

I told Nate that what his girlfriend did wasn’t cool, but I also told him that what he sees see as a dark secret, is really no big deal.

In fact, I told him, he could make a huge, awesome joke out of it. He could play at being 50% more manly. He could say he lost a testicle fighting a bear, so now he only has 3 left. Two for babies and one for good luck.

The possibilities are endless. If you make it no big deal, I said, it’ll be no big deal. It might even get you sex with curious girls.

It’s more than just getting over it—it’s more than deciding your defect won’t affect you. It’s deciding your defect isn’t a defect at all. It’s an advantage.


He told me later that he’d had a chance to catch up with her. She apologized, but they ended up breaking up anyway because her reaction was so extreme to such a relatively minor issue.

He told me that if she couldn’t handle his birth defect how could she handle something really bad?

He was right, but the thing that struck me was the term “birth defect” again. Words have power, they shape our perception of the world.

I told him days prior to make a big joke about it, turn it into a funny curiosity. Along similar lines, I suggested this time that he stop calling it his “birth defect.” He’s not defective. I suggested he begin calling it his superpower.

Imagine having this conversation:

You: Hey girl, I have a birth defect I want to tell you about…
Her: Eh, ok…?
You: I have 3 balls.
Her: eh, ok…

Now imagine having this conversation:

You: Hey girl, did you know I have a superpower?
Her: Hah, yeah? What is it?
You: I have 3 testicles. [insert bear fighting joke at will]
Her: No way! Prove it!

If he were abnormally strong or tall or smart or had an extra finger or something, he wouldn’t call it a birth defect. It’s a label that’s not fair, and I think it’s hurting him more than it’s helping.

Your Superpower

But we’re not really talking about Nate or his amazing gonads, are we? We’re talking about you. We’re talking about your broken confidence, your sagging body, your dark thoughts, your failures, your depression.

Your third testicle. Your superpower.

The objection in your head right now is the same as Nate’s. He also feels like his third testicle couldn’t possibly be a super power. I demonstrated in this post how it could be, but Nate has to feel it before it becomes true.

And before you decide that you’re the exception and there’s no way to turn your defect into a superpower, consider who you’re trying to convince:

Pete Michaud Self Portrait

Self Portrait 2012

Trust me, I know a thing or two about fully owning physical “deformities” and if you make it awesome, it will be awesome.