I am Anthony Gilding, an Honors Bachelor of Science (HBSc) student studying Biomedical
Sciences in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I live with Alopecia Areata, which
I have had since 2014. To say that being diagnosed with Alopecia Areata was rough would be
an understatement. Not only was I learning to adjust to life with no hair, but I was also learning
to come to terms with my sexuality. The process of self-acceptance, particularly in the context
of being gay is unique to every queer person, but the challenges we face are quite similar. The
challenges were amplified given that I had to grapple with two major life events at one time. It
has been one bumpy ride, but I have finally reached a point in my life where I feel most
liberated and true to myself.
Like many people diagnosed with Alopecia Areata, I went into a state of shock and ultimately
reclusion for a year. In high school I faced bullying from the people I thought were my friends –
to the point that I made the tough decision to finish my diploma from home. Though the
bullying was what triggered the decision, it was my school telling me I needed to get a “thicker
skin” that lead to me going through with it. It was clear to me that my school could not be
bothered to address the harmful bullying I faced, and I had enough self-respect at the time to
know that I deserved better than that. This bullying shattered the bit of self-esteem I had left,
and I could not bare the thought of being around people in public. During that year at home, I
rarely ever went outside, and if I did it was for medical appointments, therapy, essential
shopping, or walking my dogs. Life as I knew it was worthless to me. It was not until I looked at my life introspectively and attended therapy that I developed the courage I needed to present myself to the world again.
I often tell people that I turned the emotional pain into the fire I needed to fuel my motivation.
One night I had a serious conversation with myself where I decided that Alopecia Areata was
not going to ruin my life. I realized that although I felt very alone, I was not the only person in
the world with Alopecia, and that millions of people across the globe were experiencing the
same thing I was. This realization has led me to where I am now, a student scientist on the track
to becoming a physician-scientist, specifically a Medical Dermatologist and Alopecia Areata
Researcher. I made the bold, yet fulfilling decision to dedicate my career, and in many ways, my
life to caring for patients with Alopecia Areata and studying the disease with the hope of one
day making the breakthrough we need to cure it. The journey thus far has been strenuous, and
at times overwhelming, but I always remind myself of why I am doing it. The way I see it, I have
the potential to impact an entire population of patients suffering from a disease that has not
received the medical and scientific attention it deserves.
While I have made the best of a bad situation, I would be lying if I said that I don’t still struggle
with having Alopecia. Socially, I have had to deal with many uncomfortable things like being
stared at and being asked intrusive and inappropriate questions.
Throughout all of this, I have been extremely lucky to make some very close friends. Without them, I don’t know where I would be. In terms of dating and relationships, I have come to realize that there will be men that are not mature enough to understand that Alopecia is just something I have and has no effect on me as a person. Up until this point, these are the only men I have encountered in the context of dating. For quite a while I felt like the Alopecia was going to keep me from ever finding a partner. This painful feeling persisted until a dear friend of mine reminded me of my worth and emphasized that any man who denies my value as a romantic partner for something I can’t control, is not worthy of being with me. This is a conversation that will stick with me for the rest of my life, and to my friend--you mean the world to me. If there is one thing I’ve
learned from living with Alopecia, it’s that your true friends and family are critical for your well-
So, who am I? If you asked me that back in 2014, I wouldn’t be able to say much other than my
name and age. Six years later, at 21 years old, I can unequivocally say I am a proud gay man,
scientist, social justice and equality advocate, aspiring physician, healthcare scholar, and most
importantly, an Alopecia champion. I would encourage everyone with Alopecia Areata, or any
other disorder that affects your appearance, to fight back and love who you are. Just because
you have that disorder, does not mean that disorder should have you. We are so much more
than our physical appearance, and it is the substance of our character that defines who we are.
There’s strength in numbers, and no matter how many of us there are, we are going to make a
change for the better!
Make sure to follow Anthony on Instagram to follow his journey!